Digital innovation continues to transform the healthcare and biopharmaceutical landscape, and as it does, the role of Medical Affairs is changing. Traditionally, Medical Affairs was responsible for communicating with healthcare providers (HCPs) and engaging in scientific exchange. This entailed building one-on-one relationships with individual experts, sharing research findings and other scientific information and listening to HCPs’ perspectives.
Today’s Medical Affairs teams are expected to play larger and more important roles in pharmaceutical companies’ go-to-market and commercialization strategies. In a world where medical science and business models in the industry are increasingly data-driven and complex, it’s essential for Medical Affairs to refocus its efforts: It needs to gather insights that better inform medical strategy, product development and launch strategies, along with other aspects of commercialization.
“The changing role of Medical Affairs is something that’s been talked about in the industry for years, but I think that this year is when these discussions will finally lead to solid action,” says Scott Thompson, co-chief executive officer at Acceleration Point. “Nowadays, Medical Affairs is becoming better and better able to measure the impact of its activities, which is driving teams to re-evaluate how they collaborate – and how they contribute to the organization as a whole. They’re broadening their role across various segments of the medical community, as well as gaining traction and greater importance within the C-suite.”
Heightening the focus on field insights
Along with data generation and dissemination, gathering field insights is a top priority for Medical Affairs teams. Collecting such insights used to be a fairly passive and organic process. Today, however, Medical Affairs teams’ efforts tend to be more sharply focused. Medical Affairs is spending more time with organizational leadership upfront to clarify what they need to learn. This makes it faster and easier for field teams to gather more insights, analyze data from multiple sources and communicate the results of their efforts.
When collecting insights, medical teams typically rely on a rich assortment of information sources, including conventional ones such as field medical engagements, literature searches and market research. It’s also common to find valuable information from advisory boards, analyses of claims data and simulations. Web searches and ongoing monitoring are other rich sources of intelligence.
The power of social listening
Leading teams are also turning to emerging technologies to supplement the insights they gather from traditional sources with information that’s more nuanced, or that can challenge (or validate) what they’ve learned elsewhere. Medical Affairs can benefit from a social monitoring, insights and analytics platform that was purpose-built to ingest online scientific content from millions of sources worldwide – and quickly surface trends and patterns within it using artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled analytics.
“Social listening can complement field medical insights by providing a broader real-time view of what’s being said about a company, its treatments or the diseases they target,” explains Thompson. “This can help medical science liaisons and other field-based medical affairs personnel better understand the current landscape and identify areas where their expertise can be most useful. When they combine these sources of information, Medical Affairs teams can develop more effective and targeted strategies for engaging with healthcare providers and other key stakeholders. Such intelligence also empowers them to contribute key strategic insights to the organization’s leadership.”
Insight generation should be a fully integrated process in which the people who are making decisions based on data are analyzing as many data sources as possible to derive, challenge and validate their insights. Social listening brings a new set of insights into the mix that are timely, unfiltered and as broad as the industry itself.
Whereas in-person engagements with key opinion leaders (KOLs) take place no more frequently than once every three years, social media engagement happens all the time, providing immediate insights into what’s being said in conversation. These discussions are neither peer reviewed nor colored by the biases of an interviewer. Plus, social listening gives Medical Affairs open access to a much wider and more diverse array of HCPs than they’d ever be able to directly engage with, and it does so in a way that’s significantly less expensive than running advisory boards or increasing the number of face-to-face engagements.
Unlocking the full potential of Medical Affairs
Social listening can give Medical Affairs invaluable insights that they can draw upon to prepare for in-person HCP engagements, to discern cross-industry trends that are shaping experts’ thinking and to validate research findings. More importantly, it can allow them to ask the right questions – both of KOLs and when examining other data sources – to reveal today’s most important trends and patterns – and anticipate tomorrow’s.
Those patterns can offer insights that lead to adjustments in publication plans, engagement strategies, clinical trials and patient care. Ultimately, asking better questions leads to the collection of more useful data, which, in turn, leads to deeper insights. The result? Medical Affairs can use its growing awareness of patient, HCP and other stakeholders’ needs to help the organization position itself for success in a fast-changing and ever more data-driven world.
Discover how Kwello, the most comprehensive KOL social monitoring platform on the market, is helping the industry’s top MSLs and Medical Affairs teams deepen their relationships with leading scientific experts and position their organizations for success. Visit Acceleration Point’s website to learn more.