4 Ways Field Medical Teams Can Better Engage Experts
Speaker: Chris Medeiros
Previous podcasts explore best practices for expert engagement, but MAPS Partner Circle member, H1, is in a unique position to notice patterns in the ways organizations struggle or simply fail to engage and support external experts. This episode of the Elevate podcast series details 4 things Field Medical teams can do better.
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Garth Sundem 00:00
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series, “Elevate”. I’m Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS. And today we’re speaking with Chris Medeiros, Director of Strategy and Solutions at H1, about how our Field Medical teams can better engage with internal and external stakeholders. This episode is sponsored by H1. So, Chris, we’ve chatted with H1, previously about best practices for insights, management and external engagement. But as a provider, H1 is also in a unique position to notice patterns in the way organizations struggle in engaging with external and internal stakeholders. So, could you get us started with one of the things that Field Medical teams could maybe do a little bit better?
Chris Medeiros 00:53
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Garth, for having me. And, you know, it’s interesting. So, I definitely have this role at H1 that allows me to indicate, interact with a number of different, number of different stakeholder types within the industry. And I myself came to this role after spending a little over 20 years and in biopharma myself, and have had really, frankly, the privilege of working with MSLs at all different levels of the organization and in different functions. And I can tell you that, you know, they the MSLs really serve a vital function for their organizations. They’re engaging critical scientific exchange and circling the insights and expert feedback that they’ve gathered from experts back into their organization for ingestion and interpretation. They are aligning investigator-initiated trials with strategic development objectives. And they’re really the face of the organization for many scientific experts, holding that primary relationship with them and serving as a conduit to the home office Medical Affairs team and the development and consultative projects that live there. So, it’s a super high visibility role, as you know, and I think probably increasingly so I think the importance of the MSL role has amplified, would you agree over the last several years, and you’re seeing much, much more come out of these teams?
Garth Sundem 02:11
Oh, absolutely. I mean, it used to be such a, just a communication device for the organization. You know, it was information going out. And now it’s so much more than that, you know, it’s information coming in. It’s sort of being the shepherd of the scientific narrative. You know, what, it’s even influencing development. So, it’s an important gig. And we do it better.
Chris Medeiros 02:30
Yeah, it’s so important. And I think that beyond their scientific knowledge, the MSLs really charge with representing the interests of both the organization that they serve any experts that they collaborate with to engender mutually beneficial interactions that compliantly support the strategic business or objectives of the organization. And I think the best MSLs do this balancing act really, really well. And what I like to call ruthless preparedness. So, you’d asked before, about what are some of the things that they can do to sort of be better to show up better, right, and that ruthless preparedness is part of it. And the best MSLs I think, really do that extra due diligence and understanding the background on their KOLs, they pay attention to the little details. And they also polish up their resources so that when they share them with stakeholders, they show up and really, really impressed the daylights out of their executive team. So, as we say, in America, they put that extra spit shine on the work that they do. And there’s a number of different ways that can come to life.
Garth Sundem 03:38
Okay, well, that’s interesting. There’s a couple of things in there that I hadn’t heard before. So MSLs you know, I hear that they represent the organization but you’re saying that they also have a responsibility to represent their that, their external, you know, experts back to the organization.
Chris Medeiros 03:57
100% 100% those experts really they’re looking to do specific kinds of work and they’re really relying on the MSL to understand that and articulate that for them so that when those opportunities to come on in and participate in scientific work that’s germane to their own interests. They’re relying on the MSL to surface that to the organization so they can be partnered up with the right projects, right? You want, you want the business objectives of the organization, to match the expertise of that scientific thought leader. And in turn, you also want to be serving up those kinds of projects that that that KOL is interested in them. And I think that in order to best do this, I think foundationally there is this evergreen opportunity to refresh our expert list, if you will, in a therapeutic area, and they should do it annually. And this is really, really important to do it. First of all, it helps maintain diversity of insights. It can absolutely identify potential rising stars that maybe weren’t part of their core list initially, illuminate shifts and research, focus, new collaborations, all kinds of things, but you got to actually take the step to refresh. So I think that, you know, experts body of work, as you know, is going to evolve over time, often influencing to the extent that they’re still actively involved in research, our collective understanding of the biology of disease, with the impact of the research, and I find that oftentimes MSL teams, know, I’m gonna throw the word know, in air quotes, who their experts are within their given therapeutic area, they have a core list, right? And that’s their list of people. And they really know very well how those experts are working on work that’s relative to their therapeutic area and their product or their disease class. But there is this opportunity to know them more deeply so that they can best serve up their interest to the organization, and they can best match their subject or subject matter expertise to what the company is looking for when it comes to various research projects. So, we can talk about that a little bit if you like.
