Medical Affairs has risen very fast in the last years, becoming after an initial phase of “supporting function”, a highly crucial “leading function”, representing a relevant pillar within Pharma/Biotech industry.
Since several years new functions have been built in the context of Medical Affairs, especially within Field based functions.
Field Medical Affairs includes mainly, Medical Scientific Liaisons (MSL), Regional Medical Liaisons (RML), Scientific Project Managers (SPM), Field Medical Advisor (FMA), Field Medical Manager (FMM), Regional Medical Managers (RMM), even if, all these job titles definitely represent, quite always, the same roles, as Field Medical Affairs, for differentiating these from Office based Medical roles (Medical Managers, Medical Advisors, Medical Affairs Scientists).
External stakeholders have the need to know more about the available drugs and science behind these, tools, services and medical solutions and with this aim, Field Medical Affairs represents a function, within Medical Affairs, in a continuous evolution phase. Pharma/Biotech companies, through their Medical Affairs teams, are strongly positioned to lead and support in this way and Field Medical Affairs, will continue to be a relevant trusted source of information for Health Care Professionals, looking to improve the health outcomes of their patients.
Field Medical Affairs teams maximizes Company’s value proposition, through medical and scientific projects, services, expertise and exchange of information, as well as the development of long-term relationships with medical, scientific community and patients organization groups. Field Medical teams can reach, indeed, more Health Care Professionals and other different stakeholders, acting as a liaison, between office based peers and external stakeholders.
Generally, main responsibilities and accountabilities for Field Medical Affairs teams include, but are not limited to:
- Be the first point of contact for any scientific aspect related to the assigned therapeutic area.
- Identify and develop high level relationships and partnerships with current and future Key Opinion Leaders and other key external stakeholders.
- Engage in scientific exchange with Health Care Professionals, Investigators and with any external expert to identify unmet medical needs, evidence gaps and obtain insight.
- Implement and disseminate high quality medical and scientific educational programs.
- Support safe and appropriate use of Company’s products through valuable scientific exchange with Health Care Professionals.
- Collaborate with Clinical Research colleagues to ensure optimization of site selection for Company sponsored studies and to maintain a liaison with Principal Investigators and study teams, providing scientific support to clinical trials and CR colleagues
- Warrant the provision of a proper scientific know-how on the therapeutic areas, to the Field Force, including general knowledge of specific diseases and competitive intelligence.
- Identify local medical and patients needs, defining local Medical Plans, useful also for future performance assessment, metrics and KPIs identification.
- Support Commercial/Market Access/Public Affairs functions, in ensuring the knowledge and acceptance of Company products in regional formularies, through the best available evidence of product’s value.
- Identify new medical opportunities and facilitate the collection and screening of investigators proposal regarding scientific activities to be assessed, including other Medical Affairs activities.
- Ensure scientific and medical excellence with high compliance according Company’s SOPs and local normative and regulations.
It’s a priority, to invest in Field Medical Affairs for building team knowledge, permitting field teams to adapt to new ways of interaction – including digital and new technologies – that could increase Medical Affairs visibility and related impact for the organization. It’s therefore important to invest in Medical capabilities and skills, to permit to build knowledge and to reach external customers that, for different reasons, cannot be reached by other internal functions. In fact, especially in the last years, there is an increasing focus on hiring professionals with strong interpersonal engagement skills, high level of business skills, as well as expertise in communicating with multidisciplinary stakeholders
Being Field Medical Affairs the scientific face of an organization, these teams may need strong planned training programs, to ensure an up-to-date on the latest developments in the related therapeutic areas, to permit to confidently engage in scientific discussions with KOLs and other Health Care Professionals.
For this reason, is important to have a clear “on-boarding” plan, as for the office based Medical Affairs, and invest – in addition of course on the therapeutic area knowledge – on scenario and business understanding, increasing business acumen, curiosity, flexibility to adapt to different challenges, health economics topics, local healthcare scenario knowledge, speed, long-term vision and agility, product added value (not only from a scientific medical point of view, but also in terms of “value” itself), permitting to Field Medical Affairs Teams to interact with different customers, understanding their needs and being able to be recognized, externally and internally, as a reliable and preferred scientific partner. This, will provide at the end, a great recognition and visibility for Field Medical Affairs and for the Company, acknowledged to have invested in very well prepared Field Medical Affairs professionals.
A critical part – even if with a significant improvement respect to the past – could be sometime, represented by the metrics and performance assessment of Field Medical Affairs activities.
This, has always been indeed, a “grey zone”, due to many activities of Field Medical Affairs could generally be quite difficult to measure. It’s, in fact, mainly for this reason, highly important that, appropriate internal processes and systems must be in place, to highlight and capture any insight, information, any other activity shared by Field Medical Affairs to external stakeholders, that could have impact on Health Care Professionals and patients as well. These processes could be different from one company to each other (each Company adapts specific metrics and KPIs) and it should also be related to Company business (i.e.: Primary or Specialty/Rare Diseases), but it also depends from the product LCM and/or launch phases. To assess and quantify the growth of relationships over time, CRM and other tools, provide the opportunity to monitor Field Medical Affairs impact in new and probably more effective ways.
To have clearly defined and easily measurable objectives, the most important thing should be to have a strong detailed Medical Plan, that includes Field Medical Affairs objectives, with goals aligned with Corporate strategy, defining an accurate goal description, clear KPIs, easy measurement of goal and related metrics, weight in percentage of the goal (all of the above must be agreed, singularly discussed and adapted with Manager’s input, in order to be finalized at the beginning of the year). For this reason, each Annual Plan, for any Field Medical Affairs member, should be tailored and assessed with the supervision of the Manager.
Sometime, mid/end-year self-assessment could represent a “bias” and for this specific reason, it’s important that any activity, goal, objective, should include quantitative metrics (mainly due to the role itself, as external/customer facing role) and qualitative metrics (feedback by external stakeholders – and internal as well – engagement surveys, relevance of collected insights and their importance for the strategy, sharing of “best practice”, plus any other activity, as awareness programs, with high impact for the Company’s strategy).
Nevertheless, often, the traditional quantitative metrics used for demonstrating effectiveness of Field Medical impact, could bring poor info on the real impact of Medical engagement work with external stakeholders, so recently, as anticipated, there is a trend in capturing more outcomes-based KPIs, with the aim to collect a shift in mindset, due to engagement. Additionally and as always , one of the most valuable metric to be used is based on “open communication”, therefore, sharing internally with the organization, ideas and insights captured by KOLs and experts face-to face meeting, increase Field Medical Affairs visibility and value for the organization.