How MSLs  Are Coping with the Pandemic

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Keeping your knowledge current by listening to the experts wherever you can find them is essential for how MSLs are coping with the pandemic. A recent MSL Society webinar detailing MSL activities during the Covid-19 pandemic shared some helpful information.  The webinar was moderated by Samuel Dyer, CEO of the MSL Society, with a panel of Ralph Rewers, Sr. Director at AbbVie, Paul Ward, Area Director at AstraZeneca, and Ariel Katz, Co-founder of H1.  Here is a summary of the webinar to help MSLs stay up-to-date and to make sure MSLs are coping with the pandemic.

The panel presented and discussed  survey questions that were answered by hundreds of MSLs prior to the webinar.  They offer a revealing look at how MSLs are coping with the pandemic.

How receptive are KOLs to virtual engagements?

  1. Very 20%
  2. Somewhat 67%
  3. Not very 12%
  4. Not at all 1%

A quick online poll of the webinar participants:  Are KOLs more receptive to virtual engagements (webinars, not phone calls) during the pandemic?  Yes 64%  No 36%

When you have a virtual engagement, how long does it last?

  1. 5-15 minutes 27%
  2. 16-30 minutes 45%
  3. 31-45 minutes 11%
  4. 46+ minutes 3%
  5. Not open to virtual 13%

Interesting Statistic: The average time an MSL spends with a KOL before the pandemic is 45 minutes while a sales rep average call is about 2 minutes.

On average, how many virtual KOL meetings are you having per week during the pandemic?

  1. 1 meeting 30%
  2. 2 meetings 24%
  3. 3 Meetings 15%
  4. 4 meetings 4%
  5. 5 meetings 4%

Interesting Statistic:  The average number of KOL meetings per week for an MSL prior to the pandemic was six.

Online poll during the webinar: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic have you ever done a virtual KOL meeting?  64%  Yes, 36% No  Thirty six percent of MSLs on the webinar had never done a virtual meeting with a KOL before this pandemic! Highlights the training needed to enhance access to KOLs  for better on-demand and  timely answers and information.

Alternative Activities or Projects MSLs are focusing on because of COVID-19’s reduction in travel and corresponding reduced access to KOLs.

The first percentage is for MSLs and the second percentage is MSL Managers and Directors.

  1. Journal Clubs 74% 79%
  2. Training Programs 67% 67%
  3. MSL Team Meetings 78%  77%
  4. Meetings to Support Cross-Functional Teams 65%  74%
  5. Other Sales Support 32%  25%
  6. Review Scientific Articles/Literature 80%  91%
  7. Prepare Slide Decks 58%  64%
  8. Organize/Participate in Virtual Ad Boards 28% 33%
  9. Participate in Virtual Sales (Science SME) Training Programs 32% 47%
  10. Working with Medical Info Teams or Requests 43% 58%
  11. Virtual KOL Engagement 60% 73%
  12. Other 10% 17%

Takeaway Thought:   If you’d like to advance your career to be an MSL leader, consider doing the items above with the biggest gaps between MSLs and their Managers. Working with medical information teams or the science side of a sales training program or other cross-functional teams could pay off in a promotion.

Will the COVID-19 pandemic have any permanent impact on the MSL profession?

  1. Yes MSLs-43%  MSL Managers-56%
  2. No MSLs-18% MSL Managers-24%
  3. Unsure MSLs-39% MSL Managers-20%

Prediction: An increase in virtual KOL meetings will be a permanent change from this pandemic, or at the very least, more training for MSLs will occur so they can be  effective in virtual meetings when they do occur.

Has information you received regarding the impact of COVID-19 on your company been timely, transparent and clear?

  1. Yes MSLs 87.5%  MSL Mgrs-92.5%
  2. No MSLs 12.5% MSL Mgrs-7.5%

Are you keeping current with insights from the experts during this pandemic?  If not, the MSL Society is a good place to start.

Interested in talking about your MSL career or sharing any notes you have about trends or updates?  Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ MSL Recruiter, Nihar Parikh at nparikh@smithhanley.com.



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