Garth Sundem 06:07
Well, absolutely, I just want to make sure that I’m getting the point. So, things that Field Medical teams could do better. One is maybe spit shine their work to better represent their experts, internally. Two would be to refresh their list annually so that you’re not getting stuck in the rut of the people that you already know. And three, you mentioned broadly, kow people better so people who are in the list to know them better. Did I miss anything so far? I think there’s a lot more we’re gonna do.
Chris Medeiros 06:42
Great summary. No, it’s a great summary. Yeah. And that last piece is about, okay, once we’ve curated the right people, let’s dive into what we can about let’s do some desk research to really understand a couple of important things. Let’s understand how their body of work is changing, and how to summarize that in a narrative fashion. And MSLs should really be able to give an up to date, concise, high level narrative snapshot of their top experts. And it should change as that expert’s body of work matures and marinates. Right?
Garth Sundem 07:16
Interesting. So, it’s not just that you’re adding new people to your network, or whatever you want to call it every year, it’s that you’re keeping up to date with your existing people. So, everything is changing across time.
Chris Medeiros 07:30
Everything is changing across time. And I don’t know about you, but I was always a kid that when I was, I was studying in school, and it was time to learn new content I had to make, I had to make cue cards in order to cement that stuff in my brain. And somehow the act of writing out the questions and the answers helped kind of really crystallize that, the nature of what I needed to know. And I feel like the act of sort of writing out the elevator pitch on what this KOL is about, and being able to articulate that clearly is so important. I think that, you know, so often, companies are going to come to their MSLs and ask for nominations. Say, who is the best person for this particular project, or we’re getting ready to go into this meeting, we’re at a congress, tell me about who this expert is. And they’ve got to be able to articulate that effectively. And we’ll get to some of the other things they can do to help support and enrich that experience. But there are things that the MSL can look into and understand and characterize right? What their digital footprint looks like, the digital space is so important, especially in the last couple of years, everyone talks COVID and how everything has gone virtual, at least temporarily. We hope it doesn’t say that way. But understanding how often an expert is digitally sighted how active they are, and their specific social channels and how often they’re generating owned scientific content. Those kinds of things are really important to know because they’re going to be digital projects that that MSL is asked to nominate people for and to understand who has, if you will, shops in that space is really, really important for to them to know. Another thing that I think is vital to understand is how experts are working with the rest of industry, and also with our own company, right. And there’s a way to kind of look in an industry trends, I mean you can do that right in the H1 platform. You can dive in there, and you can look and see in those markets where that kind of information is available, how who they’re working with the kinds of projects they’re working on. And this is an interesting view that can tell us a whole lot about those experts. So, that industry collaboration piece, not just with us with our buddies out there, is important to know.
Garth Sundem 09:45
So, let me just put a peg in what I think is a really interesting action item. Is it that MSLs should have kind of an elevator pitch for their top what I don’t know 10 experts I’m not sure you’d even go that far, five experts. This sounds like something that people could do right after they finish listening to podcast here is go make elevator pitches for their top five experts.
Chris Medeiros 10:09
Yeah, and it’s going to require some homework, but they absolutely can. And they should, they should be able to have that characterization of who their MSLs are to get the gestalt of it, if you will, so that they can. And they can, they can be able to kind of prepare people that are going to engage with them for the rest of the company.
Garth Sundem 10:25
Okay, get the gestalt of it. And part of that would be their, you know, you talked about their digital footprint, what else goes into this elevator pitch? And I don’t mean, just to say like, the only purpose is to write this elevator pitch, but this is about knowing your experts. You need to know their digital footprint. What else do you really need to know about your experts that probably would be part of this elevator pitch?
Chris Medeiros 10:49
Yeah, no, I think it’s the other stuff besides their therapeutic area of expertise, for example, but say, Well, yeah, like so say, for example, somebody from the global medical team says, listen, I’m working on a project, I need to know, who are the non-small cell experts, non-small cell lung cancer experts in this area, who are also subject matter experts in utilizing real world evidence? Or can you tell me all of the experts you have in this particular region, who are implementing by using logic into clinical trial development that’s beyond that person’s therapeutic area of expertise, but it’s a genuine and distinct interest, that may or may not be of help to an organization, but those kinds of specific requests will come up to an MSL, and they got to dig deeper into that background of the MSL to really know that stuff.
Garth Sundem 11:43
Oh, and I can imagine why that would be useful to an organization, right? Because you need somebody who’s going to be an investigator, and they’re going to run your RWE trial, or, or, or do your meta analysis or whatever it is in that non-small cell lung cancer space. And so, you need to know not just that they’re a big deal in, in non-smell small cell lung cancer, but you need to know what how, how they’re doing, what they’re doing?
