Medical Science Liaisons fuse research and value. They are not only scientific experts but true relationship experts.
MSLs are health care professional experts with deep knowledge. They develop peer relationships with cutting-edge scientific key opinion leaders (KOLs) in various fields of medicine. Knowledge and relationships enable MSLs to translate complex scientific information across various formats into new evidence or actionable insights. These insights transform patient care through Medical Affairs strategy.
Cultivating relationships with KOLs is an essential element of the MSL role. Relationships help MSLs understand and identify KOLs’ specific needs and objectives. However, in today’s environment, HCPs are relying more on data-driven decision-making. This makes the technical aspect of learning and teaching science through continuous scientific literature monitoring equally essential to the MSL function. As such, MSLs are finding new ways to combine the relationship-building and expertise of their ecosystem with the technical aspects of their role.
Through data gap analysis, in-depth competitive landscape reviews, new clinical studies, or even routine MSL journal clubs, Medical Affairs has been able to design new research. They have allowed more patients to receive new treatments and changed major medical guidelines. They’ve even directly impacted the course of an entire organization that extends beyond Medical Affairs.
This record of desired, repeated outcomes by MSLs explains why combining relationship building with technical expertise is becoming increasingly important. Yet, as volumes of research and publications across a wide variety of formats continue to increase exponentially, it is also extremely time-consuming.
A recent time and motion study at a top 10 pharmaceutical company showcases how this burden is reflected in the valuable MSL insights generation and analysis (Hill & Abadessa, 2021). A Medical Affairs executive from this organization demonstrated that the MSL insights monthly reporting alone took 185 hours to complete, which is more than the equivalent of one full-time employee annually (Hill & Abadessa, 2021).
From medical literature to articles, conferences, congresses, and even social media, there is now a full-time workload for teams to stay on top of the latest developments. The healthcare “datasphere” is predicted to almost double every two years, at 36% CAGR from 2018 to 2025. And these numbers have only increased since the pandemic (Rainsel et al., 2018).
This rapid surge of information not only impacts MSLs. It affects patients who are not trained to interpret readily accessible scientific data, as well as HCPs who are bombarded with irrelevant educational information in formats they do not prefer (Evers et al., 2018).
The exponential increase in exposure to scientific information may present a potential crisis, but it also creates an opportunity to redefine evidence-based medicine. It can improve the quality of healthcare at the clinical point of care, one better decision at a time.
Now, backed with more data, MSLs can support evidence-based decision-making by utilizing the most recent collections of data-driven research in support of their organizations’ products. Through data, MSLs can quantify their impact, measure and track KOL influence, and capture key metrics including Scientific Share of Voice (SSoV).
Therefore, one question remains: How do MSL teams combine insight data generation and relationship cultivation in order to continue to improve patient outcomes?
Similar to other industry shifts, the answer lies in the appropriate implementation of new technology.
Technology that includes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is lightening the burden of the manual process. It is augmenting human capacity and enabling new possibilities for MSLs.
Scientific literature monitoring is a key area that is moving beyond a strictly manual process. Through natural language processing (NLP) platforms, MSLs can absorb vast libraries of unstructured content and find the most meaningful analytics and takeaways. AI platforms enable data and insights to be collected from a larger variety of formats and sources than ever before. This includes spreadsheets, PowerPoint documents, social media posts, graphics, podcast audio recordings or transcripts, frequently asked questions (FAQ) databases, among others, which is extremely challenging to manage systematically without a single database.
Technology and AI can lead to less time spent gathering, sorting, and analyzing information, and more time focused on the human elements of the role. Designed for the specific needs of medical affairs, language intelligence empowers experts with immediate access to credible information from across various sources. With a single repository of tailored scientific literature that automatically refreshes at regular intervals, MSLs could rapidly filter through vast quantities of research and uncover accurate, relevant data.
MSLs are using this technology to filter and tag key passages and terms in order to uncover insights, metrics, and advanced analytics. They are customizing information to their therapeutic area or product landscape to allow monitoring of specific products, disease classes, and biomarkers according to KOLs’ preferences. Data visualization dashboards are enabling MSLs to quickly identify patterns and trends from large datasets. When data is easier to reference, MSLs can save time and more easily demonstrate why information and products are valuable to KOLs. Data, when paired with an MSL’s knowledge base, augments stakeholder expertise and improves patient care.
Fundamentally, when MSLs scale their capabilities through technology, they can more accurately uncover the insights that matter most to possibly generate a new clinical study, publication, or an entirely new Medical Affairs strategy. As a result of their firmer grasp of the most relevant literature, MSLs increase competence and become more differentiated and attractive as a resource to their KOLs. They can invest more time engaging in truly meaningful, high-value relationships.
Generating and communicating actionable insights, rather than meeting with KOLs alone, best communicates the value of MSLs today. Today’s capabilities provide MSLs with the ability to access information anywhere in the world, in any format, wherever they are. It can be overwhelming, but it can also be another component to the ways in which MSLs build relationships and accelerate the medical mission of improving and saving lives.
Evers, M., Ivan Ostojic, Brindan Suresh, Josh Weiner, and Ann Westra. Medical Affairs: Key Imperatives for Engaging and Educating Physicians in a Digital World. Report. May 2018. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/life-sciences/our-insights/medical-affairs-key-imperatives-for-engaging-and-educating-physicians-in-a-digital-world
Hill, L., & Abbadessa, Mike. (2021, October). What is the Insights gap and why should you care? Medical Affairs Professional Society. https://www.medicalaffairs.org/insight-gap-within3/
Rainsel, D., John Gantz, and John Rydning, “The Digitization of the World from Edge to Core”, November 2018. https://www.seagate.com/files/www-content/our-story/trends/files/idc-seagate-dataage-whitepaper.pdf
MSL – Medical Science Liaison
KOL – Key Opinion Leader
HCP – Health Care Provider
AI – Artificial Intelligence
SSOV – Scientific Share of Voice
Sorcero is on a mission to improve patient outcomes by empowering life sciences experts to dramatically increase productivity by 10X (1,000%), decrease literature monitoring time by 90%, and increase tracking of portfolio products by 30X (3,000%). Our unique Language Intelligence Platform enables medical affairs and regulatory affairs teams at 40% of the top 10 global life sciences organizations to explore vast libraries of unstructured medically relevant content, illuminating the most meaningful analytics and takeaways. Sorcero is privately held and headquartered in Washington, DC, and Cambridge, MA. For more information, visit www.Sorcero.com.
Tim Mikhelashvili, PharmD
Tim Mikhelashvili is the Founder and CEO of Amedea Pharma, Inc. and also a Director, Medical Science Liaison at UroGen Pharma. He is a Doctor of Pharmacy with a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Scientific Publications and Medical Education from Rutgers with 16 years of experience in headquarters and field-based Medical Science Liaison and Trainer roles spanning both large, established companies such as Sanofi and AstraZeneca early in his career, as well as rare disease start-up companies such as Salix, Baxalta, Synergy, and UroGen. Passionate about company culture and performance metrics, he has driven company-wide leadership initiatives. He is certified by MIT Sloan in “Leading Organizational Change”, and is currently focused on transforming the Medical Affairs function to take the lead in helping the pharmaceutical industry grow its reputation and trust from patients and providers.