How does technology help medical affairs achieve operational excellence?
Why medical affairs teams must modernize to meet the challenges of their evolving role.
As the medical affairs role evolves, professionals increasingly find themselves at the center of key societal issues like patient centricity, access, and health equity. Faced with this opportunity, medical affairs leaders should consider how they can modernize, reveal efficiencies, and accelerate the path from information-gathering to decision-making.
This modernization is not only about developing new drugs and devices but about how teams can change ways of working to achieve operational excellence – leaning on technology to transform the delivery of effective therapies to patients.
To understand the evolution of medical affairs, let’s discuss what drives change in the life science industry, how technology supports modernization, and how medical affairs organizations tackle the change process. To understand the evolution of medical affairs, let’s take a deeper dive and discuss what drives change in the life science product development lifecycle. How does technology support modernization, and how do medical affairs organizations tackle the change process?
What is driving change for medical affairs in the years ahead?
Medical affairs teams work cross-functionally and engage multiple stakeholders while adhering to rigorous regulatory requirements. Now, they also face new challenges.
Emerging markets: New markets can represent updated requirements and standards that life science organizations must meet if they want to sell in these regions. This often increases the complexity of an intricate process – but also promotes innovation.
More data: According to research from IDC, global data creation and replication will experience a compound annual growth rate of 23% through 2025, resulting in a deluge of information across industries. As applications get more complex, this trend will continue. Working through this issue will transform how people interact with life science products and services.
New business models: What constitutes value creation when it comes to delivering healthcare products or services? Organizations need to adapt to changing market conditions, which could mean adjusting current ways of doing business to evolve with the times.
Patients lead the way: Consumers of all generations are more willing than ever to try non-traditional services like telehealth visits or other tech-enabled methods of managing their health. The pharmaceutical and medical device industry will experience a pull-through effect, with consumer preferences dictating new approaches to developing and marketing drugs. Patients and caregivers are expressing that they need more from life science companies in general and can see that organizations are responding. With many life science companies adopting a patient-first approach in their initiatives, medical affairs teams can consider technologies and processes that allow patient voices to be heard. This involves more active participation to ensure diverse voices are brought to the conversation, both internally and externally.
How technology supports value creation
Achieving operational excellence in medical affairs means building value-creation opportunities, such as generating the right conditions for success and then sustaining that success over time. The questions for medical affairs leaders are: How does technology help medical affairs organizations achieve this, and how are leaders in the space embracing it?
Enabling faster, more accurate decisions: Advanced technologies like robotics, data analytics, asynchronous and live virtual engagement, automation, and the cloud can improve the quality and speed of decision-making. There is also more technology purpose-built for drug and device developers. For example, insights management technology has reached the crucial part of the tech maturity curve where investment is no longer a gamble but an imperative.
Finding the right place for artificial intelligence: AI improves outcomes in various life science product development areas. Research from Deloitte reveals that the top outcomes life science companies are attempting to achieve with AI include enhancing existing products (28%), creating new products and services (27%), and making processes more efficient (22%). Medical affairs leaders are realizing that AI is a tool that supports, rather than replaces, human knowledge – using advanced technologies doesn’t mean choosing between people or tools.
Managing organizational and operational change
When medical affairs teams are ready to apply new technology, the first step is understanding and setting goals for making changes. How and where can the organization shift and what is the overall objective? Who in the organization can be a change champion, charged with ensuring new technologies are adopted to drive efficiency and productivity?
Teams should take stock of considerations for additional training and alignment. It is essential to consider who these changes will impact and how to keep the lines of communication open. The process for driving organizational and operational change is iterative, with feedback loops at each stage.
Finally, medical affairs leaders must consider what tools and support systems will be in place as they navigate change. How will they measure the value of the changes, and how will they determine ways to optimize processes?
While disruptive forces are pushing medical affairs teams to make significant changes, this challenging environment can be a springboard to drive meaningful change. The time is right for medical affairs to address vulnerabilities in existing operating models and invest in technologies that strengthen the role of medical affairs.
Jenn Carlin, CMP, HMCC
Jenn Carlin is the Senior Director, Client Deliverables Team Lead for North America/LATAM at Within3. Jenn has more than seven years of experience in the medical communications and technology industry. Her passion for medical communications is in patient advocacy. You may see Jenn on a Zoom call with one of her four rescue dogs.
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