Chris Medeiros 12:11
How they’re doing, what they’re doing, what some of their other interest areas are, you know, you might have another expert that is particularly well versed in pathways, right? Or, or somebody that is really, really an expert on policy decisions. And those are the kinds of things that are going to be important. Or say, for example, your HEOR team comes to you and says, Oh, I need to write a white paper on a cost benefit analysis. And I got a pair with the right expert that can help co-author this, who do I go to, right? So, it’s great that the person is a non-small cell lung cancer expert, but if they don’t have that granular expertise, they won’t necessarily be the right person for the job. So, digging in and understanding that so that an MSL can call up that information and say, here are the three people that match, let’s reach out to these people. Can I help? Right? Those are some things they can really do to add value.
Garth Sundem 13:04
Okay, so it sounds like we dug in on the kind of the third recommendation in our list here. And that was to know your expert, not just their therapeutic area, but everything kind of framing how they do, framing their area of expertise. So, is there anything else that you would recommend to Field Medical teams to help them do their jobs better?
Chris Medeiros 13:32
Yeah, I think that kind of building upon that, you know, that, that expert bias kind of issue, right? I want to kind of surface a potential way that this can cause a bit of a pickle, right? Companies can often reuse experts over and over and over again, to gather advice. And there can be a really great reason to do that. But sometimes, MSL teams and companies can get stuck in what I like to call an advice rut. Right? Right. And it decreases diversity of thought. Right? You use the same people over and over again, you get the same advice. Yeah. Right. And this particularly comes up with advisory boards, and it can put us in a really challenging spot that I’d like them to think about. Right, if a typical advisory board aims for a 70/30 ratio on the pool of insights in from experts relative to the push of scientific data out, that’s usually a generally good ratio, you want to have mostly advice, because it’s an advisory board, a little bit of content pushed out so that they can respond to it. Right? But if we’ve got the same experts that we’ve used over and over eventually compliance is going to start to come and start asking questions. They’re going to say, how fresh is this advice? Or how needed is this advice because you just use these cats in the last few ad boards, right? And it potentially may call into question the intention, even if it’s pure, right. So, we have to be thoughtful and intentional about mapping the subject matter expertise to the advice sought for any project, and this responsibility kind of leads back to point one understanding the expert pool deeply so that you can choose wisely.
Garth Sundem 15:08
Is it just new people? Or when you’re looking for diversity in your ad boards? Are you looking for? I don’t know, experts who are somewhat sideways from the center of exactly what you want to know, I wouldn’t, what I’m fishing for here is so you know, the people who you always have, you bring them in, you always get the same advice. If you don’t do that, if you go far and wide, are you in some danger of losing your center?
Chris Medeiros 15:39
Potentially, I think that to that point of being thoughtful and intentional, you really have to think about what is it that I really need to understand from a group of experts to inform this part of my strategy, and then you have to choose people based on your knowledge of their background, that are really going to help you fill in those gaps. And I think also, it’s a great best practice to diversify, if you will, the experience level when it comes to moderating ad boards. One of the great ways you can get diversity of thought is to have seasoned pros that have been out there for quite a while true key opinion leaders and also some of those rising stars, right, those up and comers, and sometimes pairing one of those greener faculty members with amazing expertise and fresh, innovative perspectives with a senior state’s person who has deep historical knowledge and is collaborative broadly with other key opinion leaders in the space. This kind of added combination of the moderator mashup, what I like to call, is one of my favorite strategies to elucidate diverse perspectives. You know, for example, if you start to invite some of those younger experts to an ad board, but it’s always moderated by the senior statesman, it can be kind of intimidating, you can have people sitting in the back row that are more junior, that will be kind of reluctant to go ahead and raise their hand and add really amazing insights. But if they start to see that one of their contemporaries is co-moderating, and helping to lead the discussion, you can free people up to add additional perspective and you want to have the mixture of insights from people that have been doing this a very long time. And people that are coming more freshly out of their fellowships, to help contribute to that really rich texture of advice that we’re seeking.
Garth Sundem 17:26
All right, Chris. Well, help me, help me fill in the list here we’ve got, oh, man, this is like the test. This is the quiz at the end of our class. Maybe we should pause and let everyone see if they can come up with the big takeaways here. But I am remembering have an elevator pitch for each one of your top experts. I’m remembering be cognizant of how you’re presenting your experts internally, you know, put that spit polish on it. It’s not just about knowing the mechanism of action. It’s about being, present your experts successfully internally, refreshing your expert pool so you’re not always stuck with the same people. Knowing your people well, and then also looking for when you’re refreshing your expert pool look for this diversity of opinion. What did I miss?
Chris Medeiros 18:18
I think that, that’s it from what we’ve talked about so far. And you did a great job.
Garth Sundem 18:23
Oh, goodness gracious. Well, let’s leave it there then today, Chris. So, to learn more about how your organization can partner with H1 to not only avoid these mistakes, but also drive success, visit H1.co. MAPS members don’t forget to subscribe, and we hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”.