The podcast objectives are to:
- Discuss some of the common challenges Medical Affairs organizations face in offering best-in-class digital capabilities to its customers
- Offer some insights and perspectives both internally and externally to understand what opportunities exist to overcome these challenges
MODERATOR: Rishi Ohri, MBA, MS
INTERVIEWEE: Jonathan Davies, MSc
Following is an automated transcription provided by otter.ai. Please excuse inaccuracies.
Welcome to the Medical Affairs Professional Society’s Digital Focus Area Working Group’s podcast three-part series entitled “Typical Challenges with Moving Digitalization Initiatives Forward for Medical Affairs”. My name is Rishi Ori, and I’ll be the moderator for this podcast. I serve as a member of the Digital Focus Area Working Group. I’ve been with Astellas Pharma for the past 13 years, and I’ve been specializing and heading Digital Excellence within Medical Affairs for over six years. Our legal disclaimer states “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 presentation is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a legal or regulatory advice.” We encourage you to engage in conversations about typical challenges with moving digitalization initiatives forward for medical affairs with other MAPS members via community portal on the MAPS website. Simply login with the email address and password associated with your MAPS account and click on the discussion tab, then scroll down to the digital strategy section to post a question or review previous postings. The podcasts objectives today are to discuss some of the common challenges Medical Affairs organizations face and offer best in class digital capabilities to its customers, and also to offer some insights and perspectives both internally and externally to understand what opportunities exist to overcome these challenges. In today’s part two of three series, we’ll be discussing some key themes as it relates to digital strategy and operational excellence in moving digitalization initiatives forward for Medical Affairs. For today’s conversation, I’m joined by one of my leaders at Astellas Jonathan Davies, Vice President Operational Excellence Medical Affairs. Jonathan has been with Astellas for 17 years, he joined Yamanouchi in 2003 pre-merger in a Astellas Medical Affairs Europe, leading the late phase studies. He was with Medical Affairs Europe, from 2003 to 2013, and established the Late Phase Clinical Operations and Development Group. In 2014, he joined Global Medical Affairs heading up the Medical Operations function. Following the full globalization of Medical Affairs in 2017, he was made Vice President Operational Excellence heading up a number of key sub functions, including project management, planning administration, standards, optimization, quality and training and digital excellence.
Thank you, Rishi. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Thanks, Jonathan. And, you know, with all the buzz around digital, I often feel we’ve talked about this in the past, it’s an art and a science at the same time. However, to me, it seems to me that not everybody has the same understanding of what digital is and really what it isn’t. And more importantly, you know, from working together, what the promise that digital can bring to the organization and to help Medical Affairs. So, Jonathan, from your perspective, how do you define digital? And what do you see as the biggest challenge and also the opportunities in promoting digital capabilities from your experience?
Thanks Rishi, and that is a great question to start out with, and obviously, these tools are the real buzz word right now, I would say. And for me, of course, this tool is about technologies, it’s about systems, it’s about driving innovation. But I think it’s also about a lot more than that, I think it’s also about the cultural capabilities, the behaviors, the mindset changes, sometimes that organizations have to, to adopt to really establish digital and be able to talk and converse in a language that is, you know, that is prominent and digital savvy. And that comes with really establishing, I think, sort of stewards and change agents within the organization who can help promote that learning and understanding of that behavior change. For me, the opportunities are new are numerous, and I think you and I have talked about them extensively. You know, clearly, they’re enabling new channels for patients, online communities, improving access to critical information for some of our key stakeholders like HCPS and patients’ insights generation virtual capabilities, you know, I could go on and on the opportunities are many and diverse. And I think it’s also important to add something you know, that that the need to ensure digital innovation is tackled in a in a coordinated cross divisional way. What I think is a pitfall that that many organizations fall into is somewhat about approaching this in a siloed way. But I think it’s really important to, to tackle digital change in a coordinated, cross functional manner, because there are so many touch points that really needs to be understood and considered.
Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Jonathan. And it’s such an important point to know that digital, I think, is just something that’s part of our everyday part of our everyday job. And it’s not something that we just push a button, and it’s done. So, it’s important, and I appreciate your comments and your thoughts on digital. And you as we’ve, we’ve worked together for a number of years now, on moving these kinds of digital initiatives forward for Medical Affairs. We’ve worked closely together to develop a multi-year global Medical Affairs digital roadmap to really chart our journey and evolution of digital. What’s interesting is that in a recent MAPS survey in 2020, it really became evident that not all companies have this capability of a digital roadmap. In fact, more than 70% of the respondents reported they did not have this multi-year roadmap. So, Jonathan, what’s your thought here on this? And you know, do you believe it could be a useful tool in supporting and overcoming challenges to move digital forward in Medical Affairs?
