From Vision to Value: True Omnichannel in Field Medical
A customer-centric approach to engagement is critical as scientific complexity grows
Personalized medicines now account for more than a quarter of the new drugs approved in the past seven years(1). Oncology will be close to 20% of biopharmaceutical sales in 2024(2). Cell and gene therapies are taking center stage, and as drug complexity grows so does the need for specialized knowledge in therapeutic areas. Medical science liaisons (MSLs) remain key to helping healthcare professionals (HCPs) in their treatment decisions, providing scientific information that ultimately improves patient outcomes.
Now, MSLs need to tailor communications to specific educational needs and decision points, across digital channels. Omnichannel strategies will help them meet modern expectations, with better customer insight and a deeper understanding of what is relevant to key stakeholders. Ultimately, helping them be effective at delivering a personalized, holistic engagement experience.
With real-time customer information, access to the right content, and integrated medical insights, teams can set the wheels in motion for a truly omnichannel approach that solidifies medical as a strategic resource for HCPs.
Developing a case for omnichannel
While omnichannel engagement is core to most organizations’ medical strategy, what does it mean and how is it relevant to MSLs? In a survey of more than 80 MSLs and field medical leaders at a Veeva workshop during the 2022 Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) Global Annual Meeting, only 3% said they had an omnichannel engagement plan and capabilities to deliver it within their organization.
Instead of pushing identical messages across siloed channels, omnichannel integrates touchpoints so medical teams can deliver the right message to different stakeholders. This helps medical affairs to maximize their time with stakeholders and determine the content that will equip HCPs and key opinion leaders (KOLs) with evidence at crucial decision points.
For MSLs, this translates into increased customer insight, enhanced field scalability, and a better understanding of key stakeholders across the organization. They can form a targeted approach to engagement and improve access to hard-to-reach stakeholders. This creates valuable HCP and KOL relationships in the field—respecting their needs, preferences, and time constraints.
Putting omnichannel into practice in the field
Any effective omnichannel strategy starts with data—feeding ongoing insights about stakeholders’ needs and preferences into planning. MSLs need real-time customer intelligence for a deeper look into a scientific expert’s profile, focus area, recent activities, sentiment, reaction to prior scientific messages, shared content, and cross-channel activity. From here, MSLs can tailor their engagement and content to meet experts’ needs.
Embracing a digital foundation that can capture and automate these insights will maximize ongoing engagement planning and inform future interactions. MSLs can record multiple types of information such as the experts’ knowledge gaps, education needs, sentiment, and movement along the advocacy ladder. Insights regarding their experience with the product, suggestions for additional data generation, and future product direction are also helpful.
MSLs can follow up after each exchange with structured surveys or emails to capture the voice of the customer and share additional content. They can evaluate interactions, record progress against stakeholder plans and objectives, and plan the next best action in line with strategic goals.
The future medical science liaison
To make any change sustainable, the first step is getting collective buy-in to think and act differently. Organizations can empower new skill sets and drive behavior changes to prepare MSLs for a digital-first model. The evolution of field medicine in the industry is about continuous learning and upskilling new capabilities, including digital ones.
Moving forward, three areas the future MSL can focus on are:
- Data analysis. Real-time information on experts’ activity and influence is essential for driving precise, impactful scientific exchange. By consolidating information from multiple sources to curate a personalized customer journey and experience, MSLs can deliver more valuable information through leaders’ preferred channels.
- Content curation. Knowing stakeholders’ unique educational journeys and needs also means understanding how they want to receive that information in their preferred channel. MSLs need to use the full breadth of content available, tailored to each stakeholder, to deliver the right information, at the right time, in the right way.
- Channel mastery. Leveraging a broad range of channels and understanding how and when to use each based on customer preferences is crucial. Driving the next-best actions and automation will support this to create more impactful engagements at each stage of leaders’ decision-making process.
As medical affairs continue to evolve and scientific complexity grows, an omnichannel approach is central to leading relevant discussions with key experts. MSLs can embrace new digital skill sets and leverage data-driven insights to personalize interactions along customers’ engagement journeys. Those that bring all these cross-channel touchpoints together can consistently reach experts with the timely content they want. Ultimately, extending engagements and leading more valuable conversations that transform medical outcomes.
Christoph Bug, PhD, MBA
Christoph is an experienced executive and pharma insider, and a physician by training, holding a PhD and an MBA. He has founded and managed turn-around and growth in different company settings. His experience in pharma encompasses marketing, sales, market access, R&D, and medical affairs on a local, regional, and global level. At Veeva, he is responsible for Veeva’s global medical solutions.