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A Strategic Partnership: Medical Strategy and Medical Communications Part 2
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.
Elise Blankenship 00:00
Welcome to the two-part podcast series, a strategic partnership, Medical Strategy and Medical Communications. This podcast series is a collaboration between the Medical Communications and Medical Strategy and launch excellence focus area working groups. I’m Elise Blankenship, and I’ll be the moderator for this podcast. I currently serve as a member of the Medical Communications FAWGg and I’m the Associate Director for US Oncology Publications and Medical Communications at Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals. In this podcast series, we will discuss how the evolving role of Medical Communications in Medical Affairs requires greater partnership and integration in Medical Strategy planning to improve overall Medical Affairs outcomes. The first episode focused on roles and responsibilities of these two groups for the second podcast will focus on defining best practices and key performance indicators for the collaboration. 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. Login with email address and password associated with your MAPS account and access global community. Then click the discuss tab and scroll down to Medical Communications to post a question or review previous postings. Today I’m joined by two panelists with extensive experience in the partnership between Medical Communications and Medical Strategy. Simon Kyaga, Global Medical Director of Alzheimer’s Disease at Biogen and member of the Medical Strategy FAWG, and Renu Juneja, Head of Scientific Evidence and Communications Oncology, US Medical Affairs at Janssen, and Co-chair of the Medical Communications FAWG. 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’re affiliated. This discussion is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or regulatory advice. Simon, Renu, can you please briefly provide some information on your current position and your background in Medical Strategy and Med Comms? Simon, please go first.
Simon Kyaga 01:49
Thank you, Elise. It’s nice to be in this podcast. So very briefly, I’ve been in the industry for more than a decade, I started working as a clinician as a medical doctor in psychiatry, and then moving on launching several different products within the psychiatry and neuroscience. So that’s my background in Medical Affairs and Medical Strategy and Medical Communications.
Elise Blankenship 02:12
Thanks, Simon. I’m excited to have this discussion today as well. And Renu, can you give a little bit about your background as well.
Renu Juneja 02:19
Sure, so I, you know, came to us for my postdoctoral fellowship having a dream of having my lab and students and then reality hits, right. And I said, Okay, this is not working. So I moved to pharmaceutical company almost 20 years ago, started as a medical writer, but then moved quickly to publications and other Medical Affairs, Medical Communication functions. So you know, have been very heavily involved in medical communication strategy publications, medical education, MSL materials and training. So yeah, really enjoying this part, this role in Medical Communications?
Elise Blankenship 03:04
Great. Thanks, Renu. So we spend some time in our first podcast discussing how this collaboration between Medical Communications and Medical Strategy is really critical. From both of you, what are some of your ideas on best practices and opportunities for making this partnership successful?
Simon Kyaga 03:21
Well, I think I mean, it’s interesting to consider how Medical Strategy and communications fit but I guess the best way to describe it is that strategy without execution is just wishful thinking. And I think one of the most important ways to communicate or sorry to execute on the study is exactly communication. So that’s the most important in terms of this collaboration.
Renu Juneja 03:46
Yeah, very well said Simon. I would say that, in my mind, Medical Affairs strategy is aligned with brand strategy or product strategy, right. And then medical communication strategy and data generation strategy both have to be aligned with my overall Medical Affairs strategy. So they go hand in hand, right? Overall Medical Affairs strategy, and then what data needs to be generated to support Medical Affairs strategy and data generation is of no help or use if it is not communicated strategically as well as effectively? So yes, Medical Affairs strategy and medical communication strategies go hand in hand and need to be aligned from the beginning to the end, till it is executed. Yes.
Simon Kyaga 04:37
I like what you’re saying. Renu, I think it’s, I mean, obviously, it’s very important to have an aligned communication effort from all the different functions within the company related to a specific product. And at the same time, I think this is also where it’s a bit interesting because Medical Strategy is usually aligned to the brand study, but there’s also clearly different required comments in terms of medical communication versus brand communication, not least in terms of scientific comment content. So I’m sort of wondering Renu, how do you feel about the difference between the different ways of communicating around that specifically?
