How Can Pharma Leverage the Health Outcomes Liaison Function for Maximum Impact?


With the shift toward evidence-based medicine and value-based pricing in the health care industry, bio-pharmaceutical organizations have turned to Health Outcomes Liaisons (HOLs) to serve as a scientific bridge with payer organizations, thought leaders, and other important decision makers. It is critical that organizations understand how to fully leverage the relatively new field-based HOL function in order to better inform decision-making about pricing, reimbursement, inclusion of drugs on formularies and treatment guidelines.

To identify how leading bio-pharmaceutical companies deliver exceptional HOL services in an increasingly challenging business environment, Best Practices, LLC engaged 23 HOL leaders in its benchmarking research study titled “Health Outcomes Liaison Excellence: How the HOL Function Drives Value Across the Healthcare Industry.”

Critical components of maximizing the value of the HOL function include:

  1. HOL Activities:

Although presentation of pharmacoeconomic data is the chief role of HOLs today, identifying and building relationships with outcomes-oriented thought leaders is emerging as an important activity. Other key activities performed by Health Outcomes Liaisons include delivering presentations, responding to payer/managed markets/healthcare systems information requests, planning publication of outcomes study results, and identifying, planning and conducting outcomes studies. HOLs are also responsible for providing internal information and training on health outcomes issues.

  1. HOL Competencies & Training

A majority of companies require that HOLs have some combination of PhD, PharmD, and MD credentials. This requirement reflects the wide variety of complex responsibilities associated with the HOL position, as well as the perceived importance of the job. Many companies also seek prior clinical and/or payer experience, analytics skills and an ability to build and maintain lasting customer relationships to increase credibility with decision makers.

Many organizations prefer a generalist HOL model over a specialist model, with HOLs typically covering all major products for an assigned region. This preference is mainly customer driven as pointed out by one of the interviewed executives:

“I think the benefit of a generalist is that’s what our customers want. So as far as customer centricity, it’s right on top because they don’t want three or four people from our company coming in. They want one person, they want one contact, and they want us to be accountable for all the products. The No. 1 reason why we are doing it is because that’s what our customers want us to do.”

As recruiting and hiring for this unique skillset can be difficult, savvy companies invest in developing and retaining HOL staff after they are hired. Two-thirds of companies in the study provide regular training on topics such as health care policy, a new product or therapeutic area, a new initiative, competitor information, or compliance changes.

  1. Role Differentiation:

As the responsibilities and duties of Health Outcomes Liaisons continue to grow, it is vital that organizations differentiate the role of HOLs from Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), key account managers, and other customer-facing resources. Usually, organizations differentiate HOLs and MSLs by assigning them to different customer groups, with Health Outcomes Liaisons focused primarily on supporting payers while MSLs support physicians.

  1. Customer Engagement:

Face-to-face visits is the most important way to build working relationships and credibility with payers and thought leaders. Although payer groups are traditionally targeted, it is critical that HOLs deliver a strong value proposition to both customer segments.

Bio-pharmaceutical companies are still refining the HOL function and how it handles outcomes data for different external stakeholders. Organizations must continue this evolution of the HOL role as it moves from providing simple cost analysis of one drug vs. another to looking holistically at treatments, including cost of avoidance, cost of medical vs. surgical approaches, and patient outcomes.

Here is a snapshot of the key recommendations from Best Practices’ research to help guide HOL impact:

HOL Excellence

HOL Excellence

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