Part 2: Medical Affairs strategies to overcome healthcare industry challenges.
Written by Dr Niamh O’Reilly


This second installment of our three-part series discusses how the Medical Affairs function is evolving to provide solutions that address the three areas of change discussed in last month’s blog, i.e. greater consumer empowerment, complex regulatory pathways and informing payers about real-world data.

Looking through ‘multiple lenses’ – the importance of stakeholder engagement

The most competitive pharmaceutical and medical device companies are those who integrate rapid technological developments, use of big-data and real-world evidence into their medical affairs functions (1). Medical affairs teams link scientific and clinical results to patient outcomes and communicate these insights strategically to stakeholders throughout the product lifecycle. Responding to changes in the healthcare industry requires innovative stakeholder engagement strategies driven by understanding the needs of patients, healthcare providers, regulators, payers and government.

One example of the importance of stakeholder engagement in an evolving medical affairs function is the rise of medical science liaisons (MSLs) in response to restrictions on the activities of sales representatives in promoting therapeutic products to healthcare professionals. MSLs are now more likely to gain access to medical key opinion leaders (KOLs) to hold peer-to-peer discussions and gain insights that can inform clinical strategies and contribute to building competitive advantage.

Patient engagement strategies

Harnessing patient insights has been shown to impact positively across multiple business areas in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, yet patient-centricity remains somewhat an aspiration for some companies (2). The use of digital platforms such as apps to allow patients to communicate with healthcare professionals (HCPs) via video journal during clinical trials is increasingly popular. However, medical affairs teams who embrace this type of technology must be careful to cater first to the patient’s needs before the business needs. For example, apps can allow the HCP to respond to patient queries or schedule an earlier visit if they are concerned with their patient’s progress or side effects. These apps can then have the secondary goal of providing a tool for companies to gather insights that can later be disseminated to regulators, payers and other relevant stakeholders as part of the business strategy. Companies relying solely on data from patient-physician interactions are limiting their potential to gain insights about the patient journey and so need to realise the importance of innovation to improve on current standards of patient engagement (3).

Strategies to engage payers

The rising cost of healthcare has caused payers to seek cost-containment measures and new forms of evidence in showing the cost-effectiveness of therapies (4). Simultaneously, the pharmaceutical industry has become increasingly frustrated with the uncertainty around the funding of new therapies and so there is a growing need for companies to develop a new model of interaction with payers (4). One suggestion is for early and ongoing engagement with payers similar to the approach that pharmaceutical companies often take with KOL engagement (5). Some examples of strategies that can add value to payer engagement are the use of real-world data, incorporating support services that optimise the value of a therapy for patients, as well as tools to help payers assess the quality of those services and negotiating risk-sharing arrangements such as pay-for- performance (4, 5). By developing an evidence based relationship, payers and the pharmaceutical industry can collaborate to bring the most clinically effective and best value solutions to patients.

CRC’s experienced Medical Affairs team can develop effective engagement and market access strategies tailored to a client’s needs for building effective stakeholder relationships.


  1. Loic P, Schlegel C, Gordian M. 2017. Reinventing the role of medical affairs. Available at: http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/reinventing-the- role-of-medical-affairs.aspx
  2. Kinapse. 2015. Capitalising on Patient Insights. Available at: http://www.kinapse.com/media/1237/capitalising-on- patient-insights- kinapse-white-paper- february-2015.pdf
  3. Champagne D, Hung A, Leclerc O. 2015. McKinsey & Company How pharma can win in a digital world. Available at: http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticals-and- medical-products/our-insights/how- pharma-can- win-in- a-digital- world
  4. Robinson R. 2014. PharmaVoice. Payers: Addressing the needs of payers. Available from: http://www.pharmavoice.com/article/payers/
  5. de Cent N. 2014. EyeforPharma. It’s time to go on the payer journey. Available at: http://social.eyeforpharma.com/evidence/its-time- go-payer- journey