Renu Juneja 05:14
Oh, absolutely. I mean, scientific communication is very different than brand strategy, right? Because brand strategy is all about on labels, whereas scientific communication is based on what data is coming out, right. And we don’t really worry about its own label or off label or, you know, where is it going, we just focused on data that’s coming out from clinical trials or data that’s coming out from real world evidence or other ways? And how do we present that at scientific congresses, and present at a you know, and then publish it in peer reviewed journals? Of course, we have to keep in mind, what is the brand strategy? And what is the Medical Affairs strategy. And of course, you know, brand, or commercial colleagues can be part of the when we are setting up the overall scientific communication strategy. But once the content development starts, then of course, the commercial or brand teams have no role in that, then it is totally focused on scientific communications. Simon, I hope I answered your question there.
Simon Kyaga 06:23
Yeah, no, no, I think I think it’s great. And it also goes into sort of my reflection of the value of medical communication internally, I think your medical communication, and study, of course, has an external facing value in terms of providing the narrative around a specific asset, but it also has the opportunity to really help sort of the internal focus, cross functionally to work together. So I think communication really serves as a tool to get everybody on board and work in the same direction.
Renu Juneja 06:56
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, and you’ve made a very good point, Simon here, that, yes, and externally, of course, we should be going out with one consistent, you know, communication of the data, to all healthcare professionals, to payers, to others, it should be, that’s why I’m actually very, very, you know, aware of that, if we can leverage the content in different, you know, channels of communication that may be Medical Information, medical education, or publications, or MSL materials, you know, if we can leverage the same tables and figures, it, it just gives us a great opportunity to be communicating that data consistently to our external stakeholders, and also for internal so that they are all speaking, you know, from the same table.
Elise Blankenship 07:56
Very, very well settled from that point on and making sure this is the medically lead part of the communications in that consistency piece. And with that in mind, either of you have any specific examples on how the communication between strategy and Medical Communications groups can be used to further refine, you know, I’m thinking specifically, you mentioned things like Medical Information, but other places, maybe something like insights?
Simon Kyaga 08:22
I mean, I think, to your point, so I’m co leading the Medical Strategy, focus area working group, but MAPS, and in many other discussions, we discussed the opportunity to sort of disseminate medical related data to ensure that we can execute on our study, but I think so in our group, there was a comment on the word disseminate actually being not really appropriate. It’s much more on the communication that I think it’s, it’s critical. So the other way around, of course, is to think about communication as a way to gain insights. I think. I mean, most of us have many examples where our communicative efforts have led to sort of feedback that has resulted in insights that have shaped the strategy.
Renu Juneja 09:13
Yeah, know, I’m so glad to hear you talking about dissemination versus communications, because I have been after MAPS do not use the word dissemination, because that is only one way communication, right? I mean, one way talking about the data, whereas communication is basically scientific exchange, right? It’s a two way communication. So I’m very glad to hear that. There’s, you know, making that difference and pointing that out. Now, yeah, for examples, you know, Simon, you’re very right there that we collect insights and insights are coming not only from Medical Information, or MSLs, but also from advisory board meetings, or when we have authors meetings for public vacations are roundtable discussion, right? How do we bring all these things together into a integrated report so that we can act on it in a timely fashion? I mean, that’s why the whole conversation about machine learning and AI, artificial intelligence, right, to kind of accelerate that making those observation into insights and insights into actionable insights. So one example Elise’s that I think I have talked about this at our medical communication, working group, my scientific communication directors, they have monthly scientific communication meetings, where all these key stakeholders are there, you know, Medical Information, MSL, medical education, medical directors, scientific communication, people, medical community, all everybody is there. So we look at that integrated report Insights report. And I remember last year, one topic kept coming over and over again, which was the the interactions, you know, drug drug interaction between one of our products, and we looked at it and we said, you know, what, I don’t know if we have the data or not, but then we formed a team, smaller team, look deeper into our clinical trials, data, pulled that data, and actually came up with the publication to address that question. Right. And then, of course, went back to MSL and Medical Information, and said, this gap has been filled. So I think it’s not just getting those insights and making them actionable, but then really acting on that. And then closing the loop. I hope that gives the example at least as you were trying to get into this podcast,
Simon Kyaga 11:50
I think you make a great point, Renu, it’s, again, it’s it’s not only listening to the insights, but actually executing on the insights, as well. And, and as you point out in us sort of technological opportunities gives us maybe an opportunity also really to understand what these insights are in terms of quantitative metrics, and similar. Apart from from that opportunity, I do like the opportunity that you just mentioned, to sit down with different stakeholders, external stakeholders to understand their view, to inform sort of the refinement on the strategy and I, I have an example, where we combined these two different opportunities. So we initially started working with assets that was in early development or failure led development in in beginning of phase three, and our, I think our main concern was how do we communicate the value of the treatment effect that this asset could provide to the patient community, to the ACP community, and just to all the different external stakeholders. And this was challenging, because in this area in this disease area, there was currently no pharmaceutical treatment available. So it was the sort of the first time that we could communicate the medical value of this potential treatment. And the way we went about this was really to combine the opportunity for social media listing to get that broad opportunity of, of insights from several millions of, of mentions across the internet. But combining that with the actual physical ad we’re discussing with patients and ACPs. And this together formed essentially the core of the treatment value that we put in our Medical Strategy moving forward across phase three and launch.
