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Fostering innovative thinking in medical affairs

Many pharmaceutical companies are averse to risk, opting for safe approaches and waiting for innovation to happen elsewhere before changing current practices. As patient lives are on the line, this cautious approach is understandable, but a mindset shift is required to truly innovate therapeutics and improve patients’ quality of life.

Bridging the gap between the product and the patient, medical affairs teams process complex scientific information to ensure that it is accurate, up to date and effectively communicated to the target audience. Fostering innovative thinking in medical communications could provide the opportunity to accurately address the needs of healthcare professionals and patients.

In this blog, Matt Lewis MPA, Global Chief of Artificial and Augmented Intelligence at Inizio Medical, and David Woods, Vice President, Portfolio Lead at Inizio Medical Analytics & Innovation, will explore how medical affairs are evolving to introduce innovative thinking and transform current operations through digital advances for enhanced patient outcomes.

Innovation in medical affairs

Medical affairs teams navigate how scientific information is handled, understood and communicated across the scientific community and the general public. Often distinct from scientific discovery, transformative shifts in medical affairs can be perceived as unnecessary.

The industry’s move from product-focused to patient-centric approaches demands current practices change and is an example of the need for innovation in medical affairs. Innovative thinking can help to transform how medical affairs are conducted, providing the opportunity to better adapt to evolving needs.

However, the shift towards patient centricity has led to many challenges, such as understanding fast-changing patient needs and navigating the rapid progression of digital platforms to successfully distribute information. Approaches to medical affairs need to be optimized to better address patient needs and increase engagement.

Communication drives innovation

Having a communicative approach is essential for innovative thinking, allowing ideas to flow freely to introduce fresh insights and spark inspiration in the following ways:

  • Sharing knowledge and best practices to help build on varied experiences
  • Collaboratively generating and sharing novel ideas
  • Providing feedback to enhance and improve innovative efforts

However, innovation can have associated risks, and it should be acknowledged that not every project will succeed on the first attempt. Providing employees with assurance that failures won’t result in negative consequences is essential. This can help employees to embrace novel thinking, collaborate and generate innovation.

A strategic framework for innovation

Weaving an innovative framework throughout an organization builds a strategic model to help identify target areas for innovation. Helping to encourage internal and external stakeholders to take part, the framework should also encompass a process to validate, pilot and grow these ideas.

Opting to introduce a pilot program allows for novel alterations to be tested on a specific disease area, indication, geography or team, before rolling it out to the wider organization. In this instance, any challenges can be overcome before incorporation on a larger scale.

Several approaches can be utilized to source innovative ideas within an organization, including:

  • Internal innovation: Harnessing off-the-shelf software of internal resources to foster innovative thinking
  • Third-party consultants: Hiring outside input can offer unique perspectives, helping to take risks and explore new ideas

Both internal and external approaches can offer valuable insight and innovative solutions to transform medical affairs.

Harnessing digital advances

The fast-evolving digital space offers ample opportunity for improving current practices. In particular, artificial intelligence (AI) has already shown promise throughout the pharmaceutical industry, helping to streamline manufacturing and process data.

By harnessing machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing, data can be analyzed at speed, and key insights are drawn, allowing for better-informed decision-making. With the ability to provide insight into whitespaces and competitors, this understanding can help to better position a drug product in the market.

Another fast-developing digital advancement is the use of omnichannel. As the integration of marketing across all channels, omnichannel allows for tailored and consistent messaging across all platforms for an integrated user experience. With a clear understanding of patient needs, omnichannel is a critical strategy to help the move towards patient-centric ideals.

Integrating innovation

Embracing the risks associated with innovative thinking is essential to transform medical affairs. With a supportive culture, employees are encouraged to think outside of the box. The integration of novel digital systems can significantly improve current systems, providing solutions to transform medical affairs to better address patient needs.

Working with an external partner can offer fresh insight, providing a new perspective that can propel innovation. Support throughout the innovative framework helps to position medical affairs for success by easing the navigation of resources, validation, pilot and scaling.