Automation Opportunities for Medical Affairs
Speaker: Rishi Ohri
Speaker: Georgios Tramountanis
In the final of this 3-part series, we will be meeting with Georgios Tramountanis, a member of the MAPS Digital Focus Area Working Group.
The podcast objectives are to:
– Examine where we see the potential opportunities for Medical Affairs as it relates to Automation
– Discuss what the best places to consider are when developing an Automation journey in Medical Affairs and where to start
– Review some predictions on the future of Automation in Medical Affairs.
Following is an automated transcription provided by otter.ai. Please excuse inaccuracies.
Rishi Ohri 00:00
Welcome to the Medical Affairs Professional Society’s Digital Focus Area Working Group three-part podcast series focusing on Automation Opportunities for Medical Affairs. In this last podcast of the series, we will be meeting with one of my partners in the MAPS Digital Focus Area Group, who has great experience in this space, Georgios Tramountanis. My name is Rishi Ohri and I’ll be the moderator for this podcast. I currently serve as a member of the Digital Focus Area Working Group and work for Astellas Pharma in heading Digital Excellence for Medical Affairs. I work for Astellas Pharma for the past 14 years and have focused in Medical Affairs Digital transformation for the past seven years. Our legal disclaimer states the views expressed in this recording are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect on the opinions of MAPS or the companies for which they are affiliated. This presentation is for informational purposes only and is not intended as the legal or regulatory advice. We encourage you to engage in conversations about Digital opportunities within Medical Affairs with other MAPS members via the MAPS Connect on the MAPS website or mobile app. Simply log in with your email address and password associated with your MAPS account and access the global community by clicking the discuss tab scrolling down and you’ll be able to look at all of the questions or posts a new one from previous postings. So let’s start today’s podcast. today’s podcast includes a few key objectives taking from the previous podcasts. Specifically, where do we see the potential opportunities for Medical Affairs as it relates to automation? Also, what are the best places to consider when developing an automation journey in Medical Affairs? And where do we start? And lastly, we’re going to hear some predictions on the future of automation in Medical Affairs. What does that future look like? So I’d like to thank today’s panelists for sharing their subject matter expertise with the MAPS membership. Speaking today is Georgios Tramountanis. As I mentioned earlier, Georgios and I work very closely together as part of the MAPS Digital Focus Area Group Georgios Tramountanis welcome to today’s podcast excited and so excited to have you here with us today. And I’m excited to facilitate so can we start by, can you please providing a quick intro on yourself Georgios and your position, your background, anything else you’d like the MAPS community to hear?
Georgios Tramountanis. 02:38
Thank you very much, Tracy. And thank you for the opportunity to discuss this topic with with you and share my opinions of us with everyone. So my name is Georgios Tramountanis. And I’ve been working with together for the last 10 years. I currently had global medical information, Global Medical Review, and lead the Digital strategy for Global Medical Affairs and quality. I’ve been in industry now for over 15 years, mainly focusing on medical information medical review for the past 12. But I’d be I had a very high interest for Digital transformation and Digital technologies. And I’ll be focusing as part of my role on this topic for the last two, three years. Other relevant background might be the fact that I’m always very Digital saving enjoys technology. And actually, through my university years, I was a professional game tester. And so Digital is very close to my heart and trying to bring Digital innovation in Medical Affairs is a topic that I’m very interested about.
Rishi Ohri 03:39
That’s so interesting Georgios and I can attest to the passion you have with Digital that I share as well as part of our support of that Digital focus or so thanks for sharing your background. So Georgios has the the earlier podcasts in this series focused on key terms. What is automation, what is NLP, things like that and some of the application of that automation and Medical Affairs. Now that we have a much better understanding of what automation is and potential opportunities, I’d like to ask you a few things. So where do you Giorgio see some of the more specific potential opportunities for Medical Affairs as it relates to automation?.
