Yes, it is clear to all of us now that Medical Affairs has become a strategic function within the pharmaceutical industry, and from this point, I can tell you that the MSL role is much more important than ever before!
But is it only because of the strategic role of the function? No, it is also due to the evolving technological advances and digitalization, along with the dynamics we live in and the Covid-19 pandemic, which led us to work virtually for more than two years now to this point such that everything has moved to digital and opened our eyes to facts that we never felt before in previous life.
We have found that even small details make a difference in patients’ lives, understanding their needs, preferences, and even their behaviors toward their care. We became more focused on using digital tools to gather not only HCPs’ insights but also to interact with patients in the way they would prefer.
From this point, are we ready to convert this way of communication to a way of impact?
To answer this question, I will take you through a very short story about a patient journey.
Let’s talk about a diabetic person, and I would say a “person”, not a “patient” because this would better describe what we all should consider whenever we are talking about impact.
This person is 40 years old and has been diagnosed with diabetes yesterday when he saw his PHCP and with the initial denial phase, he passed forward to acknowledgment; what do you expect him to do in life? Should he change his diet? Adhere to diabetes medications? Do you exercise daily?
The story has ended, this person could be any one of us. How would you change your life in a moment when you have to?
This is the impact that healthcare professionals and medical affairs in pharmaceutical organizations should put all their efforts to do in their life. And, to be able to make this impact, you need to try to understand his life, put yourself in his shoes, and understand what makes him happy, satisfied, suffering, and his entire pain points.
So now, how does digitalization play an essential role in addressing all of that?
This is based on the 2021 Accenture Health and Life Sciences Experience Survey:
In the pre-pandemic survey, which surveyed England rather than the UK as a whole, 57% of respondents reported using at least one form of digital health technology, such as wearables or health apps. Accenture’s most recent survey shows that this has grown to 61% over the last year. While this demonstrates a growing use of digital technologies overall, the rise is most pronounced in the adoption of virtual consultations, surging from 6% pre-pandemic to 35% in our latest research.
Equally, the number of patients using electronic health records to access their data has more than tripled (from 4% to 14%).
How can I utilize technology as an MSL?
It is not about doing virtual calls with HCPs; it is about creating innovative solutions for the healthcare system to improve patient care. Being proactive in offering essential solutions will add real value to HCPs and patients. For example: 1) creating platforms and applications to improve diagnostic criteria, patient-centric clinical research, and patient adherence. 2) Partnering with health authorities to create projects using artificial intelligence (AI) in analyzing data to facilitate the diagnosis of different medical conditions.
A question that we should ask ourselves as MSLs, do we have the capabilities and Skills required for the healthcare increasing and complex needs?!
I think we must get out of our comfort zone and learn to have:
- Critical data analysis rather than data reporting!
- Innovative digital design thinking rather than creative thinking!
- Patient-centric mindset rather than patient-engaging!
Ahmed has 12 Years of experience across different roles in pharmaceutical companies within Gulf Countries, managing Primary & Specialty care portfolios in multinational companies. Ahmed holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Cairo University, Egypt.
He joined AstraZeneca in March 2015, Managing CVRM and Respiratory line where he had the opportunity to grow his career as MSL. Throughout his career in the medical department, he has worked closely with the CFT to establish different therapy areas, establishing patient support programs in the Gulf, and participated in the execution of the Health digital mobile app in the Covid-19 therapy area, Ahmed played his role in building a strategic partnership with medical societies.
He has been recognized recently by the MSL International Society as a finalist for MSL of the year for 2021. Ahmed is a member of the AstraZeneca MEA Society Steering Committee.
In his role, Ahmed is responsible for all Gulf countries, responsible for the Covid-19 therapy area providing medical and clinical expertise in the vaccine and immune therapy area.