Medical Affairs, Scientific Advisors and Field Medical all walk a fine line. They are fully employed clinicians, pharmacists or scientists who are subject matter experts in relevant therapy areas. Their role is to really understand data and disease management trends and then disseminate their knowledge to educate and inform their peers, patients and prescribers.
The challenge that they face is whether or not they are promotional?
Some companies erroneously believe that these roles, by definition are completely non-promotional as there are no sales targets, measures or marketing messages.
Some healthcare providers wrongly believe that these roles are clearly promotional because they are employed by pharmaceutical companies with a therapeutic and brand alignment.
The truth is that it is all about focus and this will vary between companies, therapies and the context of each customer interaction. It is this innate variation that causes confusion and misaligned expectations amongst both the Medical Affairs, Scientific Advisor and Field Medical community as well as their employers and customers.
Confusion and misaligned expectations are not helpful. They are unproductive for companies, stressful for employees and a source of doubt and mistrust amongst healthcare professionals. Clarity and consistency is required; absolutely within a company and more generally across the industry if the relationship is to flourish and add tangible value to the company, customers and consumers.
Imagine a funnel; the Focus Funnel.
• At the top the funnel is wide, open and all encompassing
• It narrows down to the bottom where is becomes narrow, restricted and targeted
Industry-wide conversations with Chief Executives are focused at the top of the funnel on the wider health economy such as the engagement of industry with health providers and the implications of an aging society. Not promotional in any product or brand sense at all.
Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives engaging in brand specific conversations with prescribers are focused at the very bottom of the funnel, clearly targeted and overtly promotional.
Medical Affairs, Scientific Advisors and Field Medical work somewhere in the middle of the funnel, creating advocacy for effective disease management. But they are also expected to know when they should drift upwards to be broader and less treatment focused in their conversations as well as other times when they need to be targeted and brand specific.
The first rule is that a company must clearly define, and then communicate, its expectations for these roles and those involved in them. The very act of gaining consensus to written expectations can be both painful and cathartic.
Secondly recognise that the more consistently you expect your people to focus, the greater the confidence and trust that will be engendered in both them and your customers. Healthcare professionals and even patients will get to know what to expect from an interaction with these roles and can build a relationship on that basis.
A clear and consistent role is good for people; recruitment can be better aligned and staff turnover reduced. And it is also good for business; customer relationships are enhanced and value is added to the health economy. It’s all about clear and consistent focus.