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The Role of Medical Information in Generating Medical Insights
When we think about Medical Insights, the first function that comes to mind is Field Medical and capturing/analyzing MSL/HCP interactions in ways that lead to strategic actions. But there are other sources of insights, including the Medical Information function. Many organizations are already capturing and quantifying MedInfo requests to learn more about the types of questions HCPs are asking. Now tools exist to look deeper into this data, allowing MedInfo teams to truly contribute to the generation, analysis of Medical Insights. Learn more in this episode of the MAPS podcast series, Elevate.
Garth Sundem 00:00
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”. I’m your host, Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS. And today we’re talking about the role of medical information in generating and analyzing medical insights. Joining us are Nate Capone, Director of Global Medical Communications at Teva Pharmaceuticals. And Callum Hawes, Senior Director, Medical Inquiry Strategy at Veeva systems. This episode is sponsored by Veeva systems. So, Callum, let’s start with the changing face of med info. I keep hearing from our members that, you know, there are technologies and there are new ways of conceptualizing that info, that that is not just a responsive function, but it’s providing other values to the organization as well. So can you tell us about the current state of MedInfo? And maybe how insights fits into this picture?
Callum Hawes 01:02
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think you you kind of teed it up. MedInfo evolved, I think quite a lot in these last, you know, probably five years or so probably more. But really evolving from a much more transactional function to something that can offer a lot more value. So I think MedInfo is, broadly speaking, kind of getting a bigger voice or getting a bigger say. So in things, I think they’re being recognized more for what they can deliver, you know, above and beyond just providing, you know, responses to unsolicited questions, that actually, they’re sitting on an absolute wealth of information and of data, which if properly accessed, if properly synthesized, can offer a tremendous amount of value back to the organization. So I think that’s one of the things which is really kind of leading the charge. And in, you know, in some sense that that’s one of the turning points for them shifting from from transactional to more strategic.
Garth Sundem 01:57
Okay. And that’s a nice insight in itself, the value of MedInfo goes beyond the transactional. And in fact, there’s a lot of information there that can be leveraged in different ways. Nate, is this happening now in larger pharmaceutical companies? Or are we still building towards and insight enhanced value for that info?
Nate Capone 02:20
Yeah, I mean, I think, historically, MedInfo has always captured a lot of data, right. And we’ve been able to capture that data and categorize it and provide some level of insight, I don’t know that they’re necessarily insights. But it’s more metrics, per se, is what we’ve historically captured. However, with the advent of new tools, like natural language processing, technology, and artificial intelligence, we now have the ability to potentially generate true insights, largely due to the fact that we can access the text in a more streamlined and efficient manner. So going back to sort of where we were, and I think where most people in the industry are going, is we’re able to give sort of operational metrics. So how many inquiries did we get? What were the inquiries related to what were the categories or types of questions were receiving? So there were sort of big buckets of activity that we could report back to the organization on. But going forward, if we have the ability to implement some new technology, we can actually mined the text to understand okay, what are the what’s the real nature of these questions, as well as pair that with those sort of more operational categories? To understand, okay, patients are looking for this type of information based upon the types of questions they’re asking, or neurologists are looking for this type of information based upon the questions they’re actually asking. So I think some of this is related to sort of new tools and capabilities that we now have access to and can potentially implement, whereby, you know, we can actually truly deliver insightful information that can then spark some activity and action for the organization that we couldn’t do historically.
Garth Sundem 04:16
Well, it’s interesting. So you say that MedInfo used to be able to provide some insights. But now it can really provide insights in the form of insightful information. So what in the world is insights, Callum? Isn’t that is it that we used to be able to kind of quantify these things like Nate said, we could talk about the types of questions that were coming in. But now we can look more in depth and that creates what a real insight is it? What do you mean now in the modern definition of insights?
Callum Hawes 04:48
Yeah, I think, you know, inside is a word, which would you’ve alluded to, it gets thrown around a lot because it sounds better. I think in some ways, it sounds better than a report or a metric or something like that. I think a lot of probably a lot of copywriters or a lot of people are pretty guilty of using it, you know, instead of, you know, a report or something else like that. So that’s kind of part of it, that’s where the words become diluted, diluted a little bit. But I think you kind of you take those metrics, you know, to Nate’s point, you take those more operational metrics about the whatever the 1000 increase that we’ve received in any given period, and you dig, and you, you know, you put some context around it, or you layer on top other data sources, or you get some perspective or opinion on it from someone. And that’s where you start to generate the insights to real sort of thoughtful analysis of that data, that starts to say ruin, you know, there’s, there’s a bell that goes off and says, that’s something that’s interesting. And we should dig into that a bit more. So I don’t know, if there’s one really common definition across the industry, I think each organization is going to look at it a little bit differently. And I know that some would define an insight as something that has to be actionable. And now I wouldn’t say that an Insight has to be by definition, but I would say that that’s how you’re going to get used from it, right? That’s where an insight becomes useful, suddenly, you can do something with it, you can inform your strategy, or you can change direction or create new content, whatever it is, that’s probably what makes an insight valuable to an organization.
