A recent survey of 304 life science professionals, including 82% in medical affairs leadership positions, found more than half (52%) of respondents expect 40-59% of total medical affairs engagement activities would be virtual within three years’ time. The survey was conducted by Reuters Health for Within3.
“Medical affairs are regulatory-driven and regulatory-constrained environments,” said Within3 CEO Lance Hill. “They are deliberate and thoughtful in their adoption of technology. A shift where the majority of folks are saying that even after travel restrictions are lifted, a significant part of the work will remain virtual, is seismic.”
“This past year the boundaries really blurred, and made us think deeply about how we engaged with healthcare providers,” stated Ed Power, VP North America, Medical Affairs, Hospital Business for Pfizer. “In doing so, we have shifted from having a geographic or regional function mindset to take on a truly global perspective,”
“What physicians valued during the pandemic were concise information, short conversations, and no fluff,” stated Eliav Barr, SVP Global Medical Affairs for Merck.
The report further found that 80% believe advisory boards and 65% believe steering committees will remain virtual events, with 66% reporting use of real-time virtual tools like Zoom and Webex for customer engagement. However, of those that use these video conferencing environments, 72% of respondents agree that one of the biggest challenges of such platforms is the fact that only a few attendees speak up while others listen or multitask, reducing the effectiveness of the meeting.
“For the sake of diversity, there is a strong argument for advisory boards remaining virtual with asynchronous opinion collection before and after because this uncovers previously unheard expert voices,” said Jazz Pharma’s Director, Medical Excellence and Capabilities Victoria Ho.
What does this tell us about what medical affairs teams need to increase the effectiveness of a holistic engagement strategy for high-value insight generation? These challenges – the absence of peer-to-peer exchange and lack of meaningful participation – are inherent to platforms that enable communication without supporting the ultimate goal of a collaboration; insight generation.
Within3 customers who use a hybrid approach to stakeholder engagement – asynchronous communication over a period of days or weeks, punctuated by shorter, more effective live virtual or in-person interactions – report reducing time to milestones such as care guidance development, publication, and regulatory responses by several months.