Medical Affairs

4 Ways MSLs Can Make a Superhuman Impact through Scientific Exchange

By Lana Feng, Ph.D. on October, 1 2021

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Lana Feng, Ph.D.

CEO and Co-Founder, Huma.AI

Medical Affairs teams have been challenged with an extreme reduction in face-to-face meetings. 

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on scientific exchange between Medical Science Liasons (MSLs),  healthcare providers (HCPs), and key opinion leaders (KOLs). The adoption of remote meetings has been a difficult transition across the Life Science Industry, and presents challenges specific to the role of MSLs. Thus, adopting more new digital technologies is now a requirement for success.

Due to the need for new technologies, what are the skills and tools that would help MSLs the most in this new landscape?

MSLs Must do more with CRM data

Remote engagement between MSLs and stakeholders, including HCPs and KOLs, requires messaging that is consistent with Medical Affairs requirements. 

MSL engagements with HCPs and KOLs are driven by scientific exchange such as monitoring the latest journal articles, trade press, and data from clinical trials. MSL teams are not harnessing the full power of customer relationship management solutions (CRMs to reach these goals, however. Instead of extracting key information for and about HCPs and KOLs in real-time, Medical Affairs teams over-rely on monthly reports of Medical Insights. This is an issue because HCPs and KOLs expect responses in real-time that are consistent with the exacting demands of Medical Affairs teams.

Even though it requires advanced technology, a PULL rather than PUSH model for delivering critical data from CRMs has greater potential to help MSLs in the field. .

Pulling data rather than waiting for push-based methods to deliver insights makes for easier access to information, facilitating scientific exchange. 

Even though it is in every MSL teams best interest to become CRM experts, this knowledge is not universal across field medical teams.Thus, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be a powerful driver for Medical Affairs teams in this regard. It is crucial for leading MSLs to embrace such digital transformation, extract crucial unstructured and structured data, and analyze data quickly into actionable insights. 

Without the help of AI, MSLs will fall behind peers who do adapt to the disrupted Medical Affairs landscape.

MSLs Should Focus on Customer Engagement

The  loss of in-person meetings between HCPs and MSLs has resulted in a newfound appetite for digital transformation across the Life Sciences space.

Overwhelmed with requests from MSLs for meetings, HCPs are still required to digest high volumes of information; all while providing the best possible care for their patients. With this, MSLs must deliver relevant information aligned with that of their Medical Affairs team. They also have to closely monitor time-sensitive medical inquiries, and offer HCPs opportunities for continuing medical education. 

Social media has now been proven to increase demand for these educational opportunities. 

Information shared through social media is also an opportunity for HCPs to catch up asynchronously, eliminating the need for more calls or meetings.

Creative, multi-channel campaigns featuring novel approaches, such as gamification, have kept many HCPs engaged without in-person meetings. MSLs must find new ways to help alleviate the fatigue HCPs feel from video conferencing calls, remote instead of direct patient care, and bulk emails from pushy vendors.

The bottom line: HCPs are able to provide the best possible care for their patients,remotely and in-person,if they are supported by scientific exchange that are built to facilitate results without requiring more meetings. 

MSLs Need to Deliver Strategic Guidance

The unique circumstances of COVID-19 have demanded superhuman efforts from MSLs to assist HCPs and influence KOLs at pre-pandemic levels. 

Many are working without the tools to sustain such efforts. But only to the extent that HCPs leverage innovative approaches to engagement and reporting to help HCPs remotely. Dealing with the consequences of adverse events and providing new solutions that improve patient care, MSLs must be vigilant and helpful while documenting their efforts. 

MSLs are still the critical conduits of scientific exchange for both HCPs and KOLs, remotely or otherwise. 

MSLs provide and transmit critical real world data to stakeholders.

This information from field medical teams - the boots on the ground - shapes strategy all the way up to the C-level and is vital to Life Science companies. However, MSL teams enter these critical Medical Insights as free-text notes in CRMs, burying them in massive stores of unstructured data which requires extensive manual efforts to buildinto reports. With the right technology partner, Medical Insights from MSL engagements with KOLs and HCPs can be surfaced from CRM data, simply by asking questions in a search bar. 

Most Life Science companies have yet to solve the underlying challenges that make such a tool possible, however.

MSLs Require Innovation to Succeed 

MSLs are key purveyors of scientific exchange, often driven by their desire to be the voice of the patient within Life Science companies. 

When empowered by the larger Medical Affairs teams with tools that make their jobs easier, MSLs can optimize their impact. A key to empowering MSL teams is providing access to training on best practices with new solutions powered by machine-learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP). Such technologies can drive engagement between MSLs, HCPs, and KOLs. 

Better results from CRMs are made possible by tools that leverage AI. 

The impactful information must also be delivered to HCPs and KOLs in a manner that is consistent with the demands of Medical Affairs leadership. 

In order to ensure their insights make it to the required level, MSLs need better technology so they can pull Medical Insights rather than have them pushed out through manually generated reports. Life Science companies are best served to facilitate these efforts of MSLs through digital transformation. HCPs value MSLs who know exactly the information they need at the right time, along with better technology to leverage Medical Insights. 

Whether insights come from deep in PubMed or countless notes in CRMs, they need to be made accessible in a way that few technology partners can deliver.

The New Digitally Empowered MSL

MSLs choose their career path because they have a fundamental desire to improve patient outcomes.  

Technology companies that provide tools to Medical Affairs teams must make digital transformation straightforward for the specific roles MSLs play at Life Science companies. For that to happen, company-wide buy-in and significant investments are required; particularly in AI-driven solutions. These groups can best facilitate scientific exchange if their innovations are implemented by technology partners deeply rooted in the Life Science industry.

The ultimate goal should be to create a new breed of digitally empowered MSLs who connect with HCPs and KOLs, and deliver the insights through innovative solutions from technology partners.