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Problems with Insight Generation

Oct 24, 2017

Over the last few years, the importance of field medical insight generation has increased.  The internal value that MSLs provide to your company is the actionable insights that they bring into the organization.  As Ralph Rewers, the head of the US MSL team at Abbvie said at the 2017 MSL Society Conference, “Meaningful field insights is the currency of the MSL team within your company.”

While insight generation has been a part of the MSL role since it was first created, there continue to be many challenges to effective insight generation programs.

The Seven Typical Challenges for Field Medical Insight Programs:

    1. Organizations do not make insight generation important enough in the role of the MSL team.

While most teams acknowledge that insight generation is important, most MSL team leaders apply minimal resources and time to the activity.  If you consider your system investments, the time you spend providing training, how much coaching is provided by leaders, and how you prioritize team meeting agendas, are insight generation activities adequately represented?

    1. The cycle of hearing insights to analyzing them is too long.

Systems and processes for insight generation typically include submitting free-text insights into an email or through your CRM.  Commonly these insights are pulled monthly or quarterly in preparation for a review meeting where they are summarized.  This means that the analysis of these insights can be 30-90 days after the insight is first heard preventing immediate action and lead to large numbers of insights that need to be reviewed at any time.

    1. Data sources are analyzed in silos.

Insights come into the company from many sources.  MSLs submitted insight observations, HCP surveys, advisory board outputs, medical information requests, and market research are all sources of insights.  However, most medical teams review and evaluate each of these sources independently.  This can lead to patterns being missed across these various sources.

    1. Insights are not tied to explicit strategies and actions.

Insight generation processes typically conclude with a review of a summary created for the organization.  Sometimes these summaries are resurrected during brand planning.  However, most insight generation processes do not include a specific meeting where the medical team decides if the insights can be acted upon or if more targeted information is needed.  Additionally, MSLs typically do not know if insights they submitted ever impact the brand or team strategy. 

    1. Important details are lost in submission.

As insights are reviewed by field leaders, they are often summarized into a handful of bullets on a PowerPoint slide before being shared with the broader medical team.  When this occurs, the nuances that may lead to deeper understanding of HCP beliefs and behaviors is often lost. 

    1. Clouded by metrics.

Many MSL teams are given a goal for the number of insights they must submit each month.  This can cloud the data by encouraging submissions that are not impactful.  These types of metrics are typically added because MSL teams do not know how their insights are contributing to strategy. 

    1. Team is not aligned to what is “worthy” of being an insight.

When MSLs are asked to simply report on anything “insightful” there can be misalignment about what should be submitted.  While being observant for brand new insights is important, the quality of insights can be increased by ensuring that the field team knows current areas of interest to look for.  It is important that the MSLs know that if they hear a topic multiple times, that they should submit it multiple times, even if they already shared that it is a topic of interest.

There are many strategies that you can apply to overcome these challenges and increase the effectiveness of your insight generation program.  See our related posts about these strategies.

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