As the trend toward medical affairs (MA) becomes an even more significant part of biopharmaceutical companies, MA teams have emerged as key players not only in advancing the success of their companies, but also in helping to improve patient outcomes. Underpinning this role is their ability to engage customers—especially physicians—effectively via digital channels.
Traditionally, however, MA teams have relied heavily on face-to-face interactions to fulfill their brief. Today, though, physicians are willing to invest less time in meeting people in person to obtain information, so the MA role is challenging as digital begins to transform the way teams engage customers. MA leaders are rethinking how they operate in an increasingly digital world driven by the following signs of the growth in digital in healthcare.
Physicians’ use of digital content for discussion, research, and collaboration continues to grow: nine out of ten physicians believe their time spent on digital for professional purposes will grow in the next year.1 Today, physicians globally spend at least 1.5 hours online per day conducting research, with at least half of that on social media. We found that 72 percent of doctors believe that social media channels improve the quality of patient care and more than 30 percent use them for professional purposes, often preferring open forums to physician-only online communities. For example, in the neurological disease space, physicians who used SERMO—a social network for physicians to collaborate and share ideas—were 53 percent happier with the job they do.
Meanwhile, 38 percent of physicians who do not currently use social media believe they will use it for professional purposes in the next two years. Doctors’ reasons for using various channels are even more fascinating. Today, physicians seek digital journals and publications to understand disease mechanisms and learn about new therapies; however, 61 percent of those using social media consider it an equally or more effective way to obtain answers to specific case-related questions or concerns.
Patients have long gravitated to digital with 90 million patients discussing health topics online. In the United States, 80 percent of patients carry out online research prior to a consultation, and four out of five patients would share their data to receive better care.2 Interestingly, however, despite the emergence of digital for both patients and physicians, physicians do not always understand the role and importance that digital resources play for their patients (Exhibit 1).
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By Matthias Evers, Ivan Ostojic, Brindan Suresh, Josh Weiner, and Ann Westra
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