Pharmaceutical advisory boards are critical for gaining insights to inform key decisions. When done right, these gatherings of experts can yield valuable insights to improve your clinical trials, accelerate drug development, and better serve patients.
But with KOLs’ hectic schedules, medical affairs teams are struggling to get them to participate and collaborate in a consistent and timely manner. The result? Fewer, slow, infrequent, and less valuable insights to act upon.
That’s where an always-on medical advisory board platform can help. When used to host a mixture of pharma ad board formats throughout the year – in-person, virtual, hybrid, asynchronous – this technology can transform pharma ad boards into fruitful meetