Maximizing the Strategic Role of Medical Information
With vast amounts of data available and expanding means of accessing it, healthcare professionals (HCPs) seeking accurate, evidence-based information need medical information services now more than ever. Med info teams are invaluable in helping cut through the noise and building trust with the broader medical community.
But for all that they contribute, medical information has an opportunity to drive more internal awareness of its practice and advocate for the strategic value it adds. How do they get a larger share of voice within medical affairs, amongst peers, and across the organization? How do they secure a more prominent seat at the table?
Trends reshaping medical information
Scientific and technological advancements in drug development have increased the complexity of product-related information, adding more nuance and layers of complexity to the nature of medical inquiries. Teams are generating highly specialized responses to a broader set of inquiries on a more frequent basis.
What’s more, HCPs and their patients are now accustomed to digital engagement and expect accurate, reliable information delivered in near real time through their preferred channels.
These trends have helped organically reshape the scope of medical information, taking it from a source of support to a more prominent, value-adding stakeholder. But for all the momentum gained, there is still work to be done to gain this recognition internally.
Securing a seat at the table
Medical information’s critical insights justify its strategic station. However, many of its internal partners across commercial and R&D lack awareness of how their contributions tie back to critical business outcomes.
In some ways, med info teams are limited by their own functional obligations to remain agnostic, unbiased, and non-promotional. It’s harder to command influence amongst cross-functional counterparts when you operate autonomously, and your value metrics don’t immediately align with the rest of the organization.
But that’s not to say med info’s contributions can’t help other teams achieve their goals. There are both quantitative and qualitative metrics that can be used to contextualize the medical community’s engagement with the company; it just can’t be a one-size-fits all approach. As a result, securing a seat becomes a matter of catering to the audience of the table you’re at.
“Getting and maintaining a seat at the table partly depends on where the table is located,” explains Clare O’Loghlen, global medical information lead at Grünenthal. “If medical information is within the commercial (rather than the R&D) part of the organization, then the challenge is to convince sales-minded people about the value of a non-sales oriented function. Your message always needs to be tailored to your audience. There are two approaches that are not mutually exclusive: raising the risks and selling the benefits.”
Raising the risks
Medical information at its best ensures that HCP and patient needs are heard and communicated back with a level of authority that creates internal dialogue and informs decision making. It’s foundational to fostering a culture of true customer-centricity.
But beyond this customer purview, it is equally important to highlight the objective risks of poor execution. Medical information helps ensure information integrity and compliant, unbiased engagement in response to unsolicited inquiries. Negative outcomes from litigation, code of practice cases, or audit inspection findings can result in loss of license to operate.
Selling the benefits
The flip side of raising the risks is selling the benefits of proper medical information execution. This is about capturing the voice of the customer, identifying and delivering insights, improving the company’s reputation, and helping it gain authority within a busy information landscape.
Medical information’s growing prominence can be attributed to the fact that they are one of the few teams within the organization that talks to medical stakeholders daily. Conscious, transparent engagement builds the credibility and goodwill that positions the organization for success.
That being said, finding the tangibles of a job well done has been challenging not just for medical information teams but for medical affairs as a whole. When your outputs are not sales-focused, value is more difficult to demonstrate — it requires identifying the unique measures of impact and finding creative ways to prove them.
The value of data management and analysis cannot be understated when looking to successfully measure the impact of information exchange. Medical information departments typically use KPIs to assess efficiencies, but there is an opportunity to rethink performance management to capture the impact of their activities.
Tracking metrics like volume of inquiries, types of requests received, and response time from intake to fulfillment can help establish an effective measurement baseline. A deeper analysis of these activities can help organizations understand important market inputs and identify certain inquiry patterns or geographic trends around a particular drug and its usage that fill data gaps and shape overall product strategy.
But quantitative metrics alone won’t provide the full picture of medical information’s impact. Team leaders must go the extra mile to show how those numbers relate to broader industry narratives as well as critical business outcomes.
Centralizing, analyzing, and making strategic use of medical information data creates more opportunities for cross-functional dialogue, but the onus is on team leaders to initiate those conversations. Key to medical information truly maximizing its strategic role is finding and using its voice.
“We’re often the silent department, beavering away and getting things done compliantly… it’s the nature of med info,” says Liz Rance, Eisai’s head of EMEA medical information. “But there’s a lot that we can generate from our databases. There’s a real knowledge-gaining experience from running reports and sharing that insight, compliantly, with teams that need it.”
As O’Loghlen sees it, overcoming these hurdles requires making sure people know 1) that you exist, 2) what medical information is, and 3) why it’s “more than picking up the phone, answering a question, and putting it down again.” Simply put, the more that people know about what med info does and how it adds value, the easier it is to secure that seat at the table, influence strategy, and get the resources necessary to further advance the field.
Embracing technology and innovation
How effectively medical information gathers, leverages, and integrates its data back into the organizational core will define its future prominence. Embracing a digital-first framework for managing the medical information lifecycle will allow for new capabilities and opportunities to derive value. Innovations in automation, for instance, can streamline inquiry intake, processing, and fulfillment. Equipping teams with omnichannel engagement tools can improve accessibility and empower customers with choice.
Technology can help create these operational synergies so long as there is collective buy-in to enable it. Making sure cross-functional stakeholders agree on global processes and data definitions to ensure both consistency and scalability of messages is crucial.
After the foundation is set comes the real progress. Empowered by their own information management and systems integration, medical information teams will be better positioned than ever to keep pace with the evolving needs of customers and truly maximize their strategic role within their organization.
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