Renu Juneja 13:39
Yeah, great example. Great example, Simon…
Elise Blankenship 13:44
Those are both great, great examples. It’s always nice to hear of, you know, start to finish of how things have worked successfully, and especially that you’ve both touched on some of those newer opportunities for technology integration, as well, and how this might continue to evolve in the future. What what a lot of those examples just focused on is how that partnership works well, in those cases. And what I’m curious about is, how can you go about demonstrating that that was successful, successful partnership, internally, to convey the importance of this collaboration?
Simon Kyaga 14:17
I don’t know, Renu, if you want to comment on this. I mean, for myself, I think it’s, it is a bit tricky. Generally, for Medical Affairs. It’s quite often fairly complex. But as I mentioned, I think the technological opportunities are increasingly making it possible to demonstrate that successful collaboration. Overall, I think when we are able to sort of shape and really tailor our strategy based on our collaboration with Medical Communications, this is a sign of great success, and it’s something that we can really pin down as we go through our sort of yearly annual reviews and similar
Renu Juneja 14:55
Yeah, no, absolutely. Simon. I mean, that’s a great point. Again, you know, as you’re saying that if, in my mind, this all comes down to trust and relationship, right between the two groups and the people who are in these two roles, because we both are working towards the same goal to the towards the same thing. And if we have that trust and relationship, I have seen things work wonderfully. I mean, for example, that again, I did hear that for one of our products, there is a concern about infusion related reaction in there. Okay, let’s put our heads together who, who really needs to know about this, how to manage infusion related reactions, IRR. And how do we are brought together to educate on this? Okay, who treats them nurses? Can we go to Oncology Nursing Society? Can we present the data they are? Who? Can we bring a nurse who was part of the clinical trial to actually present at this congress and give some practical, you know, ways to handle or manage IIRC? And can we find medical education programs which focus on a yeast but also including IR ads? In there? Can we get a publication out on how to manage IR? So it’s like I think, I would say that Medical Communications never worked on their own. We are almost like a facilitator. And we need our medical directors, we need our Medical Affairs strategy people with us to brainstorm and come up with solutions that how do we how do we get these things done to make an impact? Right? Once all this information is out there practical information is out there, you can see the impact of it how, you know, at CPS are feeling comfortable, or have questions or discussions, as Simon said, on social media about these things. So I think it’s a very close partnership. If you want to be successful in moving the data communication in the, to the right SCPs at the right time.
Elise Blankenship 17:18
That’s great to hear about the successes of everyone being in the same room and being able to get those discussions going. Once that’s in place. Are there any other typical challenges that may arise in the in this partnership? And how can we overcome this?
Renu Juneja 17:34
So maybe I can jump in quickly? Because we just went through this, you know, for ASCO meeting that was in June. So as you know that, you know, there was a time when if we published in high tea or journal New England Journal of Medicine, or Lancet or JAMA, we will sell our work is done. Not anymore, right? We know that that 6000 Publications coming out every day literature doubling every 67 days, just publishing is not good enough. How do we add those enhancements or publication extenders? Like a video, a podcast, a plain language summary, so that you’re at CPS can get to that data very quickly. So there was a challenge that we asked authors that you’re going to present this data? Would you like a tweetable, figure? After your presentation to tweet it? And author said yes. And please, we will need your help to get us that political figure. But when we created that figure, there was some resistance and pushback from medical directors, who are, you know, still in their academic mindset was who still think that, Oh, if you put an infographic in a publication, it suddenly becomes commercial looking? Right? So though you have to kind of be patient and bring them along on this journey, that data is the data, putting it in an infographic or giving authors a tweetable figure is, you know, how it is going to help with that publication. So I don’t know, Simon, if you have faced these kinds of challenges.
