Words by Martin Barrow
Pharma is investing heavily in MA. There is a determination to create highly-skilled teams of externally-facing medical professionals to represent the voice of patients and clinicians in providing scientific expertise to improve patient outcomes.
The importance of medical affairs is not disputed. But the industry is struggling to define what success looks like when it comes to medical affairs and how the return on this significant investment should be measured.
MA originally emerged as a reaction to increasing pressures from regulators to separate medical and commercial functions. Naturally, this makes companies cautious about how they measure the impact of MA. If it is not appropriate to use levels of sales to determine the impact of MA, what measure can be used? Reach, frequency, and other measurements handed down from commercial teams barely scratch the surface of MA’ relationships, and fail to capture their strength and depth.
Dr Robert Matheis, Executive Director of Global Scientific Communications, Celgene, and Executive Leadership Committee Member, MAPS, is helping to create performance indicators to support a strong value proposition for medical affairs.
The industry is struggling to define what success looks like when it comes to medical affairs
“Many organisations default to quantitative assessments of productivity and efficiency to represent impact and value”, says Matheis. “While useful as metrics, over-reliance on pure quantitative approaches can result in missed opportunities to truly capture the value of MA. Many successful MA divisions seek surrogate measures that attempt to align tactical achievements with successes from other parts of the broader organisation toward a comprehensive value proposition. Often, crafting a story that begins with enhancements to clinical decision-making is an effective approach for conceptualising a value proposition for MA teams.”
One example is the publication of a peer-reviewed manuscript in a scientific journal. Traditional metrics might involve capturing the journal impact factor or circulation as proxies for impact. An evolved approach might be to consider the use of the publication in field engagements and/or citation with social media discussions. These indicators might then be assessed for sentiments that can be extrapolated to indicators of enhanced patient care. Interactions with healthcare decision makers are the most unique and arguably the most valuable. They have the ability to produce a significant amount of information on healthcare data points that life science companies often try to piece together from multiple sources.
It is critical for MA divisions to identify and communicate their value proposition and role in generating impact for the broader organisation. In a recent report, Ameet Nathwani, Chief Medical Officer, Sanofi, said: “We have to become an agile evidence generating engine. We have to develop the data scientifically, put the data into context for a healthcare system and, in particular, be able to describe the value in terms of the benefit to patients. All this has to become a fundamental skill.”
We have to become an agile evidence generating engine
In the evolving healthcare landscape, there has never been a greater opportunity for MA professionals to contribute to enhanced patient care through better clinical decision-making and product access. Medical to medical dialogue and transparent consideration of clinical evidence has become a necessary component of the engagement between pharma organisations and decision makers in healthcare. In an era of personalised medicine and challenges to the economics of drug pricing, there is a unique opportunity for MA professionals to drive open conversations around optimal patient care.
The future state of the pharma organisation brings MA professionals to the frontline of impactful engagements with customers in which patients are the beneficiaries. The key is capturing the mechanisms by which evidence generation and communication align with enhancements to patient care.