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Trends in Pharma

The Evolving Role of Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs)

Written by Natalia Denisova, PhD VP, Head of Medical Affairs MphaR
October 30, 2023

The Evolving Role of Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs): How the Role of MSLs is Changing in Response to Technological Advancements and Evolving Healthcare Needs

It's exciting to see how fast Medical Affairs is transforming. It has certainly come a long way. There are now proficient specialists making their way into groundbreaking medical fields, implementing innovative strategies for further streamlining communication and engagement with key opinion leaders. Since the past couple of years, MSLs have substantially grown in numbers. More medical experts, physicians, and HCPs are seen relying on the expertise and experience of MSLs to introduce and integrate effective channels of communication between global stakeholders, pharmaceuticals, and physicians. 

As Medical Affairs consistently adapt to newer technologies, experiencing continual transformation, and effectively furthering their strategic collaboration within any company; the responsibilities and duties of medical science liaisons are becoming more multifaceted in their approach to launching new possibilities for scientific dialogue and research/data sharing with a lengthening list of stakeholders that are looking for medical competencies transcending traditional scientific and clinical competencies. 

Moreover, the role of MSLs has also significantly evolved due to the influx of continuous digital and technological innovations and advancements, making it ever more critical to accommodate the demands of the overall pharmaceutical and medical industry. In light of this, this article will make a comprehensive dive into the transformation of MSLs, understanding how they have adapted to implement the demands of today's healthcare infrastructure while contributing towards the consistent improvement in patient care. 

Who Are Medical Science Liaisons?

Historically, MSLs mainly comprised teams of educated experts who come from a slew of different scientific backgrounds. This has mainly included marketers, trained nurses, people of various clinical backgrounds, and those who have doctoral degrees. However, it is important to mention that throughout the establishment of MSLs in the late 70s or early 80s, the necessary educational or scientific qualifications for these professionals have changed. Today, pharmaceuticals and healthcare companies look for MSL teams that have diverse medical backgrounds ranging from MDs, PhDs, and PharmDs. 

The Effect of Rapid Technological Innovations on MSL 

Technological advancements have made a pretty significant impact on the modern healthcare industry, completely changing the way physicians, scientists, and medical professionals use, access, and share data and information. This transformation has also positively influenced the role and functionalities of medical science liaisons. In light of this, mentioned below are some exciting ways digital technology has shaped their functionality.

Strategic Actions and Decision-Making is Based on Critical Data Insights 

To a large degree, the medical and pharmaceutical industry wholeheartedly embraces the critical functionalities of MSLs, especially when it comes to collecting crucial research data and information along with adapting to continuously changing digital and technological trends. Today, MSLs are implementing, very successfully, innovative ways to evaluate unstructured medical and/or clinical data, transitioning it into actional information. However, it's also true that the current capacity of a lot of companies to effectively apply such data remained limited when you talk about using gap analysis, which is used to share information with medical education institutes. 

However, in the coming years, it is apparent that data insights will replace the need for gap analysis to impart important clinical development and methodical decisions, while practical acumen and observation from patient communities and real-time data will transform and enhance future medical practice. 

The Integration of Virtual Environments and Artificial Intelligence

MSLs are continuously engaged in offering streamlined research and informational support to healthcare companies and clinical segments of the pharma industry, allowing them to onboard viable patients and/or volunteers along with identifying the best areas for engaging in meaningful clinical trials using AI platforms. There is no question that artificial intelligence will play a pivotal role in making the process more seamless and accurate thanks to sophisticated algorithms and predictive data tools. These features or tools will be leveraged by modern MSLs to find patients who may statistically have a higher success rate in groundbreaking clinical interventions. 

In addition, AI is also going to cumulate the specificities of the data given by the patients, considering their overall medical histories and genetics. This will help significantly enhance the proficiency and effectiveness of drug trials for terminal or debilitating diseases. Moreover, it is also going to help medical professionals and pharma scientists to understand and mitigate the potential risks involved in the trials. 

In addition, AI is also being used by MSL teams to create seamless and easy-to-use virtual environments for collecting critical information and knowledge from a slew of industry experts across multiple countries. Artificial intelligence in digital platforms has helped both medical science liaisons and key opinion leaders to synergise their efforts to unify their research and strategic analysis. Furthermore, MSLs are able to organise virtual meetings and seminars inviting various pharma stakeholders, HCPs, KOLs, and medical professionals, allowing them to gain quick and easy access to conduct interviews, lectures, and critical case studies. 

Internal and External Collaboration 

We're also seeing a consistent trend to optimise collaboration with both internal and external medical and pharma teams. This is going to further enhance the support needed to not just achieve organisational objectives but also help HCPs achieve their personal ambitions. Today, MSLs have the capabilities required to link HCPs with broad-spectrum medical and pharmacological expertise both internally and externally, further boosting patient care. 

With that being said, discussions have also revolved around the medical and clinical research and data exchange that is conducted between MSLs and HCPs. Consistently providing HCPs and stakeholders involved with continuous scientific research with a high level of integrity along with diligently understanding the healthcare professional's response to that information while factoring in their underlying beliefs is going to aid MSL teams to provide companies with advanced information to make sure that the educational material is complete and precise. Integrating patient centricity into the equation will further provide significant value to the healthcare professional, creating, fortifying, and ensuring a high level of trust among the MSLs, HCPs, and patients. This is very important in the development of a digital infrastructure that modern medical and clinical institutions work in.  

Changing  Healthcare Needs

Along with considering rapidly transforming technological trends in the medical and pharma industry, the changing requirements of the healthcare industry have also played a massive role in helping transform the duties of medical science liaisons. These consistently changing specifications are driven by constant shifts in healthcare research, data collection, patient demographics, regulatory and compliance stipulations, and the focus on patient-focused care. 

There's no doubt that today's healthcare infrastructure focuses on enhancing its efforts to focus on the betterment of the patient, making treatments more easily accessible to them. This requires medical companies and hospitals to take into account not just the efficacy of the treatment provided but the impact those treatments will have on the quality of the patient's life. 

Medical science liaisons play a vital role in providing research and information, working in the background to ensure that HCPs get the kind of information required in line with the scope of their treatments. Moreover, the pharma industry is also subject to a litany of transformative regulatory requirements and scrutiny. MSLs are the ones that help pharmaceuticals to make sure that their interactions with HCPs, clinical operations, and hospitals comply with the regulations necessary, guaranteeing a powerful system of transparency and ethical communication. 

Bottom Line

In all, as key opinion leaders, pharma stakeholders, and HCPs continue to face shifting accessibility obstacles, MSLs are, at the same time, devising, strategising, and implementing impactful research and technological support. 

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