Five Ways to Make Medical Affairs a Strategic Partner by Abdul Rastagar, Veeva

As treatment complexity continues to grow, healthcare providers (HCPs) increasingly rely on medical affairs as a source of expertise and information. At the same time, HCP communication preferences are changing, increasing the demand to deliver a deeper level of scientific information across multiple digital channels. With the spotlight on medical affairs, here are five ways life sciences companies are empowering medical science liaisons (MSLs) to meet changing HCP expectations.

Expand Skillsets with Training 
Providing additional training, such as developing communication skills or better understanding patient experiences, ensures field medical teams are up-to-date and can confidently engage in scientific discussions. Internal certifications are used to confirm MSL field readiness. The move toward organizational credentialing also helps field medical gain more credibility with commercial colleagues, and develop deeper organizational understanding of medical’s core responsibilities.

Leverage Technology to Enable the “Real-time MSL”
More than half of physicians today are digital natives and modern technology can help meet their demands for instant answers. Life sciences companies are increasingly adopting digital technology to extend their reach into new channels, such as online meetings, virtual events, and web-based training. They complement this with a robust, granular, and centralized library of approved medical content. Many organizations are also moving beyond PowerPoint and enhancing engagement with dynamic content to drive knowledge retention.

Improve Collaboration Between Sales and Medical While Remaining Compliant
Coordinating activities around the HCP is a challenge for many organizations. Since medical affairs and commercial teams often engage the same stakeholder without communicating with each other, it leads to an uncoordinated and frustrating HCP experience. Prioritizing collaboration between teams, with the goal of developing a deep and accurate understanding of the medical expert, will help drive engagement success. Organizations that invest in cloud technology can compliantly align medical and commercial teams to deliver coordinated and tailored customer interactions.

Capture Data Insights
In today’s digital landscape, MSLs have the unique opportunity to monitor their impact in novel ways. Strategic insight, from disease state to outcomes to future advances, can inform where an individual or group of similar HCPs are on a scientific journey. Developing an accurate understanding of the HCP progression will inform new strategies to deepen relationships. Increasingly, the industry is moving to outcomes-based KPIs that aim to capture this engagement mindset shift. Relevant metrics can include measures related to investigator-initiated trials (IITs) submissions, KOL feedback on scientific evidence, and terminology gathered prior to a product launch.

Improve Engagement Planning
Successful engagement is driven by linking HCP needs to therapeutic area goals. Organizations can enable MSLs to present scientific information in a way that provides real value for HCPs, helping them improve outcomes and achieve professional goals. Successful MSLs build HCP preferences into their engagement planning and leverage technology to attain a better view of HCP goals, engagement preferences, and needs. Leading with fully personalized plans driven by scientific goals helps field medical engage with a full range of critical stakeholders across their preferred channel.

To hear what’s next for medical affairs, check out this white paper featuring perspectives from industry leaders like Alkermes, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi.

 

Dr. Yishan Chuang & Dr. Christiane Carney Explain How an MSL Can Be Successful in Their First Year

Dr. Yishan Chuang & Dr. Christiane Carney Explain How an MSL Can Be Successful in Their First Year

1.What are 2 ways that an MSL can have a great start to their MSL career?

Our talk will highlight several different strategies to facilitate a smooth start to your first year as a new MSL as well as an experienced MSL starting a new role. 2 to keep in mind are first to identify the core value added as an MSL for your organization. Second, to work smarter not necessarily harder when managing your time, travel and interactions.

2.Why is it important to capture success in your first year as an MSL?

It is always a good idea to come out strong when starting a new position, where your manager and colleague are building trust in your abilities. The first year sets a tone for your career trajectory.

3.Once this concept is mastered, what type of impact can an MSL have in the field?

You can start to bring value to the team as well as to the KOLs/thought leaders in your territory sooner. As you get to know your KOLs and their interest, you can begin to advocate on their behalf for partnership opportunities that align with your company’s goals.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

Dr. Doug Yau Explains the Importance of Mastering the Concept of Emotional Intelligence while in the MSL Profession

Dr. Doug Yau Explains the Importance of Mastering the Concept of Emotional Intelligence while in the MSL Profession

  1. What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (or emotional quotient, EQ) is the ability to 1) recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and 2) recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.  The four main pillars of emotional intelligence are self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management.

  1. Why is it important to master this concept when one is an MSL?

EQ is the backbone for critical MSL traits such as presentation skills, empathy, communication, stress tolerance, accountability, and most of all establishing trust.   As the MSL profession is a job of scientific communication and relationship management, it is imperative that an MSL master the skill of emotional intelligence to manage their emotions during a KOL engagement, effectively read a KOL and understand their needs, address their needs in a timely manner and build and foster these KOL relationships. 

Of note, unlike IQ, which remains that largely the same as one ages, EQ is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice.