Georgios Tramountanis. 04:22
Thank you, Rishi, I think through my experience, I will initially focus a little bit on medical information Medical Review, because I strongly believe that this is an area that there is great potential for Digital automation, AI and NLP to really facilitate what we do as Medical Affairs professionals, and as a facilitator, because I don’t think that we’ll be in a position in the near future whereby the technology be able to completely let us walk away from some of the tasks we’re doing. So always be sort of facilitation, on some of our deliverables to help us focus on more strategic elements. So with medical information, medical review, we’ve done some proof of concept exercises. And we really see great opportunity how to use a Digital automation. Let’s first talk about medical information a little bit. And I think what we’ve seen is that as you know, as medical information professionals, we want support the call centers, we get a lot of questions that we need to be three hours, where there is safety questions where it is product quality questions, or at times, we even get spam in our mailboxes next to the call center spends a lot of time going through this manually tried to clean the mailbox and make sure we we pick up any valid requests and dispose of the ones that are not important for us. So I think here brings a huge element of Digital automation, whereby we can train AI and NLP to pick up those cues and words that will indicate something that’s critical, it is something that’s a request that we have to deal as normally. Or it’s something that either needs to be triaged or just deleted, because the spam that comes through our mailboxes that will really help a lot how we prioritize a workload and will facilitate the call center staff to really focus on replying to the questions and not going through hundreds of emails to move them in the three hours or in the spam box. Once we get into that priority, and we find out the responses, I think the next step where automation can help us is around be able to present us with proposed content that we can use. And again, there’s there’s where NLP comes in and AI to try and say, Well, this is a question on this topic. But we’ll automate and bring forward to you the one that one of the standard response documents that I’ve seen that you have available, as I will tell everyone in the team is to, to prioritize a work, at least see something that is already available and on topic, but of course it would not replace so the work that needs to be done after that, with the considerations that we you know, the industry professionals would go through the content, make sure it’s relevant, accurate, updated, and find any additional information. So this is where we see a practical implementation of automation when it comes to medical information in the industry. When it comes to medical review. I think one of the most blessed a little bit monotonous tasks that we have to do as medical reviewers is take the data points and check the references are accurate. And this is something that this automation would really help facilitate that workload. And I think we’re in a place where, at the moment, NLP and AI are very comfortable in comparing text to tell us whether what we’re reviewing something we actually approved two months ago, was exactly the same references. So you can really speed up the process of approving if if you see something to answer going to exactly the same format with exactly the same references. You can spend less time reviewing that spend more time reviewing new content. But I think was really an opportunity to facilitate that work even more is the possibility of AI to go in. And telcos in an automated manner. They exert data points against reference, this is not ready yet, but something that we know everyone is trying really to solve because it’s, it’s really a great opportunity. And, and finally, when it comes to medical Insights is something that I think automation, then will be will be important, because at the moment, you have a lot of manual work going through those insights. And, you know, we as medical information, create the report and insights, DMS, the medical scientific agents create another report that comes inside, our clinical teams are doing the same, or comesa teams doing the same. It’s all a lot of manual work and then somebody has come together and put it all together again manually. So where automation will be great is whereby we can pull all this data into a common data lake let’s say and with common terminologies really pull out medical insights that are truly cross functional, and really provide insights that are more strong when it comes to recommendations because then you can see that this is something that has been noticed and taken notice of by several groups that have just medical information or MSLs. So this is from my experience in the last couple of years where I think this automation AI NLP would really play a big part into the Medical Affairs landscape.
Rishi Ohri 09:46
Thanks Georgios and I couldn’t agree more with your example there with with medical information I do see that you know, from from our experience to like, we also see some of potential opportunity with more of the field that Sullins component of this too. If we look at all of the raw data coming from the interactions from MSLs to HCPs, it could be very useful as you start to walk, talk through that insights piece that you’ve mentioned. So that’s one other aspect that I wanted to add, as well as, if you look at the body of knowledge, from external data perspective, you know, looking at the, you know, who’s who’s tweeting on Twitter, and all of the different external knowledge and the insights, there it is. So it’s impossible to go through all of that manually. So automation, to me is, is really the only way forward for us to be able to go through that information efficiently.
