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May 22, 2024

Where does AI add value to medical affairs?

Experts from Astellas, Roche, Spark, and UCB share their experiences in a new report.
AI add value to medical affairs

Medical affairs’ role as a strategic pillar of pharmaceutical enterprises is increasingly acknowledged, and rightfully so. At the highest level, medical affairs generates insights that drive strategic decision-making. Tactically, teams must identify pertinent questions, gather responses, analyze data, report findings, and continuously iterate within those programs and processes.

However, if foundational data – including answers to key questions across functions, observations, and analysis – are questionable or incomplete, that foundation puts the enterprise at risk.

According to survey data from 195 global medical affairs professionals presented in a new white paper from Within3 and Reuters Events Pharma, insights management in medical affairs lacks standardization and integration between data sources and relies heavily on manual processes. 65% of respondents said they struggle to organize, integrate, analyze, and use data coherently.

In an era of rapidly accumulating data, this speaks volumes about insights management needs in medical affairs.

Experts surveyed are also acutely aware of the downstream commercial effects of the insights management struggle. 73% of respondents cited risk to product launch as the primary consequence of getting the necessary insights.

“Sometimes the abundance of information can overwhelm our resources, limiting the ability to analyze and gain valuable insights,” says Rosana Cabello Moruno, Therapeutic Area Leader, Medical Affairs, Roche Pharma.

With more streamlined data collection, analysis, and reporting processes supported by advanced technologies like AI, the possibility to master insights that drive strategic decision-making is within reach.

Where can AI support medical affairs right now?

AI’s potential benefits and downsides remain a challenge for medical affairs. Advanced platforms can help unlock hidden insights by integrating multiple data sources, observations, and conversations with powerful AI for analysis and reporting. Innovative medical affairs leaders are exploring where, when, and how to employ AI to further their strategic or tactical aims – and those who figure it out will soon enjoy a competitive advantage over those who lag behind.

Organizations that have adopted these strategies are witnessing significant advantages. According to McKinsey, pharma companies that have scaled their digital and analytics pilots into large-scale delivery and transformation projects are seeing substantial impacts on their bottom line.

When in doubt, start with a pilot

Bandwidth, a shortage of personnel or financial resources, change management, and security and compliance concerns are all challenges to AI adoption for medical affairs teams. They can seem insurmountable and lead to analysis paralysis as teams try to learn about AI alongside their day-to-day work.

Starting with a simple pilot can be powerful in combating these challenges and seizing the opportunities for competitive advantage advanced technologies can provide.

Generative AI “holds huge potential for reviewing scientific literature and making it more accessible. Tools currently being tested that parse scientific literature and provide automatic summaries would…be an excellent application of artificial intelligence,” said Michael Kahn, Senior Director of Medical Affairs with Spark Therapeutics.

While some larger enterprises say they are developing their own AI capabilities for tasks like CRM data interrogation, insights curation, and sentiment analysis, others are finding success with smaller-scale pilots or short-term projects. UCB and Spark Therapeutics, for example, are testing AI-enabled tools that use natural language processing to accelerate data analysis and improve strategy implementation.

Looking ahead

AI in pharma is still nascent, and leaders are prudent to keep risk reduction in mind. In these early days, selective implementation can effectively mitigate those risks. Download the white paper “Elevating Medical Affairs Insight Management” to learn more from leaders at Astellas, Roche, Spark, UCB, and Within3, including how they’re evaluating and implementing advanced technologies inside their own teams and broader organizations.

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