Question:  Have your recent system implementations met your team’s expectations? 

Your field medical teams use many types of systems in their work, including HCP relationship management, slide management, document repositories, insight submission applications, and reporting tools.  There are also newer systems emerging including virtual MSL tools, HCP portals, advanced analytics, and a variety of team social apps for collaboration.

Commercial teams typically provide multiple full-time resources to lead and support their projects. However, most medical teams do not plan adequate resources to make these systems effective for their teams.  Medical often only assigns a few MSLs part-time to be on a committee responsible for the system design and implementation.

Technology vendors and your internal IT department provide critical roles to a successful system implementation.  However, they are often focused on technical configurations and do not spend enough time truly understanding the needs of the medical affairs team and their business processes.

As a medical team leader, you need to increase your level of involvement and take full ownership of the projects to ensure all of your requirements are met and the systems actually make your team’s lives easier, not harder.

The Six Responsibilities of the Medical Team in System Projects 

  1. Vendor Selection –  It is critical the medical team is involved in the vendor selection.  Often other parts of the organization will select a technology provider without understanding if the selected solution will fulfill medical’s needs.
  2. Design You must have clear and consistent expectations of your team’s roles and processes before beginning system design.  Significant time should be spent understanding how the technology can help support your team processes.  Process design should always proceed system implementation and drive your user requirements.
  3. TestingUser acceptance testing is a critical step that occurs before the system is launched to the team.  Make sure you are involved in the creation of the user scenarios that will test the system functionality.  This is your last chance to validate the system will work well for your team.
  4. User Support Your internal technology team will likely have a help desk available for common issues; however, when there are issues that affect the team broadly someone from medical must guide the support teams on how to respond.
  5. Training – Vendors will often provide training materials and may even facilitate workshops.  However, medical users typically need instruction on the process and standards, not just which buttons to click.  Additionally, make sure you have a plan on how to train people after launch.
  6. Enhancements- The moment a system goes live, it requires ongoing thought to keep it relevant and aligned to the ongoing needs of the team. The medical team should have a multi-year roadmap for major systems.

Project Resourcing 

It is often hard for medical teams to find the appropriate resources for their technology projects.  Most MSLs and members of the medical organization choose this profession because of their passion for science and want to be a contributor in the medical community of their therapeutic area.  Not many people in the medical organization wake up excited about defining requirements for a new document management system.  The medical team should consider two ways to fulfill this need:

  • Hire a professional with significant systems experience and teach them about your medical affairs processes and teams.  This is a person who can discuss key system decisions with the technologists, but view their primary responsibility as understanding and meeting the needs of the medical affairs team.
  • In the right circumstances, you can outsource this role to an agency that can guide alignment of the organization’s expectations of medical roles, design medical processes, and then use that knowledge to ensure that medical systems make the job easier to do.

By being ready to fulfill the selection, design, testing, and implementation roles, medical can lead successful system projects that truly meet the needs of their team.