Category Archives: Blog

Medical Information delivery – navigating legislation and language

You may remember that I play lacrosse, not well, but with enthusiasm. Last weekend was  a game weekend, the teams played sixes. The teams have thirty seconds to score, then the ball changes hands

It’s fun, it is fast, it needs someone to manage the clock. That was me. Sadly, it was cold, it was raining, and the trackpad on the computer I was using was not registering my frantic taps, or the computer would freeze, or I would lose the window, and as it was not my computer it was tricky. The experience reminded me that even simple tasks can be daunting when you are under pressure to perform, you are not familiar with the material, or you are cold and wet, or in an unfriendly environment. Reminder: when judging substandard performance always consider the context.

Today’s topics:

  • Medical Information delivery – navigating legislation and language
  • Optimising content localisation: balancing global, regional and local requirements
  • The essentials of effective program management
  • Leadership: Diagnose then treat

Medical Information delivery – navigating legislation and language
Leading international pharmaceutical firms with a presence in nearly every market typically offer all customer services in the local language(s). However, many mid-sized or smaller companies, particularly those focused on orphan indications,  do not have the resources or global reach necessary to provide every service in every local language.
This issue is particularly pronounced in departments like Medical Information, which provide scientific responses to unsolicited queries. Here, the dual requirement for responders to be both scientifically knowledgeable and native speakers significantly compounds the challenge
While it is reasonable to anticipate that information provided to customers is provided in local language, this expectation is not widely found in legislation, perhaps because national legislators historically took this for granted.  This absence challenges companies to identify bespoke solutions for each market that are compliant, financially viable and pragmatic, while also meeting customer needs.
Solutions to the challenge should consider the business significance of each market, now and in the future and factor in a company’s product portfolio, pipeline, upcoming launches and anticipated market presence and resources.
In markets with lower inquiry volumes where scientifically trained native speakers are unavailable for direct customer interactions translation services often bridge the gap. Translators can be utilized to assist on calls, provided stringent quality checks are in place, or queries can be addressed in writing in the local language.
Key take-away: A market specific, strategic approach to providing scientific information on medicines to customers in line with codes of conduct and national legislation, as well as business considerations, is important.  Language is just one factor.

Optimising content localisation: balancing global, regional, and local requirements
“We never use the global materials, because they don’t work in our market” I have heard this many times. The amount of energy expended in generating materials that are not used in local markets is immense. Content is generated, slide kits are shared, yet often, either due to perception or reality, the materials generated by global teams fail to hit the mark.
Sometimes this is because global teams operate in a silo, sometimes it is because the needs of smaller markets are not taken into consideration, sometimes it is because speed is in focus and materials are produced in isolation, and sometimes processes describing the adaptation of global materials for use in local markets are not outlined and systems to manage these documents are not implemented.
Despite the difficulties in achieving harmonised content, the rationale for centralised generation of content is easy to understand. When it works, there is an increase in efficiency, in effectiveness, a reduction of effort expended in markets, and no reinventing the wheel. With the exception of necessary content adaptations for example to ensure adherence to local legislation and the local label, or in some cases translations of content, local teams can focus on market engagement, instead of on content creation. As customer engagement is led by local teams, and engagement preference varies across markets, the format of content provided by global teams should be flexible to accommodate different audiences, stakeholders, and modalities.

The rationale for a harmonised look and feel across company materials also makes sense as many physicians interact with multiple product teams from the same pharmaceutical firm. Furthermore, especially for companies that are active globally the provision of disparate information from market to market looks unprofessional.
While teams often lament the loss of individuality when faced with centralised content generation in reality written content only represents a small part of a relatioship between a pharmaceutical company employee and the stakedholders she engages. ^While “the science is the science” personal engagement, scientific conversations, and relationship management, is provided by individuals hence customers benefit from the best of both worlds a personal touch, individual conversations focused on science and harmonised scientific materials.

Key take-aways: An optimised approach to content benefits all stakeholders, by freeing resource to provide value where it makes a difference

The essentials of effective programme management

Programme management is the coordinated management of multiple projects to achieve the desired outcomes. As the programme lead, you are the conductor of an orchestra. Using this analogy, ensure that everyone in your orchestra knows what instrument they are playing and when. Each section of your orchestra has a leader, for example, the first violin, with responsibility for that section. These are your project managers and sometimes working group leads, depending. Limit the size of working groups so that they remain functional and can make recommendations. Select participants judiciously.

Ensure that everyone’s eyes are on you so that efforts are coordinated. The orchestra is the operational part of your programme. Beyond the operational teams, you also need strategic leadership. The manager of your orchestra, who manages the business aspects of your programme, where you will play next, etc. The strategic team manages the big picture.

In pharma, this means having a steering committee of senior leaders. This is a small team that does not get involved in operational aspects; they are your sounding board, manage other senior stakeholders in the organisation and are accountable for final decisions and the overall direction. While programme management is simple, in theory, often projects gain momentum and complexity, as aspects that were initially forgotten are added in later.

Key takeaway: Effective programme management depends on clear roles, coordination, and strategic oversight to ensure the desired outcomes can be met.

Leadership: Diagnose then treat

 “How many of you in here are CEO’s?” the presenter asked. The video panned to the cowed looking audience, some of whom raised their hands, the presenter said, “you have to be willing to fire your best person, if they are making others unhappy”.

This video is being widely shared and liked on social media.

A word of caution, in my experience, in a dysfunctional team, firing one person, doesn’t solve the underlying problem. It looks easy, but it may not be the right thing to do.

What struck me, more than the presenter’s words, however, was that he was so forceful, that I felt physically uncomfortable just watching a recording of him in my office.

This made me wonder, what if the team leader, or the CEO, is the person everyone is afraid of?  How would you know? Who would tell you? Would you care, and how would you act?

Key take-aways: A leader is also part of a team and influences the team dynamic. Always diagnose then treat.

Reminder, Sign up for the panel discussion  on digital islands and AI on April 24th

Don’t forget to sign up for the panel discussion on digital islands I will be joined by Wolfgang Schwerdt and Peter Shone, both experienced data scientists. All information in the link below.

Sign up for the panel discussion on April 24th at 2 pm GMT, 3 pm CET, and 9 am EST: “Are you stranded on a digital island in a sea of data?”

I hope my blog provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Isabelle C. Widmer Russia 2006

Data dynamics in medical affairs and sign-up for the panel discussion on digital islands!

The world is a riot of colour, cherry blossoms, crocus, bluebells and daffodils, green shoots, blue skies, and  more hours of sunlight every day. There is a lot of promise in the air. Spring is here, greeted every year with a sense of joy and wonder.

Another event that occurs annually is in preparation: The DIA Medical Information conference, which this year will be held in September in London. Remember, the meeting stays relevant and interesting thanks to your participation. If you have an idea for a submission, please don’t hold back. If you need a pep talk, reach out!

And now some news, something that has not been here before: I will be running and hosting my very first panel discussion with my company. I have done many of these but none without the support of conference staff. Please find the link below!

