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The Complexity of Medical Affairs KPIs

Medical Affairs is a strategic third pillar of the life sciences industry. It Is not a sales department or a clinical development department. It is a department that, if correctly executing medical excellence, is strategic in nature and can therefore be game-changing for the company as a whole. However, with that unique placement, measuring the quality of interactions, particularly those involving Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), presents a unique set of challenges. Unlike sales teams, for whom a plethora of tools and metrics are available to easily gauge performance, Medical Affairs professionals operate in an areas of subjectivity where the impact of their interactions is not quantifiable. Unfortunately due to lack of options, this has led to the adaptation of sales-oriented tools for Medical Affairs, which, unfortunately, fall short in capturing the true essence of MSL activities.

The Inadequacy of Conventional Metrics

Traditional metrics, predominantly quantitative in nature, are ill-suited for assessing the nuanced interactions of MSLs. The quality of engagements with healthcare professionals (HCPs) cannot be fully encapsulated by numbers alone. MSLs are not salespeople; their role is to foster relationships, conduct scientific exchange, provide medical insights, and be strategic assets to Medical Affairs- activities that inherently resist simple quantification but are incredibly valuable for a company to have.

Embracing Qualitative Metrics

To address this gap, Field Medical Affairs teams must pivot towards qualitative metrics that more accurately reflect the impact of their interactions. This shift involves placing a greater emphasis on Medical Insights, which are gleaned from MSL-HCP engagements and play a pivotal role in informing Medical Affairs strategy. But these are not the only piece of what makes a KPI qualitative.

Components of Qualitative Metrics

Several key components should be considered when developing qualitative metrics for Medical Affairs:

  1. Field Medical Insight Reporting: Capturing and analyzing the insights generated by MSLs during their interactions with HCPs is crucial. These insights can inform strategy adjustments and highlight areas of unmet medical need. However, to prioritize and reward the most valuable insights, there must be a way to separate the most impactful from any others.
  2. KPIs Focused on Impact: Instead of merely counting interactions, KPIs should measure the influence of those interactions on the Medical Affairs department's objectives and overall strategy.
  3. Integration of Qualitative Aspects in Quantitative Metrics: Even traditional quantitative metrics should be infused with qualitative elements to provide a more comprehensive view of MSL activities.
  4. Physician Feedback: Direct feedback from HCPs is invaluable in assessing the quality of MSL-HCP interactions. It provides a firsthand perspective on the value and relevance of the information exchanged.

The Path Forward

The industry has been asking for ways to show impact and value of Medical Science Liaisons for a long time. The transition to a more qualitative approach in measuring Medical Affairs KPIs requires a shift in mindset, the adoption of new tools, and a commitment to capturing the subtleties of MSL interactions. However, the payoff is significant. By embracing qualitative metrics, Medical Affairs teams can gain a deeper understanding of their impact, drive more meaningful engagements, execute the Medical Strategy, drive future medical strategy, and ultimately effectively showcase the value of the MSL team to their organization.

The journey to accurately measure the quality of Medical Affairs interactions, particularly those involving MSLs, is a complex but essential endeavor. By moving beyond traditional sales-oriented platforms and embracing a qualitative approach, Medical Affairs teams can better demonstrate their value and enhance their strategic contributions to internal stakeholders.


Nicolas Georgiades

Published date

March 29, 2024