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Medical affairs has evolved over the years and now serves as the eyes and ears on the ground for pharmaceutical companies.
The function is tasked with gaining a deep understanding of customer needs, fostering external collaboration, and shaping evidence generation strategies.

Digital data collection and analysis are quickly becoming a cornerstone of clinical and scientific research. Still a relative novelty in pharma companies, many medical affairs professionals lack enthusiasm and experience in digital health. As remains the case in many pockets of these organisations, medical affairs teams continue to have a molecule-first mindset, and while extremely well-versed in their traditional products, they would benefit from upskilling in the complexities of digital technology in research and clinical settings. Furthermore, funds allocated by medical affairs for digital health activities are but a fraction of the commercial spend, a fact that further attests to the lack of strategic importance currently attributed to health-tech innovation.

This report sets makes a case for why medical affairs need to care about health technology and how teams can unlock the value of digital health.

As the owners of data generation strategies in pharma companies, medical affairs have a strong imperative to develop a deep digital health domain knowledge. Innovation conscious organisations will need to diversify the skillsets they hire into medical affairs.

The future success of medical affairs relies on this function becoming a strategic enabler of digital health activities in pharma. Medical affairs have a deep understanding of disease and medicines, they work closely with R&D and commercial, and regularly interact with physicians. No other function within pharma is as ideally situated to push for a greater uptake of digital health whilst optimally aligning key external stakeholders for adoption.

As digital health begins to take on a stronger foothold in the pharmaceutical industry, there are advocates emerging, and some groups are strategically driving meaningful digital programmes. Digital health champions in medical affairs must capitalise on this momentum; they need to make a stronger case for budgets and upskill their teams. All of this, however, will be in vain if teams cannot catalyse a greater mindset shift and buy-in for digital health projects across their organisations and beyond.

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