Life Sciences R&D & Medical

ZS medical affairs outlook report 2022

June 27, 2022 | White Paper | 11-minute read

ZS medical affairs outlook report 2022

Even as the world gains experience with virtual engagement, the ZS medical affairs outlook report 2022 finds that the KOLs' comfort and satisfaction with virtual interactions with MSLs has dropped globally as compared to 2021. Seventy-six percent of medical affairs personnel said that virtual engagements have not functioned properly when MSLs and KOLs meet for the first time. Fifty-six percent of KOLs in Canada said they were comfortable with remote engagements in 2022—down from 91% the previous year. KOLs in the U.S. expressed even lower satisfaction with virtual engagements compared to their peers in the EU and Canada.


These and the report’s other findings stem from two industrywide surveys conducted by ZS in March through April of 2022. Participants included 134 medical affairs personnel from 34 global companies, as well as 225 healthcare professionals and KOLs from North America and Europe.


In addition to detailing the challenges associated with virtual engagements, the report offers other key insights, including:

  • A majority of medical affairs organizations are still finding their footing in terms of establishing a robust strategic planning process, designing well-coordinated roles and responsibilities and enabling data-driven decision-making.
  • Medical affairs organizations are thinking about building customer-centric engagement models because responsiveness and agility in responding to KOL queries and co-creating solutions with healthcare customers are increasingly important. Forging relationships with patient advocacy groups (PAGs) will also be critical in the future.
  • A majority of medical affairs organizations are in the ideation or foundational phase of omnichannel engagement. Medical affairs teams are deploying systems for virtual channel data capture and they are implementing centralized databases. Artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP), however, have not been prioritized for investment.
  • Field medical continues to receive the maximum investment from leadership. The biggest investment has been in people, in areas such as resourcing, upskilling and training.
  • In addition to scientific and therapy area training, the most desired attributes from future MSLs include the ability to use virtual tools and engage in value-based discussions. 

Evaluating medical affairs organizations

As medical affairs gains prominence as a strategic arm of pharmaceutical companies, it’s important for senior management to assess the status quo and identify the quick and long-term wins to stay on par with industry expectations. But conducting an accurate evaluation of the current environment, including an assessment of essential capabilities and skillsets, is a complex process. To gain a clearer picture, ZS developed a proprietary maturity model that benchmarks medical affairs organizations across the industry. This model helped identify organizational expectations and form conclusions on necessary next steps for medical teams.


That maturity model, called M3, is based on three key dimensions: a strategic planning process, data-driven decision-making and coordination amongst roles. The M3 analysis assesses maturity and identifies essential growth drivers and opportunities for medical affairs organizations. Our analysis showed most medical affairs organizations are in an evolving phase, which highlights the need for further growth and refinements. Read the full report to learn more about this analysis.

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