APPA AGM Nov 26 "The year that was, the year that is".

Here are the summary points from the panellists:

  • It has been a most extraordinary year, it’s been highly challenging and most unusual.

  • The biggest challenges this year have been human fear, isolation and freedom of movement (staff, HCPs and patients)

  • It was a really disruptive year with lots of uncertainty. It made it harder at the work level and the personal level

  • We had to pivot overnight to a new way of working

  • We were always on demand with more meetings and people expecting you to respond.

  • A challenge was to balance people vs business needs, assessing priorities and being able to pivot quickly.

  • Another challenge for Medical Affairs was being responsible for answering questions around COVID and providing the facts. People were anxious and wanted Medical to have the answers.

  • This presented a tremendous opportunity for Medical as the ‘trusted voice’, as people were coming to us for advice

  • To overcome these challenges companies increased the amount of informal collaboration and communication using Zoom, Teams, and game apps like Kahoot.

  • Because people were working extreme hours we instituted a policy of taking 2 hour breaks throughout the day to get some balance back.

  • For field based colleagues any metrics or targets were all out the window. You speak with your customers when they want to on a as needed basis.

  • This was a phenomenal opportunity to grow as a leader. Good leaders need empathy in an authentic way. Also to be flexible and to take an individual approach

  • It was important to support the people as they are at the heart of the business

  • The importance of mental health – people were going through a lot of changes and were impacted in different ways.

  • Important to cut through the noise and prioritize what important ie what we are trying to achieve ie business priorities and people priorities.

  • Seen more kindness and empathy

  • When we do group check-ins it’s important to see who is not there and make an effort to reach out to them - email, sms, phone call

  • Small group catch ups are more effective than large groups

  • Multi-channel engagement has become more prominent ie developments expected in the next 5 years and here today – we are now doing things that we wouldn’t have considered for some time

  • There was a real shift in empathy and an understanding of how people are affected in different ways

  • Everyone has come together and has become more connected

  • We had a massive increase in collaboration and communication and this has been supportive and given a different view of the world

  • Leadership has shown more trust especially around working from home – it can produce better results than before

  • Everyone rallied around to do what ever they can do to help, no complaining even though it’s been a tough environment. Collaborative, open communication, empathy, understanding, taking a wider holistic view

  • Everyone willing to try new things, working together

  • Innovation, problem solving, collaboration has increased with more adaptability

  • Trust has increased

  • Pharma industry reputation has enhanced. People are now talking about phase 3 clinical trial results, FDA, TGA, supply chain. The opportunity is to continue to enhance the reputation through education and engagement, especially using social channels.

  • People understand the significant contribution pharma is making to society through the pandemic.

  • We’re hearing a lot of positive sentiment from doctors

  • The internal reputation of pharma has improved because of more focus on the safety of colleagues ahead of short term business opportunities

  • The biggest challenge for Medical Affairs in the next year will be finding the right balance from taking what’s good from 2020 and continuing them and adding in some of the other ways eg returning to face-to-face.

  • Success working remotely will open opportunities to take up regional or overseas roles

  • Success will also require people to become more data savvy and embrace digital technologies, and to understand the importance of data – how to gather it, analyse it, visualize it and challenge it, and to communicate this with the HCPs.

  • A major focus of next year will be supply chain where the biggest challenge now is to implement the solutions ie access and supply chain of both vaccines and therapeutics.

  • The work is only getting started, there do much to do, a real opportunity to work collectively

Many thanks to: Andrew Weekes, Carla Swemmer, Christine O’Donnell, Glenn Carter, Gisela Mautner, Krishan Thiru, Kristen Sutton