di , 11/06/2023

Historically, pharmaceutical, biotech, and MedTech business models could be summed up in two steps; the first was discovering and developing new innovative treatments through the R&D process, and the second was passing the baton to Commercial teams who would knock on the doors of prescribers to generate sales. Then a few decades back, the role of Medical Affairs emerged to solidify the scientific narrative to inform clinicians of the latest unbiased trial data and the unmet needs (gaps) they fill. Fast forward to the millennium, the function of Medical Affairs has grown in importance, with teams spearheading scientific exchange (conversations), not only to address gaps but to showcase the efficacy of post-trial studies on patients, thus positioning them as a leading strategic player alongside R&D and Commercial activities.

In fact, Medical Affairs played a key role in providing evidence based scientific data during COVID-19 vaccine trials and also accelerating the unprecedented rollout and adoption of the vaccine. The adoption aspect is especially important to note as the decision did not solely lie with clinicians, but very much with patients, payers, and policy makers (Stakeholders). Medical Affairs had the responsibility to not only educate and inform clinicians but also influence all Stakeholders to agree, adopt and comply with the vaccination protocols to reach rapid and unprecedented herd immunity on a global scale. This could only be achieved by communicating both the efficacy and value (HEOR) of the data and establishing trust within a global population (excluding the minority of anti-vaxxers).

This feat demonstrates not only where Medical Affairs stands today but where its role and responsibilities lie in the future. There are three main focus areas that Medical Affairs teams should prioritize to not only maintain momentum but drive innovation within the industry.


The first focus area is embracing what technology brings to data analytics and insights analysis and finding ways to collaborate with ‘big tech’ who, in many cases, own this data (RWE and Genomic companies for example). Real-time information is being increasingly analyzed by artificial intelligence, something Medical Affairs needs to monitor and supplement to ensure compliance and accuracy. Patients, or better yet, “all of us” are increasingly empowered to take charge of our health and well-being. We are more informed, and with access to unprecedented information online and technology such as digital platforms, diagnostic tools, wearables and chatbots, we are equipped with in-depth information about our health which, in some cases, surpasses what clinicians have time to access. When managed with the right scientific vigor by Medical Affairs teams, technology enables the fast curation of evidence-based information, allowing Stakeholders to make more timely and collaborative decisions.

Adult Learning Principles

The second focus area is to embrace best-in-class adult learning principles to not only educate Stakeholders but ensure they retain the information and more importantly allow them to apply what they learn. As an example, Oncologists, are flooded with extraneous information, some refer to as an ‘infodemic’, and medical affairs have the responsibility to adopt a stakeholder-centric (some call it omnichannel) approach to ensure the right information is delivered to the rightstakeholder, on the right channels (of their choosing), at the right time (always on, live or on-demand). This is critical to moving Stakeholders along the adoption ladder making sure they all end up in the same place.

Creative Storytelling

The third focus area is creative storytelling, meaning how we, as an industry, exchange complex scientific information with Stakeholders. Medical Affairs have typically delivered scientific information in conservative lengthy linear formats which are scientifically rigorous but lack compelling narratives. Simply put, they don’t tell a story. Creative storytelling has been used since prehistoric times to communicate with and educate populations. The creative combination of words, sound, and imagery (more recently moving imagery) has moved masses over the centuries to take collective action and influence life-changing moments. The key to engaging Stakeholders is to deliver a creative narrative that triggers an emotional response, which in turn helps gain their trust and eventually their loyalty.

Medical Affairs stakeholders are increasingly digitally savvy and have the opportunity to showcase their leadership within Pharma, biotech and MedTech when it comes to leveraging technology, digital platforms, omni-channel communications, and data analytics. Strategic insights can be derived from these activities, generating qualitative and quantitative metrics, which provide actionable outcomes. Medical Affairs have a key role and responsibility to engage beyond prescribers by collaborating with all Stakeholders to improve patient outcomes and improve the overall trust people have in the Pharma industry.