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Why an IT and Medical Affairs Partnership Is Key

Why an IT and Medical Affairs Partnership Is Key

IT industry leader Ian Hamilton, President of the Technology Sector at The NPD Group, shares his insights on why a partnership between IT and medical affairs teams is a necessity.

  1. What’s the role of IT alongside medical affairs, when it comes to technology that supports both internal and external teams?

We strongly advocate that pharma companies have a specialist medical affairs IT team. This group should be involved in the day-to-day business operations, management, and project meetings, learning the processes, regulations, challenges and opportunities. Typically, this team will not be deep technologists, but rather IT professionals who have the skills to translate business needs and requirements into technical requirements.

  1. Build or buy is a key question — how does IT evaluate whether they should be building new capabilities internally vs. outsourcing with proven vendors and partners?

Our preference would always be to buy whenever possible, but ensure solutions are open and can integrate well into your ecosystem. Sometimes building is the only option, especially if you are breaking new ground or have identified a unique opportunity. Buying reduces the maintenance effort as off-the-shelf SaaS solutions will typically integrate easier. Companies often think their problems are unique but when you analyze the requirements, this is seldom the case. It's critical that partners have expertise in the pharmaceutical industry.

  1. What’s your playbook for how IT and medical teams can collaborate and partner?

As noted, we strongly advocate that pharma companies have a specialized medical affairs IT team. This team should feel and act like they have one foot in medical and the other in IT. They need to be strong medical advocates to help secure funding and resources, they should be able to articulate medical priorities and challenges, write both business and technical requirements and talk to medical affairs professionals in a language they understand.

We would recommend IT professionals sit with and shadow their medical affairs colleagues and even take some of their training. The closer IT can get to understanding the medical affairs world, the closer they are to delivering the best solutions.

  1. What technologies are IT teams evaluating at the moment for medical affairs teams  —  and what are they looking for in these solutions?

We are seeing that companies can be in multiple places in terms of their digital technology adoption; some are trailblazers, others are happy to be followers, and then there are those struggling to get started.

In terms of hot technologies:

o Component content authoring

o Content generation and visualization

o HCP and patient portals

o Customer insight:

  • Personalization
  • Intelligent search capabilities
  • Collaboration tools
  • Decision support tools

o Contact center automation:

  • CTI (Computer Telephony Integration)
  • Voice-to-text translation
  • Conversational virtual assistants
  • Voice recognition
  • Omnichannel

Generally, it can all be summarized as automation, efficiency, and multi-channel. The adoption of digital solutions to augment human interactions is critical to balance the increasing demand from more informed customers while continuing to provide trusted information. The challenge for pharma is to transform its people, processes, technologies, and content to work effectively in the digital world. The IT team can then be an important partner when establishing relationships and credibility to help identify new and innovative technologies that can drive the business forward.

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