What does Medical Affairs look like in 2021?

Written by Gabby Santa Cruz on Thursday 18th February 2021

Chief Medical Officer, Annemarie Clegg speaks to us about trends she expects to see in Medical Affairs in 2021

Annemarie Clegg

Please provide your name, describe your role, and state how long you have been working at OPEN Health and in the wider industry.

Annemarie Clegg, MD. I am newly in post as Chief Medical Officer for the OPEN Health Communications practice, providing leadership, strategic insights, and oversight for our industry-leading global medical team. In my immediately prior role as Senior Vice President, Strategic Services, I oversaw business development and the delivery of consultative services to our clients in the Medical Affairs function. I have been working at OPEN Health for over 2 years and have over 15 years of industry experience.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Medical Affairs?

The pandemic has forced step-change in nearly all aspects of Medical Affairs, driving rapid uptake of new platforms and channels for information sharing, evolving how sponsors work with investigators and thought leaders, accelerating the transition from long-form presentations to visual abstracts and ‘bite-size’ infographics, and promoting innovation in how field medical staff engage with key stakeholders.

In one word, how would you describe Medical Affairs in 2021?


What trends do you expect to see in 2021 (and beyond)?
  • Reimagining and reframing the role of medical congresses in terms of knowledge sharing, networking, and communication
  • An emphasis on agility, adaptation, and flexibility, with strategies and plans revisited and revised more frequently
  • An increased momentum for more customized stakeholder engagement
What are you most excited for in Medical Affairs during 2021?

There is a lot of opportunity for innovation and approaching strategic planning from a new perspective. What replaces the face-to-face interaction that we used to have at congresses, investigator meetings, and advisory boards? How do we reach audiences that have numerous competing demands for their time? What is important to communicate and what is just ‘noise’? These are just some of the challenges that I look forward to tackling with our clients in the coming year.

What are your biggest concerns in Medical Affairs during 2021?

Energy and bandwidth. After many months of living through a pandemic, fatigue and distraction are a real obstacle to investing in projects and initiatives that require careful thought and consistent execution.

What advice would you give to the pharmaceutical industry as it plans Medical Affairs activities for the coming year?
  • Ensure you understand how your key stakeholders are consuming information and tailor your communications accordingly
  • Consider novel methods of engagement, both internal and external, that focus on quality rather than duration
  • Revisit and revise your plans on a monthly basis and do not be afraid to pivot if conditions warrant it
How is OPEN Health preparing for the expected changes to Medical Affairs in 2021?

We are following our own advice and taking into account the points mentioned above. We are trying to be flexible and agile with our thinking, to be mindful of the external environment and how it affects the well-being of our staff, and to be ready to bring purpose, passion, and positivity to our client partnerships.


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