The MSL Society conducted an online survey between September 20 – October 9, 2020, on the utilization of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems by MSLs. Only responses from MSLs, Sr. MSLs, Medical Advisors, Managers/Directors of MSLs were included in the analysis. The survey was conducted in conjunction with the webinar that Huma.ai sponsored and co-presented with Sanofi at the MSL Society Annual Meeting on the topic “How to build KOL relationships digitally in the New Normal”. This article summarizes the key findings and discusses the next steps for leveraging data to help MSLs be successful in their KOL engagements in this new era of digital.
Over 50% of respondents were from Pharma, with representation from medical devices and diagnostic companies. Over 50% of the MSLs were field-based with < 2 years of experience. The survey looked at the MSL field team as well as a combination of MSL field team plus managers and the results were similar. In addition, the survey looked at both US and Global and the trends were similar.
CRM Tools being deployed to identify/establish KOL relationships.
>50% of respondents both within the US and Global are using Veeva followed by 20% who are using Salesforce. There are still around 10% of the respondents who are using EXCEL spreadsheets or are not leveraging their CRM for KOL engagements or are using an alternative CRM. Questions remain how exactly the MSL teams are using the CRM data – are they leveraging the field team insights from discussions with KOLs and feeding them back into the collective team to provide guidance on strategy for the product pipeline? MSLs with their vast amount of experience in subject matters are the best channels to gain these insights. They provide the role as a trusted partner that KOLs can lean on for information on drugs, clinical trials since they are constantly being inundated with information through multiple channels.
Primary Resources being used to build KOL relationships
MSLs are using public data sources such as PubMed and ClinicalTrials.gov as well as scientific meetings and CRM field notes to build KOL relationships (Figure 1). Interestingly, social media was not being leveraged much for building KOL relationships. The current publicly available tools such as PubMed and Clinical trials.gov are rich with data but they require complex filtering and are not built to gain business intelligence on KOLs easily. What if we could combine several data sources so that we can generate personalized KOL dashboards that include their publications, participation in clinical trials, social media posts plus internal CRM data?
Figure 1: What resource are you primarily utilizing to build new KOL relationships? Manager / Director of MSLs (or equivalent title) and MSL, Sr. MSL, Medical Advisor (or equivalent title)
Interestingly, >70% of the respondents are using CRM to capture and leverage KOL insights and yet ~50% say that they do not believe that their CRM data effectively helps them to prepare for their KOL meetings. Clearly, there is a huge opportunity here to help MSL teams leverage their CRM data. Why are MSL teams not leveraging their CRM data? Part of the issue is that the current BI tools for CRM structured data are not self-service and require data scientists to run SQL searches to uncover the data. Based on several discussions that Huma.ai has had in the past few months with MSL teams, most of them are using CRM systems to collate the field team notes but are not leveraging these for their KOL management. Specifically, these are free-text notes and unstructured data. Many are manually reviewing them to uncover insights that they can leverage for business intelligence around drugs and clinical trials. Additionally, there are several vendors that leverage keyword searches to organize these free-text notes into different topics that are searchable within the MSL CRM database. There are however limitations to using only key-word searches based on our experience leveraging our machine-learning enabled platform to uncover insights from field medical notes. Additionally, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the feedback from KOLs related to COVID-19 effects are buried within the CRM, thus leveraging machine-learning platforms can help uncover these insights that are valuable for real-time response to unexpected needs from KOLs.
Another huge barrier that is preventing MSLs to leverage data is that the data sources that they need are disparate and siloed. Approximately 70% of the respondents said that their current system does not integrate data from multiple sources which makes it much more challenging to link the data to get a 360 view of the KOLs that they are targeting. This becomes even more pertinent since face-to-face meetings through scheduled visits or at scientific meetings have been nearly non-existent with the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the key eye-opening results was the question regarding whether their organizations were considering new solutions to integrate KOL data as shown in Figure 2 below. This is quite surprising since several Pharma companies are heavily investing in leveraging data to increase efficiencies and provide real-time data analytics to empower field-based MSLs with personalized engagements with KOLs. Likely barriers include support from senior leadership as well as buy-in from the organization as a whole to ensure adoption of machine-learning enabled tools. There is an education barrier as well with a lack of knowledge, but providers like Huma.ai take it as an opportunity to help educate the MSL community on the value of leveraging data as a powerful tool to increase the performance of field teams. The Huma.ai approach acknowledges the power of human intelligence and combines this with our machine-learning enabled knowledge automation platform to empower MSLs with real-time data. Our platform combines business intelligence with an Alexa-like easy-to-use Q &A format. Our goal is to help MSL teams leverage data and become their own data scientists. MSLs are the purveyors of scientific rigor and truth and empowering them with tools to make their lives easier will benefit all.
Figure 2: Is your company considering a new solution to integrate KOL data (background, insights, etc.) from multiple sources? Results from 67 Manager / Director of MSLs (or equivalent title) and MSL, Sr. MSL, Medical Advisor (or equivalent title)
Survey results suggest that although the majority of MSLs have access to CRM platforms, they are not currently leveraging data within their CRMs because of the limitations of the current tools. Leveraging machine -learning approaches to uncover insights from free-text notes as well as connecting disparate data silos such as private CRM plus public data sources such as PubMed combined with an easy-to-use interface will help reduce the barrier to adoption of these new technologies and enable organizations to target KOL engagement driven by data.
Sabita Sankar, Ph.D.
Dr. Sankar obtained her Ph.D. from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore. She completed her postdoctoral fellowships at Yale and Duke Universities. She then spent the next several years at Celgene as Group Leader in the Oncology Research Department and co-led the project team that developed CC-223 and CC-115, mTOR, and mTOR/DNA-PK inhibitors. Prior to joining Huma AI, she spent several years in both scientific affairs and business development roles at several diagnostic companies including MolecularMD, Biodesix, and Ambry Genetics, providing genomic and proteomic solutions to Pharma clients. Dr. Sankar’s expertise includes a unique mix of both drug discovery and diagnostic perspectives.