Spotlight on MMIT Team

Sarah Lamon

July 22, 2019

Sarah Lamon is a fourth-year pharmacy student at Purdue University and a second-year summer intern at MMIT. She provides in-depth clinical and policy research for MMIT clients, helping them understand payers’ coverage policies and restrictions. In addition to her internship, she also works in the retail pharmacy setting at Walgreens.

Q: What’s your day to day like?

A: Typically, I spend my time on workbooks, which are documents that our team puts together.

Sarah Lamon is a fourth-year pharmacy student at Purdue University and a second-year summer intern at MMIT. She provides in-depth clinical and policy research for MMIT clients, helping them understand payers’ coverage policies and restrictions. In addition to her internship, she also works in the retail pharmacy setting at Walgreens.

Q: What’s your day to day like?

A: Typically, I spend my time on workbooks, which are documents that our team puts together. It’s a write-up for clients that are interested in purchasing our data showing what the market for certain indications currently looks like.

Within that workbook, we outline the drugs that are currently being used to treat whatever disease state the client is interested in, so we collect all of the drugs being used, we explain what they are, their manufacturer, how long they’ve been on the market, etc., and then we start to collect a few policies and show them what the insurance companies are requiring for diagnosis and coverage. From there, that goes to the sales team and they decide if they want us to conduct further research.

I also do a lot of disease state research. If there’s a rare disease or a new mutation in certain cancers, I’ll brief our teams so they’re able to talk to clients about what’s going on. I also do a lot of research in determining coverage, so I spend a lot of time on payer websites, trying to see where they have coverage for the drugs that we’re looking for, if it’s going to be covered by the medical benefit or the pharmacy benefit, etc., and I do a lot of that with oncology, vaccines and rare diseases, because those are typically areas where coverage is scarce or unclear.

Q: What are some of the challenges of your research, and of market access in general?

A: The research can be really difficult, because you’ll do one thing one month, and then the guidelines change, and you essentially have to redo all of that research. I think a lot of pharmaceutical companies don’t realize the amount of fine print on formularies and guidelines that you’ll see with payers.

I don’t think a lot of pharmacists and patients alike realize the complexity of coverage. I think a lot of people think their insurance company just doesn’t want to cover their medication, when really, they’re just trying to follow guidelines and trying to find the cheapest drug that follows the clinical regulations. That’s why it’s hard to find coverage in rare diseases, because those areas lack guidelines.

Q: Are there any buzzworthy indications the industry should be watching out for?

A: A lot of the disease states I get to research here aren’t even things that I’ve talked about in school. Oncology is definitely the most crucial area from my point of view, because that’s where the research is going. There are always new oncology drugs in the pipeline, and a lot of the drugs that are being used are pushing for new indications. We don’t see a lot of coverage in rare diseases, but as a student those areas are really interesting to learn about.

Q: How has MMIT helped you build your career so far? What skills are you learning?

A: Our programs at school are heavily based on clinical knowledge, and most people go into hospital or retail pharmacies after graduating. Working at MMIT has really gotten me interested in the industry route, whether it’s through research like I do here, or working at an insurance or pharmaceutical company. MMIT has really shown me that there’s so much more for a pharmacist to do other than the hospital or retail setting.

Even if I decide not to do market access research as my long-term career, this is not anything that we talk about in school, but it’s so important for pharmacists to understand it. Even if you’re working in a retail setting, you must deal with insurance every single day. Learning why drugs are covered the way they are is an important area of pharmacy that’s kind of hidden.

Q: How do you see the internship program growing?

A: It’s definitely a small niche for pharmacy schools right now, but we actually have pharmacy rotation students that come into the office. I think the more MMIT can get the word out that they offer internships, the more the program will grow. Students should learn about this career path, because I think MMIT is a great place for students to be. I try to advocate for MMIT when I’m at school. This is a very, very layered company, and I don’t think people realize there are so many things that you can do with market access, even if you don’t have clinical knowledge.

Q: Do you think the closer integration of pharmacy benefits into primary and specialty care will make market access a more important area for pharmacists to understand, as they step into more of a provider role?

