Tag Archives: medical information conference DIA

Medical Information: don’t get lost in transformation

After a week in Brussels, I am now happily back home.

Last week’s DIA Medical Information and Communications meeting was fabulous, we had more attendees than ever before, the event was a success from beginning to end, great shares, some wonderful new contacts and inspiring presentations.

It will take me some time to process it all but I will share my key takeaways from the meeting with you in future blog posts.

Today’s topics:

-Metrics and insights – a vending machine example
-Medical Information transformation – how not to get lost
-Business: Are you using tech to bridge or block your customers’ path?
-Leadership: effective transformations

Metrics and insights – a vending machine example

At the airport two vending machines stood, side by side. They were stocked with similar items, only one was full, and one was empty. Both machines are managed by the same company.

If the performance of the machines is monitored independently, with different teams involved, they might not connect the information. One team may overlook any issues with the fully stocked machine, or incorrectly conclude that stock is not moving, because of the location of the machine, or unappealing products, while another team, focused on the empty machine, could mistakenly attribute it to their superior product selection.

Both teams would be looking at simple metrics, trying to draw relevant business conclusions from that data set. This is a frequent occurrence in companies when data sets of interactions with the same customer group are not integrated and are assessed in isolation.

Wanting some water, I approached the machines. The full machine had the product I wanted, but it didn’t take credit cards. Like many people nowadays I rarely carry cash, so I couldn’t buy anything. Unfortunately, the empty machine didn’t have what I needed, so no sale was made, despite there being a willing customer with a credit card on hand.

The reason the vending machine was full was simple: customers couldn’t access the products.

Key takeaways: If you look at your data in isolation you can neither understand your business environment nor adapt your strategy to enhance your business. Metrics represent raw data, while insights emerge when you combine this data with your understanding of additional factors from diverse sources, revealing what truly matters.

Medical Information Transformation – how not to get lost

Last week I got lost between Brussels airport and the hotel. It’s embarrassing I know.

I hopped on a train. Because I was distracted by thoughts of my lost luggage and the conference ahead it took me a while to note that the train was speeding through open countryside. This seemed odd, so I asked a couple on the train to confirm my direction of travel. They confirmed that “yes, you are heading towards Brussels”. When we got to Leuven it became apparent that I was not.

As the next station was fast approaching decisions on next steps needed to be taken fast. Luckily another local helped me: he identified the stop I should get off at, the train I needed to switch to and which platform I would take it from. With little time to spare his help was invaluable in helping me course correct.

I used this example when talking about implementing changes in companies. Often the roadmap seems straightforward, the task appears manageable and the topics clear, whether it be the implementation of a new IT system, working with different cultures and languages, content revision strategies, cross-functional collaboration or any one of the other myriad topics that teams face when improving how they work.

However, even if what you want to do seems simple, if you don’t know the terrain it can be more challenging that you might imagine. This is why people hire guides and city maps have circles with “you are here” I have experienced this many times, the first time I take a route I ask for directions, and I still sometimes get lost, but once I know the route I can do it blindfolded at midnight.

Key takeaways: Even if you know where you are and where you are going, and you have a map to follow, if you haven’t taken the path before, you are more likely to get lost. Plan in extra time and budget and hire a guide if you don’t have the experience you need in your team.

Business: Are you using tech to bridge or block your customers’ path?

Last week at Brussels airport travelers clapped as their luggage arrived. It struck me then that we now celebrate things we used to take for granted.

While the world celebrates automation, and conference presentations are all about efficiency gains through digital means and the power of AI to improve things beyond recognition, my customer experience in the real world is often unsatisfactory.

Technological advances can be wonderful, provided they are used intelligently and they are used in conjunction with a customer service foundation that works. Unfortunately, often tech is implemented before processes have been improved in order to support it, or it is used as a barrier instead of as a bridge. A classic example is that new customers can always reach the sales team fast, while existing customers often struggle to reach anyone.

Beyond using tech as a barrier, companies often also use tech to provide services that do not serve the customer. A key consideration here is “just because it is easy and cheap to implement, and it keeps you in constant contact with your customer, it may not serve your customer and your customer can tell.”

Classic examples of services that do not serve include daily reminders that I booked a restaurant or that I will soon be staying in a hotel, or the invitation to download a hotel app so I can check in ahead of time, which, according to a colleague changed her check-in experience at the hotel not at all.

Ultimately what customers want is straightforward and identical across industries: a fast tailored solution to their problem without extra mental load.