Today’s blog topics:

  • Medical affairs: unlocking insights and exploring data dynamics 
  • Medical affairs: the benefits of collaboration
  • NEWS: Upcoming panel discussion on digital islands and AI
  • Leadership: Remember to lead with compassion

Medical affairs: unlocking insights and exploring data dynamics 

In 2019, I conducted a survey on the interconnectedness of all things, systems, knowledge, and people in medical affairs. I asked individuals how they manage data, communicate across geographies, and ensure that different teams in the medical affairs sphere, think medical managers, medical directors, medical science liaisons, medical information and beyond, are aware of key information about products, key clients, and services. The survey was global and shared with biotech, pharma, and device manufacturers. Eighty-five respondents shared their knowledge.
I asked questions about collaboration across teams and geographies. I inquired about processes, systems, and platforms, as well as whether regular meetings to share data are held and  all processes are described in SOPs and WIS. While almost 50% of respondents reported having meetings to share information across functions, these meetings were mostly on a case-by-case basis, and the approach to information sharing was not described in SOPs and WIS.
When asked to identify the biggest challenge to collaboration and data-sharing across teams, respondents selected the following (multiple responses were possible):

  • Lack of knowledge about potential data sharing areas (85% of respondents)
  • Lack of shared processes (90% of respondents)
  • Lack of common platforms (80% of respondents)

While AI is often discussed for analysing data within systems, it’s crucial to acknowledge that without proper processes in place to identify and manage data, capitalising on its potential becomes challenging. Furthermore, the absence of common platforms poses a technical obstacle, compounded by variations in taxonomies and ontologies.
In conclusion, many hours are lost in generating new information or reinventing the wheel. With constant reorganisations in the pharmaceutical industry, managing this situation is more important than ever across the board, teams, and geographies.
If this topic is of interest to you, stay tuned for a follow-up survey. I am curious to see how the field has evolved.
Also, consider signing up for my upcoming panel discussion on digital islands here.
Key take-away:
 You don’t know what you don’t know.

Medical affairs: the benefits of collaboration

In the survey mentioned above, beyond asking team leads how they collaborate, what they collaborate on and what processes are in place, I asked them to outline how collaborating across teams, e.g., Medical Directors/Medical Managers, Medical Information, and Medical Science Liaisons, had improved how they work. The precise question was: “What have been the benefits since you started collaborating with other teams?” The answers included: faster identification of issues/opportunities in the markets (65% of respondents), harmonised medical affairs strategy at a local level (63% of respondents), insights from other markets to help us anticipate market needs (58% of respondents), and also, especially relevant in these times of constrained resources, sharing resources has freed up capacity to do other work (41% of respondents).

One respondent said: “From a global perspective, the benefits are better alignment, more efficiency, more room for innovation,” and another stated, “Collaboration helps us anticipate our customers’ information needs.” It is easy to imagine the downstream benefits of these outcomes of better collaboration, for example, better resource management, better customer satisfaction as customers’ needs are anticipated, and enhanced in-field effectiveness, all of which have a positive impact on the business.

Key take-away: cross-team collaboration can add huge value in medical affair through  efficient resource utilisation, reduction of reduplication of efforts and the ability to address topics as they arise ultimately leading to better business outcomes. 

NEWS: Upcoming panel discussion discussion on digital islands and AI

So how about managing data on Jersey then?” a lawyer in the financial sector asked me at a panel discussion I hosted on digital islands last year. Jersey is an island located in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. I suspect he was disappointed to discover that the islands we focused on were entirely virtual.

I am delighted to share today that I am finally hosting my first virtual panel discussion on digital islands, also virtual, with my company elytra – very real!

I have been speaking at conferences for years, and managed many panel discussions, in this context, but I have always had a hankering to host my own. Now, finally, thanks to Krystal Ellison, who supported me in all things technical, my first panel discussion is here!

I will be joined by Wolfgang Schwerdt and Peter Shone, both experienced data scientists and sailors, so perfectly placed for the subject matter.

Sign up for the panel discussion on April 24th at 2 pm GMT, 3 pm CET, and 9 am EST: Are you stranded on a digital island in a sea of data?”

Come prepared to have all your questions answered.

Key takeaways: My first panel discussion is upcoming, it would be fantastic to see you there.

Leadership: Remember to lead with compassion

During the pandemic, there were many discussions regarding how teams can function without face-to-face interactions and in a state of fear and lock-down. A friend said “I tell my team that not being ok, is ok”.

There were discussions about self- care, how to achieve balance and rituals people put in place to work remotely. The truth of the matter is that many teams work remotely, pandemic or not. However, now the world is back to normal, I anticipate that some of the great ideas people had about managing pressure, or insights about remote working have been lost and forgotten amidst daily work and busy lives.

During the pandemic I put this question to Medical Affairs Leaders  “What has this extreme experience taught you that you are grateful for? How will this knowledge serve you in the future as a leader, or in your personal life?

The five responses I share below are as relevant for today’s world as they were in 2020. regardless of how you are currently engaging with your teams:

  • “Support, empathy and understanding are essential as a manager and be real”
  • “Personal and professional life are intertwined. Each person will react differently as these pieces alter”
  • “To get the best out of people individual circumstances and personalities must be taken account of” 
  • “As someone who would have been a big proponent of a WFH model, I now understand the benefits of working together. I can now also see the importance of trusting your team and giving them flexibility as appropriate to work around their lives”
  • “Some of us may have placed work/company as our driving priority in life. This experience reinforces that professionalism is vital to career success, but relationships outside workplace provide a critical source of connection”

Key take-away: Communication, empathy and trust are crucial when leading teams, regardless of the set-up.  Beyond this, understanding your needs,  striving for balance and self-care are also essential for you to be a strong leader. 

I hope my post provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Upcoming Digital Islands and AI webinar, and Leadership: you are not a shark!

This week is the Medical Affairs and Scientific Communications meeting MASC in Orlando. Pre-pandemic I was a regular attendee.  I love the meeting, connecting with old colleagues, many of whom have become friends,  and hearing what everyone has been up to. I am sad that I will miss it this year, and up until Saturday, and even this morning; I was thinking I could just hop on a plane and fly to Orlando. However, having just emerged from a four-month long course on Artificial intelligence that absorbed most of my evenings and weekends, upon reflection, I decided to pause. Find out why in today’s last topic.  

Today’s topics:

  • Upcoming Digital Islands and AI webinar
  • The secret to unlocking the promise of AI
  • Pharma excellence and the rest of the world
  • Leadership: You are not a shark

Upcoming digital islands and AI webinar

A potential client recently asked me “can you find this data for me online or generate it? I think we may have it in system in house somewhere, however, I have no idea where to find it and I don’t have the time”. Unfortunately, many individuals in pharma companies face similar challenges even today. Luckily, often when I am asked to help with this type of challenge, I have a good idea of where and how to find the data that is needed.

When I joined pharma I remember being fascinated and frustrated by the plethora of systems: a clinical trial management system, a customer relationship management system, and as one person told me when I asked them how they managed physician interactions “outlook”.  KOL speaker engagements were managed in another system. Response documents were on SharePoint, as were documents on education and each affiliate used their own tools, standard response documents, customer engagement materials, sometimes based on global documents, sometimes, officially based on global documents but unofficially custom written for local markets “because the global documents won’t work in my market”.

Each affiliate had their own tools. standard response documents, educational documents, training documents etc. Large companies that have existed for many years developed systems organically with each market implementing tools and processes as needed. While we have moved from physical to digital storage, somehow, the mindset of keeping data in siloed systems and thus restricting access to certain teams, remained. Happily, in the past 30 years companies are overhauling the “data in silos landscape” the key driver has been to increase efficiencies.  However, teams faced with historical data in historical systems, still struggle with data marooned on digital islands.

If you want to make the most of your data, whether that is to identify key topics of interest to your customers, understand patterns of engagement, unlock opportunities, analyse customer engagement, identify great clinical trial sites or you want to generate insights across different systems and markets tune it to a complimentary webinar I will be running on the 24th of April at 3pm CET. 

I will be joined by two experts in the field, who can share insights across space, time, and industries:

– Wolfgang Schwerdt, Senior Data Scientist and Project Lead at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who has a PhD in econometrics and has worked on predictive analytics at United Health Group’s Optum Analytics overseeing the development of health condition prediction tools, as well as  in Fintech and on the European Central Bank’s Centralized Securities Database infrastructure and who has been engaged in digital and AI projects for the past 20 years.

