The MSL Society is thankful to have Pharmaspectra on board as a Gold sponsor of the 9th Annual MSL Society Conference this year. As a result of their partnership, we interviewed Joseph Laudano, PharmD (VP of Medical Affairs at Pharmaspectra) in regards to the trends in the MSL profession post-COVID-19 and how Pharmaspectra has adapted to this new reality.
What growing trends have you seen in the MSL profession in the new normal post-COVID-19?
While digital engagement was a growing trend before the pandemic, its use has been accelerated as a result. While engagement is more challenging than it ever has been, on the positive side, technology has been rapidly adopted, enabling scientific exchange to continue via video calls, and other activities, such as virtual ad boards and online education, and in some ways becoming more efficient. Thought leaders/HCPs and MSLs have become more familiar and comfortable with virtual meeting technologies and ways of interacting. True, we all know there is no substitute for face-to-face conversation, but Zoom, Teams, whatever platforms are used, their increased use has revolutionized the ability to connect when used effectively.
With many scientific meetings going virtual over the last 18 months, the use of social media, particularly Twitter, for sharing new scientific data, clinical cases and application of novel technologies, such as devices, has increased dramatically. This increase in peer-to-peer exchange among HCPs, has enabled sharing of best practices, and for MSLs, provides valuable insights into the latest disease management trends to help them be better-prepared and have more productive conversations.
With access challenges, there has been a trend with our clients towards an increasing focus on quality of interactions rather than quantity. Exacerbated by Covid, this is a trend that’s going to continue moving forward which is hugely positive. MSLs cannot be measured solely on the amount of calls, interactions they’re having – it’s about identifying and connecting with the right experts in the right way at the right time in line with their strategic objectives.
What best practices have you experienced in the new normal that can be shared with the MSL community?
I think that we can learn a lot from the experience the MSLs have had over the last 18 months. Their ability to adapt and their agility has been impressive. They have had to overcome access challenges and advance their digital skills. However, this has not diminished the importance that medical teams place on having visibility of the most complete and current science to be great scientific partners for their thought leaders and HCPs. So the best practice of blending innovation in activities with preparation based on the latest data, is delivering effective engagement and providing value to HCPs.
How is your organization adapting to a new normal where we see a mix of in-person and digital interactions? And what are the lessons you have learned from going through it?
Covid has fundamentally changed the engagement landscape, so there’s no alternative but to accept it and adapt with it, which is exactly what we’ve done and are continuing to do at Pharmaspectra. Video call technology has enabled us to continue with frequent, cost-effective and of course environmentally-sound interactions and engagement – and arguably they can result in more qualitative outcomes. But nothing ever can, or will ever, take the place of regular, in-person interaction. ‘Zoom-fatigue’ became a recognized phrase in 2020, and though many of us are pragmatic about its place in our day-to-day, the majority of us still value the fellowship of face-to-face human connection. We try to ensure we can safely continue with this approach with our clients and partners wherever possible.
What advice would you give MSLs struggling to get valuable engagements with KOLs?
I’d say it’s critical to ensure you approach any interaction with a thought-leader-centric mindset. And what I mean by that is, ensure you become incredibly knowledgeable and well-versed in that thought-leader’s research, and other scientific disseminations on their key areas of expertise, and those in their network. Relationships build over time, but this will be accelerated by being supremely prepared and professional and knowledgeable about the latest scientific contributions a TL has made and the value of their clinical influence. Again, it comes back to the importance of qualitative interactions over quantitative.
Why did your organization decide to sponsor the 9th Annual MSL Society Conference?
Thirty-one years ago, when I became Roche’s first medical liaison (testing a concept) there were no best practices, SOPs or organizations such as The MSL Society to provide guidance or support. Those of us who were pioneers in this profession are not only proud to have been part of an “experiment” which has proven to be very successful, but even more proud to see the advances and value MSLs bring to patients, clinicians and our own organizations, truly making a difference and being part of the greater good. We, therefore, consider it a privilege to support such a dynamic and valuable organization for the MSL community. The MSL Society is critical to the continued success of the MSL function, which is vital, as new drug treatments, devices and disease management programs continue to develop in more and more complex ways. To be able to come together, to share ideas and best practices is essential, and we’re delighted to be a part of it.
What are you most excited about for this year’s conference?
Mainly hearing the sessions and for our team members to finally interact in-person with colleagues! We hope everyone has an incredibly valuable and enjoyable meeting.
What has been your biggest challenge this year as a company, and how did you overcome it?
There’s no question, it’s of course coming out from Covid, as most organizations would likely say, and we’ve successfully adapted in terms of our interactions. But for us, another challenge has also been in identifying the needs and trends in the medical and scientific landscape. It’s critical that measurement for MSLs is focused on a qualitative approach, rather than quantitative, and we see our role as firstly getting that message out there, and secondly providing the tools that accurately and objectively provide that measurement.