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Closing the gap between promise and progress.
The COVID pandemic gave a boost to digital medical affairs initiatives. For leading medical affairs teams, it was an accelerant to a process that started long before COVID. The crisis served to fuel changes to customer engagement mindsets, processes, and systems that had been in the works for years.
For many other teams, COVID created a sense of urgency that wasn’t there before and prompted increased experimentation with digital technologies such as virtual meetings, digital congress activity and remote MSL engagement. While these activities were important in priming a digital engagement mindset and behaviors, they are not a substitute for the systematic transformation of leading organizations required to create lasting change.
This article looks at some of the barriers we have seen at different stages of Medical Affairs digitization and opportunities to close the gap between promise and progress. We look at obstacles in both planning and implementation.
Medical affairs teams are traditionally staffed with science, medical information, and health outcomes experts, but not digital transformation experts. To engineer high-quality customer experiences common in the consumer world, med affairs teams must internalize what “good” looks like to their customers, and what it means to their responsibilities. Important actions to prime teams for better customer experiences include:
Many teams are seduced by new vendor technologies exposed at tradeshows. They end up making investments in tools without a proper customer engagement plan in place. What’s needed is a cohesive plan of action to guide investments. A good plan:
With the pandemic waning in some areas, sustaining digital transformation momentum is paramount. Change agents should continue to highlight the benefits of closing the gap in virtual interactions desired by health care providers, including live webcasts, virtual two-way peer to peer discussions and on-demand content.1
To sustain momentum, be sure to:
Customers do not care about functional departments when interacting with biopharmaceutical companies; they care that they get the information or support they require. Yet, when designing customer experiences, departmental silos2 often get in the way of a seamless experience. Sometimes Medical Affairs teams are limited by a restrictive vision of their responsibilities which prevents necessary participation in planning end-to-end experiences or designing content in multiple formats or standing up new channels. Additionally, Medical affairs teams often struggle interpreting restrictions around proactive versus reactive communications in the context of multi-channel engagement.
To overcome this issue, medical affairs change agents must:
Digital transformations are large scale change initiatives, yet many organizations treat them as a series of one-off projects and add-on responsibilities to already busy teams. As a result, the projects don’t get the traction they should. To maximize adoption, recommendations include:
The Medical Affairs function is arguably more important now than ever as companies launch more specialized and complex products requiring education and translation of medical information into practical insights to support clinical decision-making and demonstrate value. In this environment customers will expect medical affairs teams to be purveyors of high-quality content and services which are delivered through personalized, virtual interactions in a variety of live and on-demand formats.
Gregg Fisher, Managing Partner, The Stem