– Peter Shone, currently Chief Technical Officer at iEthico, who has been engaged in data science with a passion matching mine, for many years before the topic became fashionable. His knowledge is incredible, spanning decades and leadership roles across industries. He was Global Vice President at Rolls Royce and Chief Technical Officer at Parexel and was engaged in the intelligence sector.

I am a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. If you are too, then come learn from industry experts with experience spanning pharma and healthcare as well as other regulated industries such as banking and aviation. And the intelligence secto. Join us for a panel discussion and lively Q&A to explore how we can help solve your current challenges.

Key takeaway: Jumpstart your data analytics journey! Join my free webinar on April 24, 2024, at 3 pm CET to question cross-industry data science and AI experts.

The secret to unlocking the promise of AI

Spoiler alert – it is a very simple secret that I have been advocating for at least twenty years.

Four months ago, I signed up for a no code AI course. My weekends and evenings since then have mainly been dedicated to studying. My motivation? To experience MIT faculty in action, to engage with passionate peers, to acquire the ability to build my own models and to be able to intelligently discuss the difference between AI and Mary Poppins, as the two are frequently confused by hopeful individuals.

The course reminded me just how much I love data. After four months, many  video lectures, several models built, much frustration, and three project submissions for different AI topics, all with perfect scores, of which I am surprisingly proud, I have finally reached the end. While the course wasn’t at all what I had dreamed of it served its purpose. I have acquired new ways of thinking about data, modelling, and websites and which I can use to support teams to better profit from their data, cross-functionally.  

While I learned a lot – too much to pack into a simple text, I want to share just one simple secret to unlocking the promise of AI. Before you do anything with your data, understand its strengths, weaknesses, and gaps, try to identify complimentary data that could be useful, do a preliminary analysis and then identify the best approach to working with that data. It might be AI it might be something else. Either way, according to course trainers, and my extensive experience working with data, 75% of the time spent on any data project, and that includes AI model building,  is ensuring you start with sufficient, clean and well-prepared data.

Key takeaways: Considering AI? Ensure it’s the right tool for the right purpose at the right time. Verify data quality, secure necessary resources, and avoid rushing the process.

Pharma excellence and the rest of the world (ROW)

Anyone, who has worked in the pharmaceutical industry, will have come across the expression ROW (The rest of the world). In more recent years, a more universally acceptable synonym has been adopted: Ex-US or International.

Whatever your naming preferences are, it is important if you are planning to launch your products in markets outside the US, that you consider the local cultural and legal realities of Ex-US markets. These include understanding how country healthcare systems function, what the local regulatory requirements and expectations are, how best to engage with healthcare professionals (HCPs) and non-HCPs, and how international reference pricing works, which will influence country engagement and launch sequencing.

Then there is language, you cannot necessarily expect to engage HCPs in English in every market, or indeed one type of Spanish across different Spanish speaking markets. On the one hand language abilities vary from market to market and between physician specialisations, on the other there may be regulations requiring local language use. Cultural norms and market maturity play an important role when dealing not only with customers but with government healthcare bodies too as do the rules for engaging with patients ex-US.

Finally, if you are a company that is starting out, and you are planning to expand from the US, you need to consider appropriate resourcing levels to deal with the local specificities of the rest of the world. While in the US you may be able to work with a small footprint initially, thanks to homogeneity, in other parts of the world you will need more resources to navigate heterogeneous populations, with potentially more than one language per country, and different cultures. In this situation it is worth considering partnering with an organisation that already has a footprint.

Key takeaway: In conclusion,  what works well in one geographical region will not necessarily work well in another geographical region.

Leadership: You are not a shark 

Sharks die if they stop moving.

This is in fact not true. However, it is true, that humans don’t do well if they never stop to think, to breath to pause. 

I have learned that when I feel compelled to quickly do just one more thing, I stop instead. Hence, when I contemplated buying a ticket to go to MASC on Saturday morning for a quick there and back trip to Orlando, I stopped myself. Because I realised it wasn’t the best thing for me to do right now. 

When I feel the desire to make a fast decision, I will take a walk, read a book, make a phonecall, ride my bike and I will revisit the topic a few hours later or the next day. If someone is awaiting a response, I will let them know that I am reflecting. However, I have also realised that there is generally no need to feel pressure to respond immediately.  I have come to prefer a good answer to a fast answer.  I am always surprised at the many different solutions that present themselves as I mull things over, and at how effortlessly a final approach I am happy with takes shape.

Key takeaway Slower is often faster. And sometimes slower means stop.

I hope my post provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.
My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Dating scout

AI anecdotes from the clinic

Today marks the first day of Fasnacht in Basel. A three-day event that starts with the  Morgestraich, a magical moment. Imagine a silent, sleeping city, all electrical lights have been extinguished, then suddenly at 4am, the sound of flutes and drums erupts from every medieval street and square in this beautiful city, as small groups of costumed people illuminated by painted lanterns march slowly through the city and the 13th century houses appear to dance in the flickering lantern light.  

Today’s topics:

  • AI anecdotes from the clinic
  • Counting widgets versus value add
  • Do less sooner 
  • Leadership: In times of uncertainty lessons from Basler Fasnacht

AI anecdotes from the clinic

As a student I typed up radiology reports. We had standard text blocks available for all reports. The radiologists would dictate the patient’s name and date of birth and “normal thorax x-ray” or “normal female abdominal ultrasound” for example, and I would enter the corresponding, pre-prepared text-block into the letter template. Documents were ready in minutes.

The potential for AI to improve access to healthcare and healthcare provision is immense. Many authors believe that AI solutions will enable physicians to spend more time with patients. Intent on reducing staff and improving productivity many clinics are implementing AI solutions for admin type roles. In disciplines where training material is plentiful, such as radiology, successful implementation is comparatively straightforward.

However, not all fields lend themselves equally well to AI support. An oncologist shared her experience with me recently. Instead of human admins the team is now supported by a voice to text functionality. While, she said, AI works beautifully for standard content and communications, it is underperforming in her specific setting. There is huge variability between patients, there is a lot of data for each patient and a wide array of available treatment regimens as patients progress. In this specific setting the performance of the voice to text functionality is poor. The oncologist now spends a lot of time proof-reading and correcting the output. Her request for human admin support has been turned down.

It bears saying again. Tools need to be picked to suit a task. AI is a tool not a magic bullet. AI models need  training and training depends on large data sets. The more diverse and complex your content, the more content you will need to train your model successfully and the longer it will take for your model to perform successfully. In the situation above, implementing a solution that is not fit for purpose, and saving the cost of an admin, is ultimately costing the clinic more, as highly trained oncologists revert to performing admin tasks.

Key take-aways: Implement AI wisely, understand your use case, validate your assumptions with your end-users, check whether your solution is performing. Remember it is an iterative process.

Counting widgets versus value add

Widget definition: The word widget is a placeholder name for an object or, more specifically, a mechanical or other manufactured device. It is an abstract unit of production. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “An indefinite name for a gadget or mechanical contrivance, esp. a small, manufactured item” and dates this use back to 1931  (Wikipedia).

In my time I have milked cows, sold eggs door to door, worked in a vegetable and fruit packing plant, washed intestines in the slaughterhouse for later use by surgeons to practice their technique and worked in a clothes factory. While there was no financial need for me to do these jobs I was driven by the desire to be financially independent as well as the curiosity to experience as many different life situations as possible. While at medical school I tutored nurses, worked as a nurse aide, and typed medical reports. Wildly disparate jobs – but they all had one thing in common: my productivity was measured in units: days, hours and egg cartons sold. The last one was made sense and I found it rewarding.

Measuring productivity in units is still pervasive in many industries including pharma, where incentive bonuses are concerned, and targets are defined depending on metrics such as how many  customers a sales representative saw, the number of times an MSL spoke with her key opinion leaders, the number of physicians attending an advisory board etc. or where team performance is measured by the increase in numbers of customer contacts, the speed of response provision, or how many documents were created in the past three months, I think it is worth reflecting in each case, whether the measure used makes sense, what is being measured and whether there are better alternatives.

