How to prioritize, track, and measure your Medical Communications Plan
Episode 1: Fundamentals
Speaker: Garth Virgin, MD
Speaker: Slava Rakov
We’re sensing a shift within Medical Affairs to make the case for and insist on better measurement, but how do we actually make that a reality? Measuring what really matters is often not straightforward, sometimes expensive and always takes committed up-front thinking and planning. In this first podcast of a 3-part series, we will address this question and discuss: The fundamentals of effective measurement techniques for Medical Affairs.
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Linn Southall 00:00
Welcome to the Medical Affairs Professional Society’s three part podcast series on how to prioritize, track and measure your medical communications plan. In this first podcast, we will discuss the fundamentals of effective measurement techniques for Medical Affairs. I am Linn Southall. I will be the moderator for this podcast. I am a medical communications director at Novartis gene therapies based in Zurich, Switzerland, and I currently serve as a member of the medical communications focus area working group. The views expressed in this recording are those are the individuals and do not necessarily reflect on the opinions or MAPS, or the companies with which they are affiliated. This presentation is for informational purposes only and not intended for legal or regulatory advice. This podcast series is for Medical Affairs professionals asking how do I know what my Medical Affairs programs have an impact beyond just counting outputs? What can be done? I would like to say welcome and a big thank you to today’s panelists for sharing their subject matter expertise with the MAPS members. Before we dive into the world of metrics, I will let the speakers briefly introduce themselves and their background in the industry. So speaking today, we’re starting with Gareth.
Gareth Morrell 01:24
Thank you, Linn. My name is Gareth Morrell. I’m head of insights and Madano. I’ve been at Madonna for about seven years delivering measurement programs and primary research with doctors and patients for life sciences companies. And prior to working in communications, I was a social researcher for around 10 years working on measuring the impact of UK Government policy in things like back to work programs, youth development work and climate change policy. And I’ve been trying to bring some of that measurement expertise to the world of Medical Affairs.
Linn Southall 01:56
Slava would you like to share a couple of words about your expertise?
Slava Rakov 02:01
Yes, the pleasure. over 20 years plus in Medical Affairs, I gathered my experiences at Novo Nordisk, this could be more for the news. And now we look at my Myovant Sciences. It is a startup company transforming now from the research into commercial organization and focusing on women’s health and oncology. I had the pleasure to initiate your Medical Affairs project with my Yvonne when we were just two persons in the Medical Affairs and now it is a completely established organization with great professionals.
Linn Southall 02:37
Thank you and last but not least, Garth, would you tell us a bit about yourself?
Garth Virgin 02:43
Thank you, Linn. My name is Garth Virgin. I’m the European head of Medical Affairs specialty medicines at Daiichi Sankyo Europe based in Munich, Germany. I started in the industry over 25 years ago in the role of a key account manager but it was actually an MSL, however that was before the title was actually implemented. I spent seven and a half years at Sirocco, that was my first company, four and a half years of vaccine development 10 years also at Vivor. And since two and a half years, as I said, I’m working in the global the European Medical Affairs Division of Daiichi, Sankyo Europe.
Linn Southall 03:21
Thank you. And with that, we’ll switch gears to measuring the impact. So are we sensing a shift within Medical Affairs to make the case for in the system better measurements? But how do we actually make that a reality? Measuring what really matters is often not straightforward, sometimes expensive and always takes and committed upfront thinking and planning. So today, we’re looking at as you heard with industry experts, both from the agency and client side, and during the whole podcast series, we will address those questions and look at novel and cutting-edge approaches to measurement in Medical Affairs. MAPS has been driving a discussion about measurement during this past year, notably publishing a white paper titled mastering the art of meaningful metrics in the fall of 2021. This podcast series builds on that paper and as such, we’re taking a read and some of the arguments it makes on why measurement is important and helpful information on definitions. So where are we going to pick up the story about asking if measurement is so important? Is Medical Affairs doing it right often enough? And if not, why not? So first, go to you, Gareth. As you’re working with multiple companies across the industry, what is your assessment of how well we are measuring our value and impact and Medical Affairs?
Gareth Morrell 04:56
Well, I think as with a lot of communications-based industries, to Medical Affairs is often seen as a bit of a support function and not as often a strategic one. And as such, I’d say it’s good at measuring outputs, how many publications how many delegates are Congress, but it’s less effective at measuring outcomes? So did those publications reach the right people and resonate? And did the delegates change their mind after the Congress, of course, outcomes obviously much more difficult to measure. But I think Medical Affairs functions can do better and giving more consideration to these outcomes, and at least creating some sort of hypotheses for how their actions contribute to them. And I’d say recently, we have seen a turn in this direction in the last couple of years. In publications measurement, there’s quite a lot of innovation going on there and in omni channel, med Ed strategy, and making this shift I think, is really important not only because it improves measurement, but also because it helps Medical Affairs become a more visionary, strategic and innovative business.
