A Strategic Partnership: Medical Strategy and Medical Communications Part 1
Speaker: Nathalie Preiswerk
Speaker: Arron Mungul
Speaker: Sissy Easo-Joseph
With the evolving role of Medical Communications in Medical Affairs, greater partnership and integration in Medical Strategy Planning is key to improve overall Medical Affairs outcomes. Enhanced collaboration between these groups drives strong MedComms execution, leading to increased awareness in the HCP, payer, and regulatory communities. During these podcasts, experienced Medical Strategy and Communications leaders will discuss how you can structure roles and responsibilities, KPIs, and best practices to increase synergy between teams.
- Defining the roles and responsibilities of Medical Strategy and Medical Communications
- Communicate best practices in partnering to develop the Medical Strategy and Medical Communications Strategy
- Discuss ideas for measuring the impact of the Medical Strategy and Medical Communications Strategy
Following is an automated transcription provided by otter.ai. Please excuse inaccuracies.
Nathalie Preiswerk 00:00
Hi, and welcome to this two-part podcast where we will discuss how the strategic collaboration between Medical Communications and Medical Strategy can radically improve overall Medical Affairs outcomes. I’m Nathalie Preiswerk and I’ll be the moderator for this podcast. I’m the Director of Strategic Services at MedicalWriters.com in Zurich, a New York-based Medical Communications Agency. This podcast series was developed by the Medical Affairs Professional Society, more specifically by the Medical Communications Working Group in collaboration with the Medical Strategy and Launch Excellence Working Group. In the first part of this podcast series, we will set the stage and explore the benefits of a strong partnership between Medical Communications and Medical Strategy, we will focus on the roles and responsibilities of these two groups and discuss best practices for the partnership. I’m here today with two panelists who have extensive experience in the subject matter, namely, Arron Mungul Director of Worldwide Medical Capabilities at BMS, and member of the Medical Strategy Group. And Sissy Easo-Joseph, who’s the Director of Global Scientific Communications for Migraine and Headache at Teva Pharmaceuticals, and she’s a member of the Medical Communications Group. Could I please ask each of you to briefly give us a little bit more information about your current position and your background in Medical Strategy and Medical Communications? Arron, can you please go first?
Arron Mungul 01:36
Yes, sure. Thank you, Nathalie. As you mentioned, my name is Aaron Mangal. I’m currently working in the worldwide and market scientific content team, which is part of medical capabilities, which itself is part of Medical Affairs at BMS. In this role, our team helps create global content and also supports markets with their local tactics. Prior to that, I’ve held several roles in Global Medical Affairs mainly in oncology, including Medical Communications that both GSK and Novartis and also in medical communication agencies.
Sissy Easo-Joseph 02:09
Hello, my name is Sissy Easo-Joseph, thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m actually the director for scientific communications at Teva Pharmaceuticals. I’ve been here for five years. And my responsibilities include working with the medical team to create the strategy as it relates to scientific communications and of course, the rollout of the tactical implementation thereof of the plan, and working closely with our cross functional team members to execute that plan. Prior to coming to Teva, I have been in the Medical Communications field for over 20 years on the agency side of the business really supporting small, middle and large sized pharma over various therapeutic areas. Working on the commercial side, as well as the Medical Affairs side. So have sort of run the gamut in terms of all types of Medical Communications, and various types of communications programs, and various initiatives as it relates to product. So very grateful for this opportunity and looking forward to working with this team to enlighten our MAPS members on the collaboration between Medical Strategy and Medical Communications.
Nathalie Preiswerk 03:20
Thank you so much, both of you. And thank you also for accepting the invitation to share your thoughts and your advice with the MAPS membership. Before we actually dive into the topic. I’d like to remember the audience that the views expressed in this recording are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect on the opinions of MAPS or the companies with which they are affiliated. This podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or regulatory advice. We encourage you to engage in conversations about Medical Communications and Medical Strategy with other MAPS members via MAPS Connect on the MAPS website or mobile app. Simply log in with the email address and password associated with your MAPS account and access the global community. Then click on the discuss tab and scroll down to the Medical Communications to post a question or review previous postings. Let’s dive into it. Could I ask you SISSY? Why is the collaboration between Medical Strategy and Medical Communications? So recall?
