State of medical affairs insights management: exclusive survey results

insights management survey

In the life science industry, insights are a turning point – a pivotal moment that could shift a strategy, impact a discovery, change a life.

We wanted to understand how medical affairs teams work with insights: how they generate and analyze them, use and share them, and what obstacles they encounter. In early 2023, we partnered with Reuters Health to go directly to the source – you and your peers – to learn more.

Here is what we heard:

  • You’re confident about how much data you collect but struggle to process, aggregate, and share it across multiple systems and teams.
  • Budgets and headcounts challenge you.
  • You want to simplify and focus on insights, not noise.

The impact: missed opportunities, missed deadlines, and internal misalignment.

Some of you are finding a way forward by shifting to a centralized, end-to-end insights management strategy. And here’s the good news: it’s working. Most medical affairs professionals with a more centralized approach said they work more effectively.

In short, we learned a lot from you – and now we’d like to let the data speak for itself.

Get a deeper exploration of the topics revealed in our survey in our new white paper, “Medical affairs versus an explosion of data: focusing on insights that matter,” featuring experts from Merck, Pfizer, Astellas, Spark Therapeutics, Within3, and the Medical Affairs Professional Society.

Short on time? Download the insights management survey results report with just a click.

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“We collect a ton of data, but none of it is aggregated, and we don’t know the first thing about turning it into insights.”


In March 2023, Reuters Health collected survey responses from 243 medical affairs professionals in pharmaceutical (71%), biotech (20%) and medical affairs (9%) organizations. Roles included C-level (5%), VP/AVP/EVP/SVP (14%), Director (51%), and Manager (30%).

The survey aimed to understand how teams capture, analyze, and communicate insights to help their organization take action or guide strategic direction.

“The data are at the tipping point of being unable to process individually and manually.”

How you gather and share insights

Across all the medical affairs leaders we surveyed, there seemed to be no single way of approaching data collection and insights generation.

61% of respondents use technology to collect data for generating insights (though just 8% say this process is highly automated). In fact, they use lots of technology:

  • 58% use a data visualization product
  • 49% use analytics software
  • 37% use spreadsheets

Many medical affairs leaders said they rely on multiple products, using a combination of several tools or two or more data visualization platforms, analytics programs, or spreadsheets.

Respondents also indicated they use different tech solutions to store and share insights across their organization.

  • 47% use a single, central file-sharing repository
  • 41% use business intelligence platforms
  • 19% use proprietary tools or systems

Others listed document management systems, Word documents, or email as part of their insights storage and sharing infrastructure.

Despite significant investment, it’s not clear whether these systems help or hinder medical affairs teams: 76% said that the way data and insights are shared and stored within their organization has created separated data siloes, which are an obstruction to generating or sharing insights efficiently.

Some respondents said they use a single, central way of managing insights. Of those, the vast majority – 85% – say that using a single system that operates across the organization helps generate and share insights more efficiently.

“We are getting better at generating insights, but still struggle to ensure we collect the right amount of the right data across many domains.”

How you work with insights

For the survey, we defined data as an observation or measurement that can be qualitative or quantitative; and insights as relevant information which, after analysis and validation, can drive planning, actions, or decisions.

While 41% of medical affairs teams said they are confident their team is internally aligned and aware of the distinction between data and insights, 47% said they are somewhat aligned but could have a better understanding, and 11% said there is no clear internal alignment or understanding of the distinction.

Just 4% of respondents described their team’s insights generation as “highly efficient and in line with a well-defined insights strategy,” but most (52%) said there is room for improvement in their insights management processes and methodologies.

One of the most significant issues is the volume of data and information they gather. 79% of respondents indicated they use less than 50% of the data they collect to generate insights. And just 9% of people said they use almost all, or 75-100%, of the data they collect to generate insights.

An interesting dichotomy emerged: almost the same number of respondents said they collect so much data it’s difficult to know what to focus on (40%) as those who said they don’t collect enough data to generate true insight (38%).

The 22% who said neither statement applies to them offered some essential context: “It’s not all ‘black and white.’ For some topics, we probably have enough data to generate good insight, while for other topics, we could probably do better and focus more to make sure we have the right data.”

But while there may be a balance between extremes regarding how much data is too much, respondents were declarative about the proliferation of data and channels: 69% say they struggle to organize, integrate, analyze, and use data coherently. A lucky few (25%) feel that the proliferation of data and channels makes them more competitive.

“We need clearer alignment on overall data collection and insight generation strategy and processes, in addition to modernizing data gathering from evolving channels and generating insights.”

Barriers to efficiency

Asked about the biggest impediment to creating a more unified/end-to-end insights management process, respondents listed upfront investments in both tech and resources (45%), the existence of hard-to-replace legacy systems (22%), and recent tech investments (19%) as roadblocks.

“We generate good data from what we have – we could generate more, but do not have the manpower or funds to meet that goal.”

How insights affect your strategy

Medical affairs teams know they need to be nimble. 66% of medical affairs leaders said they need more aligned internal communications and updates, while 59% said they need more information and better insights from the data they collect. Nearly half (48%) would consider themselves more agile with the help of better technology, and 46% see a need to demonstrate faster reaction times.

What are teams risking without this agility? Respondents listed risk to product launch (65%) as the top concern, followed by budget overruns (32%) and compliance risk (24%). Of the 30% of respondents that chose “Other,” “missed opportunities” was the most frequently mentioned consequence.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (81%) said the insights they use for decision-making are only sometimes or not at all informed by all relevant stakeholders, with most saying they needed more insights from patients (78%), specialist physicians or surgeons (77%) and payers (70%) most of all.

Why medical affairs teams need clarity on insights generation

The role of medical affairs is evolving from a support function to a strategic pillar working across the organization. 80% of survey respondents said they have probably or definitely noticed an increase in how often colleagues from other departments have reached out to them for insights in the past 18 months.

More than half (52%) think that demonstrating the value of medical affairs as an insight hub for the organization is a priority for 2023.

“We need simplicity and a focus on true insights, and less noise.”


The results of this industry survey tell a story about the state of insights management for medical affairs. Here’s what commanded our attention:

  • Only 9% of medical affairs teams use most of the data they collect to generate insights
  • 76% of medical affairs leaders say the way they share and store data and insights create internal siloes
  • 81% say all relevant stakeholders don’t inform their insights and decisions, and 78% of those say they need more insights from patients
  • 65% say lack of insights endangers product launch

These significant pain points demonstrate the need for an end-to-end insights management solution that makes data more useful, eliminates internal information-sharing obstacles, enables holistic stakeholder participation, and supports each organization’s most critical function: developing best-in-class treatments that are game-changers for patients.

Medical affairs leaders understand their evolving organizational function and are increasingly called upon to set the standard for insights generation. With nearly 90% agreeing that proving value to the broader organization is a priority for the year ahead, the time to lead the charge to modern insights management is now.

Join us for a panel discussion with experts from Spark Therapeutics, Idorsia, Within3, and more. We’ll break down select insights management survey results and discuss what it means for the future of medical affairs. Reserve your spot now.

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