Quick-Start Synopsis 

Across the pharmaceutical industry, there is a general uniformity in the organization of two of the primary business units (BUs): commercial and research and development (R&D). This is not the case for a third group, which may or may not be classified as a BU within an organization: Medical Affairs (MA). The structure of and functions within MA varies widely across the industry based on factors including: 

  • Company size  
  • Company maturity and stage of development of its products  
  • Portfolio and target consumers  
  • Senior leadership’s opinions of and previous experiences with MA 

Because of these factors, the value an organization places on MA is also highly variable. Some perceive it to be a cost center populated mostly with high-priced FTEs (e.g. MSLs, Medical Directors) and activities (investigator-initiated studies, CME support) whose ROI is difficult to quantify. As the role and reach of MA has continued to expand over the past two decades, that viewpoint is slowly being replaced by a more favorable opinion about the positive impact MA can have on revenue and other core business objectives.  

In this blog we will assume the role of a senior Medical Affairs executive who wants to definitively demonstrate the value MA brings to the organization. Let’s say this executive is putting together a presentation for the C-suite. The presentation will need to include the metrics the MA group is using to track performance and the executive must be prepared to explain how these metrics compare to other similar companies. 

What are industry-standard metrics for pharmaceutical companies? 

Field Medical Affairs 

Usually the largest component of an MA team, field MA (FMA) serves critical functions externally and internally. One of the most important is that this group can be at the forefront of product launches. FMA can provide the “boots on the ground” to prepare the market and raise awareness of the disease. Unlike a sales team, FMA can support the early, pre-commercial phases of a product launch.  

Traditional Metrics for FMA

Aka “hard” metrics, these can usually be quantified by number. Although these may look impressive on a department’s dashboard, they can encourage a culture of quantity over quality. 

Traditional/Quantifiable Metrics for Field Medical - Number of field interactions - number of unique KOL interactions - Day s in the field - external presentations - training of speakers' bureau members - internal presentations - responses to reactive requests for medical information - advisory board attendance - conference attendance/support - investigator sponsored studies in territory - cross-functional committee membership - new hire mentorship


Recognizing that traditional metrics may not accurately capture the impact of FMA on business objectives and revenue, some organizations are beginning to explore outcomes-focused metrics. As an example, one outcomes-focused metric is assessment of the growth of an MSL’s relationship with a KOL over a period of time. If that sounds difficult to do, you’re right.  

Outcomes-focused metrics from field medical - increase in field's awareness of disease or treatment - field intel tha evolves into actionable items - KOL opinions about MLS - 360 performance reviews - sales associate performance - net promoter score - review of speaker bureau knowledge - new KOL identification and recruitment - adherence to territory engagement plan - interaction reports demonstrate focus on MA business objectives - achievement of majority of IDP goals

Current Industry Norms for MSL Field Meetings 

The table below is a summary of metric targets reported via industry surveys. These targets are highly variable and depend on the organization and its business objectives. Also, keep in mind, these data are pre-COVID 19.   

Current Industry Norms for MSL Field Meetings  table - show the value of medical affairs

Scientific Communications  

While FMA is largely responsible for communicating the data, it is Scientific Communications that generates most of the output. Medical Information (MI), which is responsible for creation and distribution of standard response letters (SRLs), may fall under the Scientific Communications umbrella or may function separately.  

Metrics for scientific communications - numbers of publications - conference posters and oral presentations - impact factors for journals with publications - adherence to publication plan - publication plan follows business objectives - KOL opinions about scientific creditability - citations of published data - inclusion of published data at congresses

Medical Information 

Unlike FMA, demonstrating the value of MI is not usually necessary for MA leadership due to its well-established role in providing customer-facing services. State and federal agencies mandate reporting of adverse events and other important information for which MI and Pharmacovigilance teams share responsibility. Innovations in MI include the increasing use of infographics and other data visualization methods to improve comprehension of SRLs (aka “walls of jargon-heavy text”). Improved digital technology includes chatbots and other sophisticated customer-support tools and improved websites with greater interactivity.  

Metrics for medical information - number of responses processed - original responses generated - KOL caregiver, patient and public opinions of response quality - response time for request fulfillment - ratio of standardized to unique responses - percent of requests fulfilled within allotted time frame - number of external audits - errors identified by audit process

Other MA Functions 

As we’ve already discussed, the organization of and functions within a MA department vary widely across the industry and, as such, we are not going to cover some functions that are less common to MA. These include 1) investigator-initiated studies, 2) CME, 3) health and economic outcomes research (HEOR), 4) operations, 5) project management, and 6) training.  

Proven Value for Medical Affairs 

So, let’s return to our MA executive who’s busy creating some nice-looking dashboards for the presentation about the value the MA group brings to the organization. While the data are important and displaying them clearly and concisely is equally important, there are some questions the executive should be thinking about and prepared to address during the presentation. 

  • Are these metrics capturing activities and initiatives that are directly tied to the business objectives?  
  • Do these metrics tell us whether a desired outcome/strategic objective has been achieved?  
  • Would cross-functional stakeholders agree that these metrics are important to capture? 
  • Is there accountability; when and by whom (e.g., who knows whether a team achieves its goals)? 

If the presentation can address these questions in the affirmative, the it’s likely that this particular executive is leading a highly effective MA team.

Contact Us to Develop Your Strategy 

If you would like to discuss your team and the best methods to assess team performance and business impact, please contact us


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