Sissy Easo-Joseph 04:23
This is a very good question. You know, being in Medical Affairs, Medical Communications and Medical Strategy are natural partners. And I would like to say that we serve as sort of the pillars of Medical Affairs. And their critical nature of this collaboration is is really important because we really serve as those leaders as it relates to collaboratively working together with cross functional team members. And really, if you focus on that word, collaborate, it means working together to achieve a common goal. And that goal for us together with Medical Communications and Medical Strategy is, as it relates to this purpose to create a consistent, cohesive, and I like to say a comprehensive scientific narrative for the product, which then can be articulated for that product or therapeutic area. And it’s so critical to have that collaboration between strategy and Medical Communications, because that foundation needs to be set early on. And we say collaboratively, because we’re really working together with cross functional team members, you know, we talk about perhaps being siloed, which is not something that we want to do, especially in a Medical Affairs team. And when you talk about that type of function, so it’s critical that we work together to sort of harness that, that knowledge within our cross functional team members, because we want to set that foundation and we want to sort of set that example on how to collaboratively work together. And it’s quite critical, because when you’re trying to create that narrative, we want to do that together, because not only is the narrative created, we develop several other resources that are provide that foundation for the product of which will be the scientific communication platform, which I say is really truly and we would probably say is the foundation for all communications as it relates to Medical Affairs, because it really drives the education, both internal and external. It drives HCP engagement, and drives evidence generation insight. So I really feel that that’s why it’s so critical to have that collaboration of between Medical Communications and strategy, because we really do drive those critical elements that support communications for the for the brand.
Nathalie Preiswerk 06:41
Just to give us a little bit of a more vivid image. Could I ask you, Arron, to maybe help us imagine what happens when the collaboration is just really, really not working?
Arron Mungul. 06:54
Yeah, sure. So I mean, I think SISSY has done a excellent job trying to articulating exactly why we need to collaborate. And so I was trying to look at what that might look like from an external perspective, either as a customer but also as a competitor. And then working in different companies, you get an idea of when collaborations work well, and when they don’t work so well. So as this is outlined the reasons why collaboration is so critical, I think when that environment is not conducive to collaboration is when Medical Communications and the strategy itself is less effective. So this can be a function of people. So you might not actually like the people you work with or have a have a poor working relationship, that can be a factor. But it’s also a function of the structure of the organization itself. Often, MCC mentioned this in terms of silos, functions within medical can be siloed. And this is then further exacerbated when you think about other functions like commercial HLR, market access. And from an external perspective, what you really need is that single vision from the company, otherwise you have teams presenting an inconsistent set of content to customers, and that weakens your messages and potentially even damages your your overall brand. So I’ll give you a couple of examples in my experience. One could be the inconsistency in something simple, like, what is the percentage of patients eligible for your product. So unless there’s alignment and agreement across all stakeholders, across the whole strategy, you can have huge inconsistencies. And this affects lots of things like which patients you’re trying to target and segment, you can affect your entire strategy if the patient population is not clearly defined. So in this example, actually looked back at global and local materials, and you had various percentages being quoted or ranges being quoted. And this leads to a lack of clarity in the, in the market and with customers. So not quite sure exactly what patient group you’re trying to target here. This is also true when there’s a disconnect with local markets from a global perspective, and shows why you need an aligned cross functional approach. So another example is we in global develop some medical content for the launch, so called slide deck, scientific narratives, which is you mentioned and various other materials and we’re working very closely with our global commercial partners. And they base their claims. Their promotional claims on the scientific narrative that we we developed and created a series of promotional materials. This material then went out to markets to localize accordingly, however, is quote, freedom, lead to misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the data and actually led to a false claim being made in the promotional materials. So because of this, we implemented a process where markets needed to request for me Should from global to amend certain sections of the launch campaign. And if others they could amend as needed. So this might sound extreme. But this actually ensured a closer collaboration between local markets and global. And there was then that greater consistency in the materials. And it was more of a more uniform brand image to customers, I think that’s probably even more important now in the digital age, where you’ve got various materials going into various channels. So and in some companies, you can even have launch materials creep created de novo at a market level. So in that case, you introduce further potential for inconsistencies in your communications. And that then affects your strategy. Because it said, customers are unsure what you’re trying to say. I think, ultimately, you need that alignment integration, where everyone is owning that strategy.