The truth is that assessing performance by unit is easy, but not necessarily meaningful. The question should not be “how many physicians did a rep/MSL etc. visit this year?” – but “were the interactions useful to our customers?” and “what information will tell me whether stakeholder engagements were meaningful and added value?”

Key take-away:  Time is precious, health care professionals are busy, your employees are talented and valuable, make sure you pick meaningful metrics to measure the value add not the time on task. 

Do less sooner

“You need to do less sooner; you’re always doing too much, late.” – Ray Hunt
Ray Hunt’s wisdom extends beyond horsemanship, to leadership, relationships, and business. The underlying principle involves anticipating situations before they arise.

In the pharmaceutical industry, success hinges on a profound understanding of stakeholders, markets, prescribing practices, reimbursement, and regional nuance. Effective product development requires well-designed clinical trials and clinical endpoints that are relevant to patients, healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities, and payers across geographical locations. Customer engagement relies on comprehending stakeholder needs and partnering with the right clinicians and hospitals in a meaningful way. The outcome includes establishing a brand that adds value,  trusting relationships and the foundation for the correct clinical use of medicine.

However, knowledge generation is resource-intensive and is often challenging to directly link to a financial return on investment. In the current economic climate, most organisations are prioritising cost savings and emphasising activities clearly linked to income generation. Unfortunately, this focus often results in reduced budgets and personnel in areas seemingly unrelated to income generation which may prove detrimental to the business in the long term.

Happily, while it is hard to link knowledge acquisition and generation directly to financial gain, it is often quite easy to correlate operating in absence of sufficient knowledge to a financial cost. This provides  an avenue for framing budget requests. Most non-commercial teams submit proposals focusing on the aspects they consider business-critical:  improved compliance, safety, customer engagement, efficiency, effectiveness, customer satisfaction, launch-preparedness, clinical trial recruitment etc. It is essential to highlight  the potential financial impact if a situation is inadequately addressed as the costs can be astronomical. Therefore, I recommend: “do less sooner to avoid doing more later and the risk of major upheaval in the long term.” If you’d like to discuss, give me a call.

Key take-away: Old English saying “a stitch in time, saves nine

Leadership: Leading in times of uncertainty lessons from the Basler Fasnacht

It is Fasnacht in Basel. The event is anticipated with great joy by people of all ages and has been documented since the 14th century. The city is filled with the sound of flutes and drums and marching bands. Small groups of costumed locals march together, playing the same carnival tunes year after year. Children run joyfully through streets that are covered in flowers and confetti. Everyone is welcome to enjoy Fasnacht or join one of the many groups organizing it. There are roles for artists, with many large lanterns hand-painted each year, as well as opportunities for poets, writers, musicians, and those wanting to participate by carrying a lantern or walking ahead of a clique.

Restaurants are bustling, serving the same meals every year, and most of the city’s inhabitants participate in some way. Interestingly, while Fasnacht embraces tradition, including traditional costumes, food, wine, and music, along with poems following a specific style and lanterns adhering to certain rules, a key focus is commenting on current affairs. Participants select a subject and then design costumes, write poems, and paint their lanterns with this theme in mind. Topics may include recent events like the pandemic, the World Economic Forum, NATO, international, national, and local politics or even the British Royal family.

During periods of uncertainty and upheaval, both globally and within the rapidly evolving business landscape, individuals seek comfort and stability in rituals and tradition. Basler Fasnacht is particularly interesting in this context; while firmly rooted in tradition, participants leverage this foundation and stability to comment on current affairs. I think there is an important lesson here for leaders guiding teams through uncertain times.

Many companies have weathered numerous changes over the years, and it can be worth emphasizing that, while the company has fundamentally changed over time, it has also endured and that there is thus a more stable foundation than individuals may perceive at any given moment.

Additionally, establishing fixed reference points for your team in the workplace can help them navigate dynamic environments. Basic practices, such as conducting weekly meetings, with a consistent format and focus, at the same time and in the same location, can provide employees with a reassuring sense of stability. This becomes especially crucial when companies undergo frequent reorganizations and reimagine teams, reporting lines, matrix organizations, and other structures with very loose boundaries

Key takeaways: In times of upheaval, implementing certain fix-points and regular practices, can help provide stability and support teams through change.

I hope my blog provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help? Find out what clients say about working with me via this link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Fabrice Prost, Morgestraich 2024

Good science

Knowledge is the most addictive drug. As my AI course concludes I’m thrilled by how the acquired knowledge is expanding my perspective. My mental library now contains guidance on how to apply concepts such as decision trees, random forest and bootstrap aggregation to name just a few. What makes me happiest, though, is that what I have learned is universally applicable to life. The concepts, above all pruning, can be used to address any topic. This puts a big smile on my face. 

Today’s topics:

  • Science is not a religion
  • Normal distribution
  • NLP and customer engagement
  • Leadership: Appreciation and the value chain

Science is not a religion

Science is the pursuit of knowledge based on data. Good science requires an open mind, curiosity, and the humility to accept that what is true today may not be true tomorrow.  Great science, like coaching and consulting, requires us to be at the same time insatiably curious, and at ease with not knowing.

I have a medical degree, postgraduate training in translational research, was a postdoctoral fellow at the NCI, NIH. I have a diploma of advanced studies in pharmaceutical medicine, and trained in bioethics, personalised medicine, data analytics, market access and executive coaching among other things. I have worked with mRNA and DNA, designed plasmids, purified proteins, injected them into rabbits, and harvested antibodies. I still feel guilty about the rabbits. I have nurtured cell cultures, stained tissue sections and worked as a clinician treating patients. Then came the pharma years working in various roles locally, regionally, and globally. For the past ten years I have consulted and coached. I have a broad range of experience and training across disciplines, cultures and countries and an excellent memory and naturally all that  feeds into everything I do.

Yet, I think,  one of my biggest strengths, beyond being a pretty good cook,  is to be comfortable saying I do not know. I need more information.

I am prompted to write this, because I am concerned at how binary our world is becoming.  Especially in healthcare conversations, in many fields, there is the right path and the wrong path, the believers and the doubters. However, science is not religion. It is a data-based discipline based on current knowledge.

In science, and medicine, we can say “we do not know, the experiments have not been done yet, or the data is inconclusive”, we can say “this is current best practice, or this is my working hypothesis” we can even say, and as a scientist I really used to hate this, “we will treat the patient with this protocol, but we are not sure why it works, but we know it does”.  

In almost every situation the truth is expressed well by that sentence found at the end of every scientific publication “further research is needed” or in my words “science evolves“.

Key-takeaway: Science is data driven, biology is not binary: never or always have no place in scientific discourse, beware anyone who suggests otherwise. 

Normal distribution

I have always loved normal distributions. They apply to every area of life. Your general practitioner, your mechanic, or of course yourself. In a conversation with an HR professional many years ago, I was told that I am excellent at my job and highly productive, which seemed like a compliment, until she said “you do it on purpose to make other people feel bad.

Writing about it now makes me smile. My response centered on normal distributions  “There is a range for everything, where people sit within a range is generally just where they sit, it is not for or against anyone else”. 

Key take-aways: 1) Normal distributions are valuable when reflecting on everyday life situations  2) Not every piece of feedback you receive is valid 

NLP and customer engagement

I think about data. All the time. I always have. About different ways of using it, assessing it, benefiting from it, and using it to improve customer service. Since doing a No-code AI course, I have more ways of thinking about it.

One task we were given was to imagine an industry that could benefit from natural language processing. The first example that came to mind was the airline industry.