I experienced an almost perfect example – Lufthansa put my luggage on a later flight, they sent me a text message telling me where it was and when to expect it, they also sent a link so I could register my delivery location. I was impressed. Only the app didn’t work, so I went to a service kiosk, entered all my data and then was told that delivery may take nine days. The gentleman at the kiosk recommended I pick my luggage up myself.

Key takeaways: Technological solutions cannot compensate for underlying system errors so ensure your business foundation is solid before you implement. Make sure whatever you implement works. Automation cannot replace a human connection, automate with care.

Leadership: effectively leading transformations

Last week during the DIA Medical Information conference I ran a workshop on operational excellence and strategic alignment. I provided participants with a tool to self-assess digital and harmonization maturity within their function and organization.

A participant said, “from the perspective of the global team we are fully harmonized and digitally mature, from the perspective of the non-global teams the situation is very different”.

The situation highlights something that happens frequently when transformation programs are run from the “head” downwards. If your head, or global organization, sees a goal on the horizon and decides that that is the destination, but the “body” and the “feet” and the “gut brain” of the organization, i.e. everyone else, is not informed nor involved in designing and charting the journey, what happens is the head believes that a change has occurred, because it has “thought” its way there, whereas the rest of the organism has remained exactly where it was before, growing disengaged and frustrated in the process.

If this is where you landed, the problem is, you may not even be aware of it. Also, if after a long time of running a transformation programme this is where you are at, it will take a big effort to get back on track.

Key takeaways: Good transformation programs take time, the involvement of all stakeholders and clarity of vision and approach. Be clear on how you will approach your transformation and ask anyone consulting to you or supporting you how they approach and monitor transformation success.

Thank you for reading, I enjoy sharing my thoughts and I love hearing what piqued your interest or any feedback. If you are currently working on a demanding project in the fields of medical, digital, systems, analytics, channels, or facing any team or personal challenges, feel free to reach out to me for a chat. I am always happy to explore how I might be able to support you.

Best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo credit: Isabelle C. Widmer – Airport Basel-Mulhouse

Brussels Med Info meeting sneak peek, presentation secrets from the African bush and why diversity matters

I am on the way to Brussels for the DIA Medical Information and Communications meeting, where I hope to meet many of you later this week. This year marks my 10th anniversary as a programme committee member and my 10th anniversary as an entrepreneur. Time flies and a lot has happened.

Today’s newsletter includes a variety of topics covering team building, startup-pitches and diversity, how to present and of course, as next week is the DIA meeting a sneak peek at what I will be talking about.I look forward to seeing you next week but if you cannot make it, then you can catch the webinar I will run after the meeting:

-Medical Information set-up considerations – pre Brussels DIA meeting sneak peek
-Great presentation secrets from the African bush
-Business: Why are there no women on your team?
-Leadership: A lacrosse captain’s team building approach

Medical Information set-up considerations – pre Brussels DIA meeting sneak peek 

At this week’s DIA Med Info meeting in Brussels I will share considerations for designing your Medical Information set-up. While the key pain points in Medical Information are common across companies,  there is no single solution that works for everyone. 

The top ten issues that leaders face when implementing Medical Information operations are, in no particular order: content generation and management,  language,  IT systems for content and query management, data management and integration,  analytics and insights generation, digital maturity, ideal operational set-up, local-global collaboration,  interdisciplinary collaboration, and to provide value to customers and demonstrate value add to company stakeholders.

While, as mentioned above, the topics are universal the solutions are always individual.

Considerations that I find valuable when designing a company’s set-up include the size of the company’s product portfolio, the geographies involved, key products, product life-cycle, company maturity, indications, target market size and key customer types, all of which can vary significantly depending on a company’s portfolio.

In the session on Medical information Set-up I will share how I approach the identification of a tailored set-up and I will provide a road map for the audience to use as a starting point for their personal journey. Later on participants can either expand their thinking further in a workshop with me on operations and strategic alignment, or, alternatively,  they can join Marie Luise Helmich to discuss digital topics or Sarah Dunnett to explore insights and analytics.

If you can’t come to the meeting but want to discuss set-up considerations, please contact me for a chat or stay tuned for my upcoming webinar on the topic.  

Key takeawayWhen considering your best Medical Information set-up, the challenges are universal but the solutions are always individual.

Great presentation secrets from the African bush and TED

As you probably know I am on the board of the telemedicine charity The Virtual Doctors. Each time I watch the founder Huw Jones speak about what led to the creation of the Virtual Doctors I am touched, even though I have watched the video many times.

In fact, Huw’s presentation is one of the key reasons I joined a charity that enables UK doctors to provide healthcare professionals in rural African communities with a second opinion. Huw’s presentation invariably makes me cry, but I could never put my finger on what was so special and impactful about it, until I recently read a book on TED talks.

