The medical affairs environment, and indeed the healthcare industry as a whole, is changing at an unprecedented rate and with this comes the need for effective, efficient and up-to-date medical education. Previously, medical affairs have focused more on one-to-one meetings and large lecture-based symposia in order to educate healthcare professionals (HCPs) but these can be costly. In addition, these formats no longer meet the needs of a quickly changing scientific arena, highly specialised HCPs and changing regulatory requirements. So, how do we keep physicians updated on the latest therapeutic advances?
Trending towards digital
Large symposia are on the out, with smaller, more frequent meetings preferred and most HCPs gaining their medical education needs through digital channels. Most HCPs have specialised areas of interest and therefore specialised training needs. Rather than being flooded with more information than they can take in at a large symposium, digital training is the fastest way to ensure they gain the information they need in a timely manner, and HCPs can even opt for ‘bitesize’ learning, allowing them to digest information in smaller chunks. As with many other industries, the medical affairs departments are also being hit with budget cuts, making it increasingly difficult to organise large events.
Outcomes-based research, outcomes-based education
As with healthcare itself, there is a growing focus on ROI, increasing the value of continuing medical education and identifying whether a particular educational programme is improving patient outcomes. Changes in HCP performance and patient outcomes are quantified to ensure the education is working. Rather than just showing the education is increasing the HCP’s knowledge, as with healthcare, there must be real-world evidence to show this knowledge is changing and improving how they care for patients. Instead of just focusing on metrics such as the number of key opinion leaders visited in a given time period, whether an HCP attended a conference or completed training, the impact of medical education is now being measured in terms of patient outcomes.
The need for real-world evidence means feedback must be gathered from HCPs, sometimes as far as 12 months after the initial training or education. Both the need for content specifically tailored to the HCP and the need for feedback on the CME content means digital solutions offer a great tool to deliver relevant, up-to-date education tailored to each HCP’s needs. Within the same system, they can also often provide feedback or outcomes from their use of the CME content.
Sales representatives’ access to HCPs has declined over the past decade, with the greatest reductions seen in specialist healthcare areas such as oncology. Instead, HCPs want to receive tailored scientific information. The CME content needs to match the requirements of the specific HCP and digital is by far the easiest way to achieve this.
So what can we take away from this? Continuing medical education is essential for all HCPs to ensure they provide the best care to patients. As the medical field changes at a faster rate than before, so must the medical education field be capable of quickly producing appropriate content to update HCPs. The financial environment of medical education is also changing, with less of a focus on corporate involvement. There is also a focus on measuring the outcomes of medical education and whether it is having the desired outcome on patient care. Digital represents a solid foundation on which to base medical education; content can be adapted to the needs of the specific HCP, it can be accessed at a time and location most convenient for them, and can be offered without the need for large symposia or costly meetings which also lack the ability to quickly gain feedback.
Continued medical education will always be of high importance to HCPs, therefore it will remain a key part of the medical science liaison role and medical affairs teams. In a time where we are asked to be more accountable for our budgets, demonstrate better return-on-investment and still grow and develop our industry relationships, digital may well be the perfect answer!