The investment can be measured by a boost in medical partners, increase in patient benefits, furthered practice development—and,
most important, insight gained from the field to further R&D or product development. Although there is no direct, quantifiable
answer executives want to know: "If I am developing this function and providing it as a resource to the medical community,
are the MSLs being effective in placing this resource into the field?"
The survey, conducted with more than 28 major companies, revealed other ways to gauge MSLs: the number of presentations an
MSL can give, the number of R&D projects they can take on, educational programs attended, thought-leader activities, managed-care
activities arranged, and number of speaker slide shows reviewed.
One of the most common ways to measure liaison success is to include comments from thought leaders as part of a company relationship-management
system. Evidence-based outcome and performance reports also can be implemented to gauge a liaison's initial goals and objectives
when starting a project, track their progress in the field, and allow management to rate the effectiveness of the project.
Some categories used to rate MSLs include: follow-up reports, scientific rigor, understanding compliance guidelines, and appropriate
responsiveness to inquiries from the medical community.
Above all, MSLs must be engaging and have superior communication skills. They have to be able to communicate on a high scientific,
peer-to-peer basis, to effectively reach out to thought leaders and establish solid relationships—thereby making them a sought-after
medical resource. The medical liaison must walk in a gray area that involves understanding science, but also understanding
what their thought leaders are asking them—they have to be flexible, independent, and have good judgment. Surveys can be issued
to customers and thought leaders who are directly in contact with the MSLs to rate their field performance.
One of the best ways to demonstrate an MSL's worth is by their ability to demonstrate performance compared with established
goals, objectives and clear roles and responsibilities. Performance metrics in general should be tied to both corporate goals
and objects and individual position responsibilities. Every company also should provide their MSLs with career-development
opportunities that include targeted metrics and performance plans. MSLs should be evaluated based on their ability to effectively
navigate between both the business and science of a company on an independent basis, and to communicate high-level scientific
Moreover, there should be continued internal communications regarding the success and activities of the MSL department. This
not only will expand awareness of the team internally, but also serve as an opportunity to educate other functional areas
about MSLs' ongoing, significant contributions, and add definition to MSLs' roles.
Just because a group is regionally based, that does not mean that their work should be based on sales activities, such as
call frequency or call cycles for interactions with thought leaders. Some of the healthcare providers upon whom many MSLs
are focused may not write any prescriptions, yet still be important to them and their companies because of the literature
they publish or their involvement with developing treatment guidelines. When a company builds a MSL department, it should
be viewed as a long-term investment strategy rather than a short-term fix. MSLs maintain the intellectual capital developed
from relationships with significant thought leaders, from bench to bedside, as a product or device evolves.
Furthermore, the thought leaders that a MSL may focus upon may vary due to the specific clinical challenge or product lifecycle
stage. The type of primary investigator or thought leader during a preclinical or early clinical development stage may not
be the same type of individual with whom MSLs will interact when a product or device is at a later stage of product development.
In the end, there is no single answer or yardstick that measures MSLs in all stages of product lifecycle development. The
reality is: Metrics should be a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures, tailored to an individual company's
needs and culture.
Robin L. Winter-Sperry, MD, is president of Scientific Advantage. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andre Mann, MD, works as a medical affairs consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com