Pharma 2021 (formerly eyeforpharma Barcelona)

Oct 12, 2021 - Oct 22, 2021, Digital Conference, Exhibition & Networking

Meet decision-makers from across the entire value chain, with 2000+ leaders from commercial, marketing, digital, patient engagement and advocacy, clinical development, medical affairs, market access, RWE and more. You can’t miss it.

On the journey from pill to platform

For AstraZeneca’s Alex Bedenkov, investing more in post-pandemic medical capabilities is just the start of a far more profound organisation-wide transformation



As pharma’s business model increasingly moves beyond the pill towards the patient and the entire therapeutic context, Medical Affairs was already being earmarked as an increasingly pivotal function.
 
The pandemic-driven changes that have roiled the healthcare sector have been an accelerant to this disruptive trend.
 
Last year Medical Affairs became an even more essential partner. Healthcare providers (HCPs) have been consulting Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) for advice and trusted content in greater numbers, increasingly so in a digital context.
 
There are huge opportunities here for Medical Affairs to provide value in the digital-first era where digital opinion leaders are growing their reach and influence says Alex Bedenkov, AstraZeneca VP Medical, International, and Global Health Innovation Hubs (A.Catalyst Network) Head. “The pandemic has boosted the evolution of Medical Affairs as a function.”
 
The extent of the transition in how HCPs wish to engage with pharma, and the manner in which they are now consuming information, has induced AstraZeneca to establish discrete Digital MSL roles. “They are a brand new part of the story. This is not just a physical MSL doing digital,” says Bedenkov, “it is using AI, analytics and chatbots to supply and provide HCPs with additional instruments and tools to ensure the best possible patient outcomes.”
 
'Human-centric'  AI in particular can help drive better insights and actions. Being able to query internal and external data in a conversational format and receive timely customer insights has never had more value. The ability to navigate ever-increasing amounts of data across multiple data sources, using sophisticated technology, enables Medical Affairs to deliver insights tailored to the needs of HCPs and their patients.
 
The potential of AI
There is already evidence for the benefits of AI to drive efficiencies. Bedenkov cites the statistic showing that of those that have already adopted AI, more than 82% reported that their deployments have already resulted in operational or workflow improvements1.
 
But there is an increasing imperative to do more in concert with other pharma colleagues. Medical Affairs will operate in the new engagement context most effectively when its activities are most closely aligned with other functions. 
 
Collaborating cross-functionally has never been more important in a world where time-pressured HCPs with growing backlogs to contend with increasingly engage digitally, expect convenience and will not tolerate a fractured customer experience, adds Bedenkov.
 
“There has never been a better opportunity to come together for the benefit of HCPs supporting patients. It is about patient centricity and customer centricity. We all have different roles to play there without duplication or competition. The only objective is to support patients in their journey together with HCPs. We don’t believe in working in silos, but that the best, most sustainable way to address healthcare challenges, increase access to medicines and improve patient experiences is to work collaboratively, both within the organisation and externally, to make great ideas a reality.”
 
At AstraZeneca this means not just tactical co-operation but a much more integrated and long-term approach to delivery. “We plan to create strategies together. There is no Medical Affairs strategy on a particular issue. A Medical Affairs strategy with no connection to Commercial to Market Access or to Government Affairs is useless.
 
“We think about enterprise categories when we do everything, with Medical playing a partner role with specialist and ultra-specialist companies. The only way to do that is to do it cross-functionally with agile teams acting as one team, with one voice. There are no Medical-only projects.”
 
It is fast becoming clear that the new patient-first paradigm is being driven by the rapid adoption of technologies including AI, digitisation, wearables, and the ‘decentralisation’ of the physician. 
 
Transforming healthcare
This will disrupt the life sciences business, says Bedenkov, creating an entirely new context in which pharma operates. It will require broader and more ambitious collaboration with any stakeholder in the wider healthcare ecosystem involved with patients, says Bedenkov. 
 
The disruption already in progress will demand a re-thinking of pharma’s entire strategic approach, he says. “We need to evolve from being a pill-orientated company to a platform-orientated company, to think less about the product launch and think more in terms of disease management. It’s a huge transformation and it is not only about us. We plan to continue doing things in partnerships with academic groups, KOLs, entrepreneurs, VC and ecosystem builders.”
 
As drug development and the science underpinning products has become more complex, Medical Affairs has evolved from being a support function into a strategic partner that is expected to lead changes in the clinical environment. Key opinion leaders are looking to Medical Affairs to communicate with them as peers. They want to discuss the most up-to-date information with experts, rather than just being presented with new data. With Digital MSLs, that engagement can be further enhanced through omnichannel solutions.
 
“We are evolving our Field Medical function, not only by communicating via digital channels, but by focusing on scientific discussions, supporting HCPs as scientific, educational healthcare partners”, says Bedenkov. “Our Clinical Science Liaisons (CSLs) complement the work of the established MSLs – the roles work together to expand our scientific reach to local HCPs, clinical practice leaders and diverse healthcare decision makers. This helps to give them the confidence to make informed decisions about treatment that will ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients.” 
 
AstraZeneca is more than two years into the ambitious A.Catalyst Network Emerging Markets hubs initiative, designed to put the organisation at the heart of the transformation of healthcare with a network of physical locations and virtual partnerships established to nurture and scale up innovative and holistic health solutions and ultimately drive better outcomes.
 
To date it has established 11 integrated, open science ecosystems in emerging markets, operating in partnership with academia, entrepreneurs, investors, industry, medical professionals and governments. 
 
“We are driving the creation of connected healthcare ecosystems that can help us to better understand and improve patient needs. This means bringing everyone to the table who can transform patient outcomes. We are working with partners to accelerate innovation and establish integrated and strong health systems that benefit the whole patient experience — from prevention and awareness, diagnosis and treatment, to post-treatment and wellness.” 
 
A.Catalyst Network Emerging Markets hubs is an ambitious expansion of scope but one which will be essential for AstraZeneca as scientific leaders in a far more data and technology-driven future in which the patient truly sits at the heart of every healthcare activity, says Bedenkov.
 
“At AstraZeneca we are really passionate about our purpose to be at the forefront of medical science, driving real change that will transform people’s lives for the better. We are always looking to innovate and to work with the best talents and the latest technology, developing our people and creating a space for different ideas.”
 
By definition, relevance in this rapidly emerging future will mean developing a comprehensive set of new relationships across the healthcare ecosystem. “Our core capabilities will remain but we are thinking about our future and what is next. Evolving into this new state is not about us  taking this journey alone. It is about all of us.” 
 
 

Since you're here...
... and value our content, you should sign-up to our newsletter. Sign up here

Pharma 2021 (formerly eyeforpharma Barcelona)

Oct 12, 2021 - Oct 22, 2021, Digital Conference, Exhibition & Networking

Meet decision-makers from across the entire value chain, with 2000+ leaders from commercial, marketing, digital, patient engagement and advocacy, clinical development, medical affairs, market access, RWE and more. You can’t miss it.