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The Value of Strong Medical Engagement

And the Cost of Not Getting it Right 

Medical Affairs is about strong medical engagement. In McKinsey’s “Pharma Medical Affairs 2020 and Beyond” report, in order to fully demonstrate value, Medical Affairs must continuously upgrade its understanding of what value means from the perspectives of a broad spectrum of healthcare stakeholders—from patients to society to industry.

Whether it is publishing or presenting data, initiating a new clinical trial, getting guidance in a new therapeutic area, providing medical education, or collecting post-marketing real world data, proper management and oversight of relationships with key opinion leaders, healthcare professionals and patients must be top priority.

Any engagements that are planned – congress activities, advisory boards, Delphi panels, investigator meetings, receptions – must be expertly designed and executed so that your company and team stay in the highest regards with your audience.

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What do excellent design and execution look like?


Incomparable project management. Impeccable timelines. Ensuring you have the right audience - if you don’t, the identification, profiling, and contracting is a whole other project in itself! -, picking the right venue, in the right city, at the right time on the calendar, are all critical factors of importance.

Knowing your true goals and “north star” of the engagement is also extremely important and unfortunately can get mired by all the other planning details. It is so important to ask yourself “why are we planning this meeting or engagement?” and “what would be the ideal or best outcome” we could obtain after this concludes? These questions MUST be asked, and the mission, agenda, and post-meeting actions should all stem from the answers to those questions.

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Be your audience. Excellent event design and ensuring an exceptional experience for your guests is extremely important. It isn’t about picking a high-end venue or serving champagne and caviar, and not because of the regulatory implications of those actions. If you are responsible for ensuring their experience is well-thought through, you ensure that independent of other factors, they will associate you and your group with quality. You must walk through each moment of the engagement, from the flight reservation to the ground transportation to arriving at the venue. Do your guests know where to go? Do they know what is expected of them, if applicable? Will they walk away from this engagement thinking, “Wow, XYZ did a great job; I really look forward to working with them in the future”? That’s what you should want after every engagement you plan.

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All of this takes an incredible amount of planning, experience, and dedication to excellence.

On a recent meeting SBHC planned and executed for a client, all the above (including the identification, profiling, and contracting of the audience), took 6+ months and hundreds of planning hours in addition to 3 days onsite for the actual engagement itself. A medical affairs team may have the resources to do this internally, but it’s at a big financial and productivity cost to the team. If we value a medical affairs manager at $200/hr in FTE costs that could cost you $30,000+ just for this engagement alone, for one person only. Plus, this manager cannot be focused on other important medical affairs imperatives. If honoraria and all travel, venue, food & beverage, hotel, and other costs are considered, it can be upwards of $75,000 to $100,000 for one engagement alone. To not ensure that everything is planned perfectly is at a big cost to the organization.

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The point is clear. While medical engagements have always been extremely important, that importance will continue to rise as the need to prove value from the patient to the clinic continues to grow.

Engagements need to be expertly planned, designed, and executed. It’s at too high a cost to a medical affairs team, the company it is a part of, the healthcare professionals you hope to work with and educate, and the patients you treat or hope to treat to get it wrong.