MSL Insights Tip of the Week

Medical insights are the most important asset MSL teams bring to an organization. Insights help identify gaps, inform the Medical Strategy and are vital to meeting overall business objectives.

This post is dedicated to providing MSL teams with weekly insights tips to help exceed expectations of how insights enable companies to provide excellent care for patients.

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October 11, 2019

Keep your eye out for what’s around the corner

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I know, I know, I sound like a broken record on this: Insights that MSLs collect from meeting with HCPs are super important. It’s often the only way an organization can obtain this info. Medical leads use info from the field to identify trends and strategic opportunities. They often try to spot trends that are around the corner and that will be important down the road. Spotting emerging trends early helps be prepared and make smart plans for when they arrive. 

This is where MSLs can really help! Who knows what HCPs are thinking, the market, competitors, and what is becoming important better than MSLs? Keep reading for tips on how MSLs can spot emerging trends and report to their leaders.

  1. Ask HCPs you are meeting with what they think are emerging trends that will soon be important. When you start to hear the same thing a few times you may be on to something. 

  2. Stay up to date on the latest reports in your area. Of course, this means scientific publications but don’t forget about market research reports and blogs from thought leaders. Examples include Peter Bach from the Drug Pricing Lab and Medical Affairs reports from McKinsey

  3. Be aware of big trends in other fields. These often translate and jump over to other industries. Be creative and think of how it may apply to Medical Affairs, your company, therapeutic area, and patients. AI is a great example of this. 

  4. Have an agreed-upon process for reporting ‘things that aren’t important now but may be in the future.’ It can be as simple as a shared spreadsheet where this info is stored or perhaps you can build it into your insights process. Some kernel customers create topics for MSLs to enter emerging trends that managers periodically review. 

How do you ahead of the curve? Share your tips!

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October 4, 2019

Schedule time for reporting insights

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A good best practice is to report insights right away.  Ideally right after your meeting with the HCP. Timely reporting of insights helps an organization act quickly and make decisions. Important details can slip away or the insight might not make it into a report. In the worst case, the insight doesn’t get reported at all. Entering a bunch of insights later on can take longer because you have to remember details and review notes. One trick is to schedule in time for entering insights in between meetings. Instead of scheduling meetings back to back, include time to get your reporting done right after the meeting. Block that time in your calendar. It is an easy thing to push off until later and let pile up. 

Have a pro tip for reporting insights right away? Please share!

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September 26, 2019 

Keep insights short and sweet

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No need to write a novel of an insight. Including every detail can make your text hard to digest. Start with the main point and stick to what’s relevant. Look at this example:

verbose insight example.jpg

Whoa, what is going here? What does it mean and why is this important? This is not how the readers of your insights should respond. Remember that the person reading through the insights may not spend much time out with HCPs or know as much about the disease state as you. Keep it simple and easy to read:

  1. Make sure why it is important is clear

  2. Include only the relevant details

  3. Minimize jargon

  4. Use simple sentences

  5. If it’s more than 2-3 sentences, ask yourself if it should be broken up into multiple insights

  6. Make it easy to scan

  7. If unsure what’s important, ask someone on your team or your manager

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September 20, 2019

Use the 5 whys interviewing method to discover actionable insights

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Medical insights that can be acted on are extremely valuable to the organization. A classic example is understanding HCP perceptions of new clinical trial data. Knowing what HCPs think about new data and WHY they think that way is interesting to the organization. This is because it helps shape the Medical Strategy. Often MSLs report how the HCP felt (negative, neutral or positive) but fail to include WHY they felt that way. When Medical leaders understand the why, they can start to make decisions about how best to act on the insight

How can an MSL uncover the why when meeting with HCPs? By asking questions that uncover the root cause. The 5 whys interviewing method may you help dig deeper. This simple method was developed by Toyota and consists of asking why 5 times. When meeting with a KOL, don’t be afraid to keep asking why. You might be surprised how effective this in helping you uncover actionable insights. Check out this blog post with examples of the 5 whys in action

Do you have tricks for uncovering actionable insights? Please share!

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September 13, 2019

Stay up to date on the literature with Case Medical Research

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MSLs are busy busy. They are traveling all the time, setting up and planning meetings, preparing, training colleagues, reporting insights, and more. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! On top of this, they are also expected to stay up to date on all the latest research in their therapeutic area. This is what KOLs expect.

It is easy to push off reading the literature (“I’ll read that paper later”) and focus on other tasks. Check out this cool free tool called Case Medical Research. It is designed to help busy people stay up today on the literature. Here are reasons to give it a try:

  1. it aggregates publications from many different sources (pubmed,, FDA, and more)

  2. it transcribes abstracts into audio so you can listen on the go

  3. watch scientific videos on new research from major journals

  4. set up alerts to get notified on new research and clinical trial announcements

  5. it’s completely free

September 6, 2019

Give context to insights by discussing with your peers

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For insights to be meaningful it must be clear to Medical leaders why they matter. A good starting point for figuring out the ‘so what’ is for MSLs to discuss what they are hearing amongst each other. It spawns conversations like:

“I’m hearing this in the field….”

“Me too. This is happening in my territory.”

“This is popping up more and more. At first it didn’t seem important. What are possible ways to address this?”

When MSLs discuss what they are hearing, it helps:

  1. Flush out why and when something is important

  2. Give context to others that aren’t interacting with KOLs

  3. Identify impactful trends

  4. Determine possible actions to take

  5. Focus on reporting insights that can result in improved care for patients

  6. Guides MSLs on what to listen for during their KOL interactions

Often times leaders aren’t in the field on daily basis and need help understanding why something is important (the context). Discussion amongst MSLs helps flush out trends so the importance can be communicated to leaders. This in turn helps ensure are they can be acted on and ultimately improve care for patients.

One way to do this is with a recurring call dedicated to discussing insights. If your team doesn’t have a recurring call or good way to discuss insights, be a leader and set something up! Concerned about having another meeting and it taking away from other activities? Remember this:

There is no point in collecting insights if nothing is done with them. Understanding why they matter is just as important as collecting them.

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August 29, 2019

Set a clear agenda with KOLs prior to the meeting

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Uncovering valuable insights from your interactions with KOLs starts with good pre-meeting planning. One way to do this is with agenda setting prior to the meeting. With proper agenda setting both you and the KOL know what to expect during the meeting and can set clear next steps. The result is more productive meetings that help you build trust with the KOL and better understand their perceptions (the key to uncovering actionable insights!). When setting up the meeting include the following elements in the email or calendar invite:

  1. The purpose of the meeting

  2. Outline of what the KOL wants to get out of the meeting

  3. List what you want to get out of the meeting

  4. Determine possible next steps

  5. Confirm the date, location, and amount of time for the meeting

Here is an example:

“Dr. Important-KOL,

Here is an agenda for our upcoming meeting to discuss new clinical trial data:

  1. Update you on this new data and give you the opportunity to ask questions

  2. Understand your perceptions and address any questions or concerns

  3. Determine a time to meet again to discuss updates

We are scheduled to meet in your office on the 29th for 30 minutes. Does this still work for you?

Thank you and looking forward to our meeting,


August 23, 2019

Look for insights in unconventional places

See what patients are saying about products by reading reviews. Websites like, or Google business profiles have reviews from patients taking the product. This does not replace meeting with HCPs but does give you a sense of what they are hearing from patients. How patients feel about products influences HCPs treatment approaches and can have an impact on your product.

Here is an example from a pharma company's Google business profile. Patients using this product are reporting that the packaging is too hard to open. MSLs can start gathering more information from their KOLs to help Medical leads propose new packaging to manufacturing.