The role of MSL is crucial for fostering effective communication between pharma companies and HCPs, providing valuable scientific and medical information and contributing to evidence-based decision-making.
In the data-driven world of medical affairs, the role of MSL professionals is expanding beyond traditional scientific knowledge transfer. While MSLs possess a wealth of knowledge, the true impact of their work lies in their ability to communicate complex scientific information, drive meaningful conversations and build trust with healthcare professionals. Making every engagement relevant for healthcare providers and opinion leaders remains one of the basic challenges of this function and effective storytelling allows MSL to successfully carry out it and thus is a highly valued skill for Medical Affairs professionals in the pharmaceutical industry and is an aspect that can always be improved.
In recent years, the concept of narrative medicine has gained recognition as an invaluable tool for improving medical care. Narrative medicine is an approach that recognizes the power of storytelling in healthcare. It emphasizes the importance of listening to and understanding the stories of patients, healthcare providers, and communities, as these narratives provide valuable insights into their experiences, emotions, and perspectives.
Narrative based medicine integrates with Evidence based medicine, shedding light on social and interpersonal aspects of patient life and clinician-patient relationship to offer a 360⁰ vision of the patient pathways and the healthcare system surrounding him.
By incorporating these stories into medical practice, narrative medicine aims to enhance patient care, improve communication between healthcare professionals and patients, and foster empathy and understanding in healthcare settings. This approach recognizes that medicine is not just about treating diseases, but also about understanding and addressing the unique needs and circumstances of individuals, ultimately leading to more comprehensive and patient-centered care. Indeed, recent studies have shown that the use of Narrative Medicine approach may be associated with greater trust of patients in the health system, increased therapeutic adherence and finally more positive clinical outcomes.
This article explores the significance of narrative medicine as a tool for MSLs and how it can enhance their ability to communicate more empathically maintaining scientific integrity, build relationships, and contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge.
Understanding the power of stories
At the core of narrative medicine lies the understanding that stories have a profound impact on both patients and healthcare providers.
By understanding attentively to narratives, MSLs gain insights into the lived experiences of individuals affected by or treating a disease. These stories offer valuable perspectives beyond clinical data, enabling MSLs to better comprehend the emotional, social, and psychological aspects of a clinical condition. In fact, narrative medicine, pooling information from different actors of the care system, enables to build not only the disease awareness, the recognition of the disease from a biological and pathological point of view, but also the illness awareness, the consciousness of living with the disease, and the sickness awareness, the knowledge of the social perception of the disease.
Enhanced Communication and Relationship Building
Effective communication is fundamental to the MSL role. Narrative medicine equips MSLs with the ability to articulate complex medical information in a relatable manner. By incorporating patients’ stories into their discussions, MSLs can convey scientific information in a more meaningful and personalized way to engage healthcare professionals on a deeper level. In other words, the use of narrative medicine can help MSL to transform scientific data and objective findings, which can sometimes be sterile and distant from the real clinical world, into more effective storytelling close to clinician life.
The power of narrative helps humanize the data and statistics that MSLs present, enabling them to establish stronger connections with their audience, and providing them with the contextual framework to engage in, inspire, teach and appreciate the relevance.
Moreover, by actively listening to HCPs and acknowledging their stories, MSLs demonstrate empathy and foster collaborative partnerships. This collaborative approach not only helps MSLs gain valuable insights from physicians but also facilitates the exchange of scientific knowledge. Indeed, increasing evidence highlights that using a narrative medicine approach to allow understanding scientific concepts can create emotional connections by triggering the release of many hormones in the brain such as cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin, which are important in forming memories, regulating emotional responses, and empathy.
Contributing to Medical Advancement
Narrative medicine offers a unique perspective that complements the scientific rigor of the MSL profession. By recognizing patients’ stories as a valuable source of knowledge, MSLs can contribute to medical advancement in multiple ways:
- Inspiring MSLs to explore new research areas or therapeutic approaches: By uncovering the unmet needs and challenges faced by patients, MSLs can identify opportunities for innovation and advocate for research and development efforts that address these gaps.
- As the MSL profession evolves, narrative medicine could play a crucial role in shaping a future where empathy and human connection inspire scientific progress and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
- Promoting patient-centeredness within the MSL profession: By valuing patients’ stories and experiences, MSLs prioritize the holistic well-being of individuals over mere clinical data. This patient-centric approach enhances the quality of care delivered by healthcare professionals.
In a historical period where the industry is strategizing and thinking beyond regulations and compliance to create and sustain meaningful connections with patients at every stage of their journey, narrative medicine is emerging as a powerful tool for medical science and pharmaceutical innovation. By embracing patients’ stories and integrating them into their interactions, MSLs can foster effective communication, deepen a connection with HCPs, and promote patient-centeredness.
As the MSL profession evolves, narrative medicine could play a crucial role in shaping a future where empathy and human connection inspire scientific progress and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
About the authors:
Marco Tramarin, PhD
Born and raised near Milan, Italy, he has always been fascinated by the wonders of nature. He pursued his passion for biology and obtained an MSc in the field, laying the foundation for his career in the scientific realm.
Driven by a profound curiosity about the complexities of the human brain, he pursued a Ph.D. in neurobiology, delving into the complexities of the human brain. Following the completion of his doctorate, he engaged in a two-year postdoctoral position, further honing his research expertise.
As his curiosity expanded, he decided to move from academia to the dynamic world of industry.
In this new chapter, he joined Biogen’s medical affairs team, focusing on therapeutic areas related to multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
He later joined Angelini Pharma, where he spent the last two years making a difference as a dedicated Medical Science Liaison in the area of CNS and brain health therapeutics. In this role, he strives to bridge the gap between medical knowledge and the practical applications in the field, making a meaningful impact on patient outcomes.
Beyond his professional pursuits, he loves traveling and immersing in the serenity of nature.
Serena Pantalone, PhD
Serena is a Medical Science Liaison in Angelini Pharma and since 2022 she has worked in the anti-infective therapeutic area for the central-north of Italy. Previously, she worked in Novartis in the cardiovascular area, being involved in cross-functional and pre-launch projects.
Serena also has 5 years of academic experience (biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology) including a PhD in biomolecular sciences by which she explored the pathological function of macromolecular protein complexes involved in rare retinal diseases.
The transition between Academia and Industry was made possible thanks to a post-graduate master’s in pre-clinical and clinical drug development.
In her work, her passion is discovering medical gaps, generating clinical and scientific evidence, and contributing to medical excellence innovative projects.
Born and raised in Pescara (near Rome), she currently resides in Milan with her boyfriend Edoardo; actually, this is the sixth city she has settled down, after several relocations she made around Italy and Europe for work and study. Her hobbies are running, skiing, traveling, and shopping.