Within3 VP of Product Training and Commercialization Natalie DiMambro recently spoke at the Fierce MASS West event, highlighting the ways insights management technology is disrupting how medical affairs organizations collect and use insights to make strategic decisions. In her talk, DiMambro outlined the ways in which network analytics, social listening, asynchronous discussion technology, and artificial intelligence work together to streamline and optimized a traditionally fragmented set of processes. In a nutshell, the topic was insights management technology, explained.
DiMambro highlighted how the essential problem – the life science insight gap – plagues medical affairs teams by slowing down essential processes and creating the possibility of making key decisions based on outdated or incomplete information. Applying technology to these processes can make the drug and device development process more efficient and effective by increasing precision, streamlining logistically heavy activities, eliminating tedious manual analysis, and surfacing more important concepts in every discussion.
And while technological disruption can bring up questions about how new processes might affect critical day-to-day work, DiMambro points out that insights management technology only supports and enhances the things medical affairs teams are already doing. “Disruption [isn’t] negative…it’s an opportunity to make some impact with the technology that you’re bringing on.”
Listen along to the full presentation or scroll down to read the transcript.
Event transcript: How technology is disrupting insight-gathering in medical affairs
All right, so it’s a pleasure to introduce the next speaker, Natalie DiMambro. Natalie is the Vice President of Product Commercialization and Training at Within3. And this next session is going to talk about the four technologies that disrupt insights management for medical affairs. Thanks, Natalie.
Natalie DiMambro, Within3
All right. My mic is on. Cool, guys. Can you all hear me? 30 minutes on the clock and then lunch, I promise not to go over. So this is going to be a little bit about AI [artificial intelligence], but a little bit more as well.
Just a little bit of background on myself. Again, my name is Natalie. I’ve worked in life sciences in pharma for about 20 years, and I started in the commercial space and moved into more medical affairs and clinical-focused, working with clients such as yourself, where we talk about how to apply technology such as that at Within3 and how to make it really maximize what you’re looking to do with your strategy. So I thought today for 30 minutes before lunch, rather than do any sort of demo or anything like that, you can get that at the booth and meet our colleagues there.
But I thought a better use of time would be training and almost a primer on some of these technologies. So as you’re meeting with some of the vendors out there, or other agency partners, you have a little bit more information about not only how these technologies work, potentially how they disrupt, your workflows, which isn’t always a bad thing. I promise the word disrupt kind of has a negative connotation, but it can be very impactful when it’s done right. And then how you can just move forward with potentially working with one of these technologies to do some of the work that we’ve seen earlier today and some of the presentations. So with that, here we go.
So I’m going to cover, we’ll just click through these. We’re going to start with the insight gap and talk a little bit about that. I’m going to cover four technologies today. I’m going to talk about each, explain what they are, and then go into why they’re game changers. Then we’re going to go into how we sometimes need to rethink how we’re operating to apply these technologies to our strategy. And hopefully by the end of all this, we may have a little bit of a change in perspective about what we can possibly do and what the future looks like for all of us.
So on a high level, what is insight gathering? We all know this, but I think it’s important to just level-set here because you’re going to get a lot of companies talking about insight gathering. We use it as a buzzword, but typically we’re going out, we’re identifying stakeholders, and those can be our experts, our KOLs, whatever you’d like to call them, as well as patients and payers. And we’re listening to what they have to say and starting to engage with them to understand what’s happening in our disease communities. From there, we are uncovering insights. So we’re taking all of that information in and we’re trying to make sense of it and relate it to our strategy. So that’s really what we’re talking about when we’re talking about insight gathering oftentimes, and really Covid shined a big light on this.
There are disconnected systems that are collecting insight. So essentially, you know, you have your different regions that are working. So there are regions that are separate and they’re pulling in information and maybe gathering insights locally to, to their country or to maybe their continent. You also have business units that are gathering insights and analyzing those. So from that, you get these disconnected systems and often there’s a gap. And, you know, we didn’t need the, probably learned more during the pandemic about these gaps, but now being in a more virtual world, it’s becoming even more evident. And the risk that comes with that is pretty big. And you can see here that there’s dollars associated with it. But often when we’re working with clients, they’ll say to me, you know, what’s the return on investment?
