Spotlight on MMIT Team

Suzi Singh

October 11, 2019

Suzi Singh is a panel coordinator at Zitter Insights, a unit of MMIT. Singh began her journey with Zitter as a temporary employee, and was hired in December 2018 before she finished a degree in international business at San Francisco State University. As a panel coordinator, she manages all communications with Zitter’s proprietary panels, which are made up of medical directors, pharmacy directors and health care executives. Her team recruits panelists for Zitter’s qualitative and quantitative studies in addition to handling logistical planning for advisory board meetings and Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Perspective meetings.

Suzi Singh is a panel coordinator at Zitter Insights, a unit of MMIT. Singh began her journey with Zitter as a temporary employee, and was hired in December 2018 before she finished a degree in international business at San Francisco State University. As a panel coordinator, she manages all communications with Zitter’s proprietary panels, which are made up of medical directors, pharmacy directors and health care executives. Her team recruits panelists for Zitter’s qualitative and quantitative studies in addition to handling logistical planning for advisory board meetings and Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Perspective meetings.

Q: What’s your day to day like?

A: Every day is different depending on the projects I’m working on. When it’s hectic, I have to divide my time between multiple projects, while some days are a bit calmer. I use these calmer days to catch up on updating panelist information into our database or revising our standard operating procedures, as they are always changing! Right now, it’s more hectic because we have the oncology and biologics and patient satisfaction surveys going on simultaneously. I check where the surveys are at the current moment, and ensure we are hitting our target lives goals.

Q: Can you walk us through some of the Zitter solutions you are involved with?

A: Being part of the panel team allows me to be a part of many of the solutions Zitter provides. We aid with projects that involve many different therapeutic areas in addition to requesting policy and drug coverage data and genetic testing information. We also host quarterly P&T Perspective meetings, which give clients insights into how a P&T committee may review their drug.

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

A: This new relationship has been extremely exciting for our team. Now backed with MMIT’s technology, we have been able to increase the size of our panel through our marketing recruitment. Currently, we’re working on creating a training video for our panelists that will be secure and password protected. This will help us move away from the current one-hour training session that we have had to schedule between our analysts and panelists.

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

A: This summer I completed a qualitative research study on multiple myeloma. The project was challenging because it was our first time conducting a 75-minute interview. Normally, we interview 20 people for 60 minutes, but our client requested we expand the interview to 25 people over 75 minutes. This extra 15 minutes posed a challenge because we’re interviewing pharmacy directors and medical directors who are busy and do not always have an extra 15 minutes to answer our questions.

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

A: Since I work with teams across different product lines, I have to manage competing priorities. I’ll receive a request from the managed care team asking me to send a message, which I then have to balance with requests from other product lines. All the teams want their requests completed first, so managing those expectations and figuring out which request is a higher priority can be difficult.

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

I love that I never know how my day will unfold. Every day is different because we never know when a client will request a new project. I also assist with the Rapid Response requests, which is a survey our clients contract for that must be completed in 48 hours, and we have to close it very quickly. Things can happen unexpectedly, but it creates an exciting and fun work environment that constantly keeps me on my toes.

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

A: I love being on the beach, so my boyfriend and I take trips to different beach towns whenever we can. It’s great to have so many beaches nearby because the water in San Francisco can be cold. I haven’t seen much of Los Angeles beaches, but Ocean Beach in San Francisco on a hot day is my absolute favorite!

by Amanda Tadrzynski

Leslie Small

August 26, 2019

Leslie Small is a senior reporter at AIS Health, writing about the payer industry in Health Plan Weekly, and the intersection of payers and pharma in RADAR on Drug Benefits, analyzing the most important topics impacting the market and talking with stakeholders about how current industry trends affect their future strategies. Small has been writing about the health care industry since 2015, joining AIS in 2018 from FierceHealthcare.

Q: Since AIS’s publications come out on a weekly schedule,

Leslie Small is a senior reporter at AIS Health, writing about the payer industry in Health Plan Weekly, and the intersection of payers and pharma in RADAR on Drug Benefits, analyzing the most important topics impacting the market and talking with stakeholders about how current industry trends affect their future strategies. Small has been writing about the health care industry since 2015, joining AIS in 2018 from FierceHealthcare.

Q: Since AIS’s publications come out on a weekly schedule, can you walk us through a week in your life?

