The changing role of MI teams with the digitalization of medical communications
Within the pharmaceutical industry, medical information (MI) teams are mainly responsible for developing medical content, assessing evidence-based medicine, and responding to unsolicited requests for MI about a product.
Over the years, the roles and functions of MI teams have evolved alongside the overall digital transformation in the industry. Better patient awareness has led to a rapid increase in the number of MI requests coming in, the complexity of these inquiries, and the expectations for quick responses. In addition, MI teams are under growing pressure to keep pace with digital advancements.
Additionally, MI teams have functions that span a product’s entire life cycle. They are expected to oversee and maintain MI contact centers and MI self-service web portals; develop field medical material, product dossiers, etc. and perform/support review of promotional material while ensuring clinical data integrity; support scientific meetings, product labeling, publication planning, clinical trial recruitment, and medical education; and train sales teams and MSLs.
Unfortunately, even with such expansive roles and responsibilities, HCPs and patients are not yet fully aware of the functions of pharma’s MI teams. Pharma companies and their MI teams are trying hard to address this knowledge gap, improve awareness, and provide timely access to relevant, evidence-based MI. One outcome of these attempts is the institution of phactMITM (Pharma Collaboration for Transparent Medical Information)—a not-for-profit consortium of pharma leaders and MI teams. The aim of this collaboration is to build an MI community by making the MI resources of the member pharma companies easily accessible and, in turn, effectuate innovation via better communication channels and new services for customers.
The need for interactive SRDs
While MI teams continue to optimize processes for all the functions they serve, their most crucial function remains responding to requests for MI. How can MI teams ride the industry-wide wave of digitalization and optimize the format of standard/scientific response documents (SRDs)?
Traditionally, SRDs developed by pharma companies have mostly been directed toward responding to unsolicited requests for information from HCPs. And HCPs have conventionally preferred to get this information via emails/letters, faxes, phone calls, as well as meetings with MSLs.
However, today, it’s not only HCPs who seek such information, but also patients, caregivers, and payers. More importantly, people in each of these groups are time-constrained and use multiple digital communication channels. As a result, MI requests are coming in through various channels—for example, online chat rooms, discussion forums, video-conferencing calls, company-sponsored websites, third-party websites, etc. Thus, responding only through emails/letters, faxes, and phone calls is no longer feasible. This is where easily navigable SRD formats can be useful. This can make information easier to find, read, and comprehend because of the use of interactive and visually appealing PDF and webpage formats, infographics, tables, charts, simple animations, hyperlinked elements, and easily navigable sections and tabbed interfaces.
It is understandable that SRDs are complex and HCPs find them cumbersome to navigate due to the various requirements and standards that need to be followed for their development, such as the SRD CORE-4 Rubric, which is a highly recommended best practice approach that dictates rules for the completeness, organization, referencing, and equal representation of information in SRDs. But with the industry’s increasing focus on addressing patient/customer needs, SRDs cannot be ignored or left out of the digital transformation process.
MI teams all over the world are also facing cost pressures while ensuring they meet all regulatory and legal standards when responding to MI requests quicker than ever before. In this scenario, it is essential for MI teams to have access to seamless digital interfaces for medical communication, both internally and with the external stakeholders.
Concerns regarding the adoption of interactive SRDs
Admittedly, there are concerns and challenges to the adoption of the interactive format of SRDs, such as the time taken; budget constraints; issues with implementation; development and maintenance costs; frequency of updates; issues with the ability to update digital formats; and the risk of being perceived as promotional.
Yet another concern is the time for which this information can remain available online on a digital portal. This is a cause of serious concern in case the product (prescription drug or medical device) information becomes outdated and isn’t updated regularly. Nevertheless, the US FDA has provided certain definitions and recommendations for companies that choose to make responses to unsolicited requests for information public, in order to avoid confusion in the aforementioned scenarios as far as possible.
In conclusion, SRDs have a wide reach – physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, patients, caregivers, patient advocates, and payers. Most of these consumers use electronic devices to access information nowadays. Therefore, with changing times and a better understanding of customer needs and preferences, it makes good sense to move from a static and linear document format to a more user-friendly, easy-to-navigate, and interactive format, while complying with the stated directives and regulations.
At Cactus Life Sciences, we believe that SRDs can be made more interactive using technologic features. This will help meet the needs of busy end-users who want information at their fingertips, while retaining the scientific look and feel of the documents. For more information on how we can help you, please contact us.