The Evolving use of Social Media in Medical Affairs
Traditionally, most Medical Affairs interactions were in person, whether at scientific congresses, external education events, or through Field Medical interactions with healthcare providers and other thought leaders. Then during the pandemic, almost all interactions went virtual. And now we are emerging into a period of hybrid interactions — some external stakeholders prefer FTF, while others have seen the benefit in virtual engagements. In this podcast sponsored by Alucio, MAPS speaks with Medical Communications experts about this new hybrid environment and how content strategy can support the interactions of Field Medical, External Education, Medical Info and other functions within Medical Affairs.
SPEAKER: Jessica Wong
VP, Product Management & Strategy, AlucioMedical Affairs Professional Society
SPEAKER: Ginny Spadoni
Senior Director, Scientific Communications, Publications, and Medical Information at Agios PharmaceuticalsMedical Affairs Professional Society
Following is an automated transcription provided by otter.ai. Please excuse inaccuracies.
Garth Sundem 00:00
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society Podcast Series: “Elevate”. Opinions are those of the speakers and do not represent opinions of their organizations. I’m your host Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS. And today we’ll be speaking with Jessica Wong, VP of Product Management and Strategy at Alucio, and Ginny Spadoni, Senior Director of Scientific Communications, Publications, and Medical Information at Agios Pharmaceuticals. And so we have two interesting perspectives on communicating an organization’s scientific message. First, Jessica’s perspective from Alucio, whose Beacon Platform provides a streamlined solution for field medicals hybrid KOL engagements, and also Ginny’s perspective, whose title includes just about every Medical Affairs communications function, but field medical. So, Ginny, because you wear many hats, I was wondering if you’d be willing to start us out with sort of a view from 10,000 feet of the changes that you’ve seen in scientific communications pubs, and med information, just sort of the background to get us started here?
Ginny Spadoni 01:16
Sure, I think, Garth, you’re probably talking about like, over the last year or so changes,
Garth Sundem 01:23
it seems like that will be enough to keep us for many episodes. Yes.
Ginny Spadoni 01:28
Yeah. I think the biggest really was trying to find a way for our medical science liaison to be able to find time and communicate what we needed to communicate to healthcare providers, you know, and in what venue, right? So, there was a period of time when folks could not be in the office with the healthcare providers to communicate information about our product or disease state. And the majority of those interactions have had to be virtual. And I will say that, while I think some more are in person, I think it’s way more virtual than it used to be. And I think it will take a while for it to get back to the in-person communications that were had prior to COVID. And then that, given that there’s sort of like a training of how to use technology for the field medical team that, really, they’re having to use technology that they didn’t have to use so frequently in the past, if at all, and how to maximize that short amount of time that they would have with healthcare providers, I would say those are kind of the biggest sort of challenges that folks have had to try to address.
Garth Sundem 02:43
Okay, so Jessica, you know, I know we’ve heard for a year and a half, it’s been virtual, virtual, virtual. And and now we’re starting to hear hybrid hybrid hybrid. So, is this another period of change, you know, equal to that virtual jump? And now we’re sort of transitioning back What does hybrid engagement mean? Now?
Jessica Wong 03:09
That’s a great question. And I echo what Ginny was saying in terms of the trend. And when I think of the word hybrid, Garth, I think of it as flexibility. In that, yes, there are still a lot of virtual meetings ongoing. But imagine phone call, some doctors prefer phone calls, imagine email, follow up email invitations, some physicians actually find, you know, if you just send them the right email with the right information that they’ve requested in a very easy to use manner, that is a very high quality interaction for them. So, it’s this concept of using various channels, that the physicians, the KOLs themselves really prefer based on their questions, based on the reactive needs or the proactive needs. And so when I think of hybrid, I think of flexibility. I also think of it as helping the field liaisons to make sure they can prepare adequately. And in fact, in this new world, because of the various channels that are being utilized more now than ever before, there’s a skill element, the preparation element, and the content element. So, I think it’s been always difficult for the field team to go to a lot of different places to pull the right scientific exchange materials together. I think for Beacon as a product lead for Beacon, when I think of Ginny and the team that she supports, the use cases around flexibility, helping them prepare in a single environment, making it easier for them is what Beacon tries to do what we try to focus on
Garth Sundem 05:00
So that’s interesting, you know, I think of hybrid as being delivering content in many ways to one KOL. But what I hear you saying is that in addition to that, it’s also being prepared to deliver the same information in many different ways, depending on a KOL’s preference. It’s interesting. From a society perspective. I know that whenever we give someone like a downloadable brochure, they download it and print that. And that always surprises me, I thought we’d moved past that into a full digital environment. But you’re saying that that hybrid is flexibility to deliver content in many different ways. Is that true?
