Digital maturity is essential for scientific engagement amid more complex therapies and spheres of influence.
Nearly six in 10 life sciences products hitting the market are in specialty or rare disease categories.1 As scientific complexity grows, healthcare professionals (HCPs) and key opinion leaders (KOLs) seek science-based education via webinars, virtual medical conferences, and online journals as opposed to traditional promotional materials.
Medical teams have evolved beyond reactive sources of medical information to become health experts’ trusted advisors. They’re expected to distill evidence and data in meaningful ways to support better patient outcomes. Especially as new stakeholder groups emerge and the industry leans more on digital, medical teams must quickly adapt to changing needs and channels.
A new framework for scientific engagement can help teams effectively navigate today’s complex, fast-changing medical landscape––spanning digital opinion leaders (DOLs), social influencers, payers, and patients. Several foundational capabilities are key to sustainable digital transformation, including customer intelligence, omnichannel engagement, and centralized medical content.
Digital’s growing influence
In the last two years, there’s been a significant uptake in the use of digital and multichannel engagement by medical teams, with over a quarter of a million virtual meetings hosted by Veeva’s medical customers and their stakeholders. HCPs spent 40% more time in these meetings with medical reps than those with sales reps. Interestingly, 42% of those virtual meetings included three or more participants, as compared to the traditional in-person approach of a single primary traveling rep.2
The adoption of digital technologies is enabling medical teams to gain deeper insight into their customers’ preferences and behavior patterns. They now have visibility into what’s been communicated, a better understanding of which messages resonate, and which emails have higher response rates.
Personalized emails from medical teams, for instance, were opened 47% of the time, 11% higher than emails from their counterparts in commercial.3 This increase in meaningful scientific interactions helps guide more impactful next best actions for medical science liaisons (MSLs).
“A sophisticated and integrated CRM solution is absolutely essential,” said Nick Warwick, chief medical officer at Advanz Pharma. “It helps you foster a two-way dialogue and capture valuable real-time insights from discussions in the field.”
As digital adoption continues to grow, HCPs and KOLs expect a more on-demand relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. This means shifting some focus away from activities that communicate with large audiences only through physical events or virtual congresses. Instead, value-added digital content can meet experts where they are across social and scientific channels.
Together, these dynamics expand the ecosystem of scientific influence, requiring medical teams to develop relationships with new stakeholders, embrace social media more fully, and create digital MSL roles. To stay ahead, medical teams need to advance their digital maturity and implement it as part of their ongoing engagement strategy.
Figure 1: 2021 Global Medical Engagement Trends, Veeva Pulse Metrics
Figure 2: 2021 Global Medical Engagement Trends, Veeva Pulse Metrics
A digital foundation for next-level scientific engagement
While medical teams have made great strides in digital adoption, this alone won’t guarantee success. Teams need to rethink how they orchestrate scientific engagement and establish a 360-degree view of all their activities with stakeholders.
Here are five key initiatives medical organizations can implement to maximize their impact.
- Start with customer intelligence. Modern data-connected platforms help MSLs navigate stakeholder networks and gain deeper insight into KOLs, emerging influencers, and their sphere of influence. This enables teams to understand experts’ interest areas and preferences, helping them shape discussions around relevant treatment pathways.
- Develop a customer-centric, omnichannel engagement ecosystem. KOLs and key stakeholders don’t want to be flooded with medical information across all channels at once. What’s more effective are timely, relevant interactions. By strategically orchestrating omnichannel engagement, medical teams can create highly personalized and seamless experiences for customers.
- Drive impactful business decisions with actionable insights. Medical teams tend to rely on siloed systems. This limits information sharing between functions and tracking of scientific and customer objectives. By collecting and exchanging strategic insights across the organization, teams can better focus their resources on activities that drive results.
- Streamline and centralize medical content. To ensure consistent and compliant distribution of scientific communications across channels and geographies, medical teams can adopt a single platform with which to create, review, and distribute scientific materials. Doing so brings visibility along the content supply chain and drives efficiencies that speed the delivery of information to key experts.
- Achieve digital excellence through transformation. It is crucial for medical leaders to maintain a relentless focus on driving a foundation for digital excellence. This means looking holistically at the data, processes, and talent needed to increase agility and foster a digital-first mindset across medical affairs.
“When thinking about digital requirements for medical teams, it is not just about choosing a framework or system that fills a short-term need,” said Warwick. “Instead, companies should ask how these new technologies and processes will complement and amplify medical teams’ long-term strategy and objectives.”
Medical teams that innovate and advance their digital-led strategic agendas will translate priorities into actionable plans that better meet customer needs. There’s no doubt––digital will be a key enabler for elevating and demonstrating the value of medical affairs in the years ahead.
 “FDA Shows Sustained Support of Rare Disease Product Development During the Public Health Emergency,” U.S. FDA, March 1, 2021.
 2021 Global Medical Engagement Trends, Veeva Pulse Metrics
 2021 Global Medical Engagement Trends, Veeva Pulse Metrics
Louisa is the Practice Manager of Veeva’s European Business Consulting group in Medical Affairs, focused on realizing value across Medical Affairs and transforming how Medical operates. She is experienced in delivering complex strategic and operating model transformation projects. She holds a ten-year career at Accenture and EY working with Merck, BMS, AZ, Takeda, UK Department of Health, and others.