Reflections on the evolving role of MSLs

Written by Francisca Costa, Business Unit Director, Learning and Development on Monday 3rd October 2022

In September, we attended the 2nd Annual MSL Best Practices Summit and were excited to see a focus on the evolution of the MSL role. Sessions explored how to build the right MSL team, the importance of investing in MSL education, and how to best support MSLs with KOL engagement.

Adapting to the “new normal”

After more than 2 years in a global pandemic, and the “new normal” of virtual interaction, field-based MSLs now have the opportunity to go back to connecting with HCPs face-to-face. However, with virtual communication still playing an important role in this hybrid world, MSLs need to keep up with virtual methods to effectively engage with HCPs.

The evolving role of the MSL requires them to broaden their skillset more than ever, and this was a key topic at the conference. This, combined with the knowledge that the role of Medical Affairs is also expanding, highlighted a real challenge in keeping up to speed with upskilling and development.

Providing value across product lifecycle

Another topic of interest was MSL involvement in different aspects of the product lifecycle, while providing value and maintaining compliant interactions with commercial colleagues and HCPs. There is a need to shift mindsets across the industry and MSLs and Medical Affairs teams should be integrated much earlier in the product lifecycle, not only at launch. Commercial and Medical Affairs teams need to align and MSLs need to have an excellent understanding of the science, as well as the commercial goals and strategy, to create meaningful relationships with HCPs.

With the introduction focusing on the expansion of the MSL role and responsibilities, the following sessions focused on MSL traits and how Medical Affairs team managers can build an MSL team from the ground up. It was important to discuss best practices and what to look for in MSL candidates, exploring personality, career goals, and aspirations.

Importance of omnichannel for MSL teams

Rosie Humphreys (Director, Technology Solutions, OPEN Health) delivered a presentation on omnichannel and discussed whether omnichannel is an opportunity or threat for MSL teams. The session generated a lot of interest, as omnichannel continues to grow in importance for many companies. Whilst omnichannel was initiated for commercial purposes, it is being increasingly embraced as a cross-functional best practice for effective insights-led engagement with HCPs. The session explored how MSLs fit into this evolving picture, as the demands on medical teams increase, and how the impact of the engagement can be maximized, whilst retaining the quality and depth of stakeholder relationships. The session also raised some important questions on how omnichannel strategies can help alleviate the time burden for HCPs and provided a forum for distinguishing between multichannel and omnichannel strategies.


While industry changes, either because of the pandemic or the natural direction of industry growth, great opportunities are provided to elevate the role of MSLs and Medical Affairs teams as direct communicators of scientific evidence to HCPs, patients, and society, while maintaining close alignment with the commercial goals and strategy. At OPEN Health, our extensive and collective expertise in learning and development, medical communications, evidence generation and omnichannel strategy makes us well positioned to support MSLs and Medical Affairs professionals through these changes and facilitate alignment with Commercial and Market Access teams.

If you’d like to watch our session, “Omnichannel: Opportunity or Threat for MSL Teams?” from the MSL Best Practices Summit, click the button below:


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