Successful launch to our “Expert Webinar Series”

Medical Science Liaison Society Webinar

Amazing turnout and feedback for our first webinar series! Thanks to all 740+ who registered and were able to attend and a big THANK YOU to the panelists who shared some important insights on the MSL role, MSL performance, and KOL engagement. The feedback has been very positive and we will continue to provide webinars regularly. The recording is available for all MSL Society members on our website. ( For those that participated, what did you find most valuable?


Is the MSL role understood?

EditedScreenShot_2015-01-03_13-02-05A common theme in my recent conversations with MSLs has been how companies can best organize the activities of medical teams and commercial teams in order build on departmental synergies, while respecting the specialities and boundaries of each team.

Morunda Asia conducted an online survey and a number of interviews around this topic, with a focus on the role of MSLs. All who took part were based in Singapore or Malaysia, and working in the pharmaceutical industry. The participants were of various levels of responsibility within Medical Affairs departments. This article gives a ‘broad-stroke’ overview of opinions in the region.

The opening question was “do you feel that the role of the MSL is clearly understood between medical and commercial colleagues”. It is notable that no-one felt it was “misunderstood” or “not understood”. Interestingly, only 16% said that the role was “clearly understood”.

The general consensus was that the “guiding principles” of an MSL were clearly understood; that MSLs are scientifically credible professionals who inform and guide HCPs using evidence. How these principles were translated into an operational role that worked effectively alongside other departments was where issues could arise.

Around 50% of participants felt that the role was “reasonably well understood”, and that most issues could be resolved through simply improving inter-departmental communication. For example, one Medical Advisor at a European MNC told me that the Medical Affairs team had faced questioning from the commercial team regarding KOL visits. The commercial team wanted Medical Representatives to be able to accompany MSLs on follow-up visits to KOLs. The commercial team’s thinking was that these would be opportunities for sales team members to get more, better quality time with thought leaders. The Medical Affairs leaders had to outline the necessity that MSLs are strictly ‘non-promotional’, and that this perception must be kept clear in the KOL’s mind. It was pointed out that opportunity actually arose from this distinction; the MSL has a broader remit in terms of discussion topics so they could foster a better understanding of the product’s value proposition. Once this was clearly explained, and the link between value proposition understanding and increased advocacy was established, then the commercial team could better appreciate why it wasn’t possible, and in fact was better not to have these joint visits

Within the second largest group of respondents (approx. 34%, who felt that the MSL role was understood “to some extent”), there was a little more frustration voiced. One Medical Director at an MNC mentioned that disagreement over the aims and means of the MSL role was still “frequent” despite “numerous meetings and discussions” between the relevant stakeholders. In some cases, this stemmed from an outdated concept of the MSL as a kind of “Super Medical Rep”, rather than being aware of the distinct functional advantages of the position. With such a conception of the role, MSLs would be tasked with a large number of hospital visits, and the company would expect to see a sales increase shortly afterwards. One Senior Manager pointed out that, from an operational perspective, this disconnect risked having a negative impact on the longevity of MSL services. If MSL counterparts at different organizations were perceived as having a clearer role, and ‘more respected’ status within the company, then they could be tempted to change to a “better” opportunity.

One MSL pointed out that, in their company, Marketing had always “called the shots”, so there was a degree of political interplay as departments jockeyed for influence. Those comments reflected a view held by MSLs at a number of companies that they and their Managers were almost “figuring out” the most effective role as they went along.

The solution to these frustrations, for one Regional Medical Director, was to have MSL deliverables clearly established. When KPIs were set out effectively, this would bring a number of benefits: (i) the activities of MSLs and how they related to improved commercial performance were better understood throughout the company, (ii) MSLs could be managed and developed more effectively through performance objectives, and (iii) the MSLs gained a greater sense of worth in their role.

Setting appropriate KPIs for MSLs is a broad area that will be covered in detail in a later article. However, one example that this Director gave was to have MSLs given measurable targets around formulary listings. The ability to convincingly present the product’s comprehensive value proposition to a team of e.g. Formulary Listing Heads would be an example of what an MSL could do, utilizing their specific scientific expertise to further commercial aims.

