In the next 10 years over 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials. Most healthcare providers (HCPs) today are “techies.” These HCPs take a new approach when it comes to treating patients: increasingly, they get their information in new ways, and only a third of HCPs consider pharmaceutical companies to be a trusted source of information. The need to ensure that Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) and medical affairs professionals are trusted and respected among HCPs is critical to maintaining the integrity and credibility within medical affairs.
The increasing shift towards more complex drugs and mechanisms of action (MOSs) has created a huge need for MSLs. Indeed, as medicine grows more complex and molecular, MSLs need to be the trusted source of objective unbiased information. With a greater emphasis on rare diseases, where only a few HCPs may be specialized, MSLs are often a physician’s top resource with a depth of knowledge on these cutting edge therapies. For HCPs, MSLs are critical to helping them stay at the top of their game on the latest in medical education across therapeutic areas.
Traditionally, MSLs are seen as the scientific face of the medical affairs organization. Indeed, they are an extension in the field they may need additional training to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest developments in their field, and able to confidently engage in scientific discussions. Skills such as clinical trial design, pharmacoeconomics, evidence based medicine, diagnostics, pharmacogenomics and other areas are critical for MSL training and MSL professional development.
MSLs must be prepared to deliver scientific information in great detail, including current research, study results, and in some cases, economic data. The success of an engagement can hinge on an MSL demonstrating familiarity with an HCP’s latest research, or the ability to align study opportunities to clinical interests.
In a complex, competitive landscape, ensuring MSLs are certified helps prepare them to have the rich, peer-to-peer scientific exchange HCPs need to improve outcomes. Further, creating the internal certification process helps MSLs gain more credibility with commercial colleagues, and enable a better organizational understanding of medical’s core responsibilities.
This move toward organizational certification mirrors the growing prevalence of external credentialing associations to qualify life sciences professionals. The Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist Program (BCMAS) is currently considered the industry standard for MSL board certification and credentialing. The BCMAS program is seen by most as the official MSL Board Certification Program.
Although medical affairs enjoys greater access to HCPs than other branches of life sciences, increasingly, numerous accreditation services are emerging such as the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA). The ACMA is the only accredited Board Certification program for MSLs. In his BCMAS review, Dr. Paul Korner provides an excellent overview of the BCMAS program and describes why the BCMAS program is worth it. The BCMAS program is the industry standards. The BCMAS program is now in over 33 countries with over 4000 registrants with the ACMA. The MSL Board Certification is called the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist Program (BCMAS).
The movement toward industry credentialing may impact hiring in the future. The MSL must evolve with the needs of external stakeholders.
What will the MSL of the future need to know?
The need for an industry credential and board certification for MSLs is a concept whose time has come. The MSLs of the future will likely all have the ‘BCMAS’ credential in their title as a pre-requisite for doing business with HCPs. As we saw with the recent Memorial Sloan Kettering debacle, ensuring that the pharmaceutical industry raises the bar by offering Board Certification for MSLs is the future of medical affairs.