Teamwork for Better Healthcare Solutions: Merging Clinical and Marketing Efforts


In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, it's vital for organizations to take steps toward bridging the gap between their clinical and marketing teams.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, where scientific expertise intersects with market-driven strategies, it's vital for organizations to bridge the gap between their clinical and marketing factions.

A transformation is unfolding in some forward-thinking pharmaceutical entities, marked by the advent of leaders with diverse backgrounds and the introduction of interdisciplinary teams. These conglomerates are pushing the boundaries, integrating expertise from realms like marketing, insights, R&D, regulatory, clinical, and manufacturing. Such integrative approaches hint at the vast potential for innovation when there's a seamless blend of scientific rigor and market aspirations, aiming to revolutionize patient, caregiver, and healthcare professional (HCP) experiences globally.

As the world continues to grapple with increasingly complex healthcare challenges, the demand for holistic solutions has never been greater. Now more than ever, an integrated approach in healthcare—one that fuses the expertise of different departments—is of paramount importance.

Balancing the forces

This balance entails propelling product innovation to aptly confront market dynamics while curating messages that strike a chord with patients, caregivers, and HCPs. The core of this is rooted in robust scientific credibility. The magic comes from bringing the business disciplines together sooner in the product life cycle.

KS&R's recent customer feedback sessions unveiled a sentiment shared by a pharmaceutical executive in the oncology space:

“I think for the clinical opportunities that haven’t been commercialized yet, that’s a place where I see there is a lack of [market] insight. Even though it’s an important area for the future of the company, and we need to do important work to maximize that opportunity, the investment in insights doesn’t come as soon as I think it should, ideally.”

Building collective strength

While both insights and clinical teams pivot on data gathering, study designs, and interpretation of findings, they often work in isolated bubbles. Bridging these separate worlds can amplify their collective strength and influence within an organization.

Presently, most manufacturers adhere to a segmented model. Yet, progressive entities are gravitating toward integration, aiming to achieve a harmonious blend where both teams amplify their collective contributions.

Why this emphasis on integration? The answer lies in the unique strengths and perspectives that different teams bring to the table:

Clinical teams

With their depth of knowledge in medical science, patient care, and regulatory frameworks, clinical teams provide the bedrock of any healthcare solution. They ensure that products and services are both safe and effective for the end-users.

Marketing and insights teams

They understand the market, the competition, the latest trends, and most importantly, the needs and preferences of patients, caregivers, and HCPs. They can craft messages and strategies that resonate with the target audience, ensuring that innovations find their rightful place in the market.

Strengthening the bond

Regardless of your role—be it in marketing, insights, or clinical—fostering collaboration is imperative:

  • Open conversations: Champion dialogues that unite insights and clinical teams, promoting mutual understanding and unearthing shared objectives.

  • Knowledge exchange: Share success stories, data gathering techniques, and analytical tools across teams. For instance, when digital surveys became the new norm, my insights squad assisted the clinical group transition from paper to online surveys, enhancing data precision and accelerating interpretation.

  • Enhanced empathy for the patient and provider: Recognizing the shared goals these disciplines seek and how they can help one another exponentially contribute. For example, insights teams can provide data-driven rationale for how to optimize patient and site enrollment in clinical trials. 

It's pivotal to remember that the aim isn't to add complexity to the drug approval journey. Instead, the emphasis is on magnifying the value of clinical and market research collaboration.

Challenges in integration

However, it's not always smooth sailing. The convergence of these two distinct worlds poses its own set of challenges:

  • Different lingo: Clinical and marketing teams often speak in jargons unique to their specific realms. Building a common language is the first step to effective collaboration.
  • Differing priorities: While clinical teams might prioritize safety and efficacy, marketing might focus on market capture and brand building. Finding a middle ground is crucial.
  • Varied work cultures: The fast-paced, dynamic nature of marketing might clash with the methodical, evidence-driven approach of clinical teams. Navigating these differences requires tact and understanding.