Overall, there was optimism amongst all participants. Healthcare practitioners expect increasing levels of scientific credibility in their interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives. As long as the purpose and actions of an MSL can be agreed upon, then the MSL role can be at the forefront of this, engaging with stakeholders and sharing the insight needed to enable better health decisions for patients.

Written by James Oakes
Morunda Asia


10 Great Quotes That Will Inspire MSLs Around The World in 2015

546351_10151314724573550_1333252963_n1Are you busy making your New Year resolutions or have you already made some? Anyway, MSL Society blog is sharing 10 thought provoking quotes that might inspire you to become more in 2015. Setting some great goals these days is the best opportunity to bring changes in you that you always wanted to happen.

We wish you a Happy Holiday Season and prosperity in the new year.

1. “Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” Charles Dickens

2. “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”. Peter Drucker

3. “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

4. “People rarely succeed unless they are having fun in what they are doing.” Dale Carnegie

5. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, – Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” – Marianne Williamson

6. “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.” – Albert Schweitzer

7. “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

8. “The work of the individual still remains the spark that moves mankind ahead even more than teamwork.” – Igor Sikorsky

9. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

10. “Synergy is what happens when one plus one equals ten or a hundred or even a thousand! It’s the profound result when two or more respectful human beings determine to go beyond their preconceived ideas to meet a great challenge.” – Stephen Covey


What You Don’t Know About Communication Can Hurt You

commumication-skillsWhen Morunda consults with a client about the recruiting requirements for a medical science liaison position (MSL), the applicants who have the least success at landing jobs don’t have strong people skills and are ineffective communicators. It is assumed that any candidate seeking a medical career already has sufficient academic qualifications, depending on the position — such as an M.D. or master’s — but the determinant of whether an applicant lands the job is his or her ability to communicate.
Book smarts are a given, but people smarts and emotional intelligence appear to be in shorter supply. We have analyzed candidates who have been rejected by clients for MSL positions, and we have found that 83 percent were deemed unqualified based on their lack of communication skills.
Some suggestions on how MSLs may improve their people skills were written about 80 years ago by Dale Carnegie in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
An MSL should never, openly criticize a physician for being wrong. A doctor convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. There is not a doctor in the world who wants to hear that he or she is wrong. How, then, can we get our message across? Stories are one of the most effective ways to get your point across without pushing your message too strongly. MSLs should use the same methods that have been used since time immemorial. Zhuangzi — an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables that is one of the foundational texts of Daoism) contains the fable “The Death of Wonton” (“Hùndùn zhī sǐ” 渾沌之死), which illustrates the dangers Zhuangzi saw in going against the innate nature of things. We are not suggesting that MSLs start communicating in abstract fables, but to tell relevant evidence-based medicine (EBM) narratives that communicate ideas. All great communicators can use stories to illustrate a point.
MSLs should speak of third-party stories that illustrate the point that is trying to be made. It is only natural for listeners to put themselves into the shoes of a story’s principals. MSLs must remember that when speaking to doctors, fast is slow and slow is fast. A relationship takes time to create, but once it’s made, the partnership is sustainable. If we rush, push and insist, then no matter how relevant or important the information may be, it will fall on deaf ears.
A surefire way to fail with a physician is to say that he or she is wrong. It is much better to develop a relationship over time. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You’re wrong.”
If the doctor has a different opinion, then spend time listening and seeing the world the same way he does. One thing is certain: If the doctor doesn’t believe you are listening and acknowledging his or her opinion, it doesn’t matter what you say or how right you are or what the evidence-based medicine says — he or she will not be listening. MSLs need to bring their stories about evidence-based medicine to life; you should practice telling the stories to colleagues. MSLs should dramatize the stories and make them come to life with a smile and some enthusiasm.
We all have heard that first impressions last a lifetime. A friendly smile and good eye contact go a long way. Looking at people when you communicate with them acknowledges them and indicates you are interested in them, particularly if you look them straight in the eye. Eye contact also lets you know where they are looking. Nothing communicates trust more quickly than good eye contact.
Through sharing stories about patients and other doctors, MSLs put themselves in a partnering mode, not as a company representative with an agenda. By thoroughly listening, the physician slowly comes around and believes the new information is his or her idea. Do this, and you’ll have made a friend and communicated your message effectively.
MSLs might do well to remember that communication is more important than knowledge.

Article by Philip Carrigan