There were numerous well thought out responses to the US Survey on what the long-term impact would be related to the current pandemic situation.
Four themes emerged from the responses and within each theme there were both concerns of positive as well as negative impact. The four themes identified were 1) adapting to alternative engagements with virtual and other digital technologies, 2) overall impact on MSL value, 3) changes in the employment landscape, and 4) impact on KOL relationships.
The largest theme that emerged was around virtual engagements. An overwhelming number of respondents commented that the use of virtual technology and other digital tools would continue to grow and become more prominent in the daily activities of MSLs. Virtual engagements were felt to potentially provide more flexibility and access, if the health care provider (HCP) is one that adapts well to the use of technology. Some respondents felt that the wide adoption of digital technologies could change how conferences/congress will disseminate clinical and scientific information.
Respondents reported that they were concerned that the limited access to hospital and health care systems we now see would continue and negatively impact KOL accessibility. It has been well documented in KOL surveys in the recent past HCPs truly value face to face interactions. KOLs place high value on the scientific exchange and interpersonal interactions with their MSLs. Thus, some MSL respondents to this pandemic survey were quite concerned that decreasing face to face interactions could negatively impact their KOL relationships. Some fear that the oversimplification of virtual engagements might minimize the scientific value the MSL brings.
The second largest theme was the anticipation of a decrease in the MSL workforce. Respondents felt that the vast decrease in travel costs realized by the stay at home orders could lead companies to limit MSL team size and mandate virtual engagements as the norm. On a side note, when thinking about cross functional commercial partners, some felt that the outside sales workforces would be reduced. That pharma sales model may become more inside sales based on what is learned from the recent events. On the positive side, many respondents did feel there may actually be a positive impact on MSL value. They felt that MSLs will adapt well and continue to build strong relationships with their KOLs. In any case, the MSL value will continue to re-evaluated, especially as we move through this current situation.