Why do we need regional medical plans?
The role of an MSL is to establish and maintain strong peer-to-peer relationships with leading, influential healthcare providers, referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) within a given therapeutic area with the intent to provide ongoing medical support, education, and resources that benefit patients. The MSL role has evolved over the past couple of decades since the MSLs were initially brought into their roles, first in commercial and then becoming more medically aligned. As MSLs work to develop medically oriented relationships, one should always seek first to understand what the medical needs are. Thoughtful planning allows MSLs to consider needs broadly as well as the medical strategy and focus within their organizations.
Commercial teams have always used business plans to hone in on regional goals; business plans have long been relied upon to foster results-driven outcomes. Medical teams have not traditionally used a business planning approach for MSL field efforts in the past, however, the regional landscape is complex and more teams are devising medical business plans. This effort begins within leadership to focus the medical team efforts organizationally and has less detail for fieldwork. As I started in the MSL role around 20 years ago, the MSL plan consisted of a list of KOL targets, mostly academic, for relationship development, and the MSL was expected to have deep therapeutic expertise and simply know what HCPs want to discuss, watch for partnership opportunities and drive value in a less structured way. The MSL role was previously more transactional. Over time, the MSL role has evolved to become much more strategic, necessitating more planning and proactive approaches for regional efforts. Today, MSLs are value-driven, strategic innovators who expend great energy developing regional plans that outline all the various regional stakeholders who have a need for medical support and education and this is so much more than a list of academic KOLs to meet with!
A failure to plan is a plan to fail. We all know how vital planning is, yet we often do not have sufficient time to invest in the planning process. It is my hope that we can shift toward organizational recognition that the planning process is perhaps even more important than any other activity we do because not doing it vastly limits what we can achieve in terms of the value we bring back to the organization. Strategic alignment between field efforts MSLs engage in and the internal medical strategic plan is essential. It’s a place to begin when MSLs want to devise their regional plan. However, perhaps even more important is the need to scrutinize the unique ecosystem that comprises an MSL region and deeply appreciate elements that make a region different than others across the country. An MSL’s time is precious and how we invest in regional planning will pay large dividends when MSLs are empowered to think about the business needs and run their region as its own business unit with a similar results-driven focus that our commercial counterparts have always done, however with the medical lens in place that ensures a firm and secure focus on patient needs.
Balancing travel time and prioritizing needs across the region in a thoughtful and proactive manner will drive medical value for patients and the organization in ways that elevate MSL value. Planning is dynamic and should include time to not only develop detailed plans but also time to execute plans and reflection on how the plan is working, what should be adjusted, and any new aspects of the medical strategy that is also changing with time. Ultimately, the MSL regional ecosystem plan offers broader planning methods and ideas that can help MSLs build stronger, more detailed regional plans that ensure your time is well spent on field engagement. Regional tactics for medical support have come a long way and this is far more than a list of KOLs to develop relationships with. As HCPs have become harder to access and time with them seems less and less, a strategic approach can help HCPs find the value in partnering with MSLs and pave a path toward longer duration interactions and further partnerships and lead to advocacy.
As we roll out more details about the MSL Regional Ecosystem Planning approach and tools in future MSL Society journal editions, stay tuned for more and reach out to us if we can assist with questions on this business-critical topic!
Cherie Hyder, PharmD
Cherie Hyder is Senior Director, US Head of Medical Affairs, with more than 15 years of MSL experience in the field. She has been involved in research for more than 30 years, starting as a bench researcher in Genetics. She completed Bachelor of Science degrees in Molecular Biology and Chemistry at Iowa State University where she led Genetics research projects for over 5 years. Her education continued at the University of Missouri where she received a Doctor of Pharmacy degree with the intention to devote her career fully to clinical research. She has multiple adjunct faculty appointments and enjoys teaching opportunities. She worked for the FDA for 5 years, focusing on a review of the safety and effectiveness of novel medications. Her experience in regulatory compliance brought her to Eli Lilly as a Regulatory Scientist and led her to attend law school; she has a business development and in-licensing background as well as experience balancing portfolios for major PhRMA companies; she has been employed by Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Novartis, Regeneron, Solvay, and Avanir in Regulatory and Medical roles supporting new product development. In August 2016, she joined Alimera Sciences, leading the US MSL team, building compliant internal processes, and developing Medical Affairs infrastructure.
Jein Song, PharmD
Jein Song completed a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship in Medical Communications. She subsequently transitioned into various roles of increasing responsibilities to support a wide range of therapeutic areas in both headquarters- and field-based medical affairs settings. She is passionate about quality-driven initiatives and optimizing field medical capabilities through strategic partnerships, mentorship, and enabling resources. Her background includes close to 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry spanning both small and large size companies.