Medical affairs has transformed over the past decade, evolving from a supportive role into a strategic decision-maker and trusted scientific partner. No longer focused solely on supporting marketing and sales activities from a medical perspective, medical affairs now plays a vital role in strategically communicating the nuances of sophisticated science with the larger medical community.
This ability to communicate relevant clinical insights and value has never been more important, with therapeutics growing in complexity (e.g. biologics) and medicine becoming more personalized. And by coordinating the needs of internal company stakeholders, such as commercial, regulatory, clinical development and drug safety teams, with the needs of external stakeholders, medical affairs can help a pharmaceutical company’s commercial division make knowledge-driven decisions faster and more accurately than ever before.
In other words, medical affairs has moved from simply disseminating information to providing market-based strategic input to drug development and portfolio management.
Summing up what’s fast becoming expected of medical affairs and how it can bring value to the strategic table, Katie Anders, head of Medical Affairs Strategic Solutions at Medscape, said:
“Today, medical affairs must liaise with their R&D colleagues and fully grasp the science that supports their work. They need access to real-world data. They need the strategic thinking abilities and insights of their marketing counterparts, and the customer-facing skills of those in sales. And they must understand and operate under all of the rules and regulations governing industry interactions.”
2 ways to become a more strategic medical affairs partner
In essence, medical affairs is a hub of data and information generation, sharing and dissemination. Here are three ways that a medical affairs team can help deliver strategic value to the wider organization
1. Facilitate easier collaboration
Across industries, employees often store content on their personal hard drives, making it impossible for individuals and teams to collaborate on content. Without collaboration, it’s difficult to share insights, and as a result decision-making suffers. When the time it takes to get a drug to market is impacted, it becomes a significant problem.
By encouraging the use of shared spaces, medical affairs professionals can collaborate amongst the team, and with all relevant departments on content related to a specific drug, therapeutic, or research area.
2. Be the outside voice inside the company
By generating and disseminating data to and from patients, payers and providers in a transparent and ethical fashion, medical affairs has a key role to play in communication. Medical affairs departments have an opportunity to become the voice of a company to the outside world, including speaking to payers, patients, physicians, regulators and government agencies.
In this sense, facilitating collaboration can mean organizing access to the latest approved literature to quickly answer client inquiries. With medical affairs involved in all aspects of a drug’s lifecycle, no team is better placed to be that outside voice inside the company.