A: I write anywhere from two to four articles every week for Health Plan Weekly and RADAR on Drug Benefits. Monday is kind of a ‘get your ducks in a row’ day. I’ll figure out what I’m covering, set up interviews and start writing down what questions I want to ask. The week really varies a lot depending on whether I have one or two publications coming up, and when interviews get scheduled. Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll often do a lot of interviews, and Wednesday and Thursday I’ll do the bulk of my writing. Once Health Plan Weekly goes out on Friday afternoon, I like to think I’m once again on deadline for next week.

Q: What are some of the more challenging aspects of your job?

A: Every journalist has to be willing to be very flexible. You have to have a plan, but you also have to be willing to scrap that plan, because we do want to be able to cover what the industry is talking about within a reasonable amount of time. You have to work with what you’ve got. The hardest part is probably making sure you have a source who can talk about what you’re covering, because our journalism is so interview heavy. I might want to write about something, but if I can’t get anyone to comment on it, it’s not something I can write about at length.

Q: How has your understanding of the health care landscape changed since working at AIS?

A: I understand a lot more about drug pricing now, and in learning about our data, I understand all of the business lines of the industry in a more in-depth way. My coworkers here are people with decades of experience, so I’ve learned more about aspects of the industry that I hadn’t covered before, things like Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans for dual eligibles (D-SNPs) and administrative services only (ASO) contracting.

Every time I do a story I learn a little bit more about the industry — everything changes so fast in health care, so having the knowledge base that AIS Health has really covers you if you feel like you don’t know as much as you should.

Q: What are some of your favorite topics to write about?

A: I’ve always enjoyed writing about the Affordable Care Act exchanges, as they’re always interesting and the ACA has faced so many challenges. I particularly enjoy writing about court cases and legal issues. I also love writing about mergers and acquisitions because everyone wants to read about them. It’s always interesting to see a lot of the drug pricing stuff that’s going on right now because the ideas coming from the Trump administration aren’t necessarily traditional Republican ideas. There’s a lot more willingness right now to take on the industry, and it’s really interesting to see that play out in real time. The best stories are the ones where you feel like you’ve learned something, because you can translate that into words, and you can take your readers along on that journey too.

Q: What challenges or shifts in the industry should MMIT clients be looking out for?

A: Everything is more integrated now — what do you even call CVS Health as a company now — is it a payer, is it a PBM, is it a retail pharmacy? Yes! There are so few, to borrow an industry term, ‘pure-play PBMs’ anymore, and the ones that do exist I think are kind of freaking out because they’re being pushed out by these 800-pound gorillas — CVS, Express Scripts, UnitedHealth. But as one source has pointed out to me, those big integrated entities, especially ones that have resulted from acquisitions, also need to prove to investors and the American public that they’re offering more than just scale — that they could really drive some innovation.

The focus on seniors is another big thing to watch. Medicare Advantage is such a huge money maker, and we’re talking about all of these changes like Medicare for All. I think a lot of the industry discounts that proposal, and no, I don’t think we’re going to have a single-payer industry in three, five, 10, maybe even 20 years. But I think the push toward it may bring something like a watered-down public option. There’s enough public support for it to bring something into the mix to at least placate people, so I still think that’s worth watching.

Q: If any of our clients are not reading AIS Health publications, why should they be?

A: We offer analyses that really are industry-targeted. There’s a million policy-focused newsletters and subscription services out here, but we are very strongly business focused, so we work to tell you what you need to know, not what consumers need to know, even though sometimes those two do intersect. It’s a good way to get business intelligence, and we do strive to make our graphics and our data journalism tell stories as well. We draw upon our really robust data to inform our journalism — we’re certainly not the only ones doing it, but we have this vast trove of health care data that we collect, so that differentiates us quite a bit.

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

A: I like seeing the publication come out and thinking, ‘that was a really good issue.’ I love reading the stuff that my colleagues write and learning from them. I learn something new most days, and that keeps my job interesting. At a lot of jobs, you reach a certain plateau of knowledge, but this is more intellectually rewarding.

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

A: I have a 4-month-old, so I spend a lot of time with her! We like to go on walks around our neighborhood, and there’s a bike trail really close by. On rare occasions now, I like to go out to eat with my husband and see friends, go to happy hour with my coworkers, and I travel when I can. I probably won’t for a little while, until I can take the baby along.

by Carina Belles

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