  1. How does having emotional intelligence affect the career of an MSL?

EQ is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.     As an MSL, developing a high EQ allows for the increased ability to work in teams, adjusting to change and maintaining flexibility.  This allows for success despite the dynamic nature of the MSL job within a medical division of a company.  As a MSL with high EQ continues to develop and broaden his or her network within the company, their accomplishments take notice and help drive collaboration on projects, selection to leadership teams, and upward mobility.   As an MSL manager, developing a high level of emotional intelligence allows for better understanding of their team members and more effective coaching.  This increases employee job satisfaction and less turn over within the team.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

Dr. Valbona Martini Explains the Changes of the MSL Role Throughout a Product Life-Cycle

Dr. Valbona Martini Explains the Changes of the MSL Role Throughout a Product Life-Cycle

  1. What are two ways that an MSL can adapt to changes in a product life-cycle?

To be able to successfully evolve with the role throughout the product lifecycle, MSLs must focus beyond meeting their short term objectives in the field. MSLs must think strategically about their territories and how to engage with their customers in a way that allows them to maximize their value and create long lasting collaborations in the field. MSLs also need to focus on customer needs first and how to marry those needs with their business priorities.

  1. How can an MSL prepare themselves for the changes expected in a product life- cycle?

Change is the only constant, they say, and that is even more true in this industry. Understanding this and being comfortable with change is very important for anyone who wants to be successful in this role. It is important to be able to look ahead and think how will my customers’ needs change next year? How about our business priorities? Thinking ahead will allow the MSL to be better prepared and know how to quickly switch gears when business needs change.  In addition, MSLs need to develop a good business acumen to understand how decisions are made and to be strategic in their territories. This will help them better anticipate what is coming ahead.

  1. How important is it for the MSL to change with the product life-cycle?

It is key for the MSL to be able to adapt quickly to the challenges and opportunities that arise as they support a product from one stage to the other. At each of these stages, the business priorities change as do the customer’s needs. To be effective, it is crucial for the MSL to understand these dynamics and adopt their approach as needed.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

3 Best Practices for Evolving Field Medical Affairs Teams and Managing Change

3 Best Practices for Evolving Field Medical Affairs Teams and Managing Change

By Jennifer Vernazza, Sanofi Genzyme

Ms. Vernazza contributed to this article in her personal capacity. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sanofi or Sanofi Genzyme.

Life sciences leaders are scaling medical teams to match the role’s expanded remit – a move that means increasing not only their size, but also their strategic scope. While our industry is making strides in expanding the number of MSLs on the job, more work is needed on the second half of the equation: transforming the role itself and empowering MSLs to thrive in it.

Today’s healthcare landscape is incredibly networked, and HCPs face an acute need for timely answers to more complex scientific questions. Layer on the demands of transitioning to digital, and it is clear that field medical requires a shift in approach. Medical field-based teams should consider new processes enabling MSLs to reach the right stakeholders, quickly tailor engagement, and capture insights for more data-driven strategies. Fueled by a multichannel CRM systems designed for medical affairs, this represents a new way of approaching scientific engagement.

In my last post, I discussed key capabilities the modern MSL needs. But what steps can companies take to move forward, and what does the journey look like?

As Medical teams evolve, they’ve uncovered best practices along the way that have smoothed the path toward thinking and working differently:

Creating a Culture of Change

Successful, strategic organizational change requires a high level of communication (early and often) to all relevant teams. Months before a roll out, start communicating about the change in order to foster high adoption when the system is deployed. Also, recruitment of a strong network of internal change champions is key. Digital-savvy end users not only help design the requirements and customize the build out, but also act as ambassadors for the impending change. They will talk with colleagues about the timeline, the benefits of the change, and what to expect. This way, all stakeholders know exactly who contact with questions and where to get updates.

Data-driven Planning and Engagement

Another success factor in implementing a new CRM is taking full advantage of medical data. With so much valuable information collected, how will it be used effectively to shape medical strategies?  Using and analyzing data on customer interests and channel preferences, as well as leveraging reports and dashboards to evaluate performance of team is crucial. Taking hundreds of clinical insights collected in a CRM and performing data mining or text analytics to pull out scientific trends is extremely valuable. When MSLs start seeing this data, and uncovering insights that are immediately actionable, they get excited about building stronger relationships – in turn speeding adoption.

 

Caption: Leveraging the data in medical CRM, medical affairs teams can get a full picture of KOLs’ scientific interests in order to improve KOL engagement.

Key activity metrics can be viewed to determine resource capacity planning exercises and how to best grow field-based teams.  For instance, if data shows MSLs are spending most of their time on internal activities, it signals a fundamental is needed with either team sizing or prioritization. At the end of the day, the value of technology is its ability to contribute meaningfully to business decisions.

The Right Foundation

Another key success factor is ability to maximize technology to achieve medical goals without being burdensome for MSLs.  Tool and systems should be as easy as possible for field teams, meaning the system has to work seamlessly from a technical perspective, with short data sync times, and proper alignment of stakeholders into their universe. Because MSLs spend so much time traveling in the field, the system needs to be intuitive – these teams don’t have time to waste figuring out software between meetings with stakeholders.