A: I personally think pharmacists should be considered providers, given the knowledge that they have and their accessibility to patients. I think that pharmacists becoming more involved in market access will create a more unified care system for patients. I work at Walgreens now, and every day I have patients asking, ‘Why isn’t my medication covered?’ MMIT does have an app [Coverage Search] that I hope eventually more providers and pharmacists will start to use to help with that. I think that would help them reach their patients and make things clearer to them.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: I love that every single day is different. I get to learn about different disease states that I won’t ever talk about in pharmacy school. So, before I do my research, I have to look up the disease because there are less than 100,000 cases in the world, so it’s definitely very interesting.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: In the summer — laying by the pool! I like to spend time with my friends and family. I like to travel, I just went to Philadelphia and went to the Magic Gardens and the Chinese Lantern Festival, so I like to find fun local things like that to do. I’m typically always in school mode, so whenever I get the chance to relax, that’s what I do.

by Carina Belles

Edgett Hilimire

June 24, 2019

Edgett Hilimire is a developer at MMIT. He has worked professionally as a developer since he was 15, and joined the company after working on implementing an artificial intelligence (AI) system for an asbestos claims company. He currently works on developing new software that uses artificial intelligence to improve MMIT’s document collection processes.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about your role at MMIT.

A: I work on developing software that plays a critical part in our collections process.

Edgett Hilimire is a developer at MMIT. He has worked professionally as a developer since he was 15, and joined the company after working on implementing an artificial intelligence (AI) system for an asbestos claims company. He currently works on developing new software that uses artificial intelligence to improve MMIT’s document collection processes.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about your role at MMIT.

A: I work on developing software that plays a critical part in our collections process. We use the Elastic Search database, which is a new technology that we use to house all of our documents after we collect them. The Elastic Search database then feeds documents into MMIT Reach for our clients to access and into our internal PAR (policies and restrictions) “hunting tool” that helps us surface new policy and restrictions changes.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: One of the great things about working here is you’re free to use new technology as it pops up and as it is useful. As a team, we are always looking for ways to incorporate new technology to help resolve any business needs. Everyone will branch out into new technology zones and build proof concepts that they share with the group, which anyone can use to resolve any future problems. We’re able to continuously move forward on our usage of new technology because everyone participates in it. It’s all about how we can use new technology to come up with better solutions.

Q: Is there any new technology that clients should keep an eye on?

A: MMIT has been pushing implementing and improving our use of AI. If anyone is interested in using AI, my advice is to start now. It’s a valuable resource if you take the time to fine tune and train it. The biggest part of implementing any AI system is the feedback loop where humans validate the data coming out of the AI and then feed corrections back into the system. Then AI takes the corrections from this feedback loop and will apply it going forward, and in turn it becomes more and more accurate.

The feedback loop is the trickiest part of the AI, because if you’re not feeding back data into the AI, you’re not doing it right. Once the humans have given the computer enough information to do its job, the computer will always be faster.

Q: Can you go into detail about how MMIT uses machine learning and AI in our tools?

A: Right now, we’re focusing our AI on classifying documents. When Elastic Search feeds a new document into the PAR hunting tool, the AI automatically tries to classify the document as a policy, form, etc. We’re working on implementing a screen in the PAR hunting tool where the AI will classify the document, and then the hunting team will have the option to correct the AI if it tags the document incorrectly. The AI will then take those corrections and will apply it on its next round of classifications. The more the PAR team corrects the AI, the more accurate it will become in classifying documents.

We’re also using the AI to automatically check if a document is an updated version of a previous document. The AI will look at the two documents to find differences in wording to determine if the document is an updated version of a previous doc.

Q: What’s been your biggest victory with the company so far?

A: I would say the collections system has been my biggest victory. The AI can go out and collect new documents every day, and store it in the Elastic Search database. Then the documents feed out into our different tools. It was real team effort to get this collections system to work, and it was an immense success.

I’m not ready to call victory on the AI, but I can smell victory. It’s difficult to work with, and has required input from the development team to the PAR hunting team, so again it’s a real team effort. We all have to understand the end goal and be willing to suffer through a lot of difficulties to produce a system that works and works well.

Q: What are some of the challenges of your role?

A: The challenge is the speed at which we move. Sometimes we move too fast and we pump stuff out and there are times when it doesn’t work, but to me this isn’t always a bad thing. We’re able to learn from our mistakes and improve from them. To me, it’s better to fail early then to fail late. Managing the business desire to get things done now and getting things that work properly can be a challenge.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I like to sail, and I like to travel. I’ve traveled to all 50 states except for the northwest region. I’ve also been to Canada, Mexico, Scotland, Guatemala and the Philippines, which I really enjoyed visiting. I might go to Portugal this summer, and I think I’m going to visit California to see some of my friends that live out there.

by Amanda Tadrzynski

Evan Curcic

May 27, 2019

Evan Curcic is a client success manager at MMIT, developing market access solutions for our small-to-medium size client base. He works to onboard new clients to MMIT’s platforms and helps current clients get the most value out of MMIT’s solutions during all phases of their brand’s life cycle.