Jessica Wong 05:46
Yes, it is. And it’s by form, by channel, by duration, you know, a 15 minute interaction with a KOL, because that’s all the time they have is very different than a 30 minute or 45 minute roundtable or advisory board, I think, making sure that you’re, let’s use your PDF brochure as an example…having the ability to cut that up in a modular way that’s compliant, that’s user friendly, is a great opportunity with the industry that we’re in today in this environment. And in a recent conference, we talked about what if, you know, what if we can apply a lot of our consumer online, and offline information consumption behavior, such as Netflix, or Amazon, into the world that we interact with physicians in, in the right manner, in a manner that’s respectful, that’s tasteful, that’s compliant, is a wonderful challenge that we can embrace right now, make the content really fit the interaction plan that you’re intending to engage the physicians with.
Garth Sundem 07:05
Oh, no, that’s, that’s interesting. So you know, Ginny, you’re over on the pub side, too. And on the medical communication side, so from a content perspective, what does this mean for you Are you having to design and produce your content in different ways to support the hybrid environment in which it will be eventually communicated?
Ginny Spadoni 07:33
Let me think about that. We just for the use case, we’re sort of developing things for specific use cases. So, it could be a one-on-one interaction, where an MSL is having conversation with a healthcare provider, but one conversation that we’ve had recently is about an upcoming medical Congress where they’re currently planning on it being hybrid, so a live component. So, we used to do 100% live exhibit, right, so one of our responsibilities, creating information that can be used at the exhibit. And there’s, we have had an interactive display in the past, because sometimes they will come to your booth, they don’t actually, they might be shy, they don’t want to be like, you know, people, you know, all over them while they’re trying to read some of your information. So we’ve had things where folks can walk through it on their own. And we’re thinking right now about like COVID, and having to clean screens. But also at the same time we are went from, we’re going to keep from the virtual environment, having a virtual booth. And so we’re going to have that same interactive information available at our virtual booth. And that same information is currently available on our MSL’s iPads. So if they needed to have a conversation, or wanted to walk someone through a few slides about our mechanism of action, or our pipeline, or the design of a clinical trial, they can, you know, touch the screen of their iPad, and walk folks through so and I believe it’s an HTML so that one of the things I like about it is the flexibility of the different formats, but also be used on a laptop. So, I guess getting a little bit to the flexibility of Jessica, but I did want to say I was laughing a little bit earlier when you were talking about the printing because that could be a sign of age, which I do like to print things off. It also could just be the way that people learn. So I think everyone learns a little bit differently. And sometimes they’re, you know, just want to read it and have quiet, they, some folks want an audio component. Um, the one thing I can say from a pubs perspective that I think that we’ve noticed is a lot of the posters for virtual posters, instead of just having a PDF of your poster up there, they’re doing an audio component, so it’s a short, like two or three minutes synopsis of the poster by the author as audio so they can view the poster and listen to the audio, and it seems like those get a lot of hits, the ones that have an audio component.
Garth Sundem 10:06
And is that kind of like a version of a plain language summary? Or do you keep those more high level for the Congress’s
Ginny Spadoni 10:18
The ones that we’ve done that I’m talking specifically about have been still targeted for the health care provider we are. And I know a lot of companies are looking at doing more publishing plain language summaries, or having posters in plain language. And that is something that we were just talking about yesterday, because we have some pivotal data that I think we’ll really want to be able to communicate to the patient audience as a company. And yeah, so I think it’s, it’s not necessarily a place of…
Garth Sundem 10:50
Well, so I mean, hybrid and flexibility. You know, we’re talking about flexibility in terms of how content is presented, we’re also talking about flexibility in the way a single audience would want to consume that content. But now we’re talking about flexibility in multiple audiences as well. So, maybe we’re talking about flexibility, not just in KOLs, but in, in patients and patient advocacy groups. There’s just so many ways this content could be used. Well, so Jessica, you said something that really resonated with me, and that was skill, preparation, and content. We dove into the last one, content. What are the skills that you see field medical teams and individuals now needing in this new hybrid environment?
