Information sharing across an MSL team is vital to a team’s success. However, communication barriers often inhibit field teams from sharing pertinent information in a format that is easily internalized by all team members. Traditional team communication barriers include a remote environment, large team size, prioritization of topics, and constantly changing medical strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated communication challenges with added virtual barriers including “Zoom fatigue”, computer distractions, and densely packed meeting schedules. Additionally, personality barriers influence effective communication as there are different ways individual MSLs learn and retain information, with multiple learning styles representation across a team. Therefore, the traditional Zoom meeting may not be ideal for information internalization for all team members due to the style and speed of delivered content. A format for readily and easily referenced information is warranted, highlighting key points to keep the MSL team on top of medical messages, best practices, and other important materials.
Our own practices have proven that an MSL team newsletter is a highly effective way to share information across a team. The newsletter allows sharing of key medical initiatives, with an added bonus of personal and professional development and team building. An effective format keeps all the content short, 1-2 pages are maximum, direct, similar to a resume, and is most effective when delivered on a time frame relevant to changing topics, such as monthly. The content should be visually easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing, and displayed based on the most to least impactful topics (Figure 1). Hyperlinks embedded within the newsletter allow easy access to more detailed materials. Finally, the newsletter can be emailed to the team and stored in an accessible team portal to allow quick referencing.
When designing content, sections should be customized based on what the team finds most relevant and helpful, which allows personalization to the individual team’s needs. There are three important themes included in the newsletter that can add value: medical strategy/field activity, professional development, and personal development/team building.
Figure 1. Sample Layout for Newsletter.Programs such as MS Publisher allow for easy manipulation of layout month to month to accommodate different sections. Blocks and headings make content easy to scan and navigate. A coordinated color scheme helps bring everythingtogether to make it reader friendlyand inviting. Remember to lead with the most important content.
- Medical Strategy/Field Activity
- A “best practices” section allows sharing of tips across an MSL team, or even from MSLs outside of the immediate team. It explains how best to handle typical processes, events, and planning. Examples include best practices for “getting follow-up meetings”, “travel”, or “territory management”.
- A “success story” (or “non-success story”) section allows for sharing of individual MSL stories to help other team members think outside of the box and learn new perspectives that worked or didn’t work for certain situations. This information can also provide feedback or support for teammates.
- A “powerful questions” section provides two to three open-ended questions relevant to hot field topics that can help team members strike up conversations with KOLs. The questions should be constantly changing based on medical initiatives.
- A “key medical strategy” section should be a quick reminder of the medical organization’s goals and initiatives in a simple bullet-pointed list supporting familiarization of these initiatives based on repeated reviewing.
- An “insights” section can focus on the team’s goals when collecting insights or it can present key findings from the insights team. Either way – insights are the currency of the medical affairs team.
- A “regional director (RD) corner” section can focus on what the bosses want. It provides an easily accessible way for directors to share pertinent information.
- Professional Development
- A “team training” section that provides a list with easily accessible hyperlinks to recent trainings is especially helpful when MSLs are not able to make or fully engage in a certain training session live.
- A “new publications” section allows access to relevant publications in the therapeutic area for the MSL team to be aware of when engaging with KOLs, including any team journal club manuscripts
- An “emotional intelligence (EQ)” section allows for soft skill development, which is key when interacting with KOLs. EQ topics can be shared via reading an article, listening to a podcast, or completing an online training course. This section can springboard to further individual development through material review via a quarterly team training session to recap the EQ topics.
- An “MSL goal of the month” section can share an individual goal that a team member is actively working on this month/quarter. Goal sharing across the MSL team can align priorities and help understand needed areas of development.
- Personal Development/Team Building
- An “MSL/team member of the month” section allows for team development, especially given the remote nature of the MSL role. This section would rotate through the MSL team and even include people that are in home office medical or others that interact with the MSL team regularly. This section is a way to find out more about personal lives, funny stories, best trips were taken, and bucket lists. It’s important to be creative with the questions that are asked to help team members connect.
- A “favorite ***” section would generate a list of favorite foods, vacations, or TV shows via a quick monthly poll to get the team engaged and learn more about each other.
- A “health and wellness” section could share health tips, recipes, challenges on fitness, nutrition, and mental health. Everyone views these topics differently, so this section allows all to learn better balance from the viewpoints of others.
As described, the monthly newsletter can be easily assembled with minimal effort by a small group of MSLs leading but resulting in a huge team impact that saves time and effort for all members. With low individual time to review content, the ability to reference and drive key points is immense in helping the MSL team succeed. A key strength of this format is driven through personalization to the needs of each team, which will change over time as teams grow and contract and focuses differ. An annual review of included content can help ensure it is optimized to the evolving needs of the team leading to a continued impact. In conclusion, using a simple newsletter format with a variety of options can greatly improve the delivery of key material, better connect teams professionally and personally, and help each individual grow.
Dalila Masic, PharmD
As a Chicago native, Dalila completed her PharmD at Midwestern University and her PGY1 and PGY2 residencies at Loyola University Medical Center. After completing post-graduate training, she stayed on at Loyola practicing as the Advanced Heart Failure/Heart Transplant clinical pharmacist. Given her passion for collaborative cardiology care and research, Dalila transitioned to a Cardiovascular MSL role at Sanofi in 2020. She enjoys cross-functional collaboration and generating innovative ideas to find solutions to problems.
Erin Reineke, PhD
Erin is currently a cardiovascular MSL for Sanofi. She has been in this current position for almost two years after spending time as a vaccines MSL for Syneos, supporting the GSK adult vaccines portfolio. A native of Pittsburgh, she earned her PhD. in Biochemistry in Cleveland, OH, and furthered her training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. After training, she was an assistant professor and principal investigator at Houston Methodist Research Institute in Houston, TX investigating molecular control of cardiac stress responses. Her research career gave her molecular and clinical knowledge of many mechanisms underlying disease including inflammation, immunity, genetic control, and cellular signaling. She loves to use her expertise to make technical science understandable and available to everyone who can benefit. She is happy to apply these principles as an MSL to help more directly affect patient care. She will soon be moving to Northern California and is excited to embrace the California lifestyle to its fullest!