Medical Affairs engagement: an ecosystem approach to improve patient outcomes

Pharmaceutical innovation has and remains a major driver for improvement of patient outcomes and healthcare. The industry has provided countless treatments that cure or turn deadly disease into chronic, and continues this trend, pushing the boundaries of innovation through ground-breaking technologies like CAR-T and gene therapies. This pace of innovation brings challenges for the organization and the entire health ecosystem. How does this impact future role of pharma and what will be the implications for Medical Affairs?

The Pharma Value proposition: from supplier to partner to improve patient outcomes

Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been positioned as a supplier of innovation to the health care (HC) system. However, bringing innovations to the patient is becoming more and more challenging given the increasing HC costs and increasing burden of disease. Coordinated efforts are needed from all the different HC stakeholders to move away from volume towards value and provide care focused on improving patient outcomes. This coordination, however, brings important challenges for the industry as the stakeholder landscape becomes more and more complex. As challenges emerge, there is also an opportunity for pharma to become a true partner to collectively improve care for patients and manage costs.

How can pharma become a true partner to advance patient care and work in coordination with other stakeholders?

Improving patient outcomes: how an eco-system approach can help?

We strongly believe the Medical Affairs function is uniquely positioned to take a leading role in partnering with healthcare stakeholders and managing the complex network around the patient to ultimately improve care. Medical Affairs is the unbiased and trusted partner that can bring together healthcare and industry, with the main aim to improve patient outcomes. This is echoed by the Medical Affairs Professional Society in their Whitepaper: Communicating the value of Medical Affairs [download here]. However, to take on this new role. Medical Affairs will need to evolve their modus operandi, especially when it comes to Medical engagement.

Really partnering to improve patient outcomes means navigating the complex ecosystem of different stakeholders and decision bodies around the patient. Medical Affairs will need to move away from traditional person by person scientific engagement approach towards an integrated ecosystem approach – in which all individual interactions serve the bigger purpose – improving care for patients.

But how is this ecosystem approach different from traditional communication?

  • It provides a top-down framework identifying the relevant stakeholders who have a direct or indirect influence on how patients are treated (example in Figure 1)
  • The guiding principle of this approach is that all individual interactions or engagements should serve a higher purpose beyond scientific engagement or education – improvement of care.
  • This means that all individual engagements should take place in the form of a dialogue to truly understand stakeholder needs and challenges.
  • Finally, based on these conversation solutions addressing stakeholder and patient challenge can be implemented in co-creation – often taking a beyond product perspective.
Illustrative care eco-system in NL_ showigthe differnet stakeholders in imlementing VBHC_Vintura Blog
Figure 1: Illustrative care eco-system in NL

Medical Affairs Ecosystem approach: 5 key success factors

We describe in detail what the integrated Medical Affairs function is and how to get there in our 2018 white paper: “Medical Affairs in transition: towards an integrated model” – integrated Medical Affairs functions embody an ecosystem approach focusing on Value Delivery rather than Value communication (Figure 2)

Integrated Medical Affairs focusing on Value Delivery in collaboration with care eco-system around the patient_ Vintura Blog
Figure 2 Integrated Medical Affairs focusing on Value Delivery in collaboration with care eco-system around the patient

In practice we see 5 key success factors of high performing Medical Affairs teams adopting this ecosystem approach:

  1. Understand the network beyond KOLs: to truly improve outcomes for patients you need to understand all the decision makers and their needs within the relevant network. More importantly to understand the root cause of the different challenges that are impacting patient outcomes. This means listening to understand and asking a lot of questions.
  2. Be outside and proactive: to understand the different needs within the ecosystem you need to be there within the ecosystem, this is a no brainer. Medical Affairs teams who are in the field often perform better and build stronger relationships with their stakeholders. These relationships are crucial to building solutions that improve outcomes for patients and require a proactive approach.
  3. Be fearlessly entrepreneurial: taking this new role means going against the status quo for medical and requires an entrepreneurial spirit. Successful MSL teams propose and implement innovative solutions together with KOLs and key hospitals – all in line with compliance rules.
  4. Dare to fail, but learn: being entrepreneurial means failing – which is ok! The key is to learn from what went wrong and changing your future approach this requires measuring what you are doing and the impact of your actions.
  5. Internal collaboration and empowerment: by definition, the ecosystem approach will be a cross-functional endeavour hence internal collaboration is THE prerequisite for success.

Finally, by taking a holistic ecosystem approach Medical Affairs will become more and more relevant for the individual stakeholders as well. This increased relevance will create a positive flywheel resulting in more and better Medical interactions which will help our transition towards the externally focused, entrepreneurial, and strategic function we strive to be.

Thinking about the future of healthcare, a lot will be different in a couple of years from now. Are you interested in Vintura’s vision on Medical Affairs in the future of healthcare and do you want to keep up-to-date on our latest thought leadership. Feel free to leave your contact details below to be included on Vintura’s Medical Affairs mailing list.

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I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experience with this approach!