What can I get out of using this technology? And I usually talk about a little bit of risk or cost avoidance. So for instance, all the things that we’re trying to do, especially in a medical affairs realm, is work more efficiently, get to insights faster, and be able to gather insights along with our strategic imperatives that allow us to, to get to patients faster with those treatments. So when we’re talking about technology, often we’re talking about what did we do faster? Were we able to avoid an amendment to a protocol? Were we able to have a strategy that actually landed and I didn’t have to, you know, pivot and do something else? So when you’re working with technology, it’s often a good way to think about it. You may not see, like on the commercial side, what we always talk about is lift and, and return on investment.
Here you’re going to talk about – how did we do it better? What was more efficient? How did we, you know, relate better? What types of relationships are out there that we made as part of our strategy? So a little bit different. The good news is I think technology is going to get us there, and that’s what we believe at Within3. So you know what the gap is, I’ve explained it. What’s the solution? Well, it’s technology, but it’s not just technology. It’s not just here’s, you know, here’s the technology and good luck. It is technology with AI that’s human curated and softly applied.
So I like to put that in there because you’re going to go talk to vendors outside, and we work with clients all the time, and it’s us working together as partners that actually makes the technology work better. I think in the last presentation there was a question about, you know, how you decide on the data and which data sets to use, often those keyword and that scoping is a partnership that we’re working on together to get to something that is actually actionable for your team so that when you do make these investments, they’re, they’re usable data and it’s, it’s, insights that you can act on.
So thinking about that today, we’re going to go through four of these. So these are the four – I’m going to cover network analytics, social listening, asynchronous virtual engagement, and AI. There’s plenty more out there, but I thought from a training perspective, and this is what I do all the time, training our internal colleagues and as well as their medical affairs clients, it’s really good to understand which, what the value of each of them are, and then a little bit about how they disrupt the systems that we work in. And some of those systems could be our disease community, how we scope those congresses, advisory boards, as well as our one-on-one interactions.
All of this, as you’re looking at it, I hope that you’ll get a little bit excited about it and you won’t feel like the disruption is that negative, but actually it’s an opportunity to make some impact with the technology that you’re bringing on. So four of them in 20 minutes, I’m going to hit through them one at a time and maybe we’ll have some questions at the end. So first step, network analytics. Let’s go back to basics here. What’s a network? You can see nodes and edges. This is how our, you know, our team and the data side like to talk about it, but really I’m a node here. You can see maybe I’m at the top. Maybe we’re going to go outside and as we create this network here today, some of us will get to know each other and develop relationships. And those are those edges that you see. So the network, we’re in them all the time, we’re part of them. Our KOLs are part of them, our patients are part of them, They are out there. And the science of studying those is network analytics. So when they’re talking about network analytics, it’s really that simple. It’s understanding the relationships between the humans that are within the network.
So what’s the disruption in that? Prior to having this field of network analytics, often we relied on our agencies, and I used to do this as well. We’d come up with a list, and it was typically based on one data set. And this was if we’re looking at a disease community specifically, and we’d say, Who published the most? And we’d look at those names and therein lies our, our list, this is who we talked to, this is who we engaged with, this is who we got expert advice from, and that was relevant and it was important at the time, and that’s how we did business. And then here comes network analytics. So now we do have that published information data, but it’s also relevant to look at other aspects of your disease community. Just like here today, there are some people who will influence other people. There are some people who are presenting and maybe have information that they’re giving out. There’s all sorts of levels of relationship within a network. So network analytics allows us to understand what that is and how they relate to each other. And that can be really important if you’re creating a strategy based on expert opinions and guidance.
So my advice here or my guidance when I’m working with clients is really just to be realistic when addressing the changes that can happen as a result of this disruption. So yes, it might be different. I know that I’ve done things a certain way, I’ve been in the industry a long time. Sometimes it can feel different to look at a different data set or look at different pieces of information and understand what it means. But there’s a couple of things just to think about. When you’re dealing with a new disease community, especially an expanded one that’s built on network analytics, you’d first want to, determine are your meeting formats aligned with potentially an expanded disease community? So what that means is, if before all I did was two ad boards a year and that’s how I engage with my professionals, I’m going to have more access to data and people and potentially those who can guide me in the right direction.
