Medical Information – increase visibility by adding value

We are almost in the middle of the year so in today’s blog I am sharing my tips plus industry best practice examples and senior leader recommendations, to help you improve your day-to-day business practice including attaining better customer insights, adapting your launch planning approach, increasing the visibility of your Medical Information team and advancing your career.

Today’s blog topics:
– Beyond surveys – mastering the art of customer insights
– Launch preparation – harnessing data for market success
– Medical Information – how one team increased visibility by adding value in a new therapeutic area
– Managing your career – thoughts from senior leaders in the pharmaceutical industry

Beyond Surveys –  Mastering the Art of Customer Insights
Customer centric business practice depends on understanding customer needs. Surveys, interviews and capturing feedback during face-to-face visits can all provide insights, if the information is captured and shared. It is important that you pick the right tool for the job. If you do use surveys, make sure they are designed well. Vague questions lead to vague answers. Some tips:
General rules

  1. Select the right tool, to garner insights. Do you need interviews, a survey, another approach?
  2. Tailor questions for purpose, design your questions to meet your specific objectives to gain actionable information.

Regardless of how you engage with your customer, whether it is a conversation, a survey, market research or an advisory board, remember the following: 

  1. Value customers’ time by providing accurate time estimates and expressing gratitude for their participation.
  2. Avoid leading questions
  3. Prioritise open questions e.g., “What was your general experience? What did you like?” over closed questions e.g., “Were you happy with our service?”
  4. Be realistic about how many questions you can fit into a short time slot for conversations/interviews and for electronic surveys with open text fields make sure you don’t limit the number of characters. It’s hard to provide a response when limited by field size.
  5. Permission for follow-up, ask customers if you may contact them for additional information and insights.
  6. Leverage electronic communication, embed surveys into communications that contains the content the customer requested, this will increase participation and reduce the volume of emails your customers receive from you. 

One benefit of dispensing with electronic surveys altogether was highlighted by a participant at the open microphone session at last year’s DIA meeting. She shared, that the Medical Information team phones customers back to find out how happy they were with the information they received. She explained the rationale for this approach by saying “we already know customers are very happy with the service, and it was hard to learn anything new that will help us improve our content by using surveys, so we started to engage with our customers differently by phoning them to see what they thought of the information they had received.” While the approach involves work, the benefits include differentiated insights into customer expectations and needs, a better understanding of what excellent looks like in scientific communication and the possibility to identify additional topics of interest. In addition, Medical Information team members feel more connected to their customers and learnings are discussed in team meetings.
Key takeaways: Customer interview and survey approaches are often standardised. For deeper insights you need to tailor your approach.

Launch Preparation – Harnessing Data for Market Success
Teams hoping to launch new products successfully must understand the competition, the healthcare system, appetite and access to innovation in potential target markets, HCP knowledge of the disease, treatment paradigms, diagnostic capabilities, and patient demographics and patient journeys in order to tackle pricing and market access considerations, launch timelines and launch sequencing. 
Where companies have pre-existing relationships with physicians and are already active in a therapeutic area and market, the situation is relatively straightforward. However, companies launching their first product or companies launching in a new therapeutic area, launching the first product of its kind, or the first treatment in an indication where there was previously no treatment, face a truly daunting task.
Fortunately, information is often available not only from external data sources but also from in-house databases and in-house teams. For example, most companies subscribe to databases that contain information on Key Opinion Leader allegiance, engagement with competitors, patient demographics etc. across all indications and therapeutic areas globally. Unfortunately, commercial and medical teams are often unaware of these data sources and data can be tricky to find especially for individuals who are new to the company.
Consequently, it is often hard to use resources creatively, beyond their original purpose. However, data is use-agnostic.  For example: a bottle can be used to store liquids, it can also serve as a rolling pin, a paperweight, the shards as wall tile decorations, candle holders etc.  Similarly, databases, are generally subscribed to for one purpose, but the information they contain, can be used to inform projects in many different disciplines across a company.
So how do you find the data you need?
First: Check with IT whether you have a data catalogue. Like other indexing systems, a data catalogue will tell you what data is available, what its provenance is, how it is classified and where it is stored. I am unaware of a company that has company-wide data-catalogues, so you may need to be creative. Summarise what data you are looking for and contact the IT leads of various likely departments.
Second: Identify in-house teams that are specialised in researching, synthesising and presenting scientific data, for example Medical Information teams are excellent at this, and see if you can engage with them to collate the information you need.
Third: If your company doesn’t have significant expertise in-house, potentially, engage with pharmaceutical industry experts who can help guide you to find different data in your company and outside
Fourth: Market research has its uses, but use with discretion
Fifth: When you have identified source data, engage with your IT team, or external tech experts to help you “digest it”
If you are interested in finding data, data islands and utilising the data in your company efficiently, consider joining me for a panel discussion at Connect in Pharma in Geneva on the 15h of June. I will be joined by Peter Shone, Chief Technical Officer at Iethico and Wolfgang Schwerdt, who is on a mission at the ICRC.

