Medical science liaisons (MSL) have become one of the most prominent roles in the healthcare industry. While once existing as mostly a background role supporting the commercial end of pharma and life sciences companies, MSLs are now on the forefront of operations, strategy and execution. They are no longer just educating and informing doctors – they are accelerating medical science innovation.
We are witnessing the rise of the real-time MSL, empowered by fast and accurate AI-powered insights and data across the medical ecosystem. This paradigm shift is made possible by new intelligent technologies and the availability of massive amounts of healthcare data. Global healthcare data and analytics platforms enable MSLs to fully engage with doctors about the latest breakthroughs in science and medicine. The most up-to-date information on provider profiles, claims, payers, publications and medical research are all available at the MSLs’ fingertips.
With these new technologies, MSLs can connect with the right practitioners in the right places for the right outcomes, accelerating efforts to get the latest treatments and therapies to market and improving the health of millions. This means the role of the MSL will only grow more dynamic and valuable in the near future.
The Growing Importance of MSLs Today
Healthcare today requires more nuanced, specialized approaches to treatments than ever before, and the explosive growth of new medical research is overwhelming physicians’ ability to stay on top of it all. These changes have shifted the role of the MSL from being an overlooked niche to a frontline driver of strategy and growth. The value of MSLs to their organizations and the healthcare ecosystem has grown exponentially; they are the best people to engage with HPCs and to educate key opinion leaders (KOLs), doctors and other stakeholders about the latest science and medicine.
The Covid-19 pandemic elevated medical affairs and MSLs even more so. Everyone was stuck at home and face-to-face meetings were impossible to conduct. MSLs were in a unique position because they maintained access to physicians and KOLs. As Covid suddenly accelerated digital transformation, digital KOLs became even more prominent, and MSLs already had established relationships with them.
How the Role of the MSL Will Further Evolve
Today, MSLs occupy a pivotal position in the healthcare ecosystem, acting as a lynchpin between clinical, commercial, and R&D. The role of the MSL and Medical Affairs will evolve and increase in importance in three key ways:
1) MSL insights will be a driving force of company planning, strategy and execution
Life science and medical device companies need more than big data; they need deep insights gleaned from big data, combined with the expertise of MSLs. They also need these insights to drive company strategy and execution across the board, from developing new therapies and clinical trials to patient recruitment and go-to-market initiatives.
2) More technologies will be developed specifically for MSLs
The commercial side of pharma companies has long been showered with large budgets and the latest tech. Now, medical affairs is getting the same level of support. Major global pharma companies are hiring medical analytics teams and giving medical affairs larger budgets and more resources, and securing more partnerships with tech companies.
MSL teams empowered with the latest healthcare data and analytics technology will be able to strategically pinpoint educational gaps in the healthcare ecosystem and target them accordingly. For example, MSLs will know whether or not a physician does or doesn’t understand if they should use chemotherapy or two immuno-oncology drugs in combination. This type of information will be easily available without having to use search engines or comb through spreadsheets.
3) New technologies will enable MSLs to understand the impact of their work in a compliant way
MSLs educate PCPs about certain conditions to help diagnose patients and refer them to a specialist sooner. MSLs want to educate HCPs about the latest therapies so that patients get the best treatment. So how can MSLs measure that? They aren’t permitted to see prescription information. However, new medical data platforms make it very easy to access referral data. If the PCPs they are engaging are referring more patients to specialists, their efforts are working. If not, they can change how they are communicating and fill in the educational gaps. This will significantly increase the impact of medical affairs and the work MSLs do in a compliant way.
When MSLs are empowered with next-level, data-driven strategies, everybody wins – doctors, patients, organizations and society.
Ariel Katz, CEO & Co-Founder of H1
Ariel started his first company in college, ResearchConnection, to help connect students with research opportunities. That company grew to over 40 universities and was eventually acquired by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ewing Kauffman Foundation. Ariel then helped co-founded, H1. Ariel Katz is currently the CEO and Co-founder of H1. H1 is a platform-based network that is dedicated to connecting healthcare professionals and companies with the aim of being the “Linkedin for healthcare.” The platform now has over 9 million HCP profiles in 16,000 institutions in 70-plus countries. Its clients, which encompass over 35 pharmaceutical companies, including seven of the top 10, use the platform to do things like find doctors to work on a clinical trial for given biotech, find hospitals where they can do their clinical and find the thought-leading healthcare professional to lead a CME session.