The challenge of imposing quantitative outcomes on intangible deliverables is complicated by the heterogeneity of MSL activities from company to company and by the changing needs for product support through its lifecycle. Based on "Medical Science Liaison Performance Metrics Report," an independent survey of 23 MSL programs from 19 biopharmaceutical companies, MSL executives assign both quantitative and qualitative metrics for their MSLs' performance. They understand that there is a need for measuring value in a commercial organization, but they favor a predominantly qualitative approach for MSL performance evaluation.
What Is the Value? In response to the question, "What is the value of MSLs to the pharmaceutical organization?" directors, senior managers, and MSLs suggest that their value is market-driven and tactically oriented. When preparing the market for launch or expanding therapeutic areas, MSLs are heavily invested in clinical research support and the dissemination of clinical information.Once the product has been launched, medical science liaisons help maintain market position and momentum. In certain therapeutic areas, MSLs maintain a high level of research-related activities even during the sales-driven phase of a product's lifecycle. Generally, during the sales-driven phase, MSLs assume a supportive function. Some companies expect MSLs to conduct "scientific consults" and clinical presentations for promotional programs (initiated by sales), consultant meetings (initiated by marketing), or managed-care meetings.
Performance Metrics Although the benefits of developing quality relationships with thought leaders and top academic institutions can be justified, demonstrating the economic returns of these relationships without a market share correlative is difficult.
Executives are using both objective and subjective measures to communicate MSLs' value to organizational stakeholders. Many MSL directors define the metrics as accountability for time or activities, based on the assumption that value should follow. In extreme cases of defining metrics by accountability, MSLs are evaluated on reach and frequency (of interaction), and are expected to deliver a predetermined set of scientific messages to thought leaders.
Counting Calls Not the Answer Most MSLs agree that metrics are necessary and that they capture the quality and outcomes of an interaction. They view the predetermination of activities quotas without regard to rationale or quality as a way for an organization to "fly under the radar" when conducting inappropriate activities. Consequently, MSLs view performance metrics and accountability as separate issues. They see accountability as being synonymous with responsibility and performance as demonstrative of the effect for the organization.