Building Bridges to Accelerate Innovation in Medical Affairs: Highlights of the Maps 2024 Americas Annual Meeting

Written by Lauren Stutzbach, Associate Director, Medical Strategy on Thursday 11th April 2024

Medical Affairs professionals from around the world braved pouring rain, travel delays, and (according to the Medical Affairs Professional Society [MAPS] social media team) feral cats to attend the 2024 MAPS Americas Annual Meeting from March 24–27 in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here, we summarize the top themes from plenary sessions, panel discussions, and workshops that reflect current trends and changes in Medical Affairs. 

Building bridges to accelerate innovation in Medical Affairs

The theme of this year’s meeting, “Inspiring innovation to drive strategic Medical Affairs transformation,” was perfectly encapsulated by the opening keynote delivered by Dr. Ranjay Gupta, author of Deep Purpose. Dr. Gupta encouraged the packed house to not only “think differently, relate differently, and act differently” but to be different. As Medical Affairs teams take on more cross-functional leadership, it is critical not to “destroy silos” but to build bridges between them to allow for collaboration and alignment without neglecting the specialized skills and knowledge of each function. 

Session leaders and workshop participants alike brought these ideas to the forefront of formal and informal discussions on cutting-edge (e.g. the current and future role of artificial intelligence) and perennial hot topics (e.g. omnichannel, patient centricity), as well as new takes on bread-and-butter initiatives in Medical Affairs (e.g. innovations in data visualization, creation of modular content). Central to many of these discussions was the idea that Medical Affairs can push innovation forward by recognizing and filling communications gaps, serving as a hub of information and scientific messaging that can “bridge the silos” of internal stakeholder groups and between pharmaceutical companies and external groups. While each of these groups has specialized expertise, Medical Affairs can “translate” key messages between them: from Clinical Development to Market Access, from pharma to HCPs, from HCPs to payors and medical administrators, and from patients and caregivers to all of the above. As Geeta Nayyar, speaker in the Tuesday morning plenary session and author of Dead Wrong suggested, Medical Affairs needs to “change the way data are looked at, interpreted, and activated” to make communication of scientific and medical information “faster and more relatable…even for clinicians.” 

A new era of insights generation  

Another key theme at the MAPS meeting was widening the traditional Medical Affairs perspective to include insights from financial and administrative stakeholders within payor organizations and medical facilities. Because Medical Affairs is tasked with “big picture” thinking and is typically the only function that participates in every asset stage, Medical Affairs professionals are uniquely qualified to synthesize financial stakeholder insights to establish the strategy for and direction of real-world evidence generation and to iterate on that strategy throughout the product lifecycle.  

From metrics to measuring impact 

The final resounding theme of the meeting was the growing need for Medical Affairs to demonstrate impact. While commercial teams have obvious key performance indicators, Medical Affairs teams need to find tangible ways to demonstrate effective scientific exchange, engagement, and educational impact. In one session, medical impact was defined as “understanding and influencing relevant clinical behaviors, linked to the overall medical plan”. Most sessions touched on the collation of insights from a variety of sources to develop and visualize the impact story. For example, insights gleaned from field medical interactions, advisory boards, social media, real-world evidence, and more should be viewed holistically (e.g. via a dashboard). Others encouraged us to think creatively about what can be measured, which may include surrogate measures such as diagnosis rates, key opinion leader alignment scales, and engagement metrics. Regardless of the approach, a robust measurement strategy should be part of any Medical Plan. Returning to Dr. Gupta’s opening keynote, this quote rang true: “Information leads to knowledge leads to judgement.” 

About OPEN Health 

As the role of Medical Affairs continues to grow and evolve, OPEN Health is well positioned to partner with Medical Affairs teams to help foster cross-functional alignment and ensure strategic and operational consistency across initiatives. As a flexible, global agency focused on solving complex healthcare challenges, OPEN Health brings extensive experience and expertise in Medical Communications, Patient Engagement, Market Access, HEOR, and Creative Communications to unlock possibilities for Medical Affairs professionals as they define the future of our industry. 

Working in partnership with our clients, we embrace our different perspectives and strengths to deliver fresh thinking and solutions that make a difference.

Together we can unlock possibilities.

For information about OPEN Health’s services and how we could support you, please get in touch.