Georgios Tramountanis. 10:43
I couldn’t agree more. And I think, especially around you mentioned, social media. And at the moment, I think Twitter is by majority, the most important social media when it comes to health care providers sharing information and sharing opinion on recent data releases. But what we call sort of sentiment analysis of those is very critical. There’s no way you can do this manually. But I think it’s also important to do also curated somehow, because the, you will need to make sure that the ATP is tweeting on the science paper article data and not on what you did yesterday, which is funny, because many people use Twitter to to sort of cover both personal and professional limits. So the curation is critical. But after that, all the analysis how you bring together the algorithms to make it truly impartial, because when I’m reviewing the tweets for, let’s say, someone who is, you know, talking about our products, maybe there’s a bias from my side, and I do this one way where it’s it’s not, it’s not the correct way. So the algorithms again, will make it very impersonal, it can really provide a very accurate and unbiased view of how the data is perceived by the, by the ACP community.
Rishi Ohri 12:00
Absolutely a good point there, Georgios so so now that we have a better understanding of where some potential use cases you’ve mentioned, and for automation and Medical Affairs, if you are new to this Georgios you know, where, you know, sounds like medical information is a good place to start. But if you if you had maybe some advice, like what are some best places to consider when developing an automation journey? Like what are some other tips or tricks or best practices you might want to share?
Georgios Tramountanis. 12:34
Yeah, I think from from our experience is important to try and go in a function sub function domain, where you have very established processes, you know, it works well and is in a steady state that you’re comfortable with. You don’t want to be trying to implement automation while you change processes, while systems and games sort of creates a chaos and a lot of difficulties for aesthetic, internal stakeholders, I think, trying to focus on an area that you have process establishes steady state that is very functional, and provides great service, and then you focus in there that you can play around the test, Digital automation, I think the other important elements to consider is is the amount of data available. I think in any that in any Digital automation project, you need a lot of data to teach and to work together with AI technology, to really train them to understand what you want them to look at how you want them to evaluate what they’re looking at. And so the possibility of focus in an area that has a lot of historical data, or a lot of data volume will help really expedite the process by you can train and teach the eye the way you wanted to behave. And then I would say to stake also small steps. You don’t want to be you know, from move from crawling to running, you need to go to work in first. So take small steps, try to implement a very manageable workload, to do a bit of automation. Get your learnings from it, establish it, make it the work to your benefit, and then try to go a bit further and then further. So try to do smaller steps so you can bring all the internal colleagues together journey. I think change management is also very important to communicate with internal stakeholders. Why are you making these changes? What is the impact and it’s important to work with them early on to engage with them early on, so they’re part of the journey and so they will embrace and adapt this technology much earlier and easier than if you just presented them the final product for them to use.
Rishi Ohri 14:57
Such such great advice Georgios, thanks for I think one other thing I just wanted to add on your sort of start small approach, I think it’s so important. So we talk about PILOTs and things. And we unfortunately sometimes end up in like a pilot itis mode, right? Where we’re trying to scale these pilots. But I think, you know, from from what I’ve seen, too, it’s, it’s been useful to maybe start small start with a specific brand or a specific affiliate, and, and just really test the waters. And, you know, there’s going to be, you know, wins and losses and failures and successes. But that’s what we learned from so so great advice. Thanks, thanks for sharing some of your thoughts on that.
Georgios Tramountanis. 15:38
And Rishi, really appreciate the, like the, or you call it the pilot itis phenomenon, AI, it’s very true. And I we all suffer that. And the limit to that is to put a good project, plan to say, apologies for three months, three months, if it works. If it is without one, then I’m going to try and implement it for one therapeutic area. If it still goes as planned, I’m going to roll it out. So think done, make sure you have the budget, make sure you have the resources when you started just as you said, just don’t do a bylaw, just to do a pilot, right to see how you’re going to bring in the full scale. Maybe you don’t have the budget for the next couple of years, then maybe it’s better to wait a bit longer start investigating this technology, but have a plan of how you move out of the pilot mode to full rollout. And that will help you implement it easier now there’s ever going to be easy to implement new technologies definitely going to be challenging and tough at times. But that helps in the whole project management aspect of it.
