Medical Affairs is still on its transformative journey to become a more strategic partner alongside the traditional pillars of R&D and Commercial. But patient fragmentation, stakeholder diversification, and digital disruption are creating an added sense of urgency for medical to take on its new role.

Catrinel Galateanu, head of global medical affairs at UCB, recently sat down with Christoph Bug, Veeva’s vice president of global medical strategy, to discuss the future of medical affairs and how it can position itself to realize these opportunities.

CB: You are active in the Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) and were recently one of the lead authors of the whitepaper “The Future of Medical Affairs 2030.” How would you describe the vision of medical affairs?

CG: Medical affairs needs to become a strategic, active leader at the center of R&D and commercialization efforts and strengthen the “ends” of the continuum, from unmet needs and research to development to delivery. Medical is also important in articulating the value of the science and solutions to patients and diverse stakeholders. It will be a critical voice for pharma’s increasingly active role in addressing societal issues such as access, health equity, outcomes, and patient centricity.

CB: To achieve this vision, what areas should medical affairs focus on most?

CG: To create an even broader impact, medical affairs will need to place additional focus on three key areas already core to the function.

  1. Mastering insights to further strategy development
  2. Insights will need to expand from identifying gaps to a more strategic level that answers major questions and informs the organization’s strategy, decisions, and goals. This includes a deep and robust understanding of unmet needs and bringing more precision to the patient population that needs to be served and the subsequent portfolio. The speed and precision of insight reporting will become a strategic imperative and differentiator for life sciences companies, allowing them to make sense of the bigger picture and respond more rapidly to external needs.

  3. Servicing a diverse universe of healthcare stakeholders
  4. Physicians are not the only key decision-makers anymore. Today’s healthcare ecosystem has a more diverse set of stakeholders, including regulators, payers, patients, and tech companies. Medical will need to determine the values of each group and shift its external relationships, evidence generation, scientific communications, and patient engagement accordingly.

  5. Prioritizing impact and new skills
  6. Medical has an exciting and essential position at the intersection between development and commercialization, but it comes with being pulled in many different directions. In the future, medical will need to define its priorities better and focus on where it is uniquely positioned to provide the most impact while streamlining and automating more foundational areas like med info, compliance, governance, and operations.

It will also need to evolve its operating model and learn new critical skills and capabilities. For example, adaptive leadership skills will be necessary to foster external collaborations and internal partnerships with R&D, commercial, and market access teams. Medical teams must also pay attention to key industry trends, including the power of big data, new ways of generating evidence, and the rise of multi-sided platforms that facilitate new modes of engaging stakeholders and patients.

CB: You mentioned the growth in new stakeholder groups that medical will have to serve. Can you expand on how you see this happening?

CG: Even within the term “HCP,” there are sub-categories with different levels of influence, such as nurses, patient liaisons, academia, payors, and regulators. Interactions with these groups will shift from primarily being a dissemination of science to a true dialog, collaboration, and partnership.

Medical will need to rapidly evolve its role beyond providing the context of post-registration and post-approval studies. It must speed up the availability of high-quality data and respond to different value definitions from diverse stakeholders through new evidence-generation strategies.

Within scientific communications, medical will need to move from summarizing data to articulating the value of new therapies while considering that the value definition will differ for each stakeholder. Multiple sources of information must be integrated into a single scientific voice and then broken down into other narratives to offer more personalized medical engagement across platforms to audiences with varying information needs.

And finally, a critical group that medical will increasingly interact with will be patient and patient organizations. Medical will continue to own the scientific dialog but will also need to find ways to involve patients end-to-end along the product value chain and even co-create with them.

CB: There’s a lot of discussion about measuring the impact of medical activities. However, there is yet to be a widely accepted measure of success. Why do you think this is?

CG: It has always been a challenge to define the right metrics and KPIs to demonstrate how medical’s actions drive the organization’s strategic priorities. Without these metrics, we’ve come to depend on only operational measures instead of results. In a rapidly changing landscape defined by cost and competitive pressure, medical teams must strengthen their business acumen and strategic vision and focus on showcasing their value and impact.

Medical should aspire to take a performance management approach that starts with understanding and measuring the real-world consequences of its activities and then use these insights better to drive excellence. Future metrics must be science and patient-driven and remain focused on delivering value.

CB: Achieving medical’s future vision will certainly take some time and transformation. What do you think are the key requirements to get there?

CG: First, medical has to become more strategic. They need to make sense of the whole healthcare system as well as the societal context. Bringing key insights to proactively shape the company’s decisions and goals is also essential. The second is developing new capabilities and skills, especially around adaptive leadership, business savviness and agility, and digital and analytics.

Lastly, and most importantly, embracing a new mindset. With any transformation, the people are critical, and medical teams must change how they work across all areas to achieve the vision.

CB: Medical has a bright and impactful future, but also a lot of work ahead. Would that be the correct way to frame it?

CG: Absolutely. Medical is in a great spot to address healthcare ecosystem changes and new business demands. There is a lot of opportunity to grow, so there is no better place to be!

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