Evan Curcic is a client success manager at MMIT, developing market access solutions for our small-to-medium size client base. He works to onboard new clients to MMIT’s platforms and helps current clients get the most value out of MMIT’s solutions during all phases of their brand’s life cycle.

Q: How did you join the company?

A: When I first joined MMIT six years ago, I had a background primarily in software development and client service. Health care was just not an industry that I’d been exposed to yet, but I was a huge fan of B2B software as a service and working directly with clients. I had a friend who worked for MMIT’s top recruiting partner at the time who got me an interview and the rest is history. I’ve really enjoyed getting experience in the health care and market access industry, and I really love working in this space now.

Q: What’s your day to day like?

A: My day-to-day consists of partnership kickoff calls with new clients, therapeutic area briefs, data and lives methodology trainings, promotional project planning, consultative reporting engagement and datafeed structure and bridging overviews. My main goal is to help align our clients’ business objectives with the use of our solutions. I want them to feel confident and that they’re getting the utmost value from our engagements with them so they can do their jobs even better and be able to answer any of their market access business questions at any time.

Q: What are some of the challenges of your role?

A: Our job is not done just because we’ve sold a client our solutions. You have to give them a really positive experience off the bat, build trust, make sure they’re being heard and their needs are being met. Each account I work with has a different therapeutic area and slightly different goals they’re trying to achieve, and I’m also working with a lot clients primarily in the middle of launch, so one of my biggest challenges is making sure that I’m providing enough time for all of my clients and showing them all the same level of TLC.

Q: What are some of the larger projects you’re working on?

A: Like most companies, our large clients get a certain level of service and engagement, and rightfully so. I think what sets MMIT apart from our direct competitors in this niche is that for the past few years, we’ve really focused on trying to provide that same level of service and value to our small- and medium-sized clients as well. Just because a client may not have a massive contract with us or a huge spending budget doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get the same level of service and attention that some other companies might only invest in their largest customers. I’ve directly had a hand in improving this process over the last few years by taking the experience I’ve gained working with our larger clients and bringing that to our small-to-medium segment with great support, collaboration and guidance from MMIT leadership.

Q: What market access trends should clients be looking out for?

A: When you’re talking about launching products, a lot of my clients are doing a ton of market research. Let’s say they’re in pre-launch mode, and they’re trying to get a good understanding of what some of the other analogs in that therapeutic area have gone through. What challenges has everyone else seen? What we’ve seen over the past few years is that things have progressively gotten a lot more restrictive. With that shift to higher utilization management out of launch, sometimes clients have to wait longer for payers and PBMs to make decisions. That’s where I believe MMIT shines, because that’s where our PAR (prior authorization and restriction) data can be very valuable. Clients are saying, ‘Hey, what are these prior authorization or step therapy challenges that other brands have faced, and are we going to see something similar?”

We’re even seeing some drastic shifts in restrictiveness year over year. Let’s say I’m launching a new product in a therapeutic area, and let’s say some of the big-name blockbuster drugs in that class were launched just four or five years ago. The restrictive climate of launch has shifted so quickly year-over-year, that even though those drugs are successful products, you may want to look at something more recent to compensate for some of those drastic yearly access climate changes.

Q: Any buzzworthy therapeutic areas to watch out for?

A: What we’re seeing happening with rare orphan disease drugs is really interesting. I’m starting to work with more manufacturers who are releasing these types of products. Unlike some other areas, payers and PBMs are making faster decisions there, so it’s interesting to watch as spending and FDA approval for those products shifts. For certain rare disease drugs that are solving a unique problem for a small population, we’re seeing them get coverage a little bit more quickly than they did five years ago, and that’s contrary to the level of restrictiveness we’re seeing in some other therapeutic areas of access.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: Up to this point, I’ve worked with around 70 different pharma manufacturers. And through partnering with those clients, I’ve learned a ton in terms of what pharma is doing and focused on in terms of access at an aggregate level. I get a lot of satisfaction from providing insights to my clients in terms of how I’ve seen other folks do it (anonymously of course), and give them some options that let them pick and choose how they want to approach things using our solutions. I love being able to bring insight into our discussions that they find valuable and want to act on.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I love spending time with my family, especially my wife and 2-year-old daughter. I’m also a huge live music fan and music nerd. I love sports and the outdoors as well. Any activity combining those things, I’m all about it.

