Overview of Medical Affairs Profession
We have generally read biographies and heard of the cliche of ‘doing things differently’ instead of ‘doing different things’. I usually don’t know if it is a fact or cliche, what I know is that I don’t really enjoy following people. When one looks at the Job Description of a medical affairs professional there are so many things people talk about – here I mean that the medical affairs profession is related to medico-marketing, one finds some standard terms – train the field force, carry out continuing medical education (CMEs), handle clinical studies, Key Opinion Leader (KOL) relationships, medico-marketing communication, product launches, etc.
As a medical affairs professional, I have observed one guiding concept – you are not the individual who is producing direct revenue for the organization. However, you are a source they have invested in and organizations generally expect return on their investment. Therefore, it is not sufficient for medical affairs professional to be just a watchdog. You have to deliver positive value to present business. What can I do in a different way? Or do various things, which the business team can’t do, considering my medical qualification. Something which doesn’t ask me to give up on the watchdog role, but simultaneously brings profits on the investment that the company has made on me is very important. The easy answer could have been training the sales force perfectly so that they can bring revenue to the company as per their estimations. It is an essential part of the work, but as a medical affairs professional, you have no command over the execution of the knowledge you have imparted. This is relatively more challenging role but surely an impactful contribution could be in the area of KOL development. That is why i think a medical affairs professional can give a meaningful return on investment.
How to Build Strong KOL Relationships
Here I am sharing how I have worked on my own path in developing strong KOL relationships. I need not highlight the importance of KOL relationships to the healthcare sector. However, a KOL relationship is met by sales, marketing and medical affairs specialists of every pharma organization. Every organization comes up with academic newsletters, literatures, clinical trial data etc. We are talking of ‘KOL relationship’, but where is the personal touch in the relationship? Why should the KOL keep you in his mind when he meets ‘n’ number of people? In the name of personal touch we do things like wishing them on special occasions like their birthdays and festivals etc. But every professional does same thing who meets him.
This is no longer quite personal, however it is appreciated. But why would KOL feel special about you? Brings down to the same marketing question – A KOL or doctor always thinks ‘what is in it for me?’ You are taking away my important time which could have been used to see one more patient. Why should I put my time to support your business?
Let’s think why some people in our life are special to us even if they are not a part of our family? Just because they have influenced us in some way or done something unique; hence the relationships. The same concept works here. I attempted to do some new things and some things in a different way. Most KOLs are keen academicians and I believed that was the best area to try and make an impression. Once that is accomplished, the impact on other fronts will come in. it requires some effort of course, but worth it.
This is how I went about it. The initial time you go to meet the KOL, have a specific plan of discussion with him. It is good to plan the same with the sales colleague, as it is he who knows his KOLs. It is significant not to appear in awe when you meet the KOL, but remain pleasant yet mature and respectful. Pleasantries break the ice much easily. Better to be clear about why you have come to meet him. Get into the discussion, notice their viewpoints, and share yours even if they are not similar at times. It is essential to stay polite though and not challenge him. Also, he is a physician – of course he understands better and has vast experience behind him. Hence your viewpoint must have a scientific basis for it, ideally published in a journal. A keen academician is sure to hear you if you are talking realistic science, even if he does not agree with what you say. Offer to send him the sources you are taking from. Make notes of the conversations you had and be prompt in getting back to him with the references. Also when you deliver that email with sources, this is the possibility to make it a little personal, at the same time keeping the professional distance. You have made the first impression. Transforming the impression into impact and impact into relationship are the next steps. A smart medical affairs professional comes out of the meeting having got some idea of his choices in reading the medical literature. Take that effort to scan the appropriate journals every month for new articles which would interest the KOLs, yet not force them to study them entirely if there is lack of time. Of course, you too won’t have access to full-texts if these journals ask for subscriptions. Even if you do have access due to your company’s membership, it would not be right to share the full-texts. However, a simple email with the name of the article and a conclusion of the key points along with your viewpoint on the same, over a personalized email, will make you stand out. Before you can do that however, you should mastered the therapy area yourself. I have implemented this method and developed some key relationships in 3-6 months and these relationships have stood the test of time. You have personalized the relationship by taking effort to know the KOL’s area of desire, bring him particular updates on the same, without loading him with reading material running into pages and essentially sharing your perspective as well. You will be respected for your ability of entering into a meaningful dialogue and not blindly copy, pasting what has been published. In 6 months you would have reached a level of great relationship. However, it is essential not to get satisfied after this point. Every time you go to meet the KOL again, you need to be as planned. The scientific exchanges must keep on periodically. As a human being and as a professional, you should expect to be tested for your sincerity, integrity and commitment over a period of time, prior to the KOL wants to keep that relationship with you. You will have built value for the business team, not to mention for your own self, because these relationships hold great value even when you have shifted on from your job. This is an example of what I have attempted to do and seen it working wonders.
Written by Guest Author