Yeah, for me, having a roadmap is really foundational is a key component to, you know, to inform your digital strategy. And it’s key because it helps set the direction, the vision, and enables then the necessary business cases to be developed and move forward. Certainly, all organizations are under huge financial pressures. And I think having a roadmap allows effective prioritization of activities and digital projects. It’s also I think, important, and we’ve seen it in the last 12 months with regards to the global pandemic, it allows us to pivot and move forward certain activities that will perhaps maybe further down our roadmap, and we can talk about examples like ESL and virtual advisory boards that really the global pandemic has absolutely accelerated our needs to bring those capabilities to the organization. And also, with and I said before about budgets, but you know, there are limitations, not just on budgets, but also on headcount, to move some of these projects forward. So, having that roadmap again, allows for effective prioritization of projects and focuses on initiatives, which are likely to have most significant return on investments and impact to Medical Affairs and also to the wider organization.
Very true, Jonathan, and you know, even with a digital roadmap in place, as you mentioned, securing that financial investment typically requires a very strong solid business case, which really details the reach and the Medical Affairs’ value proposition. You know, some focus on the return on investments, competitive advantage, or maybe even a compliance gap. These are all important, in my opinion, and they have helped us focus on digital in engagement, as well as patient centricity, looking at Pharma from the outside in perspective. We’re all really challenged by these financial pressures, as mentioned, even some also have challenges with slow moving internal processes of governance or lack of governance, lack of resources, and especially those that have these Medical Affairs, skill sets and digital skill sets. Some describe that as a golden unicorn of some sorts. So, from your experience, Jonathan, from an operational excellence perspective, where do you see these roadblocks from your view? And how do you feel others can take a opportunity to address them and prioritize these challenges that are out there?
Yeah, again, a great question, Rishi and one that we are sort of grappling with at the moment. I think, you know, you talked about governance, and I think that is, perhaps a key stumbling block. And something that if we are looking to truly progress digital projects, it’s incumbent on organizations to have a degree of agility around the decision making and you know, where possible, to limit the layers of bureaucracy around getting endorsement and approval for these projects. Because technologies are moving so quickly and so rapidly that it’s important to be able to implement some of these projects as quickly as possible. I also think partnership, and I mentioned a little bit earlier on, but partnership with other divisions, for example, between Medical Affairs and Commercial, where we may be looking to leverage similar digital capabilities and provide that more seamless customer experience, is a very beneficial way to go and approach to take. And we are now looking to do more of that, because I think it does help build that sort of stronger and more solid business case. Elsewhere, I think, again, you and I have talked about this quite a lot of piloting digital capability. Sometimes it feels like a little bit of a leap of faith to go wholeheartedly into certain new projects or new directions. And sometimes, what we find that there may be pockets of the organization that have a really strong passion around certain areas that are able to pilot some of these capabilities, to then use those as real sort of learning experiences, and were seen as being beneficial, then really scale those up for success across the wider organization. And lastly, I would say, you know, we started off our digital sort of roadmap with perhaps more internally focused activities to build some of these foundations, but now really are shifting are focus on external digital engagement. And I think that is really a buzz area and excitement area for us and something that I think we will relish getting into over the next couple of years.
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s what Medical Affairs is all about that external engagement. Well, thank you so much, Jonathan. Very insightful feedback and a great, great discussion. And just wanted to highlight some of the objectives for this podcast were really to discuss some of the common challenges that Medical Affairs organizations face in offering best in class, digital capabilities to its customers, and also to offer some insights and perspectives both internally and externally to understand what opportunities exist to overcome these challenges. This has been the second podcast in a series on Typical Challenges with Moving Digitalization Initiatives Forward for Medical Affairs. The first two podcasts were brought more from an internal MA industry expert perspective. However, in our last and final podcast, we’ll be discussing these topics with an external expert consultant, Ethan Dabbs from Boston Consulting Group. He will be able to glean some strategic insights and will inform our journey of implementing digital and Medical Affairs. I really hope you’ll join us. If you’re a MAPS member, thank you for your continued support of MAPS. And if you’re not yet a MAPS member and would like to access to additional resources in this area and consider membership please do visit the MAPS website and exploring at www.medicalaffairs.org/membership. This concludes the podcast.