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Measuring Omnichannel Efforts in Medical Affairs


A five-step pilot approach to effective measurement of medical affairs omnichannel efforts.

Cassie Stox, VP, Media Strategy and Audience Insights, MedThink SciCom

Cassie Stox, VP, Media Strategy and Audience Insights, MedThink SciCom

Medical affairs (MA) teams play an essential role in ensuring healthcare providers (HCPs) have accurate information about pharmaceutical products and clinical topics. However, despite the development of omnichannel plans and the piloting of various tactics, generating evidence of this “increased understanding” has proven to be an arduous task. How can MA teams identify and pilot a strategic measurement plan aligned with their goals to generate evidence of increased knowledge and clinical understanding?

Omnichannel planning is a method of communication that uses aligned channels and tactics to reach audiences with tailored scientific content. It is different from multichannel planning in that each channel is chosen for a specific reason and optimized for a specific audience, providing an integrated experience among all channels. This means that instead of using the same message across multiple channels, the MA team can tailor the content and the delivery method to the specific audience and their preferences or clinical need.

Omnichannel planning lays the groundwork for identifying key metrics that will best reveal how increased engagement translates into changes in attitudes, perceptions, or behaviors. Establishing an omnichannel measurement plan is essential, though certain challenges should be considered. For instance, common metrics for most MA omnichannel plans are tactical—such as views, reach, impressions, and engagements—and these measurements are typically tied to individual tactics and channels, whereas the omnichannel goal is to coordinate across all efforts. Moreover, because MA teams do not have access to user-level data, the lack of analytics at the individual HCP level shrouds insight generation for future efforts to coordinate omnichannel plans. Finally, measuring for an increase in understanding across various initiatives requires coordination across potentially siloed MA departments. These challenges reveal a need for thoughtfully planned omnichannel metrics and increased collaboration across MA departments before, during, and after MA initiatives.

Designing measurement plans that will generate meaningful insights is key to the optimization of omnichannel plans. Without the right measurements, MA teams cannot fulfill their goal of effectively communicating accurate information to HCPs.

So, how can MA teams pilot a successful omnichannel measurement plan? This five-step approach breaks it down for you.

1. Begin with the goal in mind

Every strategic omnichannel plan should be developed to deliver on the goals outlined in the scientific communication platform or integrated medical communications strategy. When establishing measurements for an omnichannel plan, the strategy is to show how planned tactical efforts are affecting the core goals. Many MA teams lose this vision when they get to the measurement phase and only focus on tactical performance. This is usually because it’s easiest to measure. To tie tactical measurements back to core goals, MA professionals should reference the scientific communication strategy and clearly define the educational objectives of the plan. This will help ground the team in the goals as they start to think about measurements. If there are different educational objectives for different audiences, then clearly delineate them.

For example, consider a situation where a medication is believed to be effective in high-risk populations, but there is a lack of understanding among HCPs of the meaning/definition of “high risk.” The educational objective could be to increase awareness and identification of high-risk populations.

2. Define the current state of knowledge

Once an educational objective has been confirmed, the next step is to determine what is known about the audience's current state of knowledge. Is the educational objective a new idea and the current state is null? Talk to field medical, medical information, or medical directors to gain insights. Audit current discussions, key opinion leader (KOL) and digital opinion leader insights, and clinical guidelines. Deploy surveys or polls with the audience(s) to set a baseline before any efforts. Consider partnering with survey design experts to ensure the survey addresses needs and provides actionable insights.

This step will require cross-functional collaboration within the organization. MA professionals may already have regular touchpoints with field medical teams or others that are connecting directly with the key HCP audience. Their insights can help frame a baseline for measuring the educational objective. In the example of increasing awareness and identification of high-risk populations, medical directors and field medical discussions may uncover that 50% of the patient population fits into a high-risk category, yet less than 5% of high-risk patients are receiving optimal treatment.

Defining what the current state of knowledge is allows MA professionals to set a baseline from which to improve. For more complex educational objectives, gain insights from KOLs, audit current clinical guidelines, and/or deploy surveys with HCP audiences specifically designed to uncover the current state to assist in setting a baseline.