Do I have a meeting format that can actually fit the bill? So virtual meeting formats can be very helpful here, and we’ll talk about some of those in a little bit. Are we nimble enough with our processes? So I’ve been at Within3 for about five years, and oftentimes I’m meeting with teams to help them identify some of those processes that keep us from using all of these really great tools. And sometimes it’s just the way that we contract internally. And I’m sure you know, the, the room next door is talking about that a little bit because we want to make sure that we’re doing things in compliance and it’s legally approved, but we do want to make sure that we can have our advice or our guidance coming in from the field as quickly as the information is being generated. And we know that information is happening and, and moving really, really fast.
So we need to be able to up level our processes to match the speed of information and rely on partners for that. A lot of us are doing this across the industry now and can help you with this. Do we have the skill set and understanding to understand the new data sets that are coming in, how they interact with each other, when we’re comparing the list of who we worked with before to the new list? Do we understand the variants? That’s an important thing to think about. So again, these are questions, these are questions to consider, but they’re all possible. All of these things are just to keep you kind of safe when you’re working with new data or new technology to know. These are probably some of the questions I may want to ask about how my workflows are internally to ensure that I can address some of the new data that’s going to come in that can be really, really powerful.
All right, that was one. Number two, social listening. This one is fun. How many of you here use social monitoring or social listening for your strategy kind of blinds? Can’t see. There’s a few. One or two hands. Ah, there we go. So, oftentimes I’ll say this is the number one question when I go in and work with clients. They’ll, they’ll ask about this, but they ask about this in a really kind of, Hey, do you have a social monitoring or do you do the social listening? We don’t do this here yet, but we’d like to. And it’s kind of a curiosity still, I think for most of us, who work on, you know, when we hear the word social media and if we’ve been through MLR reviews in our life, we tend to go away from that field. But just to note, social listening is truly just the pulling in of information from social media and from what’s happening out there, what people are tweeting and talking about.
So we do work with clients who have social media strategy and there are plenty of tools out there for you to do it effectively, but just so that you know what it is, it’s truly just pulling information in and curating it based on what your strategic goals are. I’m not a tweeter, I don’t tweet, I won’t be tweeting today, but plenty of people are tweeting in the medical world. So I thought this was interesting. 72% of the tweets that are out there are scientific tweets. So people are talking, they’re talking about the treatments, the disease areas that you’re all working in. You know, what mechanism do we have to listen to that? And that’s social listening. I thought it was interesting that 48% of Twitter users were physicians. So that’s a big stat. So these are your customers, these are your KOLs.
They’re out there and they’re talking. So it’s an important aspect. Again, not to completely derail your strategy, but just to inform it, to minimize the risk to operate more efficiently so that you don’t have to do things over. That’s always what we’re looking for when we’re talking about why this is important. So as you can see from medical affairs teams, social monitoring can be really important. It’ll give you information about the disease community at the patient level, at the physician or treatment level. It’ll help with site selection. I think you saw some of that in the previous, previous presentations. Recruitment, and general understanding of sentiment in the field. All of this is possible through social listening. Again, minimizing risk, allowing you to be a little bit more informed when going into your strategic plan. So a few things just to consider.
If you’re looking at a social listening partner or agency partner or technology, you want to make sure, and these are some of the things that we talk about with clients when we’re working with them, that there’s omnichannel or tracking or visibility. So omnichannel is just looking at a multiple, set of channels, making sure information is coming from all potential sources, and you want to know what those sources are. Curated content capability, this is really important. This is where I was talking about earlier. You need the humans involved with the technology for it to work well. We want to make sure that we’re curating the content, coming in and listening to what’s important to your strategy and eliminating the noise or the extra that really isn’t part of what you’re looking to do. If you’ve ever Google searched something and put a word in and what you got back was not what you needed.
