One of the core pillars of Medical Affairs is improving patient care and outcomes. Also central to Medical Affairs are medical science liaisons (MSLs), who act as scientific experts and educators, serving as a bridge between the company and the medical community, including healthcare professionals (HCPs), researchers, and key opinion leaders (KOLs).
But simply delivering information is not enough. It’s critical to track how that information is transferred and applied in clinical settings to understand how patient outcomes are truly being affected. This is known as medical impact.
The significance of measuring medical impact cannot be overstated – it allows MSLs to fine-tune their educational strategies, optimize future outreach, and improve the chances of achieving optimal outcomes. However, measuring medical impact in the real world has proven quite challenging.
What Is Medical Impact & How Do We Measure It?
The Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) defines medical impact as the “ability to measure how Medical Affairs activities impact the knowledge and beliefs of physicians and healthcare stakeholders to drive better patient outcomes.”
According to the MAPS, there are several critical levels of medical impact – they are all interconnected, and measuring each gets harder as the scope refines.
- The first level, and easiest to measure, is touchpoints (i.e., the number of MSL visits or educational programs in place).
- Then there is satisfaction, which measures the value of the touchpoints by understanding HCP satisfaction with the visits or educational programs.
- The next level isknowledge, which measures how well HCPs understand the disease and treatment options.
- Then there is competence, which measures whether the HCP has made any improvements to their practice as a result of the improved knowledge.
- Measuring patient health involves analyzing patient outcomes as a direct/indirect effect of medical activities.
- And finally, there is measuring the impact on public health. This evaluates the reduction of disease burden over time and is the hardest to measure.
The challenge is that there is no standard set of measurements to track the impact of MSL initiatives across these levels. However, by employing a combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics, MSLs can more effectively measure the impact of their work and craft a compelling narrative about the value they bring to the organization.
Examples of quantitative metrics include:
- The average amount of time per scientific interaction
- The number of KOLs identified
- The number of investigators/study sites identified
- The number of medical information requests responded to
Examples of qualitative metrics include:
- Actions taken and the impact of those actions
- Changes in HCP practice behaviors
- KOL feedback
- Facilitation of research studies
- Medical project support provided
- Execution of objectives
The Role of Data & Technology in Measuring Impact
In today’s data-driven world, technology plays a pivotal role in measuring the impact of medical affairs. With the increasing complexity of healthcare ecosystems and the growing importance of evidence-based decision-making, organizations need advanced tools and technologies to effectively assess the outcomes of their educational outreach.
From automation, AI, and machine learning to data mining and analytics, technology is transforming Medical Affairs and enabling MSLs to track trends over time to see if their activities are making an impact. Technology can enhance accuracy, improve efficiency, drive actionable insights, and uncover opportunities for improvement. Using the latest technology to understand key performance indicators (KPIs) can help track clinical behavior to see if care gaps are being addressed.
Specifically, MSLs can leverage modern technology to improve their outreach strategies and measure medical impact in the following ways:
- Data analytics and insights: Medical Affairs teams can use advanced data analytics tools to extract meaningful insights from diverse data sources, such as electronic health records, claims data, and real-world evidence. Analyzing this data can help identify HCPs with care gaps and unearth other trends to inform decision-making.
- Social listening: MSLs can leverage technology to track and analyze activity across digital platforms – including social media, online forums, and healthcare websites – to capture sentiment, monitor discussions, and collect feedback from digital opinion leaders. This can help MSLs understand perceptions, identify knowledge gaps, and tailor engagement strategies accordingly.
- Omnichannel engagement: MSLs should engage with stakeholders both in-person and digitally. Technology can facilitate communication with and provide ongoing education to HCPs through digital channels including email, webinars, virtual conferences, and online communities. These platforms can track user engagement and gather feedback to help understand the impact of this type of outreach. By disseminating evidence-based information, thought leadership content, and educational resources through multiple channels, Medical Affairs teams can enhance their impact and establish themselves as trusted sources of information.
- Real-time KPI tracking: Pharmaceutical companies can use technology-enabled dashboards and analytics platforms to establish and track KPIs specific to MSL activities, including scientific share of voice, sentiment, clinical behavior changes and outcomes, and quality score improvement. Tracking KPIs in real-time provides insight into the effectiveness of initiatives across channels, and identifies areas for improvement. And, by integrating with EMR systems to capture real-world data and outcomes, companies can truly understand the impact of education on patient outcomes and treatment adherence.
- Collaboration: Medical Affairs teams can use data from various sources to enable collaboration and alignment across other departments such as research and development, marketing, and regulatory affairs. They can also leverage technology to collaborate with external stakeholders, such as academic institutions and research networks, to access and share data for research purposes to help advance scientific knowledge.
Measuring medical impact is not just a valuable exercise; it is a critical component of success in the pharmaceutical industry. Data and technology provide an opportunity to accurately measure the impact of MSL outreach to enhance patient outcomes and drive positive change.
By gaining insights into how their activities influence HCP behavior, from peer knowledge sharing to clinical decision-making, Medical Affairs teams can effectively adapt their strategies. Embracing modern tools and platforms will help MSLs improve their communications, demonstrate the impact of their activities, and contribute to evidence-based decision-making, ultimately driving better patient outcomes and advancing healthcare innovation.