Simon Kyaga 19:15
It’s been a, Renu, obviously, I pasted them. And I also had to work with myself also come in partly from an academic background. So I think it’s true that, you know, the development of Medical Affairs is very clear that Medical Affairs is expanding overall, its role moving earlier into r&d, but also later into commercialization. And I think this means essentially that the people who are working Medical Affairs need to have other other types of skill sets and experiences maybe then traditionally, that was seen in in Medical Affairs. So I think what remains crucial than is going back to the Medical Strategy to really, you know, agree upon what is the overall goal of Medical Affairs, but also cross functionally across the organization for a specific asset. And, and for me, I mean, it’s also parts. And that’s why I joined the industry in the first place that I think Medical Affairs and the pharmaceutical industry in general is just just a fantastic opportunity to be able to sort of convey new developments, but in science into clinical benefit to appropriate patients. So as long as we keep this in mind, I think it’s easier to agree. And then in terms of the execution, I completely agree with Renu that we need to think about how can we move from doing things that we think are are great, but actually, when we look into the impact of those things, maybe they are not as great as we may have initially thought, and how can we develop and progress in terms of our communication?
Renu Juneja 20:48
Absolutely. And I think one point to add is that we all bring specific expertise or experience to the table, right, I always count on medical medical directors for clinical interpretation for clinical, you know, experience and other things. But I think if we rely on scientific communication, Medical Communications, on how the field is moving, in presenting that data, that may be a video that may be plain language, somebody that may be, you know, infographics, just relying on each other, based on our individual expertise, and bringing that all together to come up with, you know, really moving the field in the right direction, I think is the key, rather than, you know, questioning each other or challenging each other, which is good, if it is healthy, but still keeping in mind that each person brings expertise and experience to the table.
Elise Blankenship 21:55
While said it’s great to hear thoughts on how to work through it, maybe some typical challenges and getting those discussions ongoing, and especially when there’s movement within, you know, the field on on both sides, as mentioned to some new new ideas and new ways of working. With that in mind. Are there any final thoughts with your view on how the collaboration between Medical Communications and Medical Strategy in that partnership itself may continue to evolve in the future as we continue to encounter new ideas like these?
Simon Kyaga 22:23
It’s a great question. I mean, for me, it’s evident that communication that we discussed, will always be at the core of what we’re trying to achieve, because we want to work with our external stakeholders to convey the, you know, the value and opportunity that we can provide, but we also want to listen to understand what the needs are externally. So, this collaboration between Medical Strategy and communication will just be stronger and stronger. And as we discussed several times in this podcast, technological developments, I think, are very clear. And we need to leverage those opportunities to optimize this communication.
Renu Juneja 23:03
Yeah, very well said Simon. And I wish we have more people like you know, as, as Medical Affairs strategy partners in the industry, who believe in you know, this collaboration and works well. From that point of view, I would say that it is becoming more and more clear that you can have the best data are coming out of your clinical trials or other you know, RW E or other kinds of studies, but if you do not communicate that route, and when I say communicate, that means really presenting that information to FCPS at the right time, in the right format, the format they want, some may want a video some may want a podcast, some may want a, you know, return and some may would like to look at an infographic. So how do we present that data to them to busy busy at CPS so that they can you know, look at it and digest it in like, no time or in minimal time? I think that is going to be the key that how do we present that data in an omni channel, to busy at TPS and get their attention so that they can make right choices, right decisions for their patient.
Elise Blankenship 24:31
Great, thank you both for sharing your thoughts on this. A lot of interesting discussions on this topic and this partnership that we’ve been able to go through today that also reflect those that were discussed in part one of this series. So again, thank you both for sharing your thoughts. And I want to also note that if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re interested in going deeper on the topic, a white paper was recently published on the MAPS website and you’ll find the corresponding link in the podcast information. If you are a MAPS member, thanks for your supportive MAPS. And if you’re not getting back to number and would like to access additional resources please visit the MAPS website and explore joining today at MedicalAffairs.org/membership
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