Data will continue to grow in importance in 2024.
Many of the biggest stories in 2023 were related to technological advancements in the life sciences industry. These advancements have increased the importance of having high-quality data. Christoph Bug, vice president of global medical at Veeva, spoke with Pharmaceutical Executive about the trends he sees coming for medical affairs teams in 2024.
Pharmaceutical Executive: How will medical affairs teams focus on data in 2024?
Christoph Bug: Where would I start? Medical affairs is a slow moving beast. Some trends that I see coming over to 2024, and potentially even further, is around data and data-driven decision-making. This is from the operation side of data-driven decision-making, such as the availability of operational metrics and measuring medical impact. For me, these are the big topics. What does it mean?
If we start on the difficult end, the key question is how medical affairs measures its impact. What are the key responsibilities of medical affairs in a cross-functional setting? How does the role of medical affairs support the pharmaceutical industry? Lastly, how can that impact be measured in a compliant way? Those are the key challenges for medical affairs. They haven’t been solved in the last 10 years, and now the question is will they be solved next year. Maybe it takes a bit longer, but what I’m seeing is that there’s a lot of interest in the industry on that topic.
We have put out data and, for the first time, correlated medical activity (interactions with KOLs and treatment starts). This was the first time there was evidence for something that we believed had an impact. This has stirred new discussions and new interests. Wherever I am, talking to senior medical leaders and operational medical workers, this topic of measuring our impact and substantiated our contribution is big. We don’t have the ultimate solution, but there are a lot of little initiatives and people start to approach it from direction involving smaller steps.
This is one things that I’m expecting for 2024, that this journey of getting quantitively measuring the impact of medical affairs will continue.
PE: What are some of the new technologies impacting how people are collecting and analyzing data?
Bug: Technology-wise, I would say that the big technological platforms for data in medical affairs are something like a CRM system, or a system that’s essentially a hub where all of the information flows in. This includes documentation of interactions, insights, sentiment of customers, where customers are on a journey, and other data points.
Of course, functions have to use that system to get that data and be able to analyze and come to insights. Examples of this includes which customers haven’t been seen in the last six months, who’s lagging behind on expectations, how is the productivity of the teams, are enough medical insights being captured, and up to what does this do to the impact of the organization.
Also, tools that manage content are important. That would be my second pick. These are tools that get right content in the most efficient way to the right customer at the right moment. We know that access to physicians is declining because they have less time and can’t spend as much time with the industry. They need information at their fingertips, and it must be trustable, efficient, and come via the correct channel. Managing this process in an efficient way is extremely important. We see that 70% of the content that is created across pharma is never used. We have the data, but there’s a lot of value lost because money is spent on agencies to create content that is never used.
My third pick is external data. This would include 360-customer data. You must make sure that you pick the right customers and don’t leave customers out that are important. You must have the right topics to approach them and what their preferred channel is, specifically for medical affairs. You must know what customers are saying about your product, who do they work with, what are their key interests, and more.
PE: How important is the need for a singular platform to corral all this data? Are they more important than technologies that get more attention, like AI?
Bug: There is a lot of discussion around AI, and there’s not a single meeting where you don’t hear AI when you talk to people. AI is the recipe, but you still need the ingredients and someone that can cook.
Data is very fragmented and the quality needs to be high and controlled in order for AI to work. If you have uncontrolled, low-quality data, even the greatest algorithm will still return a result that’s less-than desired. Poor data can also make AI less reliable. Our strategy is to ensure that we control the data and that the quality is high.