Nate Capone 06:18
Okay, and just to build upon that a little bit, I think, you know, having, at least at your own company has shared lexicon across your Medical Affairs organization. So when somebody says the word metric, we all know what we’re talking about when somebody says, you know, references, a KPI, everybody knows what we’re talking about. And same holds true with an insight. So I think it’s really important that within your own organization, everyone in the Medical Affairs team has a clear understanding of what these terms actually mean. As opposed to what we just talked about is sort of diluting the word insight by blurring the lines between different types of information that you’re gathering and analyzing.
Garth Sundem 07:03
So maybe if there’s not even if there’s not an industry wide insights glossary, maybe there needs to be company wide insights glossary. So we know we’re talking about so Callum, you said something that you said that an insight may be a red flag that makes that patio comes up and makes you want to learn more about it. And that makes me wonder, you know, both of you, are our insights, something that we should have our ears open to? And notice interesting things and dig in? Or do we need to define what we’re listening for? And then point our listening apparatus, apparatus apparatuses in the correct direction, you know, what, what’s the chicken? And what’s the egg here?
Callum Hawes 07:53
Oh, I mean, it’s an interesting one. I mean, I think there’s, there’s probably some upsides to both I mean, both could be things that you could do, and that could add value, you know, one of them, I think, actually just kind of putting your ear to the ground or kind of, you know, from interactions that you have, whether that’s through med info, or whether it’s from other places, sort of just observing and taking in those data sources, and really looking at them and surfacing these insights. I mean, I think that’s, broadly speaking, what you want to be doing, there’s some risk, I suppose to going looking for specific things, you know, if you have a hypothesis, you know, maybe you want to go and dig into it. But you got to be careful, I suppose about the way you generate that data and make sure it’s fair and balanced and make sure you’re not, you know, drawing your own conclusions, you know, prematurely. But I don’t know, I’m interested in meeting your perspective, because I think we talked about this a little bit, you know, these kinds of two approaches.
Nate Capone 08:43
Yeah, I think it’s both right. So I think, I mean, most medical teams do have areas of interest, right. And there’s certain topics that they’re interested and I think you’d probably want to be proactively looking for those topics. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t be blind to other topics that may or may be popping up. Within, you know, questions receiving from your customers, just to give you a quick example. And it’s sort of twofold. It’s an example of something we weren’t looking for. And how a metric could, at least as I would define a metric could then be used to examine the data to look for an insight. So one example we have from our company is we have a product that uses an auto injector. And for whatever reason, we noticed that nearly 90% of the product quality complaints were coming from a single geography. So that would be the metric we’re saying, Okay, why is this one country generating so many product quality complaints related to the auto injector? And as we dug in and started to analyze the text, we noticed that the issue was was, for whatever reason patients were using expired auto injectors. And as we started to coordinate within our internal teams, it actually became some of the regulatory insights such that the auto injectors expiration date is printed on the box that comes in, but not on the auto injector itself. So that then led us to the insight of okay, perhaps we need to think about adjusting the labeling on the auto injector in particular. So we don’t have all these issues in this specific country with picky sees with the auto injector. So like I said, I think to your original question, I think it is both, I think it’s you want to proactively look for certain areas of interest based upon your medical strategy. But then also make sure that you have the ability, which is an easy way to look for other topics that perhaps you don’t have identified as an area of interest, but they’re an area of interest for your customer. And that can be a very important learning for your organization that you may have to take some action upon.
Garth Sundem 11:15
And again, it’s that’s insightful about what you should be listening for insights on, you know, maybe maybe an insight is what topics you should be gathering insights on. Right? So that is an incredible example. And the reason I love that is because so many of our, you know, organizations are so many of our, you know, med info field, medical teams are trying to implement insights, but they’re having a hard time finding leadership by it, right? You know, med info or field medical says, we want to do insights, and we’re going to be really responsive to external, you know, learning. And leadership says, Well, okay, you know, here’s $10.75, you should go implement that. But you have a real word world example of the value of insights. Is that the way to create leadership buy in? Or, or how do you get everyone on the same page? To get the resources you need to actually implement Insights management?
