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How to Tell the Difference Between Insights and Observations in Medical Affairs
Medical Affairs teams are no longer only a conduit of information from the organization to external stakeholders. Now, in addition to speaking, Medical Affairs knows how to listen. The things Medical Affairs hears in its interactions with healthcare providers, policy makers, and other thought leaders can form the basis of an insight: An “aha!” moment that can drive strategic decisions and actions. But what is an insight and what is just an observation? With the recent explosion of insights data, it can be hard to tell! In this podcast sponsored by LARVOL, we speak with Medical Affairs insights experts about how to manage this flow of information back to the organization and how to help actionable insights float to the top of the information ocean.
Garth Sundem 00:00
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society Podcast Series: “Elevate”. Opinions are those of the speakers and don’t represent the views of their organizations. I’m your host Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS, and today we’ll be speaking with Carol Collins-Carriveau, Senior Director of Medical Sciences and Gilead Sciences. Jennifer Schneider, Director of Field Medical Alignment at Novo Nordisk, and Abby Fraser, VP of Marketing at Larvol about how to tell the difference between Insights and observations in Medical Affairs. This podcast is made possible by LARVOL, which has been accelerating decision making since 2004 by providing real-time customized competitive intelligence software, with data driven analytics to the pharmaceutical, biotech, and healthcare industries. Carol, Jennifer, Abby, welcome. We’re talking about Insights today. So, let’s start with how Insights generally are gathered and used in most organizations now. And Carol, maybe do you want to get us started?
Carol Collins-Carriveau 01:12
Sure! Thank you, Garth, thank you, for the opportunity to be here today. So, you know, I think how Insights are collected and used, it’s really evolved over the past couple of years. You know, I think, initially, at least when I came into industry, and I’ve been in industry for hate to say, over 20 years now, you know, with a lot of tech than it was, you know, check in the box, did you see 40 people this week, and, and you really didn’t bring back anything that you were learning in the field. And I think that’s really started to shift as we view Medical Affairs as a key driver of not just medical strategy, but strategy across the company, we can shape strategy for clinical development, as well as commercial. And so now, what we’re trying to bring Insights in from the field and their interactions with healthcare providers to advisory board, through interactions with investigators, at least for our organization, it’s been rather clunky. You know, the medical scientists team hand me their Insights in a Word document or an email, and then I spend hours going through that and picking out what matters, what doesn’t, free writing, and then sending it out to the organization for review. So, we’re trying to shift into a much more focused way of capturing Insights, but I’ll turn it over and let Jenn add their expert.
Garth Sundem 02:42
Jennifer, what are the Insights used in your organization now?
Jennifer Schneider 02:44
Yeah, so we utilize our Insights to help like advance our business. So, they help define our medical and company strategies, priorities and plans. So, we use those in the planning process. We also identify stakeholder needs, preferences, and then some gaps in care to see if there’s anything that we need to expand on. It also helps inform our real-world experiences and treatment pathways that we are developing. And then it can help in our clinical trial programs. So, we kind of look at Insights like they can come in from a multitude of different ways. The way that our, the field medical team collects Insights, is through a program, we utilize Viva. And so, all of those Insights go into Viva, we’re actually now utilizing XY to help with that analysis problem that Carol spoke of earlier. So, we are it’s, you know, a little platform inside of Viva, which is our CRM management. And they enter the Insights into XY. So, we do extensive training on what to enter in there. And these can be Insights related to guidelines that providers are using, clinical trial Insights. So, if they have any insight into what’s going well, or what kind of hiccups they’re having in clinical trials, we also get Insights in competitive intelligence, treatment approaches, so what pathways are our providers using for different, different chronic diseases, what diagnostic tools are being utilized? Again, any unmet gaps or needs, and then decision, what’s influencing their decisions, pathways that they’re using, and then any real-world data that they’re using to make decisions. And I think the biggest thing about the difference between like an insight and an observation like we talked about, is an insight is really like what the information is and why the why, we have to understand like why the provider is saying that in order to really have that full insight, so for example, if someone said, you know, product x is great, or, you know, this clinical trial is not helpful, then that’s an observation. So, we need to understand why the provider is saying that, because that’s what’s going to help shape our, you know, the planning that we do as an organization.
