Measuring Return on Investment in MSLs
Written by Dr Niamh O’Reilly

The medical science liaison (MSL) role first emerged in response to regulatory changes within the pharmaceutical industry and an increasing need for healthcare companies to build relationships and research collaborations with key opinion leaders (KOLs). With the introduction of increasingly innovative healthcare products, the activities MSLs are engaged in continue to grow as they are required to communicate complex scientific information to, and gather insights from, a broader range of external stakeholders. However, with tightening budgets in the healthcare industry many companies are seeking appropriate metrics to measure the return on investment from this role. How can this be achieved?

Metrics of success


The demands of the MSL role are diverse and the activities vary among companies depending on the type of product they are working on and the development stage of the product (i.e. pre-launch or post-launch). These diverse activities are difficult to track, while MSLs often feel company imposed metrics don’t reflect the value they bring to their organisation.1 Some industry representatives advocate for analysis of a combination of both qualitative and quantitative metrics linked to the overarching medical and commercial goals of the business as a useful method for tracking MSL performance.1-3

Quantitative metrics are faster and easier to track and can be valuable to measure, for example, the time MSLs spend in field, the number of KOL interactions or number of new KOL relationships.1 Quantitative metrics often focus on measuring short-term goals such as securing a target number of KOL interactions. However, there is a concern that reaching a target number of KOL interactions may become the priority rather than focusing on achieving quality outcomes from these interactions.2

Activities such as KOL mapping, gathering competitive intelligence and collecting insights during KOL interactions are intangible, therefore, they need to be tracked qualitatively.1 As an example, securing a meeting with a high profile KOL could require more intelligence gathering activities and take a long time to achieve but hold greater value based on the importance of insights they share relative to the medical and commercial goals of the business. So perhaps achieving long-term goals such as this should be given higher value as key performance indicators (KPI) of an MSL’s success.

Achieving performance outcomes


So, the difficulty is not a lack of metrics, rather it may be in understanding which outcomes will help achieve the medical affairs plan in supporting the commercial goals and establishing KPIs for those outcomes.4 It may appear confusing, yet medical affairs teams are well placed to understand the importance of specific outcomes and their relevance to commercial goals. MSLs should understand the strategic objectives of the company and their own roles in helping grow the business. For example, if the goal is to have the company’s product listed in clinical guidelines, an MSL could demonstrate their value by profiling and engaging with therapeutic area experts who contribute to driving changes to those guidelines. This strategic activity combined with achieving the desired outcome of having the product listed could provide a clear indication of return on investment from MSL activities.

CRC’s experienced team has a wealth of expertise in Medical Affairs across the entire drug development lifecycle. We can provide innovative MSL strategies and assist in implementing them to maximise commercial success.



  1. Laister, T. Measuring MSL Value: Metrics that Matter. 2017. Available at: http://www.pangaea-consultants.com/blog/measuring-msl-value-metrics-that-matter
  2. DeMasi, N. The New Age-Old Question: How to Prove Medical Science Liaison Value? 2016. Available at: https://www.cuttingedgeinfo.com/2016/medical-science-liaison-value/
  3. Laudano, J. B. Return on Intelligence – Medical Affairs’ ROI. 2017. Available at: https://medmeme.com/return-on-intelligence-medical-affairs-roi/
  4. Massey, D. Measuring the Value of Medical Affairs. 2017. Available at: https://medmeme.com/validating-the-value-of-medical-affairs/