On this blog we have discussed the challenges of communicating medical affairs value a number of different times. Specifically, we have addressed the topic here (Topic 6), we have discussed MA value at launch here (Topic 3), and addressed the use of NPS measures in communicating value here (Topic 43),
On subject that we have not addressed is the importance of MA Insights in communicating value to internal stakeholders.
MA has always shared its insights with its internal stakeholders, but in the past the process has been fairly unstructured in the form of MA team members who are working with other functions on specific projects sharing their knowledge. For example, when MA field teams are responsible for helping clinical development identify and initiate sites, they may bring back to the clinical team leadership feedback about the protocol that they learned during their discussions with PIs. Or MA members of cross-functional launch teams may share insights that they gathered doing disease state education that may help commercial colleagues better understand and craft commercial scientific messages.
In the last year or so I have worked with a number of clients that are looking to take these “insight value moments” and make them more frequent by structuring the process for gathering and sharing insights.
Before I share my thoughts on how to best leverage MA insights to drive organizational value, some standard caveats:
- MA is not a market research organization and must never imply that the insights gathered are anything more than valuable but anecdotal information (the plural of anecdote is not data)
- MA is not in the business of “taking orders” from other areas for specific insights, but should at least understand what those areas are interested in (see more on this below)
- MA’s gathering of insights should organically grow from its peer-to-peer scientific interactions, communications and education activities only
Three Elements of Successful Insight Capture and Communication
With that said, I want to share some of the keys to gathering and communicating valuable insights from MA to internal stakeholders. Three elements are required to successfully provide value through insights:
- Awareness of Current Environment and Important Topics
- Method for Capturing Insights
- Approach for Communicating Valuable Insights
I will review each element in more detail below.
Awareness of Current Environment and Important Topics
MA personnel that interact with HCPs and others in the field are constantly learning new information. However, everything that they learn is not worth their time to document nor the time of internal stakeholders to review. As the saying goes, if you do not know what you are looking for, you will never find it.
So how do we make MA personnel that interact with others in the field aware of what are potentially valuable insights for their internal stakeholders? We need to educate them on the internal stakeholders’ situation.
Primary internal stakeholders for MA insights are:
- Clinical Development
- Managed Markets
Each internal stakeholder group has different areas of interest. In order to identify that MA has learned something useful to these groups we need to understand their context – we need to know what is important to them.
Many MA staff already have a good understanding of the priorities and activities of the clinical development function because they have to discuss the organization’s pipeline and development efforts with HCPs.
Types of Insights Sought by Clinical Development:
- Competing studies in the TA where CD has existing or upcoming studies
- Current off-label use of existing marketed products
- Areas of interest about new indications for existing or planned products
- Feedback and challenges with existing studies or protocols
- Enthusiasm for future participation in clinical trials
- In order to provide this type of insights, the MA staff needs to understand the context of the current clinical development environment. They need to understand the following:
Elements of Clinical Development Context:
- Detailed pipeline and development strategy for existing products
- Protocols of ongoing and recruiting studies in their TA
- Current status of ongoing trials, including challenges being based
MA organizations have a firewall with commercial for a reason. MA is non-promotional and therefore cannot be seen taking orders from or executing work on behalf of the commercial organization. However, non-promotional does not have to mean commercially uniformed. As long as the communication is one-way, MA sharing insights it learns to commercial, MA can provide value to commercial without becoming a promotional organization.
Types of Insights Sought by Commercial:
- Feedback on commercial launch activities from HCPs
- New studies from competitors in the organization’s TAs of interest
- Changes in a competitor's approach to communicating with the HCPs
- New information about competitor’s pipeline
- Feedback about the scientific messaging in commercial communications
In order to provide this type of insights, the MA staff needs to understand the context of the current commercial environment. They need to understand the following.
Elements of Commercial Context:
- Product positioning in the TA
- Product differentiation in the TA
- Commercial messaging
- Competitive landscape
MA organizations have different relationships with managed market organizations based on the company. Some MA groups are tightly integrated with managed markets, with MA staff specialized to support management markets. Other organizations have limited contacts. Regardless of the structure, MA can provide valuable insights to managed markets.
Types of Insights Sought by Managed Markets:
- Reimbursement concerns expressed by HCPs
- Changes / surprises encountered by HCPs in reimbursement for company’s products
- Communications received by HCPs from payers concerning the company’s products or competitor’s products
- Competitive product reimbursement changes
In order to provide this type of insights, the MA staff needs to understand the context of the current managed market environment. They need to understand the following.
Elements of Managed Market Context:
- Overall payer environment
- Payer relationships within the region
- IDN relationships within the region
Summary of Awareness
With an understanding of the clinical development, commercial and managed markets context, MA personnel can be aware of any insights they may encounter during their dealings with HCPs and be able to highlight those that have the greatest potential for impact on the organization.
As one of my clients put it, we need to shift MA personnel from Medical People to Medical Business People, adding to their knowledge base an awareness of the entire organization’s business.
Method for Capturing Insights
MA insights do not come on a schedule. They can occur whenever MA interacts with an HCP. For that reason, there needs to be an easy, efficient method for capturing insights as they occur. Many organizations leverage their customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Systems like Veeva can be tailored to capture the insights and, with simple drop down lists, at the time of entry they can be coded for internal stakeholder group or groups that may be most interested in the insight.
Leveraging the CRM system has another advantage – visibility. While insights do not come on a set schedule, MA leadership needs to encourage everyone with HCPs interactions to capture insights. The CRM can be used to track who has entered insights in the last period. While I strongly discourage any type of “minimum number of insights” metric, managers should still track who is entering insights and work with any MA team member that interacts with HCPs and fails to capture insights over a significant period of time.
Approach for Communicating Valuable Insights
If MA wants to maximize the impact of its insights, it must communicate them to the internal stakeholders in such a manner that the insights are actionable. Simply providing internal stakeholders with a laundry list of a hundred bullet points of insights, mixing different topics and hoping that they can sort it out to find the needle in the haystack.
Unfortunately this requires the application of judgment, which takes time and attention. However, in return for this effort the MA organization can produce a consistently useful and effective report of competitive intelligence on an ongoing basis. This approach requires the following steps:
- All insights are entered into the system (see previous element above) and coded for internal stakeholder group
- A single reviewer is selected for each stakeholder group reviews all the insights for that group for a given period and:
- Identifies key trends
- Highlights the insights that are potentially most impactful
- Identifies miscoded insights or insights that may impact more than one stakeholder group
Once a summary of the key trends and highlighted insights are developed, the MA reviewer can meet on a periodic basis with a representative of the stakeholder to review the insights and provide context. These insight review sessions can be a very powerful example of how MA drives value into the entire organization.
MA is a significant organization investment. Any opportunity for MA to share its value with its key stakeholders helps it to solidify the important role that MA plays in organization success. Providing actionable insights to the organization is a key way that MA can share its value.
What is your experience with Insight identification, capture and communication? Leave a comment.