As a frequent flyer, I have engaged with airline helpdesks frequently over the years. I will read the FAQs, engage with the chatbot, wait on the phone for hours, and finally end up writing an email. The companies take weeks to respond. Often, the response is not helpful. I have never found the answer I need on the FAQ lists. Imagine, if an airline company categorised customer enquiries by financial impact, importance of customers, and whether a customer had tried to find the answer online. Imagine, if the company then assessed the customers complaints for keywords and hot topics and performed sentiment analysis on the text. And then imagine if they finally mapped out the key topics starting by order of business impact for example, enabling them to identify internal process improvements, update FAQ lists, and automate FAQ responses to submitted enquiries e.g. instead of the typical, we will get back to you in 2 weeks, sit tight, there might be more meat on the bone. In addition, knowing that customers reviewed online FAQs but still submitted an enquiry, will help identify which FAQs need revisions, updating or writing.

A well implemented system would improve resource use, reduce customer frustration, increase the value of phone conversations, when they do occur, and improve processes flows. Oh, and save copious amounts of money.

Imagine the improvements you could achieve if you could do that in a pharmaceutical company. Implementing new solutions is resource intense and whether it is feasible depends on many factors, if you wanted to investigate it from the business side, I’d love to discuss with you.

Key takeaways: Everything evolves, and new solutions are being born every minute.

Leadership: Appreciation and the value chain

As a consultant I have the pleasure of being involved in projects often from strategy to implementation. I stay in contact with teams after a project is finished and so I generally know how things went after I left.  I derive great satisfaction from seeing a plan come to life, from solving complex issues, and from my client’s appreciation for my support on the journey. Recently a client recommended me to a friend, which is the highest compliment a consultant can receive.

Most individuals are motivated by a mix of the following: a job that is meaningful, knowing where they fit in an organisation, the opportunity to grow, seeing that they have added to value creation, recognition, appreciation, praise and financial recompensation and titles.

While I do not believe it is a leaders job to motivate their team to do a good job, I do believe it is a leader’s responsibility to create an environment where employees can thrive. This includes ensuring employees are connected to the value chain, so that they understand, how the work they do benefits the company and the teams objectives as well as celebrating individual and team contributions. 

As a medical student I would manually assess all the EKGs that had been done the day before, I would put them in the resident’s cubby holes, that evening I would do it again. After a week I stopped. A resident said to me “why did you stop; you were doing so well?”. I said, “well there was no feedback, no training, I didn’t know if what I was doing was useful or not, so at some point I didn’t think to continue”.

Key takeaways: individuals who know that the work they do adds value, and why, are likely to find ways to do it better while being intrinsically motivated to contribute

I hope my writing provides you with useful insights if you have a project you need support with or are interested in coaching, please contact me to discuss whether I can support you. To find out what clients and coachees say about working with me, please follow this link.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: NIH

The co-evolution of healthcare provision and the pharmaceutical industry

A snowy and sunny start to the year here, hopefully you too are off to a good start, despite the global challenges ahead.

Todays blog topics:

  • Healthcare provision is changing, does that change pharma’s stakeholders?
  • Thoughts on Medical Information online resources
  • When a pharmaceutical company is a central point of contact
  • Leadership: The future of remote working

Healthcare provision is changing, does that change pharma’s stakeholders?

Historically pharmaceutical companies focused on research and development, producing medicines, providing information on these products, and closely engaging with physicians to discuss the science, run clinical trials and to develop new products.  Physicians were provided with access to all the information they needed, ensuring, that patients receive the right medicine at the right time. Physicians engaged with patients and pharmacists monitored and filled prescriptions which in turn were reimbursed by the insurance companies. 

However, how healthcare is provided is changing across many markets with historical roles being relaxed and a broader range of individuals engaged in providing healthcare services. 

Key drivers of the change include financial pressures on healthcare systems, insufficient numbers of healthcare professionals in primary care in many markets, and the evolving role and emancipation of patients in research and development. Additionally, patient expectations have changed. Most patients now want to discuss their treatment options, rather than simply being informed of the next steps. Also, used to 24/7 access to services patients are increasingly expecting expanded access to healthcare services and products. This is possible thanks to the internet, and companies providing content online, and telemedicine, which experienced a surge in acceptance  from patients and physicians during the pandemic and is now commonplace. But not only “the what” and “the how” have changed, the key players “the who” have also changed. 

Who provides care has changed. In emergency wards a nurse may admit the patient and perform a first triage of the waiting room. This used to be the remit of a physician. And today, in many countries basic healthcare services, including some vaccinations, blood pressure tests etc. can be provided by a pharmacist and some pharmacists  also provide access to a telemedicine service in their pharmacy. In Switzerland, prescription only medicines can be provided to patients, without a physician’s prescription, at the discretion of a pharmacist, reducing the pressure on emergency services.

As authorities around the world navigate how to provide healthcare to patients, while stabilising costs and reducing pressure on healthcare professionals, pharma companies may need to review their stakeholder engagement approach. And perhaps authorities may reflect on whether there is any value in giving the pharmaceutical industry an expanded role in providing information on medicines with the aim to reduce  pressure on front-line healthcare professionals and improve care. One example might be this: Why hospitals should adopt a Medical Information approach, an article I wrote in 2022 (link) .

Key takeaways: As systems change stakeholders change. Are you ready?

Thoughts on Medical Information online resources including PhactMI and MILE

The internet has changed everything. Patients consult the internet, or ChatGPT, before they consult a physician, and many arrive at their doctor’s practice seeking confirmation, and potentially a prescription, for a condition they have self-diagnosed. 

Medical Information experts have long been concerned about patients being exposed to erroneous medical information online.  This concern prompted collaboration among pharmaceutical industry Medical Information professionals, leading to the formation of two organizations committed to ensuring stakeholders, both patients and healthcare professionals, can access up-to-date and evidence-based drug information. In Europe: Medical Information Leaders Europe (MILE) and in the US the Pharma Collaboration for Transparent Medical Information (PhactMI). 

The idea behind MILE and PhactMI is compelling: provide stakeholders with a single location where they can search for product medical information and then route them directly to the manufacturer’s medical information website, provided the manufacturer is a member of the association. Where the pharmaceutical company is a member the solution provided by both MILE and PhactMI is great. The links directly to the medical information site of the manufacturers are excellent. Where companies are not members their products do not appear, however, so that, for example, a search for a monoclonal antibody on the MILE website returned a single  product from a member company, instead of the many results I was expecting. In this situation, it would have been nice to have a pop-up on the search page reminding me that only member company products are available via MILE. This information can, however, be found elsewhere on the website.  My search in the PhactMI self-search database for the same monoclonal antibody, in combination with “use beyond progression” returned a document for the same product as on the MILE site,  again, only the one, and the use of filters. 

These two hiccups aside, both MILE and PhactMI are evolving and growing. They provide many excellent free materials, provide publications and links to other resources on their websites. In addition, they provide access to a great Medical Information expert network. If you are a Medical Information professional it is worth exploring the MILE and PhactMI website and potential membership if you do not yet know them. 

Beyond MILE and PhactMI in most markets regulatory authority websites provide healthcare professionals and patients with some product specific information. In fact, some markets have extensive product specific offerings in place. In the US the FDA provides information for patients and consumers via MedlinePlus “an easy to use resource for the NIH with side-effects, dosage, special precautions and more for prescription and OTC drugs”. 

If you are looking for a holistic European resource for product information the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has a brilliant site. Their website provides access to information, on medicines for human use, medicines for veterinary use and herbal products that have been approved centrally across the EU. In addition, for products that have been authorised for use only in certain member states, links to national registers are provided. The database is searchable and provides access to the European Public Assessment Reports, which are “specially written to be understandable by patients and members of the general public” and are shorter versions of the full document EPARs that are written for health care providers (link). 

In summary, there are many sources of product specific information. The challenge for non- healthcare provider customers is, that if they don’t know exactly what they are searching for and where to find it, they are unlikely to find and identify a reliable source amidst all the offerings online. 

