Quantifying Metrics in Medical Science Liaison Programs

By Jane Chin, PhD. This is an excerpt of Quantifiable Metrics: Defining the “What”, “Who”, and “How”, Volume 3 Issue 1 of MSL Quarterly, March 15, 2005.

Medical science liaison performance metrics have migrated from private powwows between MSL directors to a public debate, gaining momentum at conferences and industry press. The sooner the MSL community can overcome the indignation of being accountable for numbers, the sooner we can focus on directing which numbers we want on our heads.

Quantifiable value is not restricted only to market share changes and sales dollars. Activities can be counted, as can time, customer “contacts” or interactions, managed care “wins” (formulary changes favorable to the company’s drug), publications and abstracts, clinical presentations, and research concept approvals. When MSLs join an organization and believe they are to perform a certain role and be measured a certain way, most will not sit idle when the role or the measurement changes.

Medical science liaison executives have many opportunities to engage their MSLs in a solution. Unfortunately, MSL directors and managers often corrode trust between themselves and their MSLs. Management can’t hire scientifically minded professionals as medical science liaisons, and then wonder why their constituents want to know the truth about the MSL role and performance expectations at their organization.

Once the director identifies which variables to measure, he or she needs to identify, “Who cares about what my team can do, how they would know if we are successful?” Programs that do not report to marketing or sales are no less immune to and intimidated by the pressures of marketing and sales. The role of the MSL have become increasingly defined by other roles, niched as a supportive function for sales and marketing, thereby subject to metrics aligned with these. The irony is that the "uniqueness" of the MSL role has been portrayed by many pharmaceutical companies as scientific and clinical - not sales- or marketing-related. Medical science liaisons are as important internal stakeholders as sales and marketing executives, especially because their careers are directly at stake.

Finally, “Where are the landmines?” As with all quantifiable metrics, market force changes due to competition, regulation, and public perception can often depreciate the value of your metric and even risk corrupting the value altogether.

Only when directors have addressed the “What”, “Who”, and “How” of quantifiable metrics for ALL internal stakeholders - sales, marketing, and the MSLs - can the director realistically answer, “Can I deliver?

Quantifying an Intangible: MSL Metrics Survey

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