Digital Revolution in Healthcare and Strategic Role of Medical Affairs Amidst Covid-19 Outbreak

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Digital Revolution in Healthcare and Strategic Role of Medical Affairs Amidst Covid-19 Outbreak

Medical Affairs is a critical scientific bridge between Healthcare companies and their internal & external stakeholders. It plays a leadership role in implementing cutting-edge medical, scientific, and patient-centered insights & solutions that drive strategy and innovation in healthcare. The healthcare ecosystem is dynamic and being transformed with the latest tech solutions. It is believed that in the coming decade, all healthcare companies will leverage available data and technology solutions to boost productivity and efficiency.  

In the current scenario of Covid-19, getting appropriate healthcare is a challenge. The visit to the outpatient department has a great risk of exposure to the virus. Patients must decide between a high-risk clinician visit and postponing needed care. Digital innovation and solutions can help to address these current limitations in the healthcare delivery system. In an endeavor to tackle this disruption, the health care system is attempting to transition to 'telemedicine' by unfolding the capabilities of digital technology. ICMR has allowed telemedicine amidst this pandemic. In 2019 there were 560 million internet users in India.  The high volume of patient load (millions) on a few trained doctors in telemedicine may burden the whole system and reduce its efficiency. Effective digital platforms are the need of the hour.

A large digital medical platform is essential to keep up with growing need of healthcare. It would also solve one of the biggest challenges faced by patients, that is getting adequate time with the doctor to properly understand the disease and medicines prescribed.


Figure 1: Need & Benefits of Liberate Technology

To continue functioning, health care system has abruptly transitioned to 'telemedicine' by unfolding the capabilities of digital technology. ICMR has allowed telemedicine amidst this pandemic. In 2018 there were 560 million internet users in India.  The high volume of patient load (millions) on a few doctors (thousands) may burden the whole system and reduce its efficiency. Telemedicine or Virtual consultation will enhance patient experience and engagement; fewer tests would be prescribed; the rate of hospital re-admission will be less; better medication and patient adherence would lead to desired clinical outcomes.

Medical affairs with its knowledge of Data, Differentiation & Dissemination must use this opportunity to help to bridge this interface between HCPs patients and other stakeholders.

Scientific evidence of real-world data can be communicated more efficiently via digital technology. The popular big data, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will assist physicians in making the right decision for patients in our complex healthcare system. The medical affairs teams have in-depth medical/clinical knowledge and disease understanding, thereby making them critical for healthcare companies.

The capability of medical affairs can be made credible with their core foundational skills such as decision making, organizational support, scientific contributions and communications.

Figure 2: Foundational elements for credible Medical Affairs capability

Medical Affairs Role in Stakeholder Engagement & Impact of Digital technology

Patients and HCPs being the primary Stakeholder engage the qualified medical affairs teams for up-to-date and systematic information in an innovative way.  Medical Affairs has always been responsible for engaging key opinion leaders (KOL) and other stakeholders. But, now it enables Stakeholder experience perspective, that is to deliver what the stakeholder wants, when and how they'd like to receive it.

The 3 key areas are:

1.  Delivering exceptional customer experience focused on science

2. Seamless connection of our digital medical information assets with external digital channel

3. Use of AI models and ML technologies to enrich and expand the utility of real world evidence

The growing importance of Medical Affairs' role with Real-World Data further cements the need for digital tools to capture and analyze this amount of data and identify trends.

Advancement in Medical Insights Capabilities by Digital Innovation

Collection and analysis of unstructured data to identify the current trend of unmet medical needs can create a powerful digital medical insights engine. This will influence customer engagement and strategic decisions. Since data is the pre-requisite for analysis, the sources of data for medical affairs should be made clear. Published literature, market research are few of the sources as depicted below in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Sources of Data for Medical Affairs Insights

Areas in Medical Affairs Transformed By Digital Innovation

Transformed areas include:

1. Communication

2. Medical information

3. Automation of routine functions

4. AI and ML for promotional material review

5. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality in education and training


Digital therapeutics is an area where we are seeing success, and there are advancements in improving diagnoses, adherence, disease awareness, and self-management of conditions. Finally, we will need to educate the executive leadership team on how technology is impacting their business, engage them in imagining the possibilities, and make them strong digital advocates by bringing them along the innovation journey.


1. Evers M, Ghatak A, Holt E, Ostojic I, Pradel C, Suresh B, et al. McKinsey & Company. A vision for Medical Affairs in 2025

2. Kinapse. Medical Affairs 2025

3. Driving the next change of Digital Innovation for Medical Affairs. Mary Alice Dwye and Shaji Kalathil

4. Kaka N, Madgavkar A, Kshirsagar A, Gupta R, Manyika J, Bahl, et al. KMcKinsey Global Institute. Digital India:  technology to transform a connected nation

5. Keesara S, Jonas A, Schulman K. Covid-19, and health care's digital revolution. New England Journal of Medicine. 2020 Apr 2

6. Telemedicine Practice Guidelines. MCI in partnership with NIYI Aayog

Image Source: ProbeWrite

Image Source Figure 3: Health IT Analytics

Related Post: Insights+ KOL Articles: How Will MedTech Industry Navigate the COVID-19 Impact?

Dr. Anish Desai

Dr. Anish Desai is a trained Clinical Pharmacologist and Pharmaceutical Physician with 3 decades of experience in Academia, Research, and Healthcare industry with proven leadership skills, strong business acumen, and a deep understanding of the Healthcare System, including Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical & Medical device industry. He has been recognized for driving positive change, delivering solutions, developing talent and nurturing strong relationships with external stakeholders. Holding Senior Management Position for last 20 years and involved in strategic decision making. 'IntelliMed Healthcare Solutions' is a Healthcare startup launched by him with an intent to focus on strategic medical affairs for business growth, thereby infusing science into business. IntelliMed specializes in scientific, Clinical & medical support from conceptualization/Ideation to launch.

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