Nate Capone 12:21
Yeah, so it’s a great question. I can I mean, I can speak for the Genesis, that organization. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this is sort of there’s commonalities across ours and other other companies as well. So I think this whole topic of medical Insights is something of interest across the industry, right. And what we have done is sort of tried to do sort of pilot projects, small projects, get some quick wins, and serve them up to leadership, so they can start to understand the benefit of putting some effort behind the medical insights initiative. However, once you start to gain interest, you’re going to also have to start sort of setting expectations, in particular with senior leadership, because at the end of the day, you know, you first have to understand what do they really want, it kind of goes back to that metrics, KPIs, insights, definitions topic, like do they just want reports still? Do they just want to understand certain metrics? Or do they really want medical Insights, where, you know, you’re generating insights that can actually change your strategy, or change your data dissemination activities, or perhaps even your your data generation initiatives related to certain products. So that’s where you have to really get an understanding of what your leadership team is looking for. And then from there, you’re gonna have to set expectations. I mean, if they really want you to generate medical insights, it’s not free, you know, it takes resource, which is both budget, as well as people, infrastructure, software solutions, etc. And a lot of times, you know, you’re basically building a new capability within the Medical Affairs organization, this is something totally new. So you’re going to need likely people with different backgrounds properly, people with different types of roles, as well as a governance and structure to ensure data integrity. So there’s, there’s a lot to think about, when you go down this path. And it’s not, it’s not a short road, it’s going to take time to truly build out like a medical functional medical insights capability, but it’s certainly doable as long as you can kind of get everybody on board, including your leadership team. So
Garth Sundem 14:51
I want to get to Callum and what we need from our medical insights, infrastructure, but first, Nate, are there any areas that you we’d suggest to our listeners for quick wins for quick insights with you said you did some pilot projects, and you could show some quick wins to your leadership. And I bet everyone’s like, oh, I want to do the same thing. So is there anything you would suggest for Quick Insights wins?
Nate Capone 15:13
Yeah, I mean, I think like that example I just described with the auto injector is an example of a quick win, basically just took them the metrics we were using, and took some time and dug deeper to understand what was really going on. But another is really to start sort of cross fertilizing. So looking at, okay, here’s the medical information, metrics and insights type of data we have, how do we cross examine that with our field medical insights? And Cool? Is there a commonality? And if so, okay, this is something that’s important to, you know, in the medical world, it’s your day to day patients, customers, etc. But then in the field, medical, it’s also important to your opinion leaders. So that’s something that’s probably sort of broadly extremely important to your product and that therapeutic area, so you’d really want to think about putting some effort behind that. So I mean, Callum, I think you guys probably have some tools at Veeva to help help our teams, you know, aggregate and analyze the data, which is often the most sort of time consuming component of these exercises.
Garth Sundem 16:19
Yeah, so what do we need? IT infrastructure?
Callum Hawes 16:26
Well, right. I mean, it’s a great question. It’s, you know, as you think about this going on this journey, do you have the tech to be able to do it? Do you, you know, are you capturing the right data? First and foremost, you know, do you actually have the ability within your Med info team, just as well as within your field medical team? Do you have the ability to actually capture it in a structured way, you know, in a way that that marries up with one another across these maybe disparate data sources? So do you have a way to put it in, then you have somewhere to put it, you know, do you have someone to manage this data to mix it all up to bake a cake with it, you know, to find the interesting stuff that comes out of it, you got to find somewhere to put it and be able to kind of trawl through it and synthesize you know, the word I like to kind of use around it, because I think that accurately kind of reflects what you need to do, to then get to something useful to something that you can faction, but in a big consideration, and one of the really simple things, if you’re talking about quick wins is kind of looking at your ability to capture the data. So kind of going back to the beginning. And this idea around how we, how we run reports, or how we get to the metrics, kind of going back to that, it’s often the last consideration in most organizations, projects, you know, if they’re standing up a new database, and new med info system, you know, new tools for the for the field force, it’s often the last thing, and then suddenly, you realize you didn’t set the system up in a way to allow you to capture the data you wanted to get, or you didn’t set it up in a way that was going to allow you to bring that data out and put it where you wanted it to be. So I think it’s think about it early. You know, think about it from the beginning, make those outcomes, you know, really part of your early planning for how you set up those tools and processes and things like that?
Garth Sundem 18:08
And is that how you see insights being implemented in the real world? You know, I can imagine that, you know, on Tuesday, we have a meeting and we say, okay, we’re doing insights, management. And there we go. Or there’s organizations that say, you know, a year from now, we’re going to have a well planned insights management system. Are you seeing people building the airplane as they’re flying it? Or is planning and then implementation more of the structure? You’re saying?
Nate Capone 18:37
Yeah, I think I’m seeing both. I know, I mean, we’re kind of doing both at the same time. I mean, at the end of the day, you know, senior leadership is always asking for, you know, tell me about what’s going on in the last quarter, right, they want to see what’s going on. So a lot of times that requires us to analyze the data and report back. I mean, what I can say at organization is we’ve decided to take a more strategic approach and really build out a multi year plan, you know, really starting kind of what what Callum, describe, describe, starting with the end in mind, it’s like strategically, like, what type of data do we want to capture? How do we want to capture? What do we want to analyze? And how do we want to get out of that? I mean, there’s some very minor basic things that I’ve already seen in our systems that are potential issues. And I’ll just give you a quick example our MedInfo team, we capture the inquiries in about 40 different languages. Now, most NLP tools can access text in a single language, and often that’s an English based NLP tool, as I look at our medical information database, but 55% of the data’s in non English. So now we have an issue such that we can only leverage less than half of data from a from a sort of topical insight standpoint using NLP. So that’s something, you know, we had the database in place, we had processing place around that, and that’s fine at the time. But now as we move down this sort of more topical insights, path, using NLP will now we have to think about, well, what are you going to do about this? You know, we have 55% of the inquiries in non English, but now we need to get them back into English and you can do that. But again, it’s it’s sort of an example of thinking about the end in mind is, you know, if you’re going to analyze text, do you know everything? Do you have all your requirements lined up, understand what it’s going to take to do that?
Garth Sundem 20:41
So it’s a great example. Yeah, go ahead, Callum.
Callum Hawes 20:44
Yeah, no, I was just gonna say I had a, you know, just to perspective on that what you mentioned earlier around, you know, hey, are organizations you know, building the airplane, while they’re flying it, are they starting with the end in mind, and those kinds of things. You know, it’s interesting, looking at maybe larger organizations with established MedInfo functions, or maybe, you know, organizations who’ve been doing this sort of thing a while, and then some of these emerging organizations. And now definitely the larger organizations, they’re likely to have the resource and maybe more of the budget. And, you know, the impetus to do this, but actually 100%, they’re building the airplane while they’re flying it because they have these big operations and programs they got to manage and the change management there, or that shift that they have to do to change process, or you know, how they manage some of this stuff is pretty enormous. But some of the smaller organizations, while they may have a little less budget or something like that, they’re pretty nimble, and they’re building these things from the ground up. And so they’re standing up these processes with kind of all of these new tools available to them right out of the gate. They’re not having to re engineer anything, they can actually start with that best practice. And with that in mind, so it’s kind of interesting to see that difference between some of these larger organizations, and then again, some of these more emerging commercializing organizations.
Garth Sundem 22:00
Nate Capone 22:01
Well, Callum, I think you bring up a great point. So we’re the bigger we’re in the big organization camp, right, where we’re doing both. But I think at a smaller organization, you are correct, the funds are limited. I’ve been in that situation before. However, with your enterprise tools at the moment, if those smaller organizations work in a smart fashion, a lot of times it’s going to be collaborating with the commercial colleagues or what have you. You can put enterprise solutions in place, and gain a lot of economies of scale and get this done on the cheap, essentially, you know, a lot of these tools are baked into, or at least some of them are baked into your IT infrastructure already. It’s really just turning them on in one way, shape, or form across the organization. Now, not all of them. But there are ways to do that. At least at a reasonable cost.
Garth Sundem 22:58
Yeah. All right. Well, and so maybe the answer is to do your planning to, to get these systems in place and how you’re going to report them as best as possible and then maybe evolve the airplane as you’re flying. Right, building it as you’re flying. But you, you get the darn thing built and you see how it’s flying and then you’re evolving it from there. One or two propellers. We’re adding adding a few propellers. Let’s leave it there for today. Thanks, Nate and Callum for joining us. To learn more about how your organization can partner with Veeva, visit Veeva.com. MAPS members, don’t forget to subscribe, and we hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”.
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