Beyond usability, it should be easy for MSLs to visualize the healthcare landscape as well as gain deep insight into each stakeholder, directly in their workflow. This level of visibility allows for faster and more strategic pre-call planning, as well as mapping strategies to account-specific objectives. Finally, tools should be easy for MSLs to capture information from interactions, across all channels, and refine engagement based on insights and analytics.

It’s an exciting time to be in medical affairs. Science is advancing every day, and field-based medical teams have the opportunity to make an impact in delivering better healthcare and improving patients’ lives. Realizing this vision means taking a look at how we approach our partnership with healthcare, adapting and growing with the evolution of our industry. 

To learn more on the future of field medical affairs, check out the MSL report.

3 Ways to Reimagine KOL Engagement

3 Ways to Reimagine KOL Engagement

By Jennifer Vernazza, Sanofi Genzyme

Ms. Vernazza contributed to this article in her personal capacity. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sanofi or Sanofi Genzyme.

With medical affairs’ shift to a critical strategic function, the role is seeing tremendous growth – medical science liaison opportunities alone are expected to grow by 20% this year[1]. However, this change also demands new skillsets and competencies. As the HCP-facing branch of medical, field teams are at the forefront. Today’s MSLs are essentially the CEOs of their territory, and a key local resource as the rare disease space continues to grow. 

As MSLs roles grow, companies can refine their approach to KOL engagement and MSL enablement and learn new ways to approach some relevant key areas – including the MSL role, digital strategy, and the building blocks of an effective field medical function.

Changing the MSL Role

MSL teams are expanding because they are increasingly relied upon as both the internal and external expert for the diseases they cover. Much of their time is spent working with and training internal sales, marketing and R&D teams on the medical education around these diseases. They can also be responsible for understanding the healthcare landscape, spending hours of prep time researching the publications, recent clinical trials, and scientific interests of key stakeholders. Beyond serving as an internal scientific resource, MSLs can be the voice of the HCP back to the company. This data generation is a unique resource that MSLs can deliver.

Cultivating Digital Savvy

More and more, digital and technology savvy is a core distinguishing factor of an effective MSL.  As new tools emerge, such as medical-specific multichannel CRM, eMSL, MSL on-demand, and virtual meetings and events, MSLs are expected to be proficient in these technologies. Moreover, leading MSLs are helping to shape innovative use cases and digital strategy. Reliance on paper-based processes is declining as MSLs start realizing the benefits of leveraging technology to break down silos and improve transparency.

Caption: To meet the expanding demands of KOL engagement, medical affairs departments are rethinking how they engage, their core technologies and processes, and the core competencies of their departments.

Medical affairs will also need to have a more structured approach in planning for KOL engagements, as HCP time is limited and valuable. So leveraging HCP information captured in CRM, along with other external data, is crucial to tailoring communication. For example, we are now leveraging stakeholder data to segment thought leaders in new and different way so that “rising stars” can be identified. This can lead to new relationships that possibly would have been missed entirely. 

Additionally, the process of delivering scientific statements will also change as MSLs use iPads and other mobile devices to augment and capture feedback during face-to-face interactions. And even as access challenges proliferate, one can see a counter-trend of HCPs reaching out directly to MSLs, enabled by emerging virtual meeting and MSL on-demand technologies. This requires a mindset shift, but as seen consistently in KOL surveys, timely responses are extremely valuable to HCPs who have to make quick decisions about patient care. Instead of waiting for an MSL to visit, HCPs will more proactively reach out to get information these days – and expect to receive the right answer, regardless of channel. 

Finally, the process of reporting back to the company with key field clinical insights and synthesizing these learning will continue to evolve. Integrating field medical-derived insights with data from clinical trials and real-world evidence promises to be very powerful, and will ultimately improve outcomes.

Developing a Strategic Mindset

In addition to a scientific knowledge foundation, the capabilities to look for in MSLs are soft skill focused, such strong business acumen and emotional intelligence, sound judgment, integrity, self-motivation, and learning agility. They must also possess an entrepreneurial spirit and leadership presence, and be able to tell a compelling story with scientific data. MSLs are essentially managing their own territory like a mini-business so need to be able to think creatively, while strictly adhering to compliance guidelines and internal policies.

 

Within life sciences, strategic development and commercialization cannot fail to account for the value and insight medical affairs delivers. In my next post, I’ll explore how one can design a change management plan, and progress toward a vision of a fully empowered medical affairs function.

To learn how medical teams can leverage scientific insights for better HCP engagement, check out this white paper.

 

[1] “8 Reasons MSL Opportunities will Grow in 2017,” MSL Society. http://www.smithhanley.com/2016/10/24/8-reasons-msl-opportunities-will-grow-20-2017/