Onboarding 101: How to Set your MSL Team up for Success
HCPs rely on them for information and medical education. The industry relies on them to share information on how a particular therapeutic product is regarded in the medical and patient community. Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) are an integral part of pharmaceutical companies and have been growing in size and dominance over the years. They are the "connectors" between HCPs, the medical community at large and industry. They are educators, researchers, connectors, and conduits of information.nity, to manage investigator-initiated studies, and to provide critical intelligence on questions or gaps in the medical community.
Assembling the right MSL team is a huge challenge, but it's only one piece of the puzzle. Properly onboarding the MSL team is of paramount importance. If they are not appropriately onboarded, MSLs may not bring the most value to your organization.
How to Onboard Your MSL Team
1. Offer Training
The success of your MSL team starts with education. Yes, MSLs are highly educated, with the vast majority having completed a doctoral degree (most have earned their PharmD or MD). Joining a company as an MSL requires a significant amount of additional training which needs to go beyond company policies. Be sure your training program provides a substantial amount of time with reputable resources. Other important aspects of training include:
- Intense training on the disease area as well as developing a precise and detailed understanding of all clinical studies. This should include competitor studies and studies that failed or were not completed (and why)
- Training to understand the data on any competitor products in a disease space and understanding what questions have come in the past.
Once you've established a program with adequate time and resources (most will be peer-reviewed publications), encourage MSLs to talk to HCPs. If they don't already have relationships with HCPs in a disease area, perhaps a few hours can be incorporated into a commercial ad board where the MSL team can engage with KOLs.
2. Build Partnerships with Medical and Commercial Connections
All that time training mentioned above can be a bit isolating. Because MSLs are field-based, they are not coming into the office every day. Their home office is their training base and can further lead to isolation if they are not properly engaged.
To give them the opportunity to get out during the training phase, plan an onboarding meeting at the home office, and give MSLs a proper introduction to the company and different departments they will need to know.
Consider these ideas when planning your in-office meetings:
- Start with a 1-2 day meeting onsite. Schedule time for them to meet with R D, regulatory affairs, marketing, sales, and compliance.
- Plan dinners or lunches where they can socialize with others in different departments.
- Create a fun team-building activity specifically for the MSL team. Maybe try an escape room or cooking class.
If the home office is somewhere picturesque (San Francisco Bay or Boston for example), plan one of these events at or near a historic site or picturesque location. Make it memorable!
The goals should be to provide value, have fun and strengthen relationships. A close-knit MSL team will better support one another and share critical ideas when out in the field.
3. Provide Ongoing Engagement
After the onboarding meeting, the MSL team members go back to their home offices for continued training. So, what's next? How can we maintain that engagement, with both the field and home office teams?
Just like in any sport, offense and defense have different plays, but they practice as a team. Even though medical and commercial have a firewall, they should work together while respecting the firewall at ad boards, speaker trainings, symposia, and congresses. MSL teams should have regular engagement with regulatory affairs, clinical, and R D to understand the pipeline, current and future studies planned, and to ensure questions or gaps from the medical community are being addressed scientifically.
If the MSL is the "connector" to HCPs, reliable resources are needed at the company to allow them to be real experts and thought leaders in their specialty. Build programs to incorporate this collaboration and maintain it throughout the year.
Offering training, creating cross-functional partnerships, and maintaining ongoing engagement are three pillars to building and cultivating a successful MSL team. Take a look at your current team and members. Have they been provided these three pillars? It's not too late, you can onboard them or reboard them now, the right way.
Do you have questions about creating an MSL team that is successful? Do you have a team, but lack the cohesion you desire? If you are nodding your head yes, give me a call or send me a quick email. I will be glad to help you with suggestions to create the MSL team you have always wanted!