3. Identify indicators of success

With a baseline clearly established, move forward by defining actions or indicators that would suggest a meaningful change. What is projected to occur once HCPs gain understanding? Define indicators that can be measured outside of surveys or polls, such as an increase or decrease in medical information queries, attitudinal insights from field medical discussions, changes in dialogue among KOLs, or changes in clinical guidelines. Set baselines for these indicators so that the measurement of changes can be monitored. As with all measurement frameworks, these indicators should follow the SMART criteria, ensuring they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

A useful exercise is to ask your team to fill in the blank for the following statement:

  • “If we are successful in [educational objective], we expect __________________________.”

If we use the above example, this statement may read: “If we are successful in increasing awareness and identification of high-risk patients, we expect an increase of 10% in high-risk patients receiving treatment after 10 months.”

In some cases, MA teams may need to go one step further to identify the baseline for indicators of success. For example, if the objective is to educate on adverse event (AE) management, then teams would expect a successful effort would result in optimal management, as more HCPs are educated on how best to address patient needs. How can this result be quantified? One measure could potentially be through a decrease in medical information or medical science liaison (MSL) queries around this topic. If so, seek to quantify the current level of queries and set that as the baseline for this indicator. Or perhaps there is a recent analysis that indicates the average time to an AE resolution that can be used as a baseline. If available, establishing any historical data will help identify trends during an omnichannel initiative.

4. Define the plan

We next need to understand the range of tactics that will be included to avoid any gaps in measurement. Include relevant efforts across publications, congresses, continuing medical education (CME), health economics and outcomes research, or any other relevant channels. This is another example of cross-functional collaboration, and it is important to share any planned tactical efforts as well as any measurements.

Through collaboration with field medical teams, expect to uncover other communication plans that align with the medical educational objective; factor these in as they will ultimately influence the success of the omnichannel plan. This also provides an opportunity to align on existing measurements and potentially add new ones that will ladder up to the omnichannel plan metrics. For example, most MSLs have performance metrics that are a mix of hard metrics (e.g., number of KOL relationships, frequency of office visits, etc.) and soft metrics (e.g., insight gathering, tracking knowledge levels, etc.). MA professionals can ask MSLs to base their hard and soft metrics within the larger context of the key educational objective.

Similar efforts should be made to understand how publications, congress presence, CME, and other channels are communicating and measuring success and identify any opportunities for alignment.

5. Check measurements and deploy pulse and post surveys

Once indicators of success have been established, make plans to check in and denote any shifts in the identified indicators. Deploy pulse surveys throughout the omnichannel campaign to provide direct, ongoing feedback; after the omnichannel campaign, deploy surveys to measure overall efforts.

This measurement plan is focused on establishing the effectiveness of the overall omnichannel plan, which should include multiple tactics over time. There will (and should) be more tactical measurements that are aligned to individual tactics within the plan, but these multiple tactics should ideally work together in a coordinated omnichannel plan to deliver an overall outcome.

This step is where the MA team would quantify whether there was a 10% increase in high-risk patients receiving treatment. One tactical measurement may indicate a surge of publications confirming this objective, while another may show more KOL social media discourse on disparities among the high-risk population. Thus, omnichannel metrics function as counterparts to generate evidence of overall achievement.

Final thoughts

A strategic measurement plan aligned with MA educational objectives is essential to generate evidence of increased understanding. Measuring for an increase in understanding is an attitudinal or behavioral-based measurement that requires thoughtful strategies to uncover true measurements. By following the five-step approach, MA teams can effectively measure the impact of their omnichannel efforts and optimize communications for HCPs. To identify the best candidate for a pilot measurement effort, consider whether a product has clearly defined and quantifiable medical educational objectives and whether the MA team has established cross-functional collaboration.

Following these steps, MA teams can formulate strategic measurements that can be quantified and presented in a way that preempts the “so what?” question. By aligning the core medical objectives with measurable indicators of success, MA professionals can make connections among the channels and tactics that were aligned to medical objectives and audience insights, ultimately revealing how the overall objective is accomplished through changes in measured indicators of success.

Cassie Stox is a VP of media strategy and audience insights for MedThink SciCom.

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