Same thing here. Technology needs a human on the other end to curate some of that, to make sure that there’s some filters built in so that what’s coming in is really directly related to you. And actionable trend and sentiment analysis. This is another thing you can look for, to, you know, get a tweet from someone or to see a post from a family member. You can tell there’s some charge, maybe some emotion with that. On a one-on-one basis, it’s easy to analyze and look at and understand. We’re processing that type of sentiment all the time when we’re reading different posts. What we want to do though is look at it on aggregate, and that’s what these social listening tools can do. You know, it’s not just me looking at a tweet, now I’m jumping to a conclusion about what I need to do next.
It’s really looking broadly about the sentiment. What are the words charged with? And we’ll talk about that a little bit in a moment. What’s out there and what are people talking about that can be important? And that can help, again, identify holes that maybe you missed with other data sets. When you’re informing your strategy. Dashboards, obviously you want to have something you can look at, read and understand. We don’t want to need another degree just to be able to read our dashboards. We want it to be simple, user friendly and of course, compliant. And when we’re pulling information in, we just know that we’re not pushing it out through the social channels. This is about listening, social listening. So little bit more interest there. Something interesting to think about. Again, think about it not always as a disruption, but maybe just as a way to minimize risk.
So what do we need to do differently if we’re bringing in social listening into our strategy? The first thing I would say is just, you’re going to get a lot of new information in. Do we have a venue or a group or a call or a session or something where we can look at that information and actually do something with it? I know when I start bringing in new tools, I use tools just in my own team and how we’re, listening to each other and what’s out in the field. If I don’t set up something to look at the insights coming in and think about how we’re going to act on it, it becomes just more unusable data and that isn’t what we’re looking to do or spend money on. And then you can surely know that there will be no return on that investment. So the way that we get a bigger return is to make sure that we have some sort of meeting or something set up to talk about, you know, what’s coming in, and then being able to inform the rest of the strategy with that.
So can we look at that in comparison to the scientific data that we’re getting in other data sets? Yes, that would be what we’d want to do. And then also looking at trending topics. We want to be able to critically think about what’s coming in. Does this make sense with what’s happening out in the market or out in the disease area? Does this make sense based on, you know, we saw a lot of this in the pandemic as things happen as news events happened. Does this make sense? Is it a short term trend or something long term? Again, using those dashboards to understand better backed up to those larger data sets that you have. , and again, just plan on using these for deeper understanding and reaction of market events. Use it along with everything else and don’t react instantly. Like with any data that’s coming in, you want to make sure that you pull it in, analyze it with a team, not in isolation.
I think that was a point also made earlier. That is a really strong point. When you look at something on your own, you can start to react, but get the group together. Gather yourselves either virtually in person, however you’re going to do it, and talk about what this means in context to the bigger data that you’re getting. Good. Two down next, asynchronous virtual engagement. So I’ve been at Within3 for five years, been talking about this since then. I come from a live meeting background, so I spent plenty of time traveling around congresses, speaker trainings, advisory boards, all of that. And so this one is a little near and dear to my heart. I will still go over it for any of you who are not truly in this world just yet. It’s always a good reminder from a training perspective to remind ourselves what’s asynchronous versus synchronous.
So real-time synchronous in-person engagement, we’re doing this now. Live in person, we’re going to one time event this, and maybe we’ll keep in touch after real time. Synchronous would be our virtual engagement. That’s a webcast. Webinars, anytime we’re gathering and there’s a video and we all have to be there at the same time. That all has benefits and it all has some limitations. Asynchronous virtual engagement is something else. And if you’ve been in a university course, this may be familiar to you, but it’s essentially engaging over a period of time in structured threaded discussions. And these are typically facilitated or moderated so that it has a beginning and an end. So these are not chat rooms, these are not just kind of willy-nilly posts that people respond to. These are truly structured discussions that have goals, strategic objectives, and at the end you get a nice transcript that tells you everything that everybody talked about rolls up into your overall strategic plan.
So that is asynchronous, it has been disrupting different industries for a long time. If you know the university, academia industry, they’re already using this, for most of them are using it for online coursework. It allowed us to be in classes at night and be at work during the day. Same thing is happening here. Physicians are open to this, many of them prefer as we get, you know, feedback from them because it’s a way to engage and get insight that allows them to participate on their own time. So this has been around quite a bit. The benefit of it could be obvious or maybe not. I found working with clients, the biggest benefit that I get excited about is just the global connectivity that’s available using a tool like this in asynchronous, I can have, you know, physicians in countries all over the world speaking different languages, actually communicating and sharing with each other.