Linn Southall 05:57
Thank you. Now turn to our guests who are working in house. So firstly, as as a picture that you recognize, and if so, why is it that we haven’t upped our game on measurements?
Slava Rakov 06:12
Linn, if I may comment on this. I agree with Gareth that medical SES was considered as service providing function within pharmaceutical companies. And today, I see two major reasons why we receive Viva revised metrics and measures in Medical Affairs. And first, and probably the most important reason Medical Affairs turns from a service function as it was previously decades ago, providing medical trainings, organizing advisory boards and satellite symposia to a strategic role within the organization. And I believe this is really crucial. And a real mindset shift happened over the last I would say 10 years. The second point is rapidly changing environment with a high demand for scientific scientifically trusted communication with new communications and educational channels, new customer groups. And changing means how we approach our customers, for instance, through field medicals under these circumstances we need to redefine, first, what we want to measure what our goals, for instance, well level of awareness, changes in treatment patterns. And why you want to measure and how high enough.
Garth Virgin 07:49
if I can jump in here as well. This is Garth. I can confirm what Slava just explained and his experience. Currently within our company, we’re going through an evolution. in which a big part of the let’s say the change in the way of working is being it’s being led by Medical Affairs to the A ke engagement process, which is ongoing to gain engagement workstream is serving as a model for how often our customers can and should engage with customers in a very bespoke manner. The part of the metrics then also of of our interactions is is measuring the satisfaction of those caIIs then who are working together with us with our MSLs in the field, participating in advisory boards, Congress symposia, etc. Some of the other examples of KPIs are also independent questionnaires that we are that we are handing out to the HCPs either by an independent company or by ourselves or even the MSL directly reaching out to the KE asking how satisfied he was having been engaged in again, as an example an advisory board or having served as a speaker in a Congress also there are additional gains the insights Yeah, which which are our medical colleagues in the field particularly Yeah, are picking up documenting also in an in a database and we are analyzing those to understand better understand the true needs and preferences of our customers. So I think overall, actually, the, you know, the, the COVID situation is challenging and has been for all of us. It has really opened our eyes, I think to pay more attention to the needs of our customers. And and also they help us them to tailor our communication to the to their true areas of interest and and drive in meaningful conversations.
Linn Southall 09:48
So, I understand that we’re clearly seeing a shift both in the role of Medical Affairs and and how we measure outcomes. So, Garth to pick up on what you just said with respect to you’re measuring meaningful conversations, can you elaborate a little bit more on how we can do that in practice?
Garth Virgin 10:06
Again, perhaps in the, you know, the, the example that I gave after, after a Congress where a Ke has served as the speaker now to to engage in a dialogue with him, where they satisfied with with their interactions with us with the way that they were briefed, also the contracting sort of logistical aspects etc. But also the materials that we have provided in terms of the the briefing materials etc. And by collecting those, you know, that feedback and those analyses, entering it into a CRM, then we can analyze those to, to really understand, you know, the true preferences or they do tailor a customer centric than approach.
Slava Rakov 10:53
And I would like to add what Garth just mentioned and Garth you mentioned several times, MSS and their increasing role in pharmaceutical industry. MSS generate a huge number of insights nowadays. And therefore, I believe we urgently need some systems and technologies to facilitate the digestion and of this information and to create some kinds of reports reflecting more objectively on customer insights. And those can be widely used across organization to clearly identify communication gaps, making necessary adjustments in the communication strategy, potentially reconsidering our new developments. And another important aspect is a better understanding which communication channels are the most effective and utilize those. This is not such a trivial task, and, you know, really Multi Medium, multi channel world. And of course, the content has to be valuable reflecting on disease and conditions, from probably more holistic perspective. And by the end of the day, what counts is a better patient’s care in the areas we are focusing on.
Linn Southall 12:20
So Gareth, is there anything from other industries that we can learn from in relationship to what you just heard from Garth and Slava?
Gareth Morrell 12:30
Yeah, well, they’re, I mean, they’re always new metrics. They’re always smarter data collection techniques from elsewhere. And we should certainly be keeping our eyes open for those in particular learning from digital marketing. But what other industries also do well is use effective measurement frameworks. And that’s really a way to link together what you’re doing with what you want to achieve. And I think that’s even harder when we’re doing more on more channels and with more diverse audiences. So using tools like an outcome framework, or a customer journey, or a theory of change can really help you do this and help shift the focus from outputs outcomes. Theory of Change, that’s the first time I hear that what exactly is that? Yeah, theory of change is, is a visual illustration that links your activities. So what you’re doing explicitly to what you actually want to achieve, so the outcome that you’re interested in, and it develops a link or a hypotheses between the two for why you think what you’re doing will lead to the desired change. And they, they imagine a few decades back to help measure with the measure the impact of social programs like that to work schemes, and where you’re not able to control all the conditions are, easily attribute change to your own activity. Medical Affairs now increasingly operates in those conditions. So using something like a theory of change can help you get a handle on that kind of complexity. And we’ve used them successfully ourselves actually in in measuring the impact of publications as well as medical education programs.
