When I began my career as an MSL in the mid-90’s, one of my personal challenges was utilizing the tools used to track my activity and interactions with physicians. There was not much structure to it, which may have been unique to the company I was working for, but colleagues at other pharmaceutical companies confirmed similar issues. We were using spreadsheets and word documents, and felt that all the effort spent on creating activity reports was at best being read and digested by my manager only and not easily accessible to other parts of the organization.
Of course the industry continues to keep pace with technological advances and now commonplace are shared web-based CRM tools to manage field-based activity. The learning curve aside, this is a vast improvement over the prior situation. Not only are these platforms more user friendly for the field based MSL but the ability to create reports and share information with internal stakeholders from a management perspective creates a most valuable asset. In reality, this asset was always there, but was often hidden or unattainable. This asset is now useable information – metrics – with the key word being useable.
These databases come is all sizes, shapes and colors. There are numerous vendors that create customized systems for pharma companies, as well as pharma companies that build their own systems using internal information technology resources. And now with the advent of tablets, smartphones, iPads and the like, activity reporting for MSLs is a far cry from what it was 15 years ago.
But of course, garbage in – garbage out still applies. It is imperative that systems are designed in a way to capture the significant information surrounding MSL interactions with physicians. Then it is equally important that MSLs are properly trained and use the tools provided. This is critical for management in assessing MSL performance, identifying trends in key opinion leader insights, and other company-specific initiatives. Additionally, the MSL personally benefits by having at their disposal information that can be examined both before and after interacting with physicians. This empowers the MSL in many ways. The MSL can review physician profiles and activity prior to meeting, be better prepared to provide requested follow-up, identify any individual concerns KOLs may have and avoid situations when a KOL mentions something they may be participating in with the pharma company that the MSL has no knowledge of.
Bottom line is well designed metrics can be used to assess MSL effectiveness and the ability to efficiently communicate that to other parts of the organization. While some consider activity reporting simply a necessary evil, it is hard to ignore the vital impact that accurate, timely information regarding physician interactions – be it opinion, insight, feedback, company activity – can have on the success of company medical affairs and MSL initiatives. As technology continues to advance, I am sure we will see further advancement in the tools used by field-based MSL teams.
What metrics do you consider imperative to capture that adequately measure MSL performance?