Jessica Wong 11:44
Yeah, that’s, um, that’s a really good question. I see, two or three things that we can really help them with. One is assisting them in creating, maybe even like the right invitation follow up subject lines materials. Because imagine if you know, every company, every liaison, every organization, even within the same organization, sometimes you’re competing for the attention of the same oncologist with your functional colleagues in different teams, right? So, making sure it’s really clear that it’s from you and what it’s for, and at the same time, it resonates with maybe the previous interaction you would you have with that doctor, or patient advocate, is, is useful. It’s, it’s how we think about relationship, right? It’s not, I’m just gonna push it to and not have a care. It’s about what have been these interactions thus far. What are you talking about with my colleagues, so that I’m not inundating you that I’m really giving you something that you really asked for that you need. So, I think, tips and tricks around how to coordinate as a team, how to send the right materials with the right headlines, I think it’s an area of opportunity. The other thing is feedback. So, you know, before the feedback is you get to fly to a city a meet with the physician. I mean, that is tremendous feedback, right? That interaction. That’s not always so easy in a zoom or WebEx or Google Hangouts setting. And so, how do you know if the exchange you just had did garner the right reaction or interesting insights and observation? So, I think technology today, whether it’s through artificial intelligence, passive, non-obtrusive collection of like some insights, making those kind of metrics available to the publisher, in-house personnel on what content is getting looked at, and then to the liaisons like, “Hey, that was a great interaction,” you know, the KOLs had these questions, then we were able to jot it down for you and work with net coms like having that kind of insights, I think it’s also will be really helpful. And the technology is there today to gather this kind of metrics. And I think thirdly, just making sure that multi-channel platform and multi-channel support training isn’t like a once-and-done thing. We all have the ability to go buy the best of the best of the best platform, or the best one-off training class. But how do we sustain that? How do we keep that going? How do we evolve? Because I can’t even predict like what’s going to happen six months from now, or even a year from now. Our previous life of annual planning or like just repeating what we normally do, it’s not going to be good enough anymore. So, I think providing the right set of platforms and tools for the field team, of course, we need to do that. But sustaining that, evolving that, keeping on top of it, watching it, making sure we can adjust and be nimble along the way, for three months from now, six months, six months from now would be critical. So, it’s not a once-and-done kind of thing. So that’s, that’s kind of what I think about when it comes to helping them out, helping them be more successful.
Garth Sundem 15:35
Well, Jessica, I think if we had two hours, I would follow up on insights and metrics, because I would love to hear more about that. And I know our members would, too. So, maybe we’ll have to do another one of these. But you know, it sounds like in terms of skills, you’re talking about another step in the evolution away from the pharmaceutical rep model, and into a real, you know, relationship building experience of scientific exchange, where, where there’s a real pure dialogue going on between the MSL and the KOL. And, and maybe how to how to support that. And so, Ginny, it’s, I bet that a lot of your job is preparation. If we’re talking about skills, preparation and content, I would imagine that from a pub side and, and a med info side that you’re doing a lot to prepare your field medical teams to deliver information. So, what do you see as the new best practices for preparing these field medical people to go out into the field and do their jobs?