Garth Sundem 05:26
Oh, that’s interesting. Well, let me just follow up really quickly on some of the mechanics that you described at first. Is it that the organization defines the buckets that Insights will go into? So, you said like this might be an insight about clinical trials? This might be an insight about KOL preference, this might be an insight, is it that the organization designs the buckets? And then as Insights come in, you put them into the correct bucket?
Jennifer Schneider 05:53
That’s a great question. So, when I was kind of spewing off the different types of Insights, that just kind of like, in general, those Insights can come in, in all of those different topics. So, in our organization, we actually, we do have specific kind of questions or topics that we’re trying to understand more about. And in our organization, we love our acronyms. And so, we call them heightened awareness topics or HATs. So, the heightened-awareness topics are kind of like, Hey, we are trying to develop our strategy or develop our plan are we need to understand more about this piece to, you know, develop training, or whatever it may be. So, we will, we will put out specific heightened-awareness topics for the team to listen for. And that’s the way that we say like, Hey, this is what we want to hear. They’re also able to put in other things in any one of those buckets that I mentioned earlier. But those are the things that we’re really looking to understand more, because we’re trying to shape some sort of strategy or plan.
Garth Sundem 07:00
Okay, so your HATs are my bucket. Carol, in so, Jennifer talks about the difference between an insight and an observation being the why, how does your organization understand the difference between an insight and something that’s only an observation?
Carol Collins-Carriveau. 07:22
Right, and I think that is key, right? Because I have found over the last couple of years when we’re trying to collect Insights, that that is something that, at least at Gilead and across our medical science team is they really struggle to understand what that is. And I liked how Jennifer said it, you know, an observation is something that’s fairly immediately seen, right? It’s very evident, it’s when the clinician says, Oh, I found that data to be very impactful on my clinical practice. That’s the observation. But it takes the skill of the medical scientists to ask the right questions to get underneath that. And to figure out what the insight is, why did that matter? Why is it shaping their clinical practice? And a lot of times that insight can be a surprise. And it’s, I look at it as when you’re uncovering this, and somebody saw that and you’re like, Oh, yeah, that makes total sense. I mean, I really knew that, but I never really thought about it, right? And so then, you bring that back to the organization, you’ve got the insight, the insight can state the strategy. And then we use that strategy to make plans where we can have impact, and ultimately, the impact that we want to make is on an unmet need, a mission, or the patient or the organization.
Garth Sundem 08:46
Okay, interesting. Well, yes. So, so Abby, is it that there is a required human component to identify an insight? Or are there other sort of hints or triggers or things we can see that could identify something truly as an insight?
Abby Fraser 09:08
Yeah, that’s really interesting. I love that the idea of the what being observations, the why being kind of the Insights, but then there’s the so what comes after that, right? So, what do we do with that? And I feel like what Carol’s saying, and what we hear from other customers is, is that’s where the strategy comes in, that’s where you need you need that human element to, to process all of that. There’s just more and more data out there, right? There’s all these small interactions to social media engagements, all of these is never ending. And so, you need even smarter systems. I’m not surprised, Jennifer, you mentioned digital tools like Viva, you have to have those tools to process all this data. But then you still need that human to say So what? And so, I think that I’m really interested in, especially you, both of you as leaders of those teams, what do you do with all that information coming back and how does it, you know, how do you process it? Definitely.
Garth Sundem 09:58
Oh, interesting. So okay. So, we’ve got, we’ve got the what? We’ve got the why, and we’ve got the so what. Is it that the what is the observation? The why is the insight? And the strategy is the so what that comes from it?
Abby Fraser 10:16
That is my hypothesis. I would love to hear what the experts say.
