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March 29, 2024

What are the essentials of an AI-focused strategy in medical affairs?

Five recommendations for successful AI integration.
ai focused strategy

In a webinar hosted by Impatient Health and Within3, a panel of medical affairs experts discussed the fundamental criteria pharma leaders should consider when crafting a robust, effective AI-focused strategy. Karsten Friedrich, Head of Medical Digital Innovation with AstraZeneca, shared insight into these criteria. Here are his key recommendations for incorporating AI in medical affairs and the panel’s thoughts on achieving each.

Create a clearly articulated digital and analytic strategy

Medical affairs leaders must begin with a well-defined digital and analytic strategy to harness AI’s potential effectively in medical affairs. “[AI] doesn’t work for everything,” said Emma Vitalini, Director of Global Medical Digital Strategy at Amgen. “It’s not going to solve every problem, and I think if we go in with that expectation, people will be sorely disappointed.”

A good strategy should center around how your team will leverage digital tools and analytics to optimize specific facets of medical affairs workflows. “We need to provide concrete examples of how and where you can use [AI],” added Vitalini.

Organizational buy-in

Securing organizational buy-in is paramount for the success of any AI initiative. Historically, large-scale tech transformations have a high failure rate – so these medical affairs experts recommend starting with a pilot project to demonstrate the value of AI-supported insights reporting.

“Start small with scale in mind right at the beginning,” said Friedrich. When your pilot project is complete, you can initiate a dialog about AI by presenting a compelling value story. These shared successes foster understanding and support across the organization.

Governance and privacy standards

Addressing governance and privacy standards is imperative, especially when discussing AI or generative AI technologies. Upholding stringent standards ensures data integrity, confidentiality, and compliance with applicable regulatory frameworks.

Ethical standards

Ethical considerations surrounding AI loom large, and pharmaceutical companies must ensure that AI systems operate in ways that are explainable, transparent, fair, accountable, human-centric, and (ideally) socially beneficial. By upholding ethical standards and safeguards, pharmaceutical companies can protect against potential bias and promote trust in AI-supported solutions.

Human-like decision-making

AI should strive to emulate, not replace, human decision-making processes. By aligning AI applications with human-centric principles, organizations can cultivate solutions that resonate with stakeholders and drive positive impacts for the business and patients alike.

Elevating your AI strategy

These five considerations offer a foundational framework for developing an AI-focused strategy within medical affairs. By addressing each aspect, your team can improve technical knowledge, ensure ethical integrity, and align with overarching organizational objectives – all of which can elevate the profile of medical affairs. “AI…puts medical in a unique situation to be part of this changing landscape and be in the control seat, if you will” said Paul Rowe, Vice President, Head of Medical, Specialty Care at Sanofi.

“[We] asked the question: [does medical] have a role in these things? How could we not, if we’re truly the brokers of this data and the brokers of AI? I think we’re at a really special point in time where we have this opportunity, and I’m hoping that we can embrace it.”

Listen to the full discussion in “The Medical Maestro, Powered by AI.”

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