Potential avenues for further integration

Given the stakes, deeper integration between clinical and insights teams is not just beneficial but essential. One of the most effective ways to facilitate this is through regular joint workshops. These sessions, where both teams come together to share their latest findings, discuss challenges, and set goals, can be instrumental in fostering mutual respect and understanding. In addition, cross-training programs can be invaluable. By providing opportunities for team members to familiarize themselves with the basics of the other's domain, we can bridge knowledge gaps.

For example, new marketers could greatly benefit from a course on clinical trials and the varying regulatory hurdles globally, while a clinical researcher might gain valuable insights from a workshop on unmet patient needs or brand building. Above all, setting shared objectives can play a pivotal role in this integration. Instead of each team working toward isolated departmental goals, establishing a unified objective that harnesses the expertise of both groups can truly revolutionize the way they collaborate and innovate.

Case studies: the clinical-insights confluence

When clinical and insights converge, where does the rubber meet the road? Three practical examples begin to demonstrate the value:

  • Conjoint methodology to inform clinical strategy: Prior to engaging in a costly and time consuming new randomized controlled trial (RCT) to provide marketing with new claims post launch, insights executed a conjoint analysis to gauge how new data would shape prescribing behaviors. An amalgamation of potential data sources, like retrospective analysis and meta-analysis, was tested alongside the RCT. Varying levels of primary and secondary outcomes was also tested, aiming to preempt potential risks. Engaging a sample of HCP specialists to undergo the conjoint task, they assessed various clinical scenarios presented as potential journal abstracts. Despite initial presumptions favoring an RCT, the analysis revealed that a well-executed meta-analysis could sufficiently boost confidence in the product.

    Consequently, by sidestepping the RCT, the company saved resources and expedited their marketing efforts by over two years.
  • Enhancing clinical site engagement with advanced analytics: Clinical professionals deeply value the relationships they've cultivated with trial sites. At times, a new trial dictates a broader reach, the addition of new sites, and increasingly challenging patient enrollment needs. In an effort to equip their clinical counterparts for success in this expansion, insights executed a market research study with clinical site decision makers to understand the impact of varying offers on enrollment and patient engagement.

    Together, they discovered how aspects such as study duration and comparators could impact overall enrollment and attraction of new site partners. This insight reinforced their strategy when approaching new sites, maximizing enrollment chances for a vital product under development.
  • Addressing patient needs to elevate drug outcome impact: Patient outcomes go beyond symptom relief and the promise of safety and efficacy. Particularly in a world where molecules are competing for incremental improvements in singular efficacy focuses, patients desire a better quality of life far beyond these small improvements.

    Early in drug development, insights embarked on a journey to discover unmet patient needs, collaborating with patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers. By doing so, they urged clinical disciplines to look beyond mere efficacy. Ultimately, the co-creation of patient-centric secondary end-point targets not only strengthened the relationship between clinical, marketing and insights, but more so the development of the new drug.

    Notably in the immunologic domain, some brands outperform their competitors by offering enhanced clinical benefits in adjacent symptom territories, leading to substantial improvements in patients' quality of life and higher reach in the market.

Such experiences validate the power of the combined forces of insights and clinical teams. In these specific cases:

  • Reps were equipped with meaningful messages.
  • Clinical funds were reallocated for larger initiatives.
  • Products reached and benefited more patients.
  • New clinical sites engaged with manufacturers to expand diversity and inclusion.
  • Quality of life improved for patients.
  • Marketing ensured a unique value proposition in crowded markets.
  • Inter-departmental rapport was strengthened.

When insights and clinical teams harmoniously align, the outcome is transformative. It's this synergy that underscores our commitment to bettering patient lives daily.

Harnessing synergy for a brighter healthcare future

The future of healthcare undoubtedly lies in its ability to adapt, innovate, and integrate. By breaking down silos and fostering a culture of collaboration, we're not just bettering products and services, but truly living up to the promise of delivering the best possible care to patients.

Christine Nelson, VP and Principal at KS&R

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