A Bright Future

Innovation is disrupting the entire healthcare continuum, creating opportunities for Medical Affairs in new and exciting places, says BMS’ Lav Parvathenani.



There has never been a better time to work in Medical Affairs. The disruptive technologies transforming every aspect of healthcare – from big data to precision medicine – will change the rules of engagement with pharma’s customers, creating new and exciting opportunities in the future. What’s more, health technologies are having a huge impact on patients’ lives, perhaps the greatest impact in the history of medicine.

These are the opinions of Lav Parvathenani, Director, Hematology Publications and Scientific Content,ent, at Bristol-Myers Squibb. “This is an incredibly exciting time to be in Medical Affairs,” he says. “We are at the start of an amazing revolution and we are at the forefront of it all.”

Any fears of a dystopian future are unfounded, he says. “While it’s really hard to predict ‘technology destruction’ in the long term – and, in some cases, even in the short term – the sheer amount of innovation means that jobs we couldn’t imagine existing ten years ago will be created and existing jobs will evolve in new ways. The entire function is going to be more dynamic as roles and skillsets change, all through the revolution in medicine and technology, which are feeding into each other.”

Innovation is arising in both directions, as health companies experiment with technology and tech companies experiment with health, says Parvathenani. Wearable technology offers the opportunity to capture patient-reported outcomes in a “new way” in real time and continuously as opposed to a periodic paper or electronic questionnaire of today.

Technological developments are allowing greater collection of real-world evidence, generating valuable insights for Medical Affairs. “10 to 15 years ago, our involvement of real-world evidence was very small but it’s importance has grown, and I can see it becoming even more so going forward.” (For more on how Medical Affairs is using RWE, see Get Real on page 4).

As partnerships are built between pharma and tech firms, Medical Affairs is facing many new opportunity for innovation, says Parvathenani. “How do we partner with these groups to find out what works and what doesn’t?” he asks. “Because there’s truth and there’s hype and it can be difficult to sort out what will be beneficial going to work from a medical affairs perspective.”

The seismic shift has been the change in the flow of information – customers who were dependent on sales reps and medical teams for their information even 5-10 years ago, are now able to get it from the web, including third-party sources like webMD, Medscape and the ever-popular wikipedia. The challenge, however, has been finding the right information in the midst of inaccurate and incomplete information found on the web, he says.

Knowledge might be power, but there can be too much of a good thing. “Physicians have less time as they are doing many more things than just treating patients, plus they’re being bombarded by information.”

Effective data mining that can filter and analyze research to provide synthesized medical information is a promising solution, says Parvathenani. “You have hundreds of oncology clinical trials going on at any one time, across many types of cancer. An average physician cannot keep up with even a fraction of this information. A good AI-based interface, using a certain patient’s parameters, can pull out relevant information.”

He hopes that, by acting as the interface between healthcare professionals and the continuing evolution in technology and precision medicine, Medical can continue to provide value well into the future.


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