Linn Southall 13:57
Can you give an example of how we can use it here and how it can help us?
Gareth Morrell 14:03
Yeah, there are probably three ways the theory of change can help improve measurement. First is transparency. So within teams on on what needs to happen to meet your objective, and what you can measure and, and probably importantly, what you can’t because it’s too difficult or prohibitively expensive to do. So. Second, producing a theory of change also forces real interrogation of what we’re doing. So for each tactic we choose, do we really believe or have the evidence this will make the difference we want for our customer? If it doesn’t, then you know, should we really be doing it? And finally, it helps us interpret measurement data by making a clear distinction between what we call implementation failure and theory failure. So if things don’t go well, if you don’t see the outcome, you want to see is this because the hypothesis was wrong, but theory was wrong or is it just because we didn’t execute it properly? And obviously answering that question is is pretty fundamental to continuous improvement.
Linn Southall 15:01
Thank you. That’s really interesting. Garth & Slava, do you have any thoughts on this?
Slava Rakov 15:08
Somehow, it reminds me on so called belief continuum. And to implement this kind of measurements, we need to think about while having really knowledge about the market in depth knowledge about the market market understanding, and we need to define parameters and measurements tool to be used. And we need to be extremely persistent, agile and patient when we implement this kind of measurements.
Garth Virgin 15:47
And I fully agree, we’re on a journey. And as you say, I think we do need to be patient, patient, consistent, curious, as well. But I think I think we’re in a we have, we should take advantage of the momentum that we have.
Linn Southall 16:03
So it sounds like we have a lot of opportunities to improve the situation and practice. Where does that leave us in terms of what to focus on, particularly in light of, Garth, which you mentioned earlier, the accelerated change and innovation as a result of the pandemic.
Garth Virgin 16:22
I’d like to again use the use the term momentum, which I think that really has has compiled over the over the previous years, but I think even more so. And they, we noticed the acceleration during the times now of COVID. And I think that we can really see this as an opportunity to evolve ourselves as an industry and and as such to better support submissions, physicians, now to ultimately provide better care for their patients.
Slava Rakov 16:52
Yeah, and Linn and Garth, you mentioned, we need to use this momentum, derive some learnings also from pandemic situations where we started to use more and more to use the virtual channels, the E channels, and I believe that even in the future worlds coming into coming out from the pandemic situation, probably moving more to towards new normality. I believe that we will still intensively use these channels, which we probably underestimate earlier.
Linn Southall 17:24
Thank you. Also, Gareth. How would you see the lasting impact of COVID across the industry?
Gareth Morrell 17:34
Similarly to Garth and Slava, really, that the digitization that we’ve seen during COVID presents to tangible opportunities, I think, first is scientific communications in general has been democratized. It’s more accessible to everyone. People can go to Congress’s they can download things much easier than previously. And secondly, customer engagement with these digital channels is often much more granular. It’s more personalized, and it’s much more measurable. So a critical success factor for more consistent measurement across the industry is incentivizing the right internal behaviors to put the customer right at the center of our thinking, if the internal sent incentives are still linked to outputs rather than outcomes, and I do think change will still be slow. But perhaps the acceleration of digitization brought on by the pandemic is an opportunity to make this transition to a customer-centric Medical Affairs model stick.
Linn Southall 18:33
Thank you. I think that’s a great wrap up of a very good conversation. Thank you very much Garth, Slava and Gareth, for sharing your expertise and insights with the listeners today. To wrap it up. Today, we’ve heard about the shift that we see both in the role of Medical Affairs and in how we measure outcomes. And that the global pandemic has accelerated a shift both in the channels and in the accessibility of information, and brought on an increased focus on electronic communication that is more accessible to everyone. Communication channels also gives us an increased opportunity to measure those engagements. And my most important takeaway, I think, is what Gareth just mentioned that a critical success factor across the industry is incentivizing the right internal behaviors to push the customer at the center of everything that we do. Thanks again to the speakers. This has been the first podcast in a series on meaningful metrics. The next podcast will discuss how to measure impact of scientific engagements. We encourage you to engage in conversations about Medical Communications with other MAPS members on the MAPS Connect (LinkedIn) 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. Then click on the discuss tab and scroll down to medical communications to post a question or review previous postings. If you’re a MAPS member, thank you for your support of MAPS. If you are not yet in MAPS member and would like to access the additional resources in this area, please visit the MAPS website to explore joining today at MedicalAffairs.org/membership. This concludes the podcast.