Garth Sundem 10:20
Carol and Jennifer would, how would you conceptualize? What are we talking about here? Is it the workflow of Insights? Or is it still identifying what truly is an insight and what to do with it? Right? Is it this what why so what a framework that could be used for Insights? What do you think?
Carol Collins-Carriveau 10:39
I think that’s a simple way of doing it. Because I think insight, strategy, impact, and I think I like that, the what the so what, and the, you know, the why, and the so what there, I think that it’s a great way to look at it, maybe a simpler, maybe a simpler way that people can understand.
Garth Sundem 10:58
Okay, insight, strategy, impact, that’s another, that’s another nice way to, to look at it as well. Well, okay, so let’s change directions a little bit. Um, you know, Abby, you mentioned, social media. And I see that as a keyword for, “Oh, my gosh, there’s so much data in the world, what, what do we do with it?” So, we have all of these Insights coming in. You know, we’re trying to ask the why about them. And, Carol, you mentioned having to sift through these Insights for hours and hours coming in, you know, how do we deal with the sheer volume of incoming Insights data? And maybe we could even talk about that now? And what, what a utopian future might look like?
Carol Collins-Carriveau 11:49
Well, I would say, I think Jennifer described it the best you can’t possibly sift through and find that every piece of information that you’re collecting is important to the organization. But you have to have a way to narrow your focus. And I think that comes from separately, we talked earlier, before this call and Jennifer was talking about, you know, just because one person said that doesn’t mean it’s an insight, and they have to formulate. Yeah, let’s look at this in a broader perspective. And are we starting to hear this from across the country or around the globe? And I do think you have to have a leadership team that or Strategy Team that goes, we have to define these focus, let’s see what data we collect. Are there Insights in there that impact our strategy that we can then you know, make changes in what we’re doing? If not, let’s shift to something new. And on the team that I’m in, COVID-19, I can tell you that this is the area that changes from the very beginning almost on a daily basis. And right now, it’s changing even just as rapidly, probably at least weekly, and now we have this new search. So, it really requires us to be focused and otherwise we can get lost in the information
Garth Sundem 13:08
Get lost in the, in the information. So, Jennifer, how would you counsel MSLs to filter the information that they’re bringing back to the organization?
Jennifer Schneider 13:18
Yeah, so that’s a great question. Because there is this delicate balance of, you know, telling the MLs, “Oh, we only want you to put in if it’s like novel and exciting and actionable Insights.” But then we may miss stuff that actually we care about. And then I think it really depends where the organization is or where different parts of the organization is on what truly would be an insight because you know, something in a new developing therapeutic area, and insight on what an organization is doing as far as their treatment pathway is very important. And we can utilize that, you know, if we’re developing this pathway in this disease state, we want to know who’s already who’s out who’s a front runner in that so we can collaborate with them. Whereas like, if you haven’t developed a disease state, well, there’s all these pathways. Well, we’re not really that’s not really what we’re working on. So, it doesn’t, all these different health systems doing different things isn’t as important. So, I hate to, I hate to tell MLs like oh, we only want you to put it in if it’s actionable or novel, I just say, if you think that this is an insight, I want you to put it in. I also want them to, like we talked about earlier, is ask those probing questions if they hear something. What did you mean by this? Or tell me more about this? How did you come to this conclusion? Are you saying that and kind of repeat back what this like observation is to understand more about it or please explain, or share more. And those are ways that we’ve coached the MLs to get the why behind this observation that they’re getting. So, again, I hate to put coaching and telling the MLs only to do certain things I again like to say, whatever you think is an insight, put it in. And then based on where we are in the organization, we can decide what is an insight to us versus not, again, using those heightened awareness topics, we definitely do those, and, and we actually utilize X-fly, which is kind of a, an analytics tool, if you will, to if we need, like, if we’re looking at Insights on, you know, A1C, we can do word searches and pull all the Insights on A1C, or that have that word in them in, you know, in the insight. So, we can read all the Insights that are related to A1C. So, I think that that’s also important to have, is to have some way of analyzing the Insights or making it easier to read through. I’ll tell you that ours isn’t perfect. It’s better than you know, reading through Word documents at this point, but it’s still kind of a work in progress. And you know, this just goes back to natural language processing is not, that does not replace the human ability to analyze Insights and read through them and come to some sort of summary or analysis or conclusion based on what they read, because it takes a brain to do that rather than a computer at this point.