That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that. I’ve been to congresses and planned speaker trainings all over the world. But until I saw people engaging asynchronously with language translation turned on, that was when I really saw the benefits of some of the virtual tools that are out there. And I started to have my own perspective shift. So that’s just an example of what asynchronous can do. So it’s not really novel anymore. You know, we’ve been doing this for 14 years. There’s plenty of partners out there who can provide asynchronous engagement for you. So why is this a disruption? Well, as somebody who has been a live meeting person for a long time, and I’m used to that format, I plan my advisory boards. I know when they are. I know when my slide review is. I know how much time and how to contract the hotels for it.
It’s pretty standard for how I’ve always operated. Suddenly I’m coming into this asynchronous world and I can get content posted faster. I can get physicians gathered faster. I may not have the workflows for this built into my team, so that could be considered a disruption to how I’m operating. But again, if we can look at it as an opportunity, there’s so many things that can come as a benefit from it. So, new thinking around timing, these are just some of the things that could be needed. , often we’re limited by putting everyone in a room for eight hours and seeing how much we can give to them and get back. No longer do you have the constraint and thinking when you’re looking at asynchronous. So thinking about, you know, as stuff becomes available, maybe you’re creating a case study or an educational material. I would like feedback on it next week.
I can actually gather people virtually and get feedback on it next week. I don’t have to schedule something five months from now. So it’s a new perspective on timing, but just think about it, when you’re bringing on a new technology like this, we may need to up level some of our skill sets. This can also apply to webcast and webinars as we’ve seen. You know, you want to make sure that you have facilitation and you have the ability to moderate some of these discussions online. And so make sure you’re partnering with a vendor or technology partner who can help train anybody who’s going to be using the tool. , faster content creation needs. I spoke about this a little bit because this is one of the things I see with clients. You know, we tell them we can get a, you know, a group engagement up within a couple of days and then they start to think like, who’s going to write the content?
And usually we do slides and do I still have to do slides? So this is where I’m talking about a disruption. It’s just different. It’s different from how we used to operate. When you work in virtual engagement sessions, you often don’t even need slides. You can just have 10 questions that you want to ask and get the group to respond to it. So it’s pretty quick to get information reacted to. , but it may be different. So again, there is a disruption, but it could be looked at as an opportunity. So I would just encourage, you know, the whole group to think about it more as opportunities and just be open to what’s possible, but make sure that you’re asking these questions. Do we need to do something differently internally to adjust to some of the cool technology tools that are out there? And why, why would we want to do all of this?
Because the reward must be worth it. And I can tell you from the clients I’ve worked with over the past five years, they’re hearing from, you know, their healthcare professionals, clinicians, nurses, payers and patients. I know this was something earlier, brought up a few times in medical affairs. How do we talk to patients? There are groups just like yours out there doing this today, and they’re using these virtual tools and they’re set up in a safe environment. It’s different from speaking in a live group with patients. When you do it virtually, you can actually anonymize, you can have private questions and make it a little bit more conducive to sharing. , and you can do things in a way that works for the patient. So it’s a patient focused technology. That’s something I would say is worth it. You know, we’re all here with the same goal in mind.
So when you’re thinking about some of the workflow changes and some of the different things you may have to do with your planning, think about the potential impact a tool like this could have. So we’ve covered a little bit of it. Globalization, saving money, sustainability, all those good things. Deeper relationships because it’s not just a one time event. We potentially are going out and engaging over time many times during the year. And finally, the ability to focus on patients. So all of that is there and that asynchronous virtual meeting environment.
All right, number four, going to round it out with AI. So you got a really good overview of AI in the last presentation, so I won’t go too deeply on it, but I’ve noticed, and I notice this from my colleagues, I’ve noticed it from medical affairs colleagues that I’ve worked with. We kind of throw around the term AI, all of us do, and I didn’t really totally understand it.