Key take-away: There is a lot of medical information available online. Make finding and accessing your content easy for your customers.

LillyDirect: When a pharmaceutical company coordinates healthcare

How healthcare is provided and how customers access information is changing. In this context, the LillyDirect website in the US, which is designed as a “one stop solution” for patients with diabetes, migraine, and obesity, is fascinating.

The website states “LillyDirect can be your connection to care. With many services and resources to explore, LillyDirect can help you find care that works best for you.” Using the site patients can find independent healthcare providers for telehealth or face-to-face consultations and order their Lilly medicines directly from a pharmacy. 

All activities are coordinated on one website. The provider states  “LillyDirect is designed to offer simple, direct options for independent online and in-person care services so you can more easily start and stay on your treatment plan for the best results”. From a patient’s perspective managing one site instead of many is compelling. From a company perspective supporting visitors to transition from interested viewer to diagnosed patient that is potentially treated with Lilly products is obviously interesting. From a company perspective, supporting visitors in transitioning from interested viewers to diagnosed patients potentially treated with Lilly products is also obviously interesting. Possibly of even greater relevance is that through offering this service Lilly gains insight into consumer behaviors across target groups of interest and various touchpoints, derived from their usage of the website and the connected services.

Key take-away:  Healthcare access and provision, data use and capture and how pharmaceutical companies and customers engage are co-evolving.  

Leadership: The future of remote working

There have been many discussions on remote work since the pandemic. Some companies have permitted their teams to keep working from home; however, many companies have returned to mainly on-site work. Ultimately, it depends on the type of team you are managing. For co-located teams, the benefits of having them working on site at least some of the time, are obvious. For international teams, who dial in to teleconferences, either from the office, or from home, the benefits are less obvious, especially as these team members often dial into calls late at night or very early in the wee hours of the morning. 

 A recent article from Forbes Advisor looks at remote work statistics and trends in 2024 (link)

Personally, I believe in assessing performance based on productivity, not by hours spent in front of a computer.  I also believe that a manager should know which of her team members is working and productive and which team members are less productive, regardless of where they are seated. 

Key take-away: For remote working there is no one size fits all.

I hope today’s post provided you with useful insights. If you have a project you need support with, or are interested in coaching, please contact me to discuss whether I can support you. To find out what clients and coachees say about working with me, please follow this link.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Markus Frieauff

Navigating the digital landscape

I hope you have had a wonderful holiday and are back full of energy.

Today’s topics:

  • Content strategy: navigating the digital landscape
  • How to make it easy for your customers to access digital content
  • Google trends and beyond – why context is key
  • Leadership: coaching considerations

Content strategy: navigating the digital landscape

In today’s digital era, providing content digitally is a necessity. The challenge lies in providing content in a way that ensures it stands out, and is accessible.

To add complexity, customer expectations and needs, and market-specific governance vary by location and culture; different customer types—patients, pharmacists, general practitioners, etc.—have different content needs.

At the recent DIA Medical Information and Communications Meeting in Brussels Dana Weber, International Digital Marketer and Katie Lewis, Vice President, both at Transperfect, shared recommendations for digital content provision. Dana suggested asking yourself: “What are HCPs looking for and do I have that information on my website?”

  1. Search approach: unveiling customer insights
    Search and social listening tools identify the type of content customers access online, and frequently used platforms. Data collected on company and competitor products provides insights into preferences and behaviours which vary from country to country. Dana suggests: Checking whether your company FAQs align with the terms that clinicians are using in their online searches.
  2. Surveying customers: Bridging the online-offline gap
    The types of questions asked online often differ from those made in direct calls to Medical Information teams. Understanding the drivers behind these behaviours can help companies tailor their online/offline content strategy. Surveys with healthcare professionals (HCPs), and patients can be conducted to gain insights into their content access preferences.
  3. Strategic placement of content: making information accessible
    Once you have identified the type of content your customers require you must ensure that it is easily accessible in the right format and in the right location.

Susan Mohamed and a team representing the Medical Information Leaders Europe (MILE) published an article providing guidelines for Digital Information provision for Healthcare professionals in March 2023 (Link).

Beyond the above approach Dana Weber added that market insights and competitor analysis help refine content strategy.

Key take-aways: In the world of online content, understanding your clients’ needs, monitoring content use and performance, and tailoring your content strategy accordingly, is critical to be relevant.

How to simplify access to digital content for your customers

It’s universally acknowledged that product-related content should be tailored to different customer types and accessible through their preferred channels. In addition, diverse customer types may favour distinct channels, and various inquiry types may lead to different contact methods, as outlined in the previous post.

However, even when you have taken all this into account, and identified key topics, formats, channels, and strategic content placement, the battle is far from won. The performance indicator for the success of the digital content provision is whether your customers access your content. It helps if you make it easy for them.

Here are some considerations from my consulting practice:

  • Transparency: Clearly communicate to customers on the website what information they can expect to find online and for which information they should contact the Medical Information department directly.
  • Consistency: Having a consistent approach across the entire company and products and teams regarding the type of information that is shared, which channel it is shared by and a harmonised format. Remember, customers engage with your company as a whole, they don’t think in individuals, in products or in individual teams, consequently, an approach that is not harmonised does not look professional.
  • Professional and fast platform: having a good platform that enables fast, easy, and efficient navigation to search for content
  • Fast access to support: If customers cannot access content online, provide them with the option to submit the query directly, without retyping the entire content of their request, or to transfer to a live chat, a video call, or to leave a phone number for call back. Don’t make them have to change channels, i.e. pick up their phones to call customer service themselves.

There is nothing more frustrating than performing online searches only to discover that certain information is not available online or not available to certain customer types at all.

Key take-away: Make customer access to your content easy, you would be surprised how often it is not.

Google trends and beyond – why context is key

Discussing how Google Trends can provide insights into healthcare professional’s medical information search behaviour online, a presenter said “people put information online all the time, it is important to take inventory of this information, to understand the needs of different demographics, avoid the temptation to ‘boil the ocean’ by conducting initial assessments to verify hypotheses.”

She went on to share a surprising revelation based on her research regarding content searches for a certain product. According to Google Trends, most questions submitted in Germany were in English. Asked about this she smiled saying: “Google doesn’t lie”. Upon reflection she mused: “Does it?”. This experience highlights something important: data analytics are valuable, looking at trends is critical, but interpretation must always be context dependent.

Depending on the type of healthcare professional you are interested in, their area of expertise, geographical location, and international exposure, they may search for medical information and product-specific details in either English or their mother tongue. If you want to ensure you understand your target audience, understanding whether what you observe is the complete reality, a subset of available information, or something else entirely, is crucial.

Key takeaway: If you are analysing global trends for your products, cross-check your data with local teams, who know the local market, and who can potentially question your insights.

Leadership: coaching considerations

Most employees have had many assessments and have benefited from coaching. Typically, at the beginning there are the tests: Myers Briggs, Insights, Belbin, DISC etc. as well as 360° feedback from colleagues and superiors. The information gain from these activities is significant, but although each approach brings valuable information to the fore, most of these tests identify what is, what is seen, what the coachee knows and what others observe and experience.

While there is undeniable value in having the information these assessments provide I believe it is also important to explore what is underneath.

I find that taking verbal communication out of coaching enables coachees to access their emotions, their experience, and their situation differently.

We are raised in a culture of language. We think, we write, we communicate using words. When coachees work with drawings, constellations, and other non-verbal approaches to review the “what is” it is easier to strip away superimposed narratives and enables relatively access to what is at the core of a situation. Frequently, new insights and connections rapidly emerge, often to the surprise of the coachee.

Key take-away: Often a non-verbal approach to coaching can bring surprising insights.