Key elements of a great talk include a story that is unique to you, a message about something you are passionate about, a glimpse of your vulnerability as a human, and a journey you can take your audience on, allowing them to share your experience. Done well, it can be magical.

In Huw’s story a pregnant woman and her child died, despite his best efforts to help. The experience changed him forever, and it made him want to change the world, so that less patients would suffer from lack of access to healthcare. He founded the charity the Virtual Doctors and we are working on making his dream of better access to healthcare a reality one country at a time.

You can experience the story that changed Huw’s life and see what a fantastic talk looks like here.

Key takeaway: When presenting make it personal, share your passion and take listeners on a journey.

Business: “Why are there no women on your team?”

This was the first question a jury member and potential investor asked at the end of a pitch at the recent AI in Healthcare event in Basel, Switzerland. This is not the question you want at the end of a pitch where your goal is to raise money. The story highlights how much the world has changed.

Twenty years ago at a Roche event an org chart of a senior leadership team was presented.  All the leaders were men, all the administrative staff were women, the photos on the org chart made it really hit home.  It is the type of thing you notice when you are a woman at a training event for high potential future leaders. Times have changed since then and while women are still underrepresented in senior positions, they are now present. And it now matters. Investors male and female alike notice when your leadership team is all male. Female talent looking to join a company will assess the likelihood of being promoted based on your org charts. Even companies looking to partner with you will take note, because their shareholders also take note. 

It seems that while in the past our presence was noticed, now it is our absence. This is progress.

However, I have it from reliable sources, that even extremely senior women are sometimes still asked to take minutes in a meeting, until the men in the meeting have figured out they are not the admin, and many women I know, myself included,  have been deterred from buying from a vendor, bank, estate agent etc. because the salesperson we engaged with focused on our male companions assuming them to be the key decision maker and purse-string holder. 

Luckily, times are changing and in the younger generation the changing mindset is especially noticeable. At lacrosse training recently a friend’s teenage son, Tom, noticing that a male colleague didn’t pass me the ball, preferring to keep it and to score in a one man show, asked me “why did the guy you were training with not pass the ball to you?” The answer that was obvious to me “I am a female player, he worried that we wouldn’t score had he passed to me“, and of course I could be wrong, apparently did not occur to Tom.  

Key takeaways: 1) In business, diversity is no longer merely a “nice to have” because a lack of diversity and the awareness of the value of women as customers can hurt your bottom line in various ways 2) Many women control significant budgets, hold senior positions or represent a key potential collaborator, it is worth making sure your sales leads don’t dismiss them out of hand 3) When in a meeting where men and women are present, never assume the women are “tea girls”.

Leadership: A lacrosse captain’s team building approach

I have been playing lacrosse for a very long time. I don’t play particularly well, but I love it and it’s fun. Years ago, I was in a women’s lacrosse team. There was only a small group of players and a core group of close-knit regular players. Other players came and went but the team never grew and at some point the team disbanded and all the women, apart from myself, stopped playing.

At about that time, the club gained a new captain. He was convinced that a proper club should have both men’s and women’s teams. As there were no women left, apart from me left, he integrated the women into the men’s practice sessions.

He started a recruitment drive. He recruited the second female player while in a bar watching baseball. She has been playing for a year now, she plays with teams in Zurich, in Bern and in Germany. She is absolutely dedicated. She loves it. She is great and she has brought more people who in turn have brought others. We now regularly have 15 players in our weekly trainings. Considering that lacrosse in Switzerland is a niche sport and we have just come out of a pandemic this is a notable achievement.

So, what did the captain do to grow from a struggling group to a thriving club? Some things spring to mind. He is passionate about lacrosse. He is inclusive. He integrates younger and older players. He exemplifies a spirit of passion for the game but also for the team. He found creative solutions. He trains the team as one, we play together, we have fun together and there is a spirit of camaraderie and connection. He also uses positive reinforcement: when people sign up he celebrates; if they forget he reminds them. He doesn’t ever use negative reinforcement or control. When new players come he focuses on them, introduces them to the game and makes them feel welcome. There is no inner circle, there is no “clique”. It is one for all and all for one, or that is what it feels like.

Two years ago, I thought of stopping as I had torn most of my ligaments in my left ankle. I was worried about going back, because I didn’t think I could add much to the practice. Thanks to regular check-ins from the captain, and his refusal to delete my name off the player’s log, I felt encouraged enough and welcome enough to go back. Once I did I remembered what I love about it, how much fun the group is. Now I don’t miss a Wednesday if I can help it and I have started bringing people along too.