by Carina Belles

Fiza Bari

April 22, 2019

Fiza Bari is a senior market research manager at Zitter Insights, a unit of MMIT, leading the Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Perspectives team. With her team, she recreates a real world experience by allowing pharma clients to be a “fly on the wall” during a live P&T review. Bari, who holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular medicine and a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, also works on custom market research projects, tapping into Zitter’s robust network of panelists for everything from quick pulse surveys (Zitter’s Payer Rapid Response) to large surveys, which help pharma clients tackle market access challenges.

Fiza Bari is a senior market research manager at Zitter Insights, a unit of MMIT, leading the Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Perspectives team. With her team, she recreates a real world experience by allowing pharma clients to be a “fly on the wall” during a live P&T review. Bari, who holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular medicine and a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, also works on custom market research projects, tapping into Zitter’s robust network of panelists for everything from quick pulse surveys (Zitter’s Payer Rapid Response) to large surveys, which help pharma clients tackle market access challenges.

Q: What’s your day to day like?

A: It’s very dependent on project load. It can be a day where I’m working on multiple projects at the same time, or if I’m not working on multiple projects I’ll be working on proposals, or targeting for potential new sales. It really just depends. Right now, we’re gearing up for a June 1 session on Multiple Sclerosis and NASH (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis), working with our panel team and getting our committee and specialists recruited. I’m also wrapping up a quantitative payer study that we’re doing for a pharma client.

Q: Can you walk us through some of Zitter’s P&T solutions?

A: When a manufacturer is looking to launch a new product, or if a competitor is launching a product, we recommend clients conduct a P&T Perspectives around six months to a year before the new product launches. What we’re able to do is replicate what happens in the real world at a payer organization, where they meet and review products. We can simulate a health plan, a PBM or an integrated delivery network; it just depends on the situation.

The meeting starts with a clinical pharmacist presenting the disease state overview, and the current products on the simulated plan’s formulary. They will then provide an overview of the products that are being reviewed, including a summary of the clinical trial data. Disease state specialists then provide their opinion on how they would prescribe the product(s) being reviewed. The clinical pharmacist closes the meeting by providing clinical recommendations for the product(s) for formulary review, then a contracting pharmacist presents current utilization of any existing formulary products, and three pricing scenarios, which can include contracting offers if applicable. The committee then votes on each scenario. The manufacturer gets to see how a simulated plan will review its product in a double-blinded manner. This candid feedback can then inform the client’s value proposition and validate pricing assumptions.

Q: What’s exciting about Zitter’s new relationship with MMIT?

A: I think because MMIT has never ventured into custom market research before, we’re really able to provide solutions for those clients whose questions can’t be answered through policy data alone. MMIT was always one of our competitors, especially when it came to policy data. Given the technology expertise that MMIT has, it is going to be exciting to see how we can improve our operational processes, which can help grow the business. Before, we were more of a boutique style market research firm without the advantage of having that technological backbone.

Q: What industry trends should clients be looking out for?

A: I think with managed care, it’s always evolving. One of the bigger trends last year and one thing that we’re tracking is copay accumulator programs. We’re trying to understand the impact of these programs, especially for clients with high-cost specialty products. It’s a big concern for them if their patients can’t afford their medications because of these programs. It has a ripple effect, because it can impact the patient’s adherence. When issues like this come up, it’s not just impacting the manufacturer, it also impacts patients, and it’s important to remember that.

Q: Any buzzworthy indications to watch out for?

A: I think payers are excited about NASH. There are no FDA-approved products in that category, and it affects a lot of people. It’s not a rare disease, and there are four manufacturers coming out with products in the next two years.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how our P&T Perspectives committee reacts to the data and how they review the new products on formulary. We’re not really sure how these products are going to be priced right now, but it will be interesting to watch the committee have that conversation. Just the fact that there’s four products coming out in a category that has no treatments is huge — it’s a lot of competition.

It will also be interesting to see if NASH manufacturers follow the non-specialty pricing trend that we saw in the chronic and episodic migraine category last year. Amgen’s Aimovig came out with non-specialty pricing, so that definitely impressed payers. Historically, specialty products have always come out with high pricing, so they might be setting a trend there where other manufacturers will be under pressure to come out with non-specialty pricing as well.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: It’s the most challenging part — just keeping afloat with my workload on so many different kinds of projects. It’s why I wanted to join the custom research team, and it’s why I’ve been on the team for four years. Because of our unique position and the fact that we’re working on everything, I’m always learning. I get to apply my scientific background to highlight key clinical benefits of new drugs, and merge that with understanding the financial impact new products have on the marketplace.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I have a two-year-old daughter and another one on the way, so I am kept busy! I like to hang out with my daughter and my husband. We’ve had a cold winter, so we’ve been doing a lot indoors. I’m looking forward to summer and getting back outside!

by Carina Belles

Matt Seltzer

March 25, 2019

Matt Seltzer is a newly appointed Regional Vice President of Pharma Solutions at MMIT, working in sales and client development, and has been with the company for more than three years. As a senior account executive, he worked to develop relationships with and sell licensed solutions to clients that are emerging in the pharma industry. In his new role, Seltzer is contributing toward MMIT’s vision as we solve more business problems for pharma.

Matt Seltzer is a newly appointed Regional Vice President of Pharma Solutions at MMIT, working in sales and client development, and has been with the company for more than three years. As a senior account executive, he worked to develop relationships with and sell licensed solutions to clients that are emerging in the pharma industry. In his new role, Seltzer is contributing toward MMIT’s vision as we solve more business problems for pharma.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

A: Every day is different! In general, my day can be spent trying to identify new people to reach out to and engage, and partnering with people internally to figure out what messages might resonate with those folks. I could be having discovery calls with potential new clients to understand what their needs are, where I share a bit about who we are, and our point of view on how we partner with similar organizations. Then we’ll start listening to their specific business questions, and speak to why our clients partner with MMIT to address them.

Q: What’s exciting about MMIT’s new relationship with Zitter?

A: When we would go out and compete in the marketplace, the only time that we would get nervous is when we were competing with Zitter. When I found out that we were all “getting married” here, I was really excited, because I knew I was going to be able to learn, and it was going to allow me to provide a more compelling case as to why [clients] should partner with us. It will empower me with new tools that’ll allow me to say, “Yes, we do that.”

There’s a lot of synergy that can get created here and a lot of knowledge sharing that will happen. We’re becoming more and more confident in who we are and who we’re becoming, and how we can bring the best market access solutions to our clients.

Q: What industry trends should clients be looking out for?

A: In general, there appears to be a greater willingness for payers and PBMs to apply controls to products that historically they’ve left alone, as they look to manage their own costs. They’ve heavily managed those areas that have the largest patient populations, but now we’re seeing more management in rare and orphan diseases, within oncology in particular, and certainly within the specialty biologic space. It’s not about, “Am I covered?” It’s about, “Tell me what kinds of restrictions and requirements are in place that will allow me to get an actionable understanding of what my access is, either relative to my goals or to a competitor, or relative to other industry benchmarks.” That is a major shift that’s been happening even in the three and a half years that I’ve been here.

Q: How does MMIT stay on top of those shifts in the market?

A: In my role in particular, I have the benefit of talking to companies weeks and often months or years prior to their launch to hear what it is that they’re worried about. That’s how we learn what our solutions need to be in a year or two from now. I can say, “Hey, we’re talking to these companies and they’re not launching products until 2020 or 2021, but here are the questions they’re asking.” If they were launching today, would our products and services allow us to meet those needs? Do we need to do something different?

I think that’s one of the cool parts about my job, I get to be not just the mouthpiece for MMIT, but in many ways I get to be the eyes and ears for MMIT. I’m that periscope out there listening to the chatter of not just what current clients want, but what potential clients want, who won’t even need to be clients until a year from now.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: In working with some of these smaller pharma accounts, I feel like I get to make a legitimate difference in the day-to-day of the people that I’m working with on the client side. When I talk to our customers or a potential client about how and why partnering with MMIT makes sense, that we have a team of people who can deliver on that, it’s something that gives me a lot of confidence. It makes the job a lot of fun because I can go in and just be myself without having to tap dance, because the vision we convey in a sales meeting closely mirrors the client’s actual experience post sale.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I love to play golf and play my guitar, both of which I don’t have a lot of time for with my 5-year-old daughter, 3-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter. So what do I like to do? Give baths, make dinner, and make lunches! But all kidding aside, I’m a musician, I’m an avid sports fan and I love to travel.

by Carina Belles