Garth Sundem 16:36
Yeah. Well, so Abby, do you think, following up on that, do you think that natural language processing can at least sort of narrow the playing field or give humans less to sort through or get us closer? Or what is the role of technology in sorting through these Insights?
Abby Fraser 16:56
I love that question. Because it really is. It’s a part of your toolkit, right? So, technology is just one of the tools, but Jennifer was talking about as far as coaching and prepping and teaching MSL and field medical to, to do that active listening and to go for those Insights. That’s a huge part of it. I think you’re totally right. And, and trusting them as the keeper of that relationship. That’s, that’s the magic of Medical Affairs is that trust in that relationship. So, I think encouraging them to share what they think is an insight is just brilliant. In the same way you can use technology to take care of everything else. So, whoever they’re not in the meeting with, what are they saying, you know, it’s the social media has exploded, we keep coming back to that, because that’s where we’re seeing these trends. And we use natural language processing to kind of scrape Twitter for those in for those bubbling oncology conversations, and how can we see who’s talking about that, and then put them at the top of your list so that someone with that expertise can go and say, oh, that’s what the insight is from that. So, I think AI is kind of a buzzword every, everyone is saying that they’re using artificial intelligence. But really at the heart of that is using technology, natural language processing, to bubble up what might be important. And then still, I think letting a human make that, make that call, but maybe it will get smarter. And maybe we’ll have a little a computer bot that can say, “I think this is important,” but right now, it’s still, it’s still just bringing it to the surface for you to engage with.
Garth Sundem 18:22
Well, what you’re talking about is a whole new source of Insights, you know, up till now in this conversation, we’ve been focusing on HCPs, or other people that the KOL, or I’m sorry, that the MSL is engaged with directly as your single source of Insights. You know, Carol and Jennifer, are there emerging sources of Insights beyond the HCP or other KOL?
Carol Collins-Carriveau 18:50
Absolutely, I, for me, first and foremost, the person who can provide us with the best and most valuable insight is the patient. And I add in COVID-19, we have our patient engagement team. And they have actually, for the first time, got a Patient Council, and we run by them, you know, here’s what we’re hearing from our medical scientists from their clinicians. Does that match with your need, and we’ve actually learned so much from engaging with these patients. The other organizations that we’ve engaged with would be community health centers, where you’ve got, you know, social workers and case workers and people who are just answering the phone that we uncovered really needed information in plain language that was health literate, to be able to communicate with patients. And so, we really, I think, ultimately, the primary person who gives us the best Insights would be the patient, and we’re starting to try to hear their voice much more clearly at Gilead.
Garth Sundem 20:00
Now that’s interesting. So, it’s almost like you have the peer-to-peer relationship of the MSL and the healthcare provider. Are you, are you trying to set up similar sort of peer-to-peer, patient-focused teams, or who are the new MSL that our patient-focused?
Carol Collins-Carriveau 20:22
Not really an MSL team, it’s just what we have was a patient engagement team. And their job is to engage with patients and figure out ways that we, as a company can collaborate with them. And they’re the ones who are really getting this information and driving this, but then I work with a patient engagement team and go, hey, this is what we’re hearing in the field. And this is a resource that we think we need, could you ask your Patient Counsel their impressions of this, but it’s been a great way to get feedback from the person who ultimately really does matter at the end of the day.
Garth Sundem 20:57
That’s, that’s really interesting. And so that’s one very interesting source of emerging source of Insights is the patient’s themselves, I guess, social media, you probably would see that as well. Jennifer, are you seeing new sources of Insights?
