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July 7, 2020

How virtual engagement improves medical affairs KPIs

Understanding how success is measured will inform how you plan and execute medical affairs projects via virtual engagement.

Life science companies rely upon and invest heavily in clinical advisors for their medical affairs and product development programs. They employ these key opinion leaders for their medical affairs skills, expertise, experience, and innovation in medical affairs insights. Together, these qualities provide the greatest likelihood of efficacy, patient access, and commercial success while following medical affairs compliance requirements. 

In legacy KOL engagement programs, medical affairs key performance indicators, or medical affairs KPIs, have been difficult to measure. Advisory board meetings can easily veer off track, be dominated by the loudest or most senior voices in the room, and high-value, actionable insights often get lost in person-to-person sidebar conversations. These factors make it difficult to truly measure the value of such gatherings, even though they are viewed as vital to many parts of the product development process.

In recent years, the increasing adoption of virtual tools has enabled a life science medical affairs professional or MSL team to more accurately measure the effectiveness of engagements held in live virtual, asynchronous, or hybrid environments. 

Prior to the pandemic, Bain & Company reported that pharmaceutical companies were already undergoing a profound shift toward more data and technology to increase their competitive edge. “​​As digital technologies transform drug development and marketing, companies that reinvent medical affairs can build competitive advantage in a rapidly changing pharma landscape.”

What are some typical medical affairs KPIs?

Traditional KPIs for MSLs within medical affairs teams include the number of KOL relationships managed, the frequency MSLs meet or engage with KOLs, and how many KOLs are actively providing feedback to the organization. Viewed through a virtual engagement lens, these can be interpreted a bit differently – and measured accordingly.

Number of KOL relationships managed. Virtual engagement tools enable MSL teams to find the right KOLs for insight generation based on the project, therapeutic area, desired areas of influence, geography, social influence, publication cadence, and scientific acumen. A more accurate metric in the digital age might include the quality or frequency of these KOLs’ contributions, as well as their ultimate impact on market activity.

Frequency of KOL engagement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person meetings between MSLs and KOLs came to a temporary halt, and during this interlude, both parties learned that while the value of in-person interaction remains high, touchpoints can be more frequent and effective when conducted digitally. This can still be a key metric, but goes beyond checking a box – frequent interactions that are more convenient, efficient, and prioritize both parties’ schedules go much further in building enduring relationships. 

Number of KOLs actively providing feedback to the organization. In legacy engagement situations, some organizations are satisfied with KOL feedback rates as low as 15%. Within a virtual advisory board held on a platform like Within3, it’s typical for a medical affairs team to get 100% participation due to the flexibility, user-friendliness, and ability to eliminate hierarchy influence and other types of bias.

How does a virtual engagement strategy improve insight gathering and medical affairs KPIs?

A virtual-first engagement strategy includes valuable face-to-face or live virtual elements – such as in-person meetings and events and occasional webcasts – but shifts some activities to asynchronous virtual environments. This approach tends to yield more and better-quality insights for a few reasons:

  • Anytime participation with no required travel prioritizes participants and their time. They log in and contribute to a discussion when it’s convenient for them and when they can fully focus on the topic at hand.
  • Equal opportunity for everyone to contribute. More junior participants, as well as those who tend to be more reserved in live settings, can be reluctant to speak up or just allow dominant participants to have their say and agree after the fact. In an asynchronous meeting, the pressure of a face-to-face setting is removed and participants feel free to add their thoughts.
  • Ability to follow up. Asynchronous engagement gives life science teams the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and probe for more information when needed. This can serve to clarify information provided during the discussion – a chance that’s often missed in a live setting where people are eager to catch a plane or move on to their next meeting.

These benefits have a direct impact on medical affairs KPIs because they increase the value of insights gathered in conversations with experts. These insights can result in opening new geographical markets, identifying new audiences, improving patient outcomes, or sharpening a competitive edge.

How can you measure the impact of medical affairs activities?

An insight is a fundamental truth about target customers that organizations can leverage for competitive advantage and to drive growth. As mentioned above, gathering more insights is a great way that a medical affairs team can add value internally. To understand how insights generated by medical affairs are impacting the organization, medical affairs team members can tie market activity to insights related to that product or service. One Within3 client was able to relate $10 million in revenue lift to insights gathered in asynchronous discussions and the direct impact those insights had on internal decisions.

To understand more about how insights can add value to the organization, download “Transforming Communication on an Enterprise Scale.”

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