Select Page

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. David Tanouye Shares his thoughts on Effective Territory Management

Dr. David Tanouye Shares his thoughts on Effective Territory Management

  1. How does one juggle multiple meetings out in the field?

When I am traveling by plane, car or at a conference, I am in control of my schedule, so I don’t ever have conflicts in my time.  What I do when I am in the field is to reach out to my KOL via email or phone call and try and schedule time out of their office for breakfast, lunch or dinner to sit down and discuss topics of interest.  If this is a doctor I don’t know have a current relationship, I will reach out to one of my commercial or clinical team members to arrange a meeting (usually introduction meeting)  I really enjoy meeting doctors in the operating room during cases.  I have been observing cataract and refractive cases for many years.  Most surgeons enjoy the teaching aspect during surgery and are very open to having you in the OR.  One key point is to not upset the flow or staff in the surgery center.  There is one surgery center that I have known some of their staff for over 20 years and I have an open invitation to observe cases with two of their surgeons whenever I want to. 

At conferences, I book breakfast reservations and lunch reservations ahead of time and try to fill them with KOL meetings.  If I can’t fill them, I cancel the reservations the day before with no penalty.  I often will arrange to meet my KOL at our Medical Affairs table in the Exhibit Hall.

  1. What are the top 3 tools needed to manage a territory effectively?

Frequent flyer and frequent hotel rewards program. As you rise in the loyalty programs, you have access to better seats on planes, better rooms at hotels and the perks that go with it. Combine multiple KOL visits when traveling by plane to maximize your time when away from home. Keeping in contact with the commercial team for introductions or if one of their KOL’s proposes a study idea.

    3.  For MSLs that have a limited budget, what are 3 tips that help them to continue to maximize KOL opportunities in their territory?

  • Fortunately, I can drive to half of my KOL’s so I am putting plenty of mileage on my company car.
  •  Telephone calls and emails replaced face to face interactions while our budget was sliced.
  •  Combine multiple doctor visits when traveling and fly back home at night to avoid another day’s hotel stay.

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.