So I needed to do a little bit of education myself to be able to train the trainers on our staff and to train our clients. So first off, artificial intelligence is just building smart machines, capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. We’re all, probably many of us are working with this right now. They’re Siri, there’s Alexa, you know, some of you’re on dating apps. All of that’s in there. You’re swiping this way and that way. All of that is artificial intelligence doing things faster than we could ever do before. But with that human perspective, machine learning is the idea of training, some of these tools or machines. And this is a field with an AI, to be able to think like us. And so that’s where you get into a little bit more nuanced, that idea of us partnering together to make the machines smarter and to actually be able to work for us versus giving us more work to do.
Natural language processing is also part of artificial intelligence. This is where it gets beyond what my brain can handle. When I talk to our CTO and he’s telling us all the things that we’re working on, it blows my mind. But the idea that we can teach, you know, our systems, how to read, understand, and derive meaning from human language is really significant. The fact that that’s happening now in most other fields, it’s time to have this apply to our field as well so that we can use it for all of our strategic initiatives and really to get treatments to patients faster. This is just an example of nlp. I thought it was interesting to show how it works. You can see potentially how this could be relevant. As I mentioned before, when I look at a piece of information, one-on-one, I’m going to derive meaning from any email that you get, you’re driving an emotional meaning based on the words that are selected.
Our brains are already processing this way. We’re just limited by the amount we could do at once. Natural language processing allows that same type of sentiment analysis to happen, but in aggregate and gives us trends so that we can understand what’s out there and what people are talking about and the sentiment associated with it. So sentiment analysis, pulling in concepts. All of this can be very, very useful as you can imagine with some of the work that we’re doing. So, natural language processing, that’s what it is. It’s not that mysterious. We’re all doing it ourselves. It’s just a matter of having a system do it for us in a larger, more voluminous way. So AI powered is great. All of the AI you’re learning about that you’ll talk to in different agencies outside is amazing. What I would like to mention about our CTO is some of the things they’re working on, it blows my mind every day, but he always brings it back to me. He said, You know, I can’t do it without the trainers, without everyone else who’s out there who understands how to provide keys and scoping to make sure that the data that’s coming in is actionable. So we need it to be human curated. That’s where the magic lies. So think about this just in general, when you’re selecting a technology partner, you know, are you willing to be a partner with them and to work on some of the information and provide input so that what you’re getting back is truly more powerful and actionable.
My hope, and this has happened for me as I’ve worked it Within3, my hope is that we take that idea of disruption and maybe change our perspective a little bit about it, because this disruption really is, is the world changing and, and allowing for progress, which to me is really exciting that it’s coming into our field and that it is allowing us to do things faster than we’ve ever done before. So to do this, we will need to partner with each other to make sure that the technology being applied is the most powerful and actionable that it can be. But I could say, you know, imagine having the ability to collect, analyze, and insight, analyze insights closer to the speed they’re generated. It is possible. And I hope I’ve left you with this idea that this is possible today. A lot of the things that I heard yesterday in the training session and the workshops and the morning sessions were, we need to find insights.
We need to pull them in and we need to, to understand and collect them together so we can, you know, build better strategies that are more effective. It’s happening today, but it does take a little bit of, you know, perhaps a disruption into the way you’re thinking or the way you’re working to make sure that the tool is usable and actionable. We’ve learned this from our customers and this is why, you know, our products even exist because we were hearing that there are disparate systems, there’s silos, there’s information being pulled up, but not totally understood or integrated. It is possible to get solutions that integrate all of that information together so that you can have the full big picture from your field conversations, your medical congresses, you know, patient feedback, physician feedback, and pulling that all together so you can have one big view into what’s happening.
All of that so that you can reduce your risk, work more operationally efficiently, build better relationships, and potentially have more diverse and inclusivity, of diverse difference, diversity and inclusivity within your groups. And then of course, all of this po , focus on the patient, which is why we’re all here. So this is truly the end goal. This is why we allow for the disruption and why we kind of take it with a grain of salt. Make sure that our teams are upgraded and able to handle and be trained on these types of information that are coming in. So driving better, smarter, faster decisions is the goal. We hope to perhaps partner with some of you to do so. So you can talk to our colleagues at the booth, but we just hope that we’ve been able to change your perspective about some of these technology solutions that are out there. And happy to give you more information, as we move into lunch. So right on the dot. Thank you.