Supporting Access to Treatment: Exceptional Customer Experience, Innovation, and Growth: A Conversation with Sumner Madden

Given the ongoing development of groundbreaking therapies for patients, pharmaceutical support programs play a key role in increasing access to these medictions. An example is AstraZeneca’s support program, Access 360, which initially began with a very small team of approximately 10 employees that performed vendor management and served as a conduit between healthcare professionals and the field reimbursement management team.

“The amazing success of AstraZeneca’s pipeline has been one of the key drivers of the growth and evolution of the program,” explained Sumner Madden, Executive Director of Access Services and Reimbursement at AstraZeneca. “We have successfully launched 8 new medicines in the last 4 years,” he added.


To effectively execute commercialization strategies for its product portfolio, AstraZeneca focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences, which have been integrated within the brand strategy and all customer-facing teams. The evolution of the Access 360 program has been prioritized based on upcoming medication launches and the needs of patients and healthcare providers.

Access support at AstraZeneca has grown into a much larger team and includes a full suite of support services, from financial assistance to injection training to reimbursement support.

“In whole, we are supporting patients from the time that a prescribing decision has been made, all the way through to helping them understand how to take their medications and how to stay on their medications,” he said.

Mr Madden explained that for an injectable used to treat severe asthma, upon request, his team will help patients and providers understand their insurance coverage, support them through the approval process, provide insight into how to acquire the medication, and enroll (or refer) them in programs that assist with affordability. In addition, once patients receive their medication, his team provides instructions on how to inject it in coordination with their provider.

“Our team manages the patient and provider support programs for the entire AstraZeneca portfolio, with the exception of AZ&Me™, AstraZeneca’s Patient Prescription Savings Program,” he added.

With a portfolio that has historically been geared toward the primary care setting, AstraZeneca has significantly expanded its footprint in the specialty care arena over the past several years. Early on, the shift in focus to specialty drugs led to some executional challenges for the organization.

“It has required ongoing education and reinforcing the fact that prioritizing training and development around patient access and reimbursement support is key,” Mr Madden explained.

Other challenges have involved legal and compliance issues, as well as resourcing and staffing during fast growth phases.


A primary consideration has been raising awareness regarding the programs and services available to better meet the needs of practices and individual patients. Because healthcare providers obtain information from many sources, AstraZeneca has worked to embed awareness via advertising, magazines, and digital banners on websites. The company has also leveraged other approaches to increase awareness of Access 360, including field representative training, sponsorship of booths at industry conferences, and social media campaigns.

“The most impactful way to raise customer awareness of these services is to make sure that our customer-facing employees are rock solid on the benefit for patients and the most effective way to deliver messages around these services,” he noted.

The primary focus has recently shifted to technological solutions and innovations that can streamline and facilitate the access process. A key strategy for success is to tailor programs to align with existing workflows, rather than asking providers to adjust their workflows to maximize AstraZeneca support. For example, enrollment in the

Access 360 program can be streamlined by creating avenues to seamlessly prepopulate patient data from the electronic medical record.

“The electronic tools are helpful for the right patient and the right drug type, but not always,” Mr Madden explained. “Overall, the goal is to simplify it for the customers, to create efficiency within your operation, to allow flexibility for your customers to do it in the way that they prefer, and to manage their cases as expeditiously as possible.”

When considering the Access 360 program as it pertains to supporting Fasenra (benralizumab), some prescribers may not be accustomed to managing a high volume of biologics in their practice. Therefore, the field reimbursement team and the hub work together to provide education and training related to process management, and to mitigate issues related to the length of time between prescribing and administration.

Some of the available services include verification of patients’ benefits, enrollment in affordability programs, annual reverification to support transitioning to a new year or to new insurance, and prescription management involving the specialty pharmacy network.

Mr Madden posited that many individuals may underestimate how much effort is required, but these efforts require substantial coordination between different organizations.

“You will hear the offices get frustrated because it is so much back and forth between the insurance company, the pharmacies, and the patient,” he said.


When asked about the future of Access 360, Mr Madden said that the goal is to deliver an exceptional customer experience, to continuously innovate to support patients and providers, and to develop a leadership team that is well-positioned to provide growth and development opportunities to staff so they can provide exemplary customer service.

In terms of understanding customers, Mr Madden explained that it is important to be an expert on each customer’s market-specific challenges and needs.

“Our field reimbursement managers know the local insurance plans coverage policies and protocols for our products so they can relay detailed market specific coverage

and reimbursement information in a timely manner. They are also equipped with tools and resources to help providers clearly understand how the programs work and what they should expect when seeking to start a patient on therapy. The enrollment forms must be clear and easy to use. The websites, such as AstraZeneca Access 360™ (, allow for quick access to resources, and digital integrations that we develop allow for seamless data entry and submission as examples,” he said.

“You have to be able to quickly meet the needs of very busy office staff and develop a relationship so that they trust your information and continue to rely on you for support,” Mr Madden continued. “You have to make it very low friction, very simple, clear, and easy.”

Other keys to success include offering solutions that can be personalized to individual customers and honoring commitments in a high-quality manner.

“If you do this thousands of times in one month, and then hundreds of thousands of times in one year, then that is consistent, quality execution,” Mr Madden said. “That is when people trust you to help them help their patients.”

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