Everyone who comes to play comes again. Even those of us who thought we would stop are now watching lacrosse videos in our spare time to improve our game.
His spirit is infectious, the club’s spirit is infectious and that I think is the true sign of a leader. Someone who can communicate his passion and show people his vision, who can take people along for the ride, making it about everyone, not just about himself and cultivating other leaders to stand beside him.

Key takeaway: have a vision, be passionate, work with your team, lead from behind, use positive reinforcement and make sure you have fun while you are at it.

Thank you for reading, I enjoy sharing my thoughts and I love hearing what piqued your interest or any feedback. If you are currently working on a demanding project in the fields of medical, digital, systems, analytics, channels, or facing any team or personal challenges, feel free to reach out to me for an informal chat. I am always happy to explore how I might be able to support you.

Best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo credit: Sergey Pesterev @Unsplash

Healthcare systems in crisis – the NHS as a case study

Only three weeks until the DIA meeting in Brussels, the agenda is final, and I am in the midst of writing presentations and finishing up workshop preparations. We have a large group of attendees from all over the world coming to be with us in Brussels, I hope to see you there. If you’d like to chat with me at the meeting consider dropping me a line so we can plan ahead.

Today’s blog topics:

• Best practice for scientific content provision in an omnichannel environment
• Med Info and Med Comms meeting Brussels 2023
• Healthcare systems in crisis – the NHS as a case study
• Leadership: The role of unconscious bias in the Lucy Letby case

Best practice for scientific content provision in an omnichannel environment

Customer access is a challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. Physicians have limited time and many companies vying for their attention. As access becomes harder, the provision of service on demand via the channels of the customer’s choice is becoming an important business differentiator. In addition, companies are looking to reduce cost and improve impact by making better use of available headcount and by using integrated data analytics to inform strategy. Taken together these factors explain why many pharmaceutical companies are rolling out omnichannel solutions.

Unfortunately, these solutions often fall short of their potential because they don’t factor in the human element. An area where inefficiencies are frequent is content generation, management and harmonisation, which is often managed by different teams. As structures and customer engagement evolves it is worth reflecting on whether the right people are engaged in the right activities at the right time. For example, used well, a Medical Information team can be the beating heart of scientific content generation in a company, working efficiently across teams and departments in the service of all.

Medical information professionals are product experts who excel at communicating scientific information tailored to the customer’s needs, they understand internal and external customers and support internal colleagues, including medical affairs colleagues and sales representatives with scientific enquiries. They write response documents, perform literature searches, and consult with teams including quality and safety. As Medical Information teams receive unsolicited enquiries from a broad range of customers, they are also in tune with customer needs, and able to offer valuable insights.
If you want to find out how best to provide scientific content and how to do more with less join us in Brussels at the Medical Information conference) We will discuss models, channels, solution providers, content generation cross-functional collaboration, pragmatic use of resources and how to generate meaningful metrics and insights

Key take way: As your business model evolves review if you are using your resources effectively and whether you are making the most of your Medical Information team’s ability to free up your in-field team in order to improve overall impact.

Medical Information and Medical Communications meeting Brussels September 2023 – Last call

Preparations are ongoing for the Medical Information and Medical Communications DIA meeting that will take place in Brussels. Thanks to the stellar submissions we received we have put together a great agenda.

Topics cover contact centre management, evolving the medical information structure, the value of medical information, putting theory into practice, digital content, content dissemination, a workshop on navigating medical information and an open microphone session, where we welcome participation from the floor.

If you haven’t signed up yet, do consider coming. You can also still submit a poster to the meeting. Every year a group of experienced individuals in the industry, as well as smaller companies, or biotechnology companies that are identifying how best to meet customers information needs meet, this is a good opportunity to increase your knowledge, share best practice and make connections. The meeting is especially useful for individuals who are new to medical information or who are tasked with building a medical information approach from scratch and want to fast track their efforts.

You can find out more about the speakers, and the agenda as well as sign up here.

Key takeaway: Instead of finding your own path why not stand on the shoulders of those who came before?

Healthcare systems in crisis – the NHS as a case study

During the pandemic health care professionals (HCPs) were celebrated. People stood on balconies clapping. HCPs worked long hours under difficult conditions wearing insufficient or faulty personal protective equipment in the service of patients and the healthcare system. Yet despite being officially feted health care professionals’ working conditions in many countries remain challenging. Frequently, those who provide healthcare to others do not work in a healthy environment which is one of the reasons, I suspect, why there is a global lack of healthcare staff.

