Sharpening communications to cut through the noise during COVID-19

Written by Aniket Parikh on Tuesday 28th April 2020

Finding unique and impactful ways to communicate with diverse stakeholders is essential in the dynamic landscape of Medical Affairs. Aniket Parikh, Senior Medical Writer at OPEN Health Learning & Development, explains why effective training can enhance individual expertise and support wider company strategies, especially during this time of remote working and limited HCP interaction.

One of the main themes observed at the Medical Affairs Leaders Forum in March 2020 was the importance of effective communication skills in a medical affairs professional. In this ever-changing landscape, it is becoming widely recognised that the role of the medical affairs team is essential throughout the product life cycle, from discovery/ideation right through to post-marketing activities. This will inevitably involve working and communicating with multiple stakeholders, internally and externally. Consistent, reliable and insightful engagement is absolutely crucial, and the medical affairs team are in a fantastic, unique position to have impact within their individual areas of expertise and also to contribute to the wider company strategy.

Coming from a background as a pharmacist, communicating with a range of people with varying needs and levels of understanding has been an essential part of my career and general day-to-day life, whether it was with patients, colleagues or other HCPs. Through the conversations I had at the Medical Affairs Leaders Forum and other meetings, it became apparent that communication skills should not be taken for granted, because many people struggle to communicate as effectively and confidently as they would like. This includes the challenge of communicating new data to HCPs in a proactive, succinct and engaging manner, handling objections and assertively liaising with commercial colleagues to align messaging around clinical trial results so that messages are aligned throughout the organisation.

It was also evident that the OPEN Health Learning & Development team have the skills to identify, understand and empathise with the needs of medical affairs teams, and tailor offerings to resolve any knowledge, skills and competency gaps they may have. Our expertise can help teams to not only develop in-depth knowledge in any subject area, but also to gain the confidence to apply their learning and showcase their competencies.

The ability to communicate clearly, effectively and creatively with different stakeholders, whether commercial colleagues, physicians, nurses or patient groups, is an essential attribute that a medical affairs professional must embrace and master to be successful in their role. It is especially prudent in the current climate, wherein teams are having to adapt their communication skills to fit a virtual environment; this creates a range of challenges such as non-verbal interactions, technological difficulties and shifting priorities of HCPs. Effective training strategies will allow the medical affairs team to interact with their stakeholders virtually in an engaging, effective and proactive manner.

For example, when creating materials for MSLs, there is a need to ‘tell a good story’ and ‘ask the right probing questions’ depending on the individual HCP. The ultimate goal is for the HCP to understand the rationale of a treatment/product as well as the data presented, aiding effective communication and data sharing. This is where the expertise of the OPEN Health Learning & Development team can be applied—we can create bespoke training packages that utilise fundamental learning theories and practices tailored to the needs of all learners to really maximise their performance.

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If your team could benefit from more effective communication with key stakeholders, either internal or external, please contact our Learning and Development team. 
We have a range of effective virtual and interactive options to help.