Ginny Spadoni 16:46
I mean, I guess I don’t know if it’s new best practices, but always, I mean, they have to know the science. So that’s like a foundation. And so one of the responsibilities of my team, I have someone on my team who’s responsible for training about content, disease state product information, they have to understand that. They also have to know kind of an, actually, we rely on the field team a little bit to feed back to us, what are the questions that they’re getting? Are the slide decks that we’re creating for them? If that’s what we’re creating, for them to have these conversations and to have a good exchange of scientific information? Are they helpful or not? So, I like to be able to get feedback. And we usually include MSLs as we’re developing that content so that we can improve things. I’ve said many times, you can’t make one like there’s no one perfect slide deck that fits all situations. So, when the team is facile with the information, they can show a slide that may be more technical, but depending on their audience, so if it’s not the, you know, MD PhD, who’s in the lab, who gets what all those western blots are and whatnot, they can summarize it and say what the key point is of that information. So, you’ve got all sorts of audiences from that research scientists, to healthcare provider to nurses, pharmacists, payers, etc. So, they need to be able to tailor their presentations, and with our help, but kind of take a few handfuls of things and sometimes make what’s right for that individual.
Garth Sundem 18:32
Oh, that’s interesting. So maybe, so are you talking about presenting to a mixed audience, you know, presenting to an audience that may have people of differing scientific acumen? And you would equip your presenter to deliver information…it almost sounded like in three ways?
Ginny Spadoni 18:59
Not necessarily a mixed audience. So, it could be but it could be that you, but you can’t always make like five different versions of the same slide deck, right? It gets to be difficult to do that. So, you might make a slide deck that you think fits the majority of situations. And then giving the MSLs the leeway to be able to say, you know what, that slide is too technical and not important for this person, or, you know, decide depending, because really, they’re supposed to be responding majority of the time reactively to questions unless they’re doing sort of like disease, education, those types of things. So, yeah, they it can’t, you can’t create a slide deck or one piece for every situation. So, the ability for you, I’m going to get back to the term that Jessica used earlier, flexibility for themselves to have some flexibility in deciding what of this bank of things that you provided to me am I going to utilize to address this question, or just the need of this specific audience?
Garth Sundem 20:10
Okay, so you prepare the MSL to deliver information in many ways. And it still falls to the MSL to evaluate their audience and choose how they’re going to deliver that content. You know, I guess both, both of you. What are you hearing from KOLs? Maybe as we emerge from the full pandemic states, but what are you hearing from KOLs, about their preferences for scientific exchange?
Ginny Spadoni 20:48
I may defer to Jessica on this, because I think that you guys have done some research in this area.
Jessica Wong 20:54
Yeah. Um, we definitely do interviews on a regular basis of our customers in this case would be individuals like Ginny and the team that she supports in the field as well as end customers, so positions and KOLs. And just even if I take a pulse of the last three Medical Affairs digital conferences that I attended, when I hear from the cross breadth of all the various companies that are out there, what they’re seeing, basically, KOLs, they don’t mind, and some prefer multi-channel touchpoints. And I think it’s about when to, when it’s safe, when it’s appropriate, based on topic to interject live and in person touchpoints. So, I think this is what we’re seeing, and that they’re very open to the right channel at the right time, for the right question or the right topic. And to echo Ginny’s point, Ginny’s team could create some really good foundational modules that are flexible enough. But the product that I support, Beacon, what we can do then on top is create a slide-builder capability to help the MSLs pick and choose. And what that helps is for the KOLs to only have that 10 minutes who had a very specific, unsolicited, you know, concern or question, it gives the field liaison this flexibility to work with the foundation, the strong science of the materials that Ginny and her team put together. But then, with the pick and choose functionality that a platform like Beacon can provide, it quickly can help them create the right sort of set of materials for that quick interaction. So, I think ko KOLs prefer when things are organized for their very specific requests for the very specific amount of time, and based on their channel preferences. And try to, we try to make sure we work in all of those permutations, if you will. But knowing that at the end of the day, we do need to rely on the field liaisons knowledge base of the science of the KOL, so that they ultimately will have to be responsible for compiling that message, or compiling the set of materials to fulfill the need. So, I think less time, more channel options. flexibility for the MSL is to work with this science in a way that’s customer-oriented is definitely what we’re seeing out there.
Garth Sundem 23:41
All right, well, so hybrid means flexibility, and the best way to deliver scientific exchange is whatever is best for the individual KOL. So, let’s leave it at that for today. Thank you, Jessica and Ginny for joining us. To learn more about Alucio’s Beacon platform for KOL engagement: Visit Alucio.io that’s a Alucio.io. MAPS members continue the conversation at MAPS Connect, and don’t forget to subscribe. And we’ve hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”.