Industry Insights from Paul Meade, M. Sc, MPH
In this Age of Information, many people believe that having up-to-date information at their fingertips is beneficial to managing their businesses. This can’t be truer if you have to make up-to-date decisions several times a day. But sometimes having real-time updates is like putting high-octane gasoline in your car when all you really need is regular. Unless you need real-time information to make daily or even hourly decisions, one should ask, what value is there to having such instant information? Some companies offer real-time information on thought leader profiles. Why? Are decisions to engage in thought leader consultations really that time-critical? Does any pharmaceutical executive need instant updates on key opinion leaders to make critical decisions to the overall strategy of a product’s annual plan? Does anyone have that much flexibility in a product marketing plan to make significant changes on a daily basis?
To be sure, busy thought leaders are actively conducting research, publishing articles, and speaking at medical meetings. In fact, these are ongoing activities for many of the top thought leaders in any therapeutic area. But clinical studies are conducted over months and years, not hours or days. Scientific articles can take over a year to get published in leading journals once the research has been completed. Significant medical conferences are often held on an annual basis, not every week. Treatment Guidelines can take well over a year from the initial meeting of thought leaders to the publication date. Academic appointments change infrequently, and committee assignments have a long rotation cycle. So what really changes that much to demand real-time updates?
Of course, knowing when a landmark research paper may be presented at a world congress can result in a need-to-know update. The publication of a breakthrough scientific article in a high-impact medical journal can have a significant impact on competitive actions. A safety review board halting a clinical study for safety reasons, or an ethical review board closing down a trial because the results are so overwhelmingly positive is breaking news. So having this information in a timely manner is important, but these kinds of newsworthy events receive adequate attention in a multitude of media outlets.
Are real-time updates on thought leaders just real-time money wasters? Having the right information in a timely manner is always important, but how often are annual marketing plans altered because of some newsworthy event with a certain thought leader. It is vital to be able to respond to significant events in this competitive environment, but if every strategy plan changed to respond to every little piece of information coming our way each month, then we would all be mere reactionaries and not strategists. Knowing just what is important to know and what decisions will be made with such timely information is more important than simply having real-time information that does not warrant any action. Worse yet, reacting to some real-time information that elicits a suboptimal competitive response can result in the unraveling of a perfectly good strategy. So, in some ways, real-time updates on thought leaders can be more than a money waster, they can be dangerous.