Nobody drives a Lamborghini just to get from A to B

I am hugely motivated by the recent DIA Medical Information and Medical Communications meeting in Barcelona. The conference was a success, the speakers shared excellent case studies, the audience was engaged, and it was a pleasure to welcome many newcomers to the Medical Information community. Today’s blog covers some of the topics raised by newcomers to the field of Medical Information.

Topics for today are:

– Introducing a new medical information service that adds value to your business
– Nobody drives a Lamborghini just to get from A to B or value is in the eye of the beholder
– Harmonising medical information in an established business
– Should I stay or should I go?

Introducing a new medical information service that adds value to your business

At this year’s DIA meeting, many representatives attended from companies that are just starting out the process of building a medical information function.

In the past, the medical information function was regarded as a necessity and implementation focused on meeting the requirements outlined, for example, in Article 98 of Directive 2001/83/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 November 2001 on the Community code relating to medicinal products for human use, which establishes the European regulatory framework regarding advertising, promotion and communication regarding medicinal products. Article 98 states: «the marketing authorisation holder shall establish, within his undertaking, a scientific service in charge of information about the medicinal products he places on the market».

EU member states have transposed the European Directive into regulatory requirements and local laws adding further specific measures, and in some cases, adding additional requirements for the delivery of medical information.

Nevertheless, the laws do not give precise guidance on how medical information services need to be implemented, giving companies a degree of freedom in implementation.

In my view, considering the flexibility provided by the regulations and a relatively standardised approach across the industry, setting up a medical information service, per se, is not complicated.

The question you need to ask yourself is, are you building a medical information service that will merely respond to customer inquiries, in order to “tick the box” regarding legal requirements, or are you building a medical information service that will add value to the business?

The investment to build either approach will be similar, but the return on investment if you implement a value-add approach, can be immense.

To build a simple medical information service you can work in a silo and implement: a team, a tracking approach, SOPs, standard content, training and reconciliation processes.

The outcome: a team that manages medical information enquiries from all stakeholders, a medical information tracking tool and data that is kept sealed off from any similar data.

If you want to cover the basics but also add value to your business, you need to adopt an integrated approach and implement a tailored medical information service. Medical information, along with drug safety and product quality complaint teams, are key teams that receive inbound communications and questions from the marketplace. Insights generated by these teams can add enormous value to an organisation. As other teams struggle to talk to physicians, the value of medical information increases.

To build a medical information service that will add value to your business, you will need to work closely with other stakeholders. Before you start implementing you will identify how you can add value. Things you can do include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Interview stakeholders across the organisation to identify their knowledge needs
  • Identify all IT systems that capture customer data and design an approach that allows integration of data across systems
  • Work with different departments across the business to identify synergies – e.g., for content sharing, standard responses, omnichannel use etc.
  • Identify key insights that medical information can help generate, that will help develop your business and improve the safe use of products as well as potentially highlighting areas that your business’ R&D department can address, potential gaps in commercial teams’ communication etc.

If you need any help in setting up a medical information service that is fit for purpose but also adds value to your business, please get in touch.

Nobody drives a Lamborghini Just to get from A to B or value is in the eye of the beholder

If the sole reason you own a car is so that you can get from A to B, you will never buy a Lamborghini, indeed it’s likely that you will struggle to understand why some people have to own one.

When we spend money on an item, it is because that item has a value for us, this is what leads us to spend a lot of money on an item such as a car, a designer handbag, a watch etc. despite the fact that an unbranded product would do the job equally well.

I once went to a furniture shop to buy a bookcase. I told the sales representative exactly what I was looking for. The next hour he showed me all the articles he had in his shop, sharing their unique selling points with me. He was enthusiastic, he loved the products, he would have bought them, because they met his requirements, however, unfortunately none of them met mine. I left the shop without a bookcase, the salesperson invested a lot of time in talking to me, but ultimately did not make a sale.

Medical information teams often lament the fact that the value they add is not recognised. I think the reason for this lies in the fact that each stakeholder group looks at value differently. There is a different discourse, or language around value. In medical information the discourse is scientific and medical information teams showcase the value they add by talking about the science or the customer engagement aspect. Frequent statements include:

  • We are the only team that speaks directly with patients.
  • We are the only team that manages inbound communication on our products from all customer segments.
  • We provide fair, balanced etc. scientific information in response to customer inquiries.

The challenge is that for commercial teams, for example, value is a financial term, and any activities are ultimately linked to a number. Value is thus described by terms such as:

  • Market access
  • Sales
  • Market share

The value that medical information teams can provide to an organisation can be framed in different ways. If you want your key stakeholders to understand your value, you need to adapt how you present the value you add.

Consequently, when speaking to commercial teams, reframe your activities to represent value in the eyes of commercial. For example, highlight that inquiries to medical information can provide:

  • Insights on the real-world use of a product and hence potential new indications
  • Information on product administration and ideas for improvements
  • Insights on competitor products
  • Insights on enquiries pre/peri/post product launch which can be used to support launches in further markets etc.

Ideally provide examples. If you do not have examples, consider mock-ups of graphs you could generate.

Key take-away: the value that medical information teams generate is not that they speak to patients, but what that means for your business.

Harmonising medical information in an established business

If you are working in medical information in an established business and you are tasked with harmonising the approach across the entire business, you will typically be faced with the following two principal challenges.

  • No two affiliates have an identical set-up regarding any of the following:
    Roles and responsibilities
    Tracking and computer systems
    Content generation
    Solution providers
  • Global and regional teams generally work in a matrix with local teams, hence, you will need to work collaboratively and cooperatively. Top-down approaches never work.

In order to harmonise your approach, you need to know where you are going, but you also need to know exactly where you are starting from.

My key recommendations for global harmonisation programmes 1) solid analysis of your status quo 2) key stakeholder identification and interviews 3) define mission and vision 4) be clear on whether you are implementing a “Tick the regulatory requirements box” Medical Information service, or a “Value-Add Medical Information Service” 4) build project teams to design, discuss and drive implementation of various workstreams 5) ensure you have a communication strategy in place

If you have any questions on any aspect of this approach, or want to share your best practice recommendations, I am always happy to have a chat.

Should I stay or should I go?

I have recently had a number of conversations with erstwhile passionate employees, who have lost their spark. In some situations a new manager, with a different management style, represents a challenge. In others, the organisation has been restructured, complexity has been added, new acronyms introduced, with, however, no obvious value add for the pragmatically minded. There are many reasons why employees lose their passion for the work they are doing, or the business they are a part of. At that point the question becomes «should I stay or should I go?».

In my experience, what causes distress is rarely the situation per se, but the feeling of being stuck in an unsatisfactory situation. The solution to this is not to make a fast move, but to start looking at the situation and reminding yourself that you always have choices. Some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is this situation the final straw? Or was I already unhappy before this new event? This is an important data point.
  • Is this situation taking a toll on my mental health?
  • Is the situation due to a mismatch of personalities or is it a difference in working styles?
  • What alternatives are there inside and outside my business?
  • Are these challenges I am facing unique to this situation or have I faced them before with other managers/employers?

In general, the longer you stay in an unsatisfactory situation, the more frustrated you are likely to become. An executive coach can help you explore your options, support you to find your next career opportunity or potentially, help you identify ways to transform a situation to your satisfaction. Especially in situations, where the challenges are due to very different personalities, your mental health is impacted or if you do not feel you are being treated with respect, I’d recommend engaging a professional to support you as you decide on your next steps.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. And if you have a challenging project or would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat.

Very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash