With new challenges always come new opportunities. This has lately been the case within the rapidly changing world of medical affairs globally. This rapid change is multifactorial, yet it has been driven by the move to more specialized medicines and the rise of digital channels increasing the availability of data. This in return has created a growing need to overcome increasingly complex scientific and technological challenges, to gain operational efficiencies within pharmaceutical companies. Increasingly, key healthcare stakeholders are interacting with both medical and commercial teams across multiple platforms. Now more than ever, we need to take a more coordinated approach.
Best practices for medical and commercial collaboration are under the spotlight since several factors are driving companies to reassess their medical-commercial interaction, including changes in the overall healthcare landscape, increasing ecosystem complexity, and declining commercial sales rep access to physicians. The questions now rise above the level of what’s allowed and what’s not into creating coordinated organizational customer engagement strategies.
Strengthening the medical-commercial partnership means avoiding working in isolated islands by jumping over anciently built walls through fire loops – but you must do that in a compliant way. The dilemma to unify back the divide has been a lingering question for years, with views to keep the separate entity intact and opposing views – louder indeed – calling for the future fusion of some functions like medical and market access creating medical value and access functions in some corporates around the world.
From my past experiences, Let’s take a look at three steps to strengthening medical-commercial collaboration and bridge the gap between them to ensure delivering an optimum customer experience.
First of all, dive into a 360-customer view which will comprehend which information should be shared with which stakeholders based on input from medical, commercial, and compliance teams. This augments your visibility on which function should engage a stakeholder at a particular time.
This view not only scans scientific interest, health-system positions, or community influence but it should reach the level of detail of including engagement status, communication channel preferences, and stakeholder requests or questions.
Moving on to secondly create HCP networks and widen this network creating a web of alliances to include a wider scope than the traditional global/national academic experts circle. Regional and local stakeholders play a key role in product success, along with payers, regulators, and patient advocates if available in your country. Medical affairs should partner with commercial, market access, and communications to identify key stakeholders at every level.
The customer engagement model is changing, dynamics are seen in every healthcare system model ranging from HCPs not being the sole decision-makers they used to be before to consumers becoming stronger advocates for their own healthcare and actively participating in their treatment decision. To advance this discussion, global estimates have shown that stakeholders have more than doubled over the past three years, which all need to be addressed and hence must be navigated with tools that are beyond the traditional channel of a face-to-face commercial visit.
Lastly, you should break the dilemma of quantifying medical affairs metrics and shift to embracing the qualitative nature of a medical affairs impact. The metrics used to evaluate and reward medical affairs’ performance have long been inconsistent or unclear which in turn pushes MSLs to direct some good effort into closing quantifiable metrics which would have been much more impactful if directed towards more patient-centric educational activities in-line with high-level medical affairs strategies.
While these steps are solid pillars to use, there are important ways to consider in your approach to internal transformation which should include: real collaboration throughout the product lifecycle, tailored planning from a strategic to an account level, improved in-field coordination, and insights-sharing in an outer shell of more empathy and understanding between both parties because collaborations are most effective when all partners have the same definition of success and clear goals to track progress.
While bridging the divide between medical and commercial can be a hectic task, it’s definitely worth it. Organizations are encouraged to have a full step-by-step guide on driving more harmonized organizational strategies that nurture optimized medical and commercial collaboration that will reflect on improving customer engagement.
Currently a Therapy Area Medical Manager at Amgen, I previously spent 10 years at Novartis in different roles of varying responsibilities since 2009.
I worked as an MSL for Bone & Pain, Respiratory & Transplantation during the period of 2014 till 2016 which added a lot to my perspectives of being patient-centric in business.
My career to date has provided me with invaluable knowledge in some key areas, namely Bone & Pain, Respiratory, Cardio-Metabolic, Nephrology, Transplantation & Biosimilars in Egypt, Iran & Sudan.
I am also an accomplished individual with a strong desire to succeed and lead others to success. Indeed through my past experiences, I have had the distinction of being an individual who is energetic, hardworking, and efficient.
On a more personal level, I am open to any situation that is challenging and which tests my abilities, as well as among my work colleagues I have a reputation as being a fast learner, who is dependable and organized.