In the UK the situation has come to a head as junior doctors and consultants prepare to strike. A 2022 survey by the British Medical Association of 4000 junior doctors, who are in the first 6-10 years of training after getting their degrees, showed that almost 90% are concerned about the impact of the rising cost of living on their personal situation. More than half the respondents said they had struggled to pay for utilities and lighting in 2022 and 45% said they struggled to pay for commuting, essential travel and rents and mortgage. Eighty percent of those surveyed reported that if they had to reduce their income at all they wouldn’t be able to meet their essential outgoings.

Almost 80% of respondents are considering, and 65% have actively researched, leaving the NHS in the past 12 months. A third of these is planning to work abroad. More than three quarters of respondents had friends and colleagues who had already left the NHS and gone to work as a doctor in a different country. Reasons for considering to leave the NHS include pay and pension schemes, deteriorating working conditions and personal well-being, increased workload, lack of recognition, workforce supply shortages and a lack of flexible working patterns.

The NHS is already in crisis: according to a recent article in the Times “More than half of people who died in England last year were on an NHS waiting list. The estimated toll of 340,000 was up from 240,000 five years before, a 42 per cent rise. The figure represented more than 60 per cent of all deaths in England, according to data provided to The Times by NHS trusts under freedom of information laws”. Patients are already being affected but now the doctors’ strikes will further compound the problem. While the leading issue cited in the media is salary, the BMA survey highlights many other topics, that are relevant for the UK but also beyond the UK’s borders.

An article written in the (Swiss Medical Weekly) by three Switzerland based physicians with experience of the NHS. discusses the results of the BMA survey. Although they acknowledge that young Swiss doctors are in a better position than their UK peers, they note that according to survey data, junior doctors working in the Swiss healthcare system experience similar areas of dissatisfaction. Their conclusion matches mine: the BMA survey results are worth paying attention to. As we face a global shortage of HCPs, and HCPs vote with their feet moving to locations with more favourable working conditions and salaries, the challenges in accessing healthcare faced by underserved populations, such as those in Africa increase.

While recruiting HCPs from other countries may temporarily address developed nations’ healthcare system woes, in the absence of a change of strategy to solve this problem we are heading into challenging times.

Key take-away: The situation in the NHS may seem relevant only for the UK, however, doctors the world over are turning their backs on local clinical practice to work overseas. In many cases the drivers underlying this decision will match those highlighted by the BMA survey. If we want patients to have access to healthcare, we need to reinvent healthcare provision.

Leadership: The role of unconscious bias in the Lucy Letby case

Last week British nurse Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering infants in her care. While widely covered in UK media it was not widely covered by the media elsewhere so I will summarise some key aspects.

The case is tragic because initial concerns about the nurse were raised in the month after the first child was killed, yet it took another year, four more murdered babies, and six known murder attempts until action was taken.

Physicians working at the hospital raised concerns about the nurse repeatedly during this time as she was the single common denominator in each case. Autopsies were not performed in every case and some autopsy results were lost in the post, absent a digitalised system. The head nurse and clinic manager defended the young nurse and the doctors who raised concerns were threatened with sanctions by the management team and forced to apologize. There are currently other cases ongoing in the NHS where physicians have been suspended for raising concerns with the quality of care provided to patients.

The reason I am highlighting this case is because there are some important lessons to be learned here. The first is about unconscious bias, where we tend to trust those who are like us, and there is a risk that we protect those who appear to need it most. In this case a young female nurse, who was the subject of complaints by the entire team of senior male physicians. In addition, there are different reporting lines in hospitals, nurses report into a senior nurse, doctors report in through a different structure, this can lead to an “us” versus “them” mentality and a protection of “one’s own”. The lack of availability of objective data, in this case autopsy reports, which would have confirmed suspicions, is a systemic process error. And lastly, it appears that senior leadership was reluctant to promptly investigate the allegations, possibly due to the anticipated consequences if the claims were verified; while this hesitancy was likely unconscious, it had very real impact on many lives. The NHS is now reviewing its whistleblowing policy.

Key takeaway: Companies value an external perspective when new individuals join their teams. In conflict situations, or situations where team members’ mental health is at stake, or allegations are serious, it is worth bringing in an external individual to support, mediate, moderate and assess as it is impossible to be unbiased as a leader in this situation.

Thank you for reading, I enjoy sharing my thoughts and I love hearing what piqued your interest or any feedback and thoughts. If you are currently working on a demanding project in the fields of medical, digital, systems, analytics, channels, or facing any team or personal challenges, feel free to reach out to me for an informal chat. I am always happy to explore how I might be able to support you.

Best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute @ Unsplash