Lebanon is a developing country that was not digital at all prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the first confinement hit and the country went into complete lockdown, Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) faced many challenges as their main role is field-based and they had to keep the engagement with their targeted Health Care Professionals (HCPs) high. Hence, they had to improve their digital capabilities, but also that of their targeted HCPs. They amazingly succeeded, within just three months of the first lockdown, to quickly adapt their contacts with HCPs and shift them from only 3% virtual to 87%!
Indeed, when the work-from-home model was initiated, there was a concern among local MSL team members that HCPs would not be comfortable swapping to virtual interactions in place of traditional face-to-face meetings. Additionally, at the start of the pandemic, many HCPs were overwhelmed, with little time to spare, quickly rejecting MSLs’ requests for interactions. The team had to find alternative ways, including digital engagements. Taking advantage of this HCP-initiated pause in contact, the MSLs in Lebanon upskilled themselves to learn about digital communication formats and tools, and colleagues who started being successful in virtual interactions had their work profiled as best practice examples and shared them with the whole team on a regular basis. Once team members understood virtual communication options and had seen examples that had achieved good engagement with HCPs, everyone was really motivated and started being creative. That is when the COVID-19 operation was launched.
One of the most successful tools driving engagement was a weekly e-newsletter, which successfully mixed up-to-date information about COVID-19 and priority medical messages. The e-newsletters were a conversation starter, giving the MSLs a reason to call the HCPs and engage with them in other scientific discussions. This was a collaborative effort with medical leadership, aligned with local strategy, and approved by compliance. Key performance indicators of the first 2 months of activity (during confinement) highlighted an open rate nearing 20%, with around 14% unique clicks on hyperlinks added to the e-newsletter.
The Lebanese team was also agile in reorganizing planned medical education meetings and events into effective digital formats within tight timelines. Another example was a collaboration between Sanofi and the local Order of Pharmacists to initiate a diabetes medical education program aimed at hospital and clinical pharmacists across Lebanon and covering key diabetes topics related to their profession. Several webinars were conducted, with the MSL being an active speaker and moderator to the sessions and reaching more than 700 HCPs with an average rating of overall satisfaction of 8.5 over 10 and an average Net Promoter Score of 52. These activities allowed also to engage with more than twenty top endocrinologists Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) as speakers in the highly scientific program.
Leveraging even more on this platform and on the strong internal collaboration between medical and marketing colleagues, three unbranded educational mini-videos of KOLs were posted on social media sites for pharmacists (reaching 3.7 K Views) and a video recording of the webinars’ key sessions was made accessible to all pharmacists who couldn’t attend the live webinars or who wanted to re-watch them.
With these two examples of great initiatives and many others, HCPs started accepting and even asking for more digital interactions and their feedback was more and more positive; they felt that Sanofi was partnering with them to help them through the pandemic by finding new means to communicate valuable medical information. HCPs started being more open to, more relaxed, and more focused during digital discussions with MSLs, enabling deeper scientific engagement and insight collection.
Leveraging on all the new digital channels created during the first months of lockdown, MSLs are now able to work in a hybrid of face-to-face and digital interactions model, without fearing additional lockdowns imposed by the government. For example, I was able, as MSL for Diabetes in Lebanon, to achieve 88 virtual interactions (Webinars, Zoom calls, phone calls, emails, etc.) during the month of January 2021, which was incomplete confinement and working-from-home model. Moving forward this year, the team will keep on being creative, challenging HCPs’ digital resistance or fatigue, and engaging more and more in a true multi-channel engagement model.
Diane Mourad, PharmD, MSc
Diane Mourad is currently a Medical Science Liaison for Diabetes in Sanofi Lebanon. She has around 4 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, in Clinical Operations, Regulatory, Marketing, Sales, and Medical Affairs departments.
Diane has a PharmD and a Master’s in Research with a focus on Pharmacology. She has published several papers on matters of migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, and diabetes.
On a more personal note, Diane recently self-published her first book on Amazon France: “Une Vie après la Mort”, Diane MN. With this, she hopes she can take her hobby and passion to the next level.