Nathalie Preiswerk 10:53
Thank you so much, Arron. And so when the collaboration is effective, how do you work together to develop a strategic output? See?
Sissy Easo-Joseph 11:02
Yes, I think, you know, Arron articulated it so well, when it doesn’t work, what what happens, but I think when it does work, and I think we have to be stewards of that, I think, from Medical Communications and Medical Strategy, we really have to sort of help our team members, our cross functional team members, you know, work together collaboratively in order to have an effective output. And I think the way that works best is and I think it seems very cliche, oh, you should have team meetings and discussions. But I think it’s absolutely critical to ensure that we drive those meetings really have collaborative workshops. And, you know, we talked about teamwork, teamwork is perhaps working in silos, but not doing that really ensuring that we have a collaborative workshop together with cross functional team members, whether it is GH or or, you know, just having courtesy of a marketing person there so that we can hear what they’re doing. So we also know, and also having, you know, market access, having clinical team members there to ensure that all insights are being included when we develop a strategic output, the output is only as effective as we ensure that we work together to understand each of the cross functional needs. But at the end of the day, we are really trying to put together a roadmap. And that roadmap is only as effective as that collaborative effort of understanding what our cross functional teams needs are, but at the end of the day, working together to ensure that our narrative is being disseminated in a way through all of those cross functional teams. And we really want to come together to then develop this roadmap, understanding and identifying our audiences, and how they consume content, also understanding omni channel formats that engage our stakeholders, and identifying focus areas, tactics, and then implementation. So all of this really needs to work together so that we lay out our respective roadmap collaboratively. And I say that over and over again, because the goal is we want to achieve one common goal for the brand. And I think that’s, that’s absolutely imperative. And then we do that together with our cross functional teams to support the agreed upon or a lot extra tag aligned upon strategy, so that we can elicit an impactful tactical execution plan, which is what we would say is the integrated communication plan. And when we say integrated includes all of our cross functional team members, roadMAPS we put together. So we have one roadmap that includes everybody. And that’s truly what a collaborative strategic output would be, what would be an integrated communication plan. And I think that’s what an effective collaboration looks like.
Nathalie Preiswerk 14:00
Thank you, Sissy. So I hear teamwork and collaboration loud and clear. But what does that look like in terms of roles and responsibilities? Arron, what do you think? What is like Medical Strategy accountable for and what is the responsibility of Medical Communications?
Arron Mungul 14:17
Yeah, I mean, I think you’re right, the theme of this is teamwork. But it’s amazing how often that doesn’t happen. And that’s a huge open question, I think, and one company’s continued to test through multiple reorganization. So if you’re listening to this, and you’re going through a restructure at the moment, I don’t think we even give reorganizations enough time to assess whether it’s actually been a good good effort in terms of restructuring. You know, how do we metric whether that’s actually delivered on it? So there’s various ways you can set up your organization but you know, broadly Medical Affairs teams create the overarching strategy. They interpret and contextualize the data It can be responsible for real world evidence or your HR teams that can be engaged in peer to peer exchange. And identifying clinical practice in science, medical communication teams, I think generally have historically been more execution focused rather than strategic. But we’re trying to bring those two functions closer together. So they’ve been focused on communicating scientific evidence. And the broad purpose is to articulate a consistent, cohesive narrative across the multiple channels and formats. Personally, I believe the responsibilities should be co owned. So having separate teams and budgets leads to this siloed mentality we talked about, and a disconnect between the strategy and the communications. So this can even lead to competition between the various subgroups. And that’s the wrong mindset needed here. So I’ll even go further and say that both functions should actually partner with other teams in generating and integrating and ultimately communicating that scientific evidence. So this can be fueled medical, HR, commercial market access, etc. And that’s important to communicate and consistent scientific narrative. Some companies split the role of Medical Affairs, lead and medical communication lead. And I mean, split in the sense of actually working in different departments, and not being in the same meetings not co developing and not co owning the strategy, having separate budgets. And that’s in that model. It’s like Medical Communications is almost like service. In other companies, these two roles can be working very closely together, and even reporting to them. So in one company I worked at I was a global medical communication lead, and I was reporting to the Medical Affairs lead. So this immediately improves and clarifies roles and responsibilities brings you much closer and a greater understanding and shared ownership of the strategy. And even in small companies, the role of Medical Strategy and communications could actually be done by the same individual, then there’s no confusion there at all.
