The current pandemic has increased or expanded the value proposition of MSLs by making them trusted, credible sources of information who should be ready to adapt to a real-time trend.
A lot has been written about the uncertainty of the current times. An umbrella term that very well describes the present-day climate is “VUCA”. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
The acronym VUCA was first coined in the 1980s by USC business professors Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus to describe general conditions. It was later adopted by the U.S. Army War College to describe the perception of a multilateral world resulting from the end of the Cold War. It has now evolved as a key term in businesses and organizations to denote strategic leadership.
The Covid-19 pandemic has once again brought VUCA in focus.
In this blog, we will discuss its implications in changing the value proposition for MSLs and the key takeaways to keep up with the times as discussed in our latest podcast in Medical Affairs Professional Society’s (MAPS) Elevate series along with Tim Hylan, VP, Internal Medicine Field Medical Director Group at Pfizer, Inc. and Sue Currie, VP, Head of Medical Affairs at Nektar Therapeutics.
"VUCA sounds like the god of trouble," says Bruno Larvol kickstarting the podcast, while Sue adds, “The format and the modality or the vehicle (of the value proposition) has changed”.
#1 Covid-19 has expanded and increased the current value proposition for MSLs
With the pandemic situation, the format and the process of the value has changed for MSLs. There has been changing dynamics of healthcare providers (HCPs) with their patients in terms of reducing interactions due to Covid-19. And this has facilitated expansion or increase in the value to complement the existing or priorly more face-to-face interactions.
#2 Digitization of information and content
This has become a key trend that emphasizes on how our communication has evolved currently. A lot of conversations are happening in the digital space and social media is playing a key role. This is also because all interactions are happening virtually now, which may have happened in-person before.
#3 Speed of information dissemination is instantaneous
With everything happening virtually, the speed of dissemination of information has become instantaneous.
As Tim puts it, “In today’s world, it actually takes you longer to even set up a WebEx or a Zoom meeting than it does to send content (information) around the world and so It really challenges us who are interacting with medical customers every day to figure out how we can engage with them, and also to figure out what is that compelling need and that mutual opportunity and connection that we can still maintain”.
#4 Democratization of information
Virtualization has brought about the democratization of content and information because currently anyone can start a conversation anywhere. This is increasingly moving the industry to really be more attuned to where most conversations are happening and how we engage with experts across platforms.
#5 Virtualization of conferences and congresses
All congresses and conferences have moved to a virtual format which has made a big difference for the KOLs who used to attend such events in person but are now having to attend virtually. This has shifted the conversation the KOLs had among themselves, and with the industry to a virtual platform. It will be interesting to discover how these conversations will continue post pandemic and how would the industry adjust to all of that moving forward.
#6 Disruption of traditional ways of interaction and frequency of exchange
The traditional ways of interaction with the medical customers, or with the HCPs have been disrupted by this pandemic. The industry is having to rethink how to better engage in ways that are appropriate, but also respect the fact that everyone’s time is extremely limited.
Furthermore, the frequency of exchange has increased over the past couple of months since it is all virtual and hence way quicker than traditional ways of interacting. The number of meetings, congresses and events have gone up tremendously as compared to the past. Furthermore, this has brought a shift towards smaller events rather than few large congresses over a year, bringing about closer interactions.
#7 Inordinate amount of data
Presently there is an inordinate amount of data given the complexity of medicines. And everyone is having to sift through all that to understand the need for an MSL-KOL engagement. MSLs have an increasing value proposition to provide both the content and context of all that information.
#8 Overnight change in the way of communicating with customers
Pre-pandemic interactions were more traditional with in-person meetings and congresses with a gradual trend of shifting to social media and virtual discussions post events. With the sudden emergence of the pandemic, overnight the discussions and interactions moved to a 100% virtual space. The industry had to re-invent ways of engaging without having much prior experience or training to handle this new challenge.
#1 MSLs to be that credible and expert source
With the digitization, virtualization and democratization of data, there is a considerable amount of easily accessible information. This has expanded the value proposition for MSLs to be at the forefront and be that credible source of information who can be trusted and viewed as experts.
All panelists emphasized on the importance of being the most “credible”. MSLs must understand the information needs of KOLs and how they consume information, which is very different now than it has been in recent times.
#2 Utilizing time better and being prepared well
The new reality, or the new paradigm means less travel, hence more time to focus on areas that are important. This can help MSLs in having more time collating or synthesizing the data faster. This also implies that no sooner than when a congress is over, the information should be ready. At times, even before the congress is over because a lot of information is readily available.
MSLs will have to gear up for this new reality in having to provide the most accurate up-to-date information in the shortest amount of time.
#3 Sift through all the noise to provide the salient points when there is less time to communicate
KOLs rely heavily on MSLs to help make data-driven decisions. With the enormous amount of data readily available at all times, MSLs have to be that funnel that sift through all the information and noise to provide the salient points when there is less time to communicate.
It creates an interesting opportunity for MSLs in making their role even more critical, when so much is coming out all the time to help identify the quality, and the integrity of the data.
#4 MSLs to interact in new ways in digital spaces
Digital spaces like social media, zoom meetings, virtual congresses are the new reality and have brought a paradigm shift in the nature of interactions. MSLs need to keep up with the times in adapting quickly to these new ways, of smaller, more frequent congresses with closer and deeper interactions with the core groups that matter.
The future of MSL-KOL interactions in a post COVID-19 era could very well be hybrid.
#5 Industry to move to a real-time trend when the news breaks
Currently, there is a subtle subliminal transition to a trend of real-time data. There is an expectation of having data ready as soon as a news breaks and the industry is solving this issue to help the KOLs in that speed. As Bruno puts it, “It’s going to be really interesting to see how we sort that (I know we will as it as an industry). But it’s certainly a bit of a, I hate that word, but a bit of a ‘game changer’. In some ways”.
About MAPS, our podcast host
MAPS is the premier non-profit global Medical Affairs organization for Medical Aﬀairs professionals by Medical Affairs professionals across all diﬀerent levels of experience/specialty to engage, empower and educate. Together with over 4,000 Medical Affairs members from over 220 companies globally, MAPS is transforming the Medical Affairs profession to increase its value to patients, HCPs and other decision makers.
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