Recruiting healthcare professionals (HCPs) and Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) for their boots-on-the-ground insights to inform the medical strategy of a pharmaceutical organization is a delicate task that requires not just expertise in the applied therapeutic area but also a deep understanding of how to establish rapport and build a balanced relationships based on trust and mutual respect. This is where Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) come into play, serving as a bridge between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare providers
Building trust through scientific expertise
One of the primary roles of MSLs is to provide scientific and clinical knowledge to HCPs. This expertise is crucial in establishing trust, a fundamental element in any recruitment and relationship building process. For instance, a recent IQVIA white paper demonstrates how MSLs, through their in-depth knowledge of drug mechanisms and clinical data, can effectively engage with HCPs, which then leads to the foundation in which to build a relationship from trusted guidance and mutual respect. Such relationships are essential when convincing HCPs to align with new clinical practices or to offer insights from their expertise and patient encounters which drive the medical strategy within a pharmaceutical company.
How this would look in real-life scenario would go something like this: let’s assume a pharmaceutical company is developing a novel cancer therapy. It is interested in engaging and rallying oncologists around this new drug. An MSL, equipped with detailed knowledge about this therapy, through their previous efforts of establishing a relationship, could effectively communicate its benefits and the science behind it to the oncologists. This not only educates the oncologists but also piques their interest in being part of this new and cutting-edge treatment paradigm, thus aiding in recruitment.
Bridging the gap between clinical practice and pharmaceutical advances
MSLs play an important role in updating HCPs/KOLs about the latest pharmaceutical advancements, which then helps ensure that clinical practices are aligned with current research. This role is particularly significant in specialties that are rapidly evolving, such as oncology or rare diseases. As highlighted in the white paper authored by Sunil John (2023), MSLs were instrumental in disseminating information about new treatment protocols in rare diseases, which directly influenced the recruitment of specialists in these areas.
Consider a situation where a new treatment for a rare neurological disorder is introduced. MSLs act as the bridge that can provide neurologists with the latest information and data on the new treatment and moreover through their trusted relationship, encourage them to be part of any specialized team that is at the forefront in the treatment of such conditions.
Facilitating networking and professional development opportunities
MSLs often create platforms for networking and professional development, which are attractive prospects for HCPs/KOLs considering career advancement. This aspect was underscored in a report by Veeva, which found that networking events organized by MSLs led to significant increases in HCP/KOL engagement and recruitment. In fact, they reported that Pre-Launch Field Medical Education Leads to 1.5x Increase in Treatment Adoption. These events provide HCPs/KOLs with opportunities to connect with peers and industry leaders, making them both valuable and ideal recruitment tools.
For example, let’s say an MSL supporting metabolic diseases wanted to engage a large body of diabetes experts for an upcoming study or a ready-for-market novel therapy. They could organize a symposium on advances in diabetes management, which not only educates HCPs/KOLs but also allows them to network with other industry experts and peers, potentially opening doors for participation and assistance with novel treatments or research trials.
Though we primarily see MSLs as field-based medical educators whose role it is to build relationships with HCPs/KOLs to help inform their pharmaceutical employers for the purpose of medical strategy, they are also pivotal in the recruitment of these healthcare professionals to participate with initiatives, campaigns, and research projects. Their ability to build trust through scientific expertise, bridging clinical and pharmaceutical worlds, and facilitating networking by creating, fostering and nurturing professional relationships make them invaluable assets in this process. Most leaders in Medical Affairs understand these crucial skills, but applying these skill sets while leveraging the above three key points can enhance your recruitment strategies and lead you towards more success in these efforts.