Rishi Ohri 16:42
Absolutely. And that’s why I’m so passionate about it too. Because to me, it’s kind of like an art and a science merge together. So it’s, it’s so exciting. Thank thanks Georgios. So, you know, we’ve talked a lot about now some of the use cases and some some great considerations and tips and tricks, but Georgios, based on your experience, and you know, I guess if you were a fortune teller, what would be your predictions for the future of automation and Medical Affairs?
Georgios Tramountanis. 17:13
Yeah. When you think disclaimers before we make this predictions, I don’t know. No, no, definitely not set in stone. But I think as we have more experience with technology, as more internal stakeholders, and ourselves trust to start to trust, and welcomed new technology, I think we’ll see more implementations of automation, Digital innovation, AI and NLP Medical Affairs. The challenge here that, as we all know, is the fact that we are providing scientific data, medical information, medical data, to HCPs. So they can make the best treatment decision for patients. And this is not something we take lightly. And so there’s not an appetite for 80% accurate, you have to be 100% accurate when you’re dealing with patient treatment patient lives. And I think this is the step that technologists take to improve its accuracy. To prove how much we can rely on it. And in the future, that will happen with technology takes some time to make the first step, then the next step will be, you know, twice as big, the next it will be four times as big, and so on. So I think in the next five to 10 years, being a bit cautious there, I think we’ll be in a place where Digital innovation automation will be an integral part of Medical Affairs, and will become a trusted partner in our decision making. So you’re gonna make decision for us, but it will be a trusted partner in decision making and will be implemented. I think definitely medical information, medical review, medical insights, for example, as you mentioned, in full medical was the next best action right when you take all this data from ACPs or they go to Congress or they know that the presenting in the Congress or they’re not bringing it all together and tell the MSL what your next best opportunity is Congress and talk about the scientific data that are presented. So it definitely will become a bigger part within the organization. And as technology improves, we embrace it more. I think it will be a journey that will be very enjoyable. There will be hiccups, but definitely will help us focus more on statistical events and help us make better decisions across Medical Affairs functions.
Rishi Ohri 19:41
Absolutely, no, I think today it’s sort of seen as, oh, it’s nice to have thing but if I were to predict as well Georgios, I would say it’s, it’s a must, it’s a must do kind of activity. Is is I look into the next you know, three to five years but very much agree with with With your predictions, thank you, we won’t we won’t put those in stone, but just just thanks for for sharing. And sorry. Go ahead, Georgios.
Georgios Tramountanis. 20:08
So I just want to say to your point that just to say that, I also believe we need to drive that as well for Medical Affairs, you know, we need within our teams as business owners to come together and try to save that technology we can, we can leave it and say, Oh, I’ll come back in three, five years, when it’s ready won’t be ready. If we don’t make it right. It’s the right thing as leaders within Medical Affairs, and within the pharmaceutical industry, when you do be part of the journey, and try to inform SAPE and develop the solutions in the way that can really be the provide the most benefit to patients HCPs and the pharmaceutical industry.
Rishi Ohri 20:48
Absolutely. Well, great, great. Thanks for sharing that Georgios and the time just flies by because we’re at the end of our podcast today. I do want to give Georgios a big thanks here to support this third and final podcast in our series on this topic, Automation Opportunities for Medical Affairs. This was again the third and final one, but please do take a look at the first couple if you haven’t listened in. And lastly, you know, if you are a MAPS member, thank you so much for your support of MAPS. And if you’re not yet a MAPS member and would like to consider access to the additional resources in this area, please do visit the MAPS website to begin exploring that journey today at Medical Affairs.org/membership. Thanks again. And this concludes this podcast