Medical Affairs Xcellence Conference: Looking to the future

Written by Meghan McAllister, Account Director on Thursday 27th October 2022

OPEN Health recently had the opportunity to attend the first MAX Conference in Philadelphia, PA, USA. The two-day event covered every branch of Medical Affairs, including operations, communications, and field Medical Affairs, providing important insight on topics ranging from leadership, diversity, teamwork, and omnichannel to challenges and reporting metrics.

The growing role of artificial intelligence (AI)

One of the hot topics was AI and how it is being used to enhance the work of the Medical Affairs industry. Insight gathering was just one example of how AI can be used to compile and sort information, improving reporting and translating insights into action. It was reinforced that not only does AI continue to learn with every entry, but it can also be tailored to fit engagement plans and create truly personalized experiences.

Prioritizing Medical Scientific Liaison (MSL) needs

Other key themes included the evolving role of MSLs in both small and large pharma companies. A number of challenges were noted, such as smaller companies requiring more vendor support, with both small and large pharma companies seeing an increase in MSLs changing jobs more often. Of particular importance was the discussion centered around training needs:

  • More MSLs are interested in online, self-directed learning
  • MSLs are looking for more structured learning, which can be a challenge in smaller pharma companies
  • Soft skills training should be started early in an MSL’s career
  • Training should be based on the team and, in smaller companies, the onboarding program needs to be built from the ground up

Motivating MSLs was another topic of conversation, and ideas for pharma companies of all sizes included:

  • Giving recognition awards
  • Introducing team-building activities (including virtual options)
  • Allowing MSLs to participate in the interview process when hiring additional MSLs
  • Providing opportunities to attend various congresses and events
  • Checking in with direct reports to get their feedback on what is and isn’t working

Post-pandemic omnichannel engagement

One session explored omnichannel engagement in the post-pandemic world. With omnichannel being a widely discussed topic, this session had some interesting points of note, including:

  • Medical Affairs should be partnering with other departments (for example, marketing and legal) to get the most out of channel integration
  • A technology-based approach should be used to create a more tailored experience (for example, a Netflix-type approach to track what the audience may like)

What does this mean for this ever-changing industry?

It’s important to ensure that MSLs at the forefront of Medical Affairs receive proper training, including coaching on leadership skills. Whether it’s how to utilize AI, lead a successful team, motivate direct reports and peers, or enhance omnichannel, building a comprehensive training program is essential to get the most out of key opinion leader engagement and empower MSLs.


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