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October 20, 2023

The role of medical affairs in Digital Health

Commentary
Tessy Huss

This is a recap of HealthXL Webinar: Rethinking the Medical Affairs Role in the Age of Digital Health, for which our panel comprised:  Alex Condoleon (Chief Medical Affairs Officer of Global Omnichannel and Digital Customer Solutions at Pfizer), Felix Lee (US Digital Healthcare Medical Lead at Sanofi), and Sarah Clark (Head of Medical Affairs and Operations at Biogen). They talked about how pharma companies and their medical affairs teams can fully take advantage of the potential and opportunities that technology can offer in improving the patient journey. 

In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, digital health solutions have emerged as a powerful tool to improve patient care and outcomes. These solutions, backed by scientific evidence, leverage technology to enhance healthcare delivery and patient well-being. Medical affairs teams, with their expertise in regulatory compliance and capability to bridge the gap between innovation and patient impact, play a crucial role in the successful implementation of digital health solutions. 

Introducing new technologies into healthcare settings can be challenging. For example, outdated systems, such as paper-based processes for imaging, can hinder the adoption of new digital health solutions. The medical field can improve treatment and care by deploying new technologies. Additionally ensuring patient comfort with and access to technology-related education , as well as minimising data privacy concerns, need to be considered. Successful implementation of digital health solutions requires prioritisation of patients and ensuring that those who can benefit the most have access to the technology. 

To fully realise the potential of digital health, medical affairs teams need to shift their mindset and acquire new skills. The future of healthcare requires openness to learning and adapting quickly. This includes understanding and leveraging new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and being willing to unlearn new ways of thinking. While a foundational education in technology is important, focusing on technologies with the most impact is crucial. Collaboration and bringing together change agents within organisations are vital for advancing digital health. Medical affairs professionals can apply their existing skills, such as translating complex topics and generating evidence, to the digital health space. Generating evidence for digital products requires a different approach however, with a focus on real-time data and constant product evolution. The medical affairs teams need to adopt a dynamic approach that incorporates real-time data and iterative product development.  Personalisation and leveraging data dynamically are key aspects of digital health.

Medical affairs teams play a crucial role in the digital health space. However, they may face challenges in adapting to the new digital age and the associated responsibilities. Educating medical professionals about the context of digital health and its differences from traditional pharma is essential. Regulatory compliance and digital health ambiguity pose challenges for medical affairs teams, who must navigate complex regulations and determine best practices for incorporating emerging technologies. When designing digital health solutions, it is important to take into account ethics, accuracy in health information, and inclusivity to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients and users.   

While there may be obstacles in terms of prioritisation and learning curves, there is a willingness to adapt to the evolving healthcare landscape. Innovation and data-driven approaches are essential for success in digital health. Bridging the gap between innovation and making a significant impact on patients at scale is a challenge. Medical affairs team should take more of a lead in developing digital health strategies within the pharma industry, leveraging their deep understanding of the field. 

As the healthcare industry continues to adopt digital health solutions, medical affairs teams are well-positioned to play a crucial role in ensuring their successful implementation. By understanding the potential of digital health, addressing adoption challenges, shifting mindsets, and leveraging their existing expertise, medical affairs professionals can lead the way in improving patient care and outcomes in the digital age. The future of medical affairs in the pharma industry holds great potential, and continuous education and collaboration are key to driving innovation and making a positive impact on patients' lives.  

Enjoyed the recap from our webinar? Check out the new HealthXL report on Pharma Medical Affairs: Digital Health’s Next Strategic Enabler

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