The healthcare landscape has experienced a significant transformation in the past two decades. The advancement in digital health technology, the availability of ‘big data’ and a focus on a value-for-patient economic environment are just some of the major contributing factors driving current trends.
The evolving changes in healthcare have highlighted the importance and relevance of medical affairs teams in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Medical affairs teams, with Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) at their core, are now consistently recognised to be fundamental in companies’ strategies and value propositions. Traditionally, medical affairs teams and MSLs were often seen as a supporting function. However, given recent industry transformations and new requirements, medical affairs teams are now being described as the ‘third strategic pillar’ of a successful organisation and are increasingly considered to be equally as important as research and development (R&D) and commercial counterparts.1
The role of an MSL has progressively evolved since it was first established by the Upjohn Company in 1967.2 MSLs provide a crucial link between healthcare companies and healthcare decision makers, widely defined as physician, payer and patient. MSLs are a key resource within an organisation. They are central to providing scientific advice, training and insight generation, which is essential for overall company strategy development and implementation. External scientific engagement and exploration of mutual scientific and clinical interests by MSLs adds significant value to clinical practice, ultimately benefiting patients. MSLs Healthcare decision makers and providers are increasingly forming alliances with MSLs and medical affairs teams to help improve their understanding of the complex science and targeted medical treatments that are becoming widely available. These alliances are crucial for evidence- and value-based clinical decision making and deliver substantial benefits for research, healthcare education and patients.3
With such rapid changes in the industry and the increasing importance of medical affairs teams, what training programmes are needed to build a multifaceted and highly skilled team?