Nathalie Preiswerk 17:02
Thanks, Arron. Sorry, Sissy, did you want to add anything?
Sissy Easo-Joseph 17:05
I absolutely agree with her. And I think, you know, being siloed actually causes our scientific narrative to be diffracted. And I think being under one umbrella for strategic alignment, and planning is imperative. And a core team under Medical Affairs is is really important for the success of a strategic plan. And I think it’s okay, we can agree to disagree. But alignment is absolutely necessary, in order for an integrated communication plan to be successful for the brand. And I think sometimes, you know, depending on what happens within an organization that I’ve been truly privileged for the brands that I work on, we do have a very collaborative team with cross functional representation. And we work together for the success of the brand looking at it, yes, what is does each function need, but how do we work together, knowing what the narrative is at this point in time, and also, you know, as it needs to be changed, you know, as insights come in, as information comes in as data comes in, but still working within that structure as a team to ensure the success for that roadmap that we’ve created? So, you know, I definitely agree. I mean, sometimes I think within certain companies, because of that structure, we may not be able to do that. But I think we need to advocate for collaboration for the success at the end of the day, it’s to achieve that one goal. That’s what collaboration is for to the to achieve the goal for the success of the product. So if we keep that in mind, I believe that’s where we can find the most success, especially as it relates to, you know, strategy plus communications.
Nathalie Preiswerk 18:49
And in addition to the overall structure that you both are talking about, would you be able to share with us some other best practices that you’ve seen, that helped develop the partnership between Medical Strategy and Medical Communications?
Arron Mungul 19:05
Yeah, sure. So I think the kind of take home message here is that everything should be integrated and aligned across functions working on that brand. So you have that integrated brand plan. I think it’s also important when presenting a united team front to your markets. So I think we, you know, talking a lot about global roles and is responsible for developing the actual plan. But you also need to instill confidence in that global strategy at a market level. And we talked about how your organizational structure can influence that integration. But even things like the templates you’re using can impact that. So there are various templates templates available for MAPS as well. But just having the right sections in that medical plan, can then influence how you’re developing the overall overall strategy and communication plan. So I’ve worked in various places where you You have separate plans almost. And then it’s kind of pulled together as appendices, but then you kind of lose the consistency and shared ownership there. In other in other companies, the HR plan, for example, was even part of the medical plan, they get more of a alignment there. So I’d recommend that the Medical Strategy lead and the communications team work together. But then also, as we’ve talked about, cross functionally with different stakeholders within and outside Medical Affairs to develop the overall medical plan. So in some companies, HR are actually part of the Medical Affairs team, since they’re developing that real world evidence or quality of life data, and some of those messages can be used and leveraged from the medical communication plan and vice versa. So we should be able to communicate that HR data in an effective way. And the same way, HR teams need to be able to communicate other pieces of data from our medical plan in an effective way. I think, therefore, every function should be included in the development and review process to ensure that the communication objectives are aligned with the overarching strategy. So I mean, this this worked well at a previous company was that where the scientific communication platform was fully integrated in the medical strategies, as you mentioned, actually, and the commercial claims were then developed off the back of that. So we partnered with HR market access, even patient advocacy. And there’s a real sense of shared ownership and alignment there. And there were no real surprises from team to team. Everyone was aware of what was happening. And I think this gives you a bigger picture approach. So there are arguments pros and cons for how you’d set up your organization. But I think having this integrated approach gives you a bigger picture of what you’re trying to achieve as a as a brand and ultimately for for the patients you’re trying to get your your medicine to. This also allows you to identify areas of overlap and duplication of effort in your content creation so you can streamline the process. You can allow for efficiencies, and encouraging repurposing of content. So you get that real sense of consistency throughout your materials, but then you also benefit from the efficiencies saved.
Nathalie Preiswerk 22:18
Well, thank you so much, Aaron, and Sissy for sharing your thoughts about this topic. If you’re listening to this podcast and are interested in going deeper into topic, there is a white paper recently published under MAPS website and you’ll find the corresponding link in the podcast information. If you’re a MAPS member, thank you for your support of MAPS. If you’re not yet a MAPS member and would like access to additional resources in this area. Please visit the MAPS website to explore joining today at MedicalAffairs.org/membership.