Be like the Stem Cell, differentiate yourself from others

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As physicians within Biopharma and Medical Affairs (MA) teams are increasingly expected to navigate a far more complex healthcare universe, the most forward-thinking companies focus on being masters of data and digital technologies and whilst focusing on exceling in this area are expected to communicate the scientific evidence in a far more effective and outcome driven manner.

With 50% of drug launches now failing to meet company expectations highly talented MA teams are becoming a “strategic ace” in an era of Big Data. With a proposition of being well equipped with deep product knowledge and disease understanding industry leading MA teams, that are best placed to generate and present high-quality scientific knowledge to the market and educate stakeholders about next-generation products. However anecdotally it appears many companies are still challenged around communicating science effectively to the growing volume of stakeholders that are becoming even more influential in purchasing decisions.

During our recent Medical Affairs Executive “dinner and debate” we posed the question, what is “Medical Excellence?”

Recruitment within Medical Affairs has increased by over 12% in the last few years and Only Medics are seeing a growing number of these roles, there is still a lack of clarity around what the position entails and appears to differ from company to company. An experienced MA team can bring a seamless approach to linking scientific and clinical results to patient outcomes, this in turn adds value at every stage of a drug’s development. When discussing a potential new compound with physicians, payers and opinion leaders, MA teams gather vital feedback on market potential and patient needs at the earliest stages of the drug development process. This feedback can bring a substantially improved return on investment whilst generating a robust competitive advantage by ensuring companies design more effective clinical programs and launches.

Therefore, a role titled “Medical Excellence” can be shaped from differing understandings and needs from business to business. An interesting observation from our group at the beginning of the debate saw a comment around how Medical vs Commercial in comparison to 10-15 years is showing there are often now as many MA staff in a company as there are commercial. MA thinks of medical excellence as pivotal to long-term strategic goals, but the priorities must ultimately be on patients and not profits. Of course, this a noble and moral focus, but this must be combined with a drug launch fully meeting a company’s expectations, or ultimately the patient may never gain access to a new ground-breaking drug.

One key area of consensus during the debate was that each MA executive seemed to define Medical Excellence slightly differently. It was expressed that some organisations appear to have limited knowledge around what the roles actually were or should be. Larger pharmaceutical companies seemed to be driving ahead with this as an essential role and could designate specific individuals to the function, such as having a formal role for a Medical Excellence Director. Whilst smaller businesses seemed more likely to absorb Medical Excellence into Therapy Area Heads.

Where consensus began to build within the group of Medical Affairs Executives was around the vast importance of more robust training of Medical Science Liaison (MSL) & the building of better SOPs. Whilst the quality of scientific exchange is extremely important, medical excellence isn’t just medical affairs, it starts with R&D and the ability to address medical needs. The group felt it is integral to getting a better handle on medical excellence and building a better understanding and approach, hiring the best people to begin with was critical and ensuring their training and development was well invested in. Agreement strengthened around the belief that ultimately medical excellence means more effective face time with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) by MSL’s & Sales Representatives as there is a direct correlation between a true focus on medical excellence and positive results.

Agreement seemed aligned around a more structured definition to the Medical Excellence role. A focus on building structure, processes, roles & responsibilities, governance, communication, skills upgrades and in fact training at all levels in order to see the “Medical Excellence” group evolve. Defining deliverables

and building a leading MA functional Training Academy model would be a great starting point and having established medical competencies that can encompass all business models. Achieving business goals and strategic objectives is fundamental to enhance the MA performance, but this will only come from enhanced people skills, capability and better understanding of what Medical Excellence looks like. There are emerging novel learning methods and technologies coming through that can transform the way MA associates learn for better learning outcomes.

Ultimately the life science industry needs to invest even more in MA to ensure it keeps up with the rapidly evolving interactions required amongst an ever-growing number of stakeholders in an industry that becomes more complex by the day. As companies such as Amazon and Google enter the healthcare space with their plans around cost control and further empowerment of the consumer, MA could emerge as the most powerful and essential force within a pharma company. If the pharmaceutical industry is going to be able to defend itself against these well-known technology companies entering rapidly into the healthcare arena, it needs to go beyond simply proving the effectiveness of the drugs they launch. There will be a requirement to prove its value to the overall system and the ability to improve patient outcomes. Medical Excellence and its definition and growth will play a major role in this outcome. Differentiate yourself by your Medical Excellence.

The Clinical Professionals Group is a Global Life Sciences staffing business and Only Medics is our specialist Medical Affairs staffing brand. In the US our sister brand is Cpl Physicians.

Every 3 months we bring together for Dinner and Debate a group of Executives from Medical Affairs for peer to peer exchange in both the UK and US. These evenings have received great feedback by attendees who find immense value in peer to peer exchange and thought leadership.

If you are interested in attending our next dinner in early 2020 in either the UK or US please contact CEO of the Clinical Professionals Group (a Cpl company).