I hope my blog provides you with useful insights if you have a project you need support with or are interested in coaching, please contact me to discuss whether I can support you. To find out what clients and coachees say about working with me, please follow this link.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo Credit: Errol Ahmed @unsplash

Merry christmas, the “one thing” and why to go beyond the annual review

Merry Christmas to you, may you and your family experience the peace and joy of the season.

Today’s topics:

  • Speaking a common language
  • My year in review and the case for a five-year review period
  • What is your one thing?
  • Leadership; Why to invest in self-knowledge

Speaking a common language

To be native to a place we must learn to speak its language,” this chapter title from the book Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, caught my attention because it is also true for individuals in teams and in companies.

This is important when trying to solve a business problem and it is often at the foundation of issues that are obstacles when teams want to solve problems.

As a team leader, when you are trying to solve a challenge with a team, for example when you are trying to implement one process, one content, one approach, one way of working, reflect on whether you are imposing your language on your team, or whether you are open to developing an approach with your team. The latter takes longer, but is, I believe, the only way to be successful.

When transformation efforts fail, it is often because the message was not universally clear and understandable. This makes the change feel forced, almost foreign, increasing the risk of eventual rejection.

Key takeaway: often the inability to achieve a collective understanding in a company derives from a lack of awareness of the different languages spoken in the organisation and lead to failed transformation efforts. 

My year in review and the case for a five-year review period

Many of us set ourselves annual goals and, at year-end,  focus on what was not achieved rather than on what was. I propose that assessing where we were a few years ago, compared to today, is a more meaningful measure of change. Reflecting on 2023 and prior years, I see patterns emerging. My speaking engagements have increased both online and in person, the breadth of the work I do has increased, how I work has changed and my network has expanded also. While my passions remain constant how they emerge in the work I do is undergoing an evolution.

In previous years, I have spoken in person on medical information and medical affairs meetings and at online events on topics “Driving Digital Excellence in Medical Affairs: Delivering Seamless and Personalized Customer-Centric Experiences” with Transperfect, “Why Biotech startups fail” with Nanobotmedical, and on education, careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and career strategies for young women at the invitation of the HBA and Transperfect.

In 2023, while my pet topics, equal access to opportunities, education, health equity, data husbandry, and data analytics remained, I spent more time on stage than online.

I led a panel discussion at the Connect in Pharma event, in Geneva, with the title “Marooned on a digital island in a sea of data?” We will rerun this topic as a Q and A session online in January 2024. I also took part in a panel discussion on “Inclusion, equity, and women in pharma” at the same event. My interest in both topics stems from the same driver: the tendency of companies to not make the best use of available resource and talent. In the case of data, because nobody knows that it exists, where to find it, if they suspect it exists, or how to access it depending on location and format. In the case of human resources, because change is uncomfortable, and the fact that ability, talent, and leadership skills are not determined by genotype or phenotype is still making its way into people’s heads around the world. I also spoke at the EU DIA medical information meeting in Brussels on “Designing your Medical Information Set-Up – Considerations for Medical Information Teams” focusing more on how to transform your business and how to collaborate with others in your company, than on subject matter expertise, and ran a workshop on “medical information set-up and strategic considerations”.

As a physician who cares about health equity, and as a trustee for telemedicine charity the Virtual Doctors, I was thrilled to participate in a panel discussion on “Tech for Good in Healthcare and Wellness” together with charity representatives from the British red cross, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and mental health app Stigma. I also took part in a podcast on global healthcare equity in the Igniting Change series (Link).

Beyond speaking at events and engaging with peers, I also invested time listening and learning, taking classes in constellations and systemic coaching, psychotherapy, and psychology as well as in artificial intelligence. All of which benefit my work as coach and consultant.

In my work, I have supported the design of a telemedicine application, helped teams to structure their global medical information set-up, and to ensure that the information flow in the company benefits the business, worked with coachees, and engaged with a software company on their product development.

And finally, I am co-authoring a publication on social dreaming during the pandemic. Contact me if you want to know more about this, it is fascinating. 

Beyond learning, sharing, and working I have also improved dramatically at living in the past five years. This is perhaps the biggest change I see. I make sure I see friends and family regularly. I prioritise the people in my life because events in the past year reminded me that you never know how much time you have with the people you love, or to do the things you wish to do, and that you cannot get that time back.

I realised that I did more in the past year, and over the years, than I was aware of, and I see that I am doing more of the things I love.

Key takeaway: In order to chart your progress it is worth going  beyond the annual review. 

What is your “one thing”?

I recently had a wonderful lunch with a consultant. There was  scintillating conversation, laughter, common ground, and insights. The following statement stayed with me: “The teams I work with know their daily business better than I do, of course, but there is one thing I excel at: Transformation.”

My lunch partner continued “Why am I better at it? Simply because I have years of experience across companies, teams, and industries. I know what works; and I know what does not.” The energy,joy and obvious truth, in this phrase were infectious, extremely relatable and they still make me smile.

The conversation also made me realise I know the one thing I excel at. Do you know what your “one thing” is?

Key takeaways: There is power in knowing your “one thing” and power in knowing when to complement it with additional expertise.

Leadership: Why to invest in self-knowledge

Today I came across an excellent publication by Simon Western. It is called “An overview of the leadership discourses.” The article speaks about how the vision of the ideal leader has changed since the beginning of the twentieth century from leader as controller, to leader as therapist, to the current leader as messiah, where the desire for a charismatic leader/messiah is widespread in the face of uncertainty.

Simon Western states in his article “Individual leaders, leadership teams and organizations rarely consciously choose their preferred leadership discourse as these are hidden within normative behaviours and expectations. However, they are drawn to discourses for various reasons.” If you do not read the article, then remember this quote.

While you can read about leadership styles, you can reflect, and you can try to model yourself on a current ideal, yet the type of leader you are and become, is profoundly influenced by your history, your experience, your culture, your background and your self-awareness etc. Therefore, to shape yourself as a leader, it is important to know what influences you.

A musician practices their instrument, an athlete their sport. As a leader, or manager or any other professional, you are your asset. You are your instrument, and knowing who you are, who you are not, and what the conditions are within which you will thrive, will allow you to consciously choose how you lead, your life, your team and yourself and ultimately to live a life that is in congruent with who you are.  

Key takeawayKnowing where you want to go is excellent, but in order to chart your path, you need to know yourself, your tools, your resources and how to adapt them to the path ahead. 

Thank you for reading, wishing you a wonderful festive Christmas season and a great end of the year, and start to 2024. I look forward to catching up with you in the new year and discussing how I can help you reach your strategic, operational or personal personal goals.

My best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo credit: Fabian Mardi @unsplash

Season’s greetings

I hope you are finishing up your last tasks, watering the plants on your desk and looking forward to shutting your computer down for the year. I hope there is time with your family and friends ahead. Snowball fights, or beach sojourns, and some time to relax, and to recover from the peak level activities that always seem to mark December. As this is my Christmas card post, or holiday season card, for those of you, who do not celebrate Christmas, I only really want to share a personal message to all of you, who read my blog and who write to me with thoughts, comments and inspiration.

A personal message for you

Dear readers, friends, colleagues, and clients

You regularly read my blog. I know there is a lot of competition for your attention, so it means a lot that you take the time to engage with my content. I appreciate your responses, suggestions, and thoughts and I am always happy to hear from you.

This year has been hectic. While every year is busy, in this year, it seems to me, there has been more of everything. More business trips, more panel discussions, podcasts, speaking invitations, more training both in the coaching arena and in the technical space, and more volunteering too and more consulting and coaching work.

While what I have been up to is important, but the joy that I derive from it is also firmly linked to who I have engaged with. Most of the happiness in life derives from the people who accompany us on our journey. At this time of year, I like to reflect on the gifts life has bestowed on me and as I do so I want to share my appreciation with you.