Key Takeaway: The data you need is likely available in your company if you know where to look. Talk to your IT team and if speed is of the essence, then engage an external expert to help you identify what you need and where to find it.

Medical Information – How One Team Increased Visibility by Adding Value in a New Therapeutic Area 
Medical information teams are product experts, engage with customers, and often support legacy products that typically generate significant sales with minimal investment.  In this scenario measuring an ROI, which isn’t typically calculated for Medical Information teams, could be attempted. Unfortunately, stakeholders, who support actively marketed products often don’t know exactly what Medical Information teams do. 
However, knowledge drives pharmaceutical companies, and Medical Information teams are well placed to provide the business with insights once they know which gaps, they are uniquely positioned to fill.
At last year’s DIA open microphone session, a participant shared how her team branched out from focusing only on working with external customers to provide value to in-house teams.

“There was a new clinical study it was a new therapeutic area. Nobody in the company had any experience in this area. So, the medical information team offered to do desk research as we are specialists in this area. We provided a lot of information for our market. We identified KOLs in the market who had experience in the field. Where Medical Affairs team colleagues had specific questions, we would do detailed research to provide support in this area by providing in depth review of the literature and all the databases. Then we summarised everything and provided it to our internal Medical Affairs stakeholders”
Key-takeaway: Think like an entrepreneur: Understand your strengths, understand what your stakeholders need, offer to help them fill the gaps.

Managing your Career – Thoughts from Senior Leaders in the Pharmaceutical Industry
In preparation for a panel discussion on women in pharma, which will take place on June 14th at Connect in Pharma in Geneva, I interviewed several senior leaders in pharmaceutical companies. What I learned is applicable to both men and women.
First, know your strengths, so you can find an environment that will be a good fit. Follow your inner compass and don’t take a path even if you think it might be great for your CV unless you will enjoy the job. We do our best work when we are in the right place.
Additional Guidelines for career planning:

  • There are times to accelerate and times to maintain the status quo. For example, if you are a young parent, you are currently having health issues, or you have other things that are stretching you, it may be wise to sit out a promotion.
  • Name inappropriate behaviour immediately. If there is no change, or there is a system-wide tolerance of abuse, leave.
  • Seek out mentors early in your career.
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself, learn how to delegate and to accept that things may not be done how you would have done them.
  • Work in teams and on projects you are passionate about. If you chose an interim job where this doesn’t hold true, then use it as a steppingstone to where you are going.
  • Choose your battles wisely.

Key takeaways: It is your career, make sure you are driving the bus and avail yourself of any guidance available to you.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

If you would like to discuss a project you are facing from identifying your goals, developing your strategy or mobilising your organisation to deliver, or you want to discover your career trajectory, I am always happy to have an informal, introductory chat to see if I, or someone in my network, can help.

Best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer

Photo: Engaged
Isabelle Widmer, Basel