Jennifer Schneider 21:15
Yeah, so I think with the explosion of the digital world, and artificial intelligence, and social media and all that, we were actually kind of, kind of just now diving into this. And kind of, it’s old news for certain parts of our organization, we’re trying to kind of streamline our approach to looking at them, if you will. So, we’ve developed a Twitter dashboard for one of our disease states. And that’s, that’s been super helpful in, in looking at like spikes of Insights coming in, as well as actually leading us to some like, TikTok providers that have hundreds of 1000s of, of like, you know, followers, and they’re giving full-on presentations on this. So, it really has opened a can of worms for our organization saying, like, we need to, we need to figure out how to look at this. So we’re looking at it in other disease states as well getting this TikTok and then being like, how do we find these other KOL that are like, that are giving us all these Insights? So, it’s Insights that we never had before. So, we’re just kind of opening Pandora’s box, if you will, on the whole social media Insights and where we can, where we can start gathering all those. So more to come on that.
Garth Sundem 22:42
Well, so it sounds like we have certainly opened Pandora’s box of data. Um, Carol, what do you see is the next steps or what’s on the horizon for Insights now, for our organizations?
Carol Collins-Carriveau 22:58
Oh, wow, what’s on the horizon?
Garth Sundem 22:42
Or even what needs to be solved first, in this massive explosion of new things that need to be solved?
Carol Collins-Carriveau 23:11
I think it’s, well, there’s so much information, I think, you know, the biggest issue is how do you narrow the focus and narrow it down and make the amount of data that you’re getting manageable, and I will have to give a plug to LARVOL here. I for one am not a social media person, like I might get on LinkedIn once every six weeks. So, I don’t really track people that way. And so LARVOL does a tremendous job of following KOLs for you with their Twitter’s and their Facebook and conferences that they’re attending. And this gives our medical scientists team another tool to be able to hear what’s going on. And they also do a tracker on COVID-19, where they go through and they find conferences and CME programs in meetings, and the MS is able to have that as another opportunity to put their ear to the ground and listen. So, I think it is the explosion of data. How do you navigate all of that? And how do you know what really is important and makes sense? And of course, I think I only got to be fluid and be willing to say, Okay, this is the direction we were headed yesterday, but it’s not working anymore.
Garth Sundem 24:28
Yeah, Jennifer, same question to you. There are so many challenges. What do you, what do you think needs to be solved first?
Jennifer Schneider 24:37
So, I think where we need, at least in our organization, some way of compiling all the Insights in one place. I think that’s like one challenge that we have. So, if we think of like Twitter and TikTok and Facebook and the HCPs, and the ad boards that we’re having, plus, you know what the medical liaisons are coming in…So, all the Insights that we’re gathering just in field Medical Affairs, and oh, actually, I’ll expand that to Medical Affairs because they do, you know, some of our ad boards and everything. So, we’ll just say like all of Medical Affairs, what are the Insights that are coming in, and getting all of those in one place? I think that’s like, that’s challenge number one. Challenge number two is, then we have this whole organization. So, we have the medical side of our organization, we have market access, we have public affairs, we have commercial, they’re all gathering Insights in different regards. And so, getting all of that into one place is like the next challenge. So, if anybody has a solution to that, I’ll take it, but yeah, you know, that’s, that’s one thing that we are, we’re kind of like working through right now is like we have all this stuff coming in. How do we filter it? Filter it in a way that’s digestible, and then present it in a way that the person cares about the information, and then get it to the right person in the organization, so…
Garth Sundem 26:06
All right, well, dealing with Pandora’s box of Data Explorer. Let’s leave it there for today. Carol, Jennifer and Abby, thanks for joining us. MAPS members, you can continue the conversation at MAPS Connect and don’t forget to subscribe. We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”
602 Park Point Drive, Suite 225, Golden, CO 80401 – +1 303.495.2073
© 2023 Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS). All Rights Reserved Worldwide.