So, today my message at the end of the year to you is one of thanks. Whether you are a friend, a colleague or a supporter, whether you are a coachee or a client I have worked with, or someone who has recommended me to others, whether you send me comments on my blog or subscribe to my newsletter or are a friendly face I meet online or at conferences, I thank you for engaging and I look forward to next year when our paths will cross again.

I wish you all the best for the upcoming holiday season and all the best for 2024. Much joy and relaxation with family, friends and loved ones. Until we meet again.

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Isabelle C. Widmer London, December 2022

Improving collaboration across silos

Almost the end of the year and I am writing from London. Despite all manner of meetings I have taken the time to enjoy the lights, and they are beautiful this year. 

Today’s topics:

  • How to align and transform your organisation
  • Designing software systems for success beyond deployment
  • Why transformations linked to AI will lead to changes in pharma pricing models
  • Leadership; Want to improve your company culture? Plan for tomorrow but start today

How to align and transform your organisation

I recently explored Glassdoor reviews of pharmaceutical companies, specifically those left by employees who departed on positive terms. One standout comment praised the overall experience, opportunities, leadership culture, and colleagues. However, a noteworthy observation was made: “If teams didn’t operate in silos, the company would perform even better.”

Most large companies struggle with the “silo issue.” Fortunately, proven methods exist to bridge these gaps. When embarking on transformative projects, bringing together key stakeholders to agree on the mission and vision is a powerful strategy. This process helps align teams, fostering a shared goal. Even if you know where you are going, even when the business reasons are clear, it is important to remember that without people on board, you can do nothing. Whatever your project, whether it’s achieving a 360-degree view of the customer to improve service, harmonising processes, or sharing resources to reduce the duplication of effort, once teams realize that collaboration will ultimately facilitate their jobs and magnify their collective impact, any project will become much easier to manage.

Key Takeaway: Emphasise common ground, encourage collaboration, and acknowledge the shared commitment to delivering the best solutions for customers.

Designing software systems for success beyond deployment

Imagine, you are a clinician in rural Zambia. You have a waiting room full of patients, you are the only provider for your community, and the nearest hospital is over 80km away.  You are also the first port of call for accidents and emergencies. Imagine further, that you cannot just pop into the next room to have a chat with a colleague about your patient’s health, because there is no colleague in the next room. There may not be many rooms in the building in fact, beyond your surgery.

This is reality for clinical officers providing healthcare in rural communities around the globe. The Virtual Doctors, the charity I am involved with as a trustee, provides virtual access to “a colleague in the next room” through technology. The charity’s  telemedicine model links clinical officers in rural Zambia and Malawi to UK volunteer doctors who can provide a second opinion or guidance in complex cases where specialist knowledge is required.

The reality of a healthcare professional in Zambia and Malawi may seem to have no relevance for your daily life working in the pharmaceutical industry, however, I believe it absolutely does. When working you need to understand the reality of the teams you engage with, the challenges they face and what will make their working life better. If you have never experienced a situation, it is hard to imagine all relevant aspects, which is why engaging with experts is critical. This might be the expert in a different field down the corridor, it might be a commercial team based in Kuala Lumpur. Unless you talk to them about what their needs are you cannot hope to imagine what that market needs.

This truth is important in all areas of business and especially so when developing software tools for global use. The Virtual Doctors recently developed an app working with 3-sided cube, a tech company, that focuses on developing technology for good. The app needed to be fit for purpose, which considering where it would be used meant that it needed to be functional regardless of network access, i.e. on and off-line. Considering the time constraints clinical officers are under ease of use partnered with capturing sufficient data for case resolution was critical and the needs of UK based volunteer doctors also needed to be respected. In addition, it was important to understand the expectations of the Ministries of Health and local regulations in countries of operation regarding data use, data privacy and data storage location.

In summary, good software system design depends on many factors. User needs, user reality and the awareness that good design for a desk worker working on a stable network with multiple screens is not the same as good design for a field worker, who in the case of an MSL, or a sales representative, faces similar challenges to rural health officers. They don’t always have network access, they may be moving between clinics, they may not have much time to enter cases and they don’t necessarily want to scroll for a long time to enter the data.

I recently took part in a podcast hosted by 3-sided cube to discuss the Virtual Doctors, data, analytics and apps. If you are interested to hear more about the charity you can find the link to the podcast here.

If you are looking to implement a new software system and need help balancing business and data analytics needs do reach out, I’d love to discuss, because helping companies to build systems that are fit for purpose while capturing relevant data for analytics and business growth is a passion of mine.

Key takeaway: the foundation of good system design is universal and factors in location, purpose, people, analytics, regulations and finally the available tech.

Why transformations linked to AI will lead to changes in pharma pricing models

As AI has become more widely embedded in business the healthcare sector has witnessed remarkable advances in the past decade. These breakthroughs have unlocked the potential for enhanced diagnostics, the creation of more precise and targeted medicines, personalized healthcare solutions, and faster product development. In addition, many companies across various sectors including those not initially involved in healthcare provision, are actively harnessing this potential.

As products become more efficiently produced, with a sharper focus on precision and very likely shorter time-to-market for new products, and as new entrants from diverse industries with different business models join the healthcare sector, bringing along different business models, the landscape is undergoing significant change. In addition the focus is moving from treating disease to preventing disease and product/diagnostic packages including digital healthcare solutions. 

Considering these new introductions and ongoing transformations, it is reasonable to anticipate that future pricing models will evolve and pricing might be linked to product “packages” rather than single products leading to new models in the provision of healthcare and a new approach to healthcare financing.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree? Disagree? Have additional ideas? Please share them with me!

Key takeaway: when one aspect of a system changes, it’s unlikely that the rest will remain static.

Leadership; Want to improve your company culture? Start today while you plan for tomorrow

Company culture influences productivity, your reputation, and how your customers view you.

The culture depends on the behaviour of individuals and how they engage with others. This is true for both the customer’s engagement lifecycle and an employee’s employment lifecycle. Whether a customer comes back, an applicant endorses the experience with your company, or people have fond memories of you and the company you work for, depends fundamentally on the following: Do you do what you say and say what you do? Are you consistent and honest, regardless of what you are communicating? Do you treat new hires, employees, and those you let go with respect? Authenticity is key.

People choose to work for individuals, they resign from working with individuals, and they perform, in the main, for individuals. In addition, they also care about the people they work with and remember if their friends are not treated well. Your company may have a wonderful mission and vision statement, but if these are not embodied, then your employees know. And if they are not embodied, there is likely a very good reason why.

So while you are reflecting on how to improve your company culture, what can you do in the meantime? Start with your sphere of influence. Do not endorse bad behaviour, even if it is practical to do so. Embody the qualities you admire; be a person you would want to engage with. You’ll attract top talent, retain it, engage customers, and foster loyalty among colleagues and teams. If you are in the position to do so, ensure that individuals are treated with respect whether you are hiring them, developing them, or letting them go. How you do this last one says a lot about you as a human being and a leader. As a leader, let the culture you want to see start with you. In parallel, assess where you are, assess the obstacles, and why these obstacles are maintained and who they serve, and decide on what you are willing to sacrifice for a better culture.

If you need support I have worked across organisations but also with teams and individuals to bring about systemic change.

Key takeaways: A good company culture depends on individuals respecting other individuals. I believe it really is that simple.

Thank you for reading. The end of the year is nigh. I hope you are winding down activities, getting ready to enjoy some time with friends and family and planning to recharge your batteries before the new year is upon us. If you are looking to solve an issue before the end of the year, or to get a foundation in place to prepare for next year, I’d love to discuss how I can help you either with your business strategy and operations or with your team and personal development goals.

Wishing you a wonderful festive Christmas season and looking forward to hearing from you,

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo credit: Isabelle C. Widmer, Carnaby Street, London December 2023