5 Global Trends Steering Medical Affairs in 2020

Submitted by Beatrice on Wed, 04/15/2020 - 08:21
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MAPS is the world’s largest community of medical affairs professionals. Their annual meeting explored the predicted global trends for medical affairs across the next year, through a series of roundtable meetings led by various speakers from the biopharmaceutical, medical devices and healthcare industries. The Corpus was a company sponsor and exhibitor at MAPS 2020. In this post, we highlight some details about five of these major trends.

The expanding role of the Medical Science Liaison

According to various key opinion leaders (KOLs) at the conference, today’s medical science liaison (MSL) is no longer just a scientific expert acting as a bridge of communication between Research & Development/Medical Affairs teams and both their internal and external stakeholders. The MSL has become a key player in helping to improve patient outcomes.

Therefore, MSLs need to concentrate on building and strengthening partnerships with physicians, payers and patients, through multiple media channels and focused interpersonal skills.

This broader scope of stakeholders also means that MSLs now need a wider range of capabilities. These include an understanding of patient engagement, thought-leadership engagement, digital insight, strategic planning, health economics, and scientific and product expertise. Many MSLs will require new training to expand their capabilities.

First, focus on the patient

Dr. Patch Adams, M.D. — a keynote speaker at MAPS 2020 — stressed the importance of considering the patient first in all medical affairs activities. Dr. Adams is a nationally known speaker on wellness, laughter and humour, as well as healthcare systems.

As he pointed out, the patient should be the priority for biopharmaceutical and medical devices companies. Dr. Adams recommended that medical affairs teams should aim to show patients great kindness, improve their quality of life and help them at each stage of their patient journey. 

In fact, many healthcare companies are already creating new medical affairs roles that best fit patient needs, such as the Community Science Liaison. These professionals are establishing new relationships with patient advocacy groups to identify real-world evidence in specific therapy areas.

Build patient engagement at all stages 

Patient engagement continues to be an important strategy in medical affairs. It refers to the tools and actions taken by patients, healthcare professionals (HCPs), and biopharmaceutical companies to promote informed decision-making and behaviours to deliver improved health outcomes. Patient engagement also helps to reduce healthcare costs.

Companies should aim to involve patient engagement at each stage of their biotech or clinical treatment development. For example, they could start by identifying unmet patient needs through pre-launch patient advisory boards. 


Companies could then work with relevant patient groups and clinicians to develop patient-centric solutions for these needs. Companies can also make this information available to a wider community of HCPs.  

During the post-launch product stages, companies can continue to focus on patient engagement by identifying and analysing real-world evidence. For example, they could consult with patient advocacy groups about the practical and lifestyle effects of using their medical treatments and products.

Engage thought-leaders & provide quality insights

The demand for quality healthcare insights and thought leader engagement was also a significant trend at MAPS 2020. In the current digital age, clinical thought leaders are frequently overwhelmed by extensive data of varying quality. 

Therefore, they want MSLs who can provide relevant, valuable insights, rather than just pump out commercial messages so companies should aim to become a trusted scientific partner to KOLs over the long-term.

Earning this trust requires efficient ways to engage thought leaders, clarify this information and demonstrate its value. That’s where medical affairs teams can use virtual medical education, selected digital channels and online meetings to deliver quality insights and strengthen thought leader engagement.

Tailor medical affairs with virtual meetings

With the recent challenges of the COVID-19 virus, the importance of virtual meetings in medical affairs was a hot topic of conversation at MAPS 2020. 

Opportunities for using digital communications in the healthcare industry are rising with the availability of more sophisticated electronic channels and the launch of new technologies such as virtual reality. In fact, some of the MAPS 2020 roundtable workshops were broadcast online to delegates who could no longer attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

Staying ahead of the curve

“MAPS 2020 did a good job of identifying the upcoming global trends in medical affairs, and helping us to stay ahead of these changes,” concluded Meagan Handy, Client Services Associate at Remedica, which is a sister agency of The Corpus. Remedica specialises in developing strategic medical affairs for various pharmaceutical-healthcare clients. 

“I personally appreciated the fact that MAPS 2020 included key workshops on thought leadership and engagement, insight generation and the patient journey. These are three areas of medical affairs that are growing fast and are interesting to me on a professional level,” she explained. 

Fewer attendees, higher quality talk

Due to COVID-19, the original number of MAPS 2020 attendees dropped from 750 to around 400 people. However, the smaller number of participants made the event a lot more personal. With less people attending, many of the roundtable workshop conversations were of higher quality. 

At The Corpus, we often see a similar effect at the online meetings that we manage. The quality of meeting conversation goes up at those virtual meetings and advisory boards that have fewer participants. 

Finally, we’d like to thank the entire MAPS team for putting on such a great event despite the difficult circumstances, and a special thank you to Pedro Campa, Senior Manager, External Affairs at MAPS for helping The Corpus to sponsor and exhibit at this year’s event.

Discover digital meetings with a personal touch

If you’re interested in improving your virtual meetings, then please get in touch with me: call +44 (0)20 7428 29003 or email jan.ash@the-corpus.com.

Intro paragraph

Which global changes can your company expect to face in medical affairs this year? Some of the key trends were revealed at MAPS 2020 , held in Miami, Florida on March 8–11, 2020.

Author name and role

Jan Ash
Business Development Manager

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5 Global Trends Steering Medical Affairs in 2020