MedCity Influencers, BioPharma

2020’s silver lining was global engagement and inclusion

While Covid-19 temporarily paused our ability to interact face-to-face, it also ushered in an era of global collaboration and the ability for life science teams to make decisions based on an expanded viewpoint.

When life science organizations abruptly shifted in-person meetings and events to virtual settings in early 2020, demand surged for compliant virtual engagement platforms capable of efficiently connecting life science teams and their stakeholders. What suddenly became mandatory brought with it a high-value side effect: a new ability and eagerness to expand virtual conference tables to include advisors from all over the world.

The explanation for this is simple – when anyone, anywhere can attend a meeting, life science teams can include KOLs from every part of the globe, including those who are too busy, prefer not to travel, tend to remain quiet in face-to-face settings, or rising stars who might not be included on a budget-constrained guest list.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Beyond simply including new voices, life science teams are building value by including global perspectives. Here are some of the key things we learned about what’s possible with a more global perspective.

Diverse points of view bring volume, value, and variety
One pharmaceutical developer recently opened an advisory board on mental illness to academic researchers, along with the usual panel of practicing psychiatrists. In part due to the academics’ natural familiarity with asynchronous learning platforms, the conversation positively exploded. The research-based perspective produced a richer discussion than anticipated, with higher-than-usual response rates and multiple references to current research and publications.

In-person environments don’t always produce this result, because team leaders are limited in how many or what type of experts they can include in face-to-face meetings. Based on logistics and budgets, in-person meetings include fewer viewpoints, even at the risk of missing out on valuable input.

Focus on results, not logistics
Many life science innovators have learned that instead of asking how many people they can afford to invite to an advisory board or other virtual engagement, they can instead ask how many people they need to provide insight, meet goals, and get a holistic overview of their program.

Teams that are freed from logistical restrictions experience significant differences in the type of insights they receive. Think of the last time you tried to get a consensus on what movie to stream – if it’s a solo night in, you only have one opinion to contend with. But you’re also only drawing from your own knowledge of what’s available or might be interesting to watch. When the whole family is involved, you’ll get different opinions and many suggestions you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

The same goes for getting insight on proposed clinical trial protocols or patient education materials. When freed from the weight of logistics like hotel contracts, travel availability, and snug budgets, you open the door to a host of new insights and a new vision of what’s possible for your project.

Move at the speed of information
The pace of work in life science companies – across job functions, regions, and lines of business – is accelerating. If artificial intelligence and machine learning are shortening drug development timelines in the lab, how can other teams speed up to match that pace?

Nimble organizations with willing, capable virtual engagement champions have cut through logistical red tape to achieve some remarkable efficiency gains: They’ve completed lead-up planning for advisory boards in four weeks instead of four months. They’ve trimmed nearly a year from rare disease guideline development with stakeholders in more than two dozen countries. And when new scientific information or clinical data is available, they can convene contracted KOLs in a matter of days instead of months – accelerating the pace at which relevant information can have an impact on critical projects.

Get the global picture
With patient-centricity emerging as a top priority in the life science industry, clinical teams need a way to reach patients virtually in a timely and efficient manner, while overcoming communication challenges in all global regions. Adding more data points to sample sizes can transform what medical affairs, clinical, or commercial teams believe to be true, and positively impact patient outcomes. While it may seem counterintuitive, virtual engagement can actually feel more human, because all of the humans participating are on equal footing. In a virtual setting – particularly one where the questions are private or identities are blinded – all input is perceived as having equal value.

When virtual engagements are well-planned, intentionally designed, and inclusive, they generate higher-quality insights. And while Covid-19 temporarily paused our ability to interact face-to-face, it also ushered in an era of global collaboration and the ability for life science teams to make decisions based on an expanded viewpoint.

Photo: metamorworks, Getty Images

Natalie DiMambro is Vice President of Product Commercialization and Training at Within3. Natalie’s career in the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry has included various roles since 2002, beginning with live production and events and landing happily in virtual engagement and software solutions. She is passionate about building deeper relationships in the virtual world and empowering individuals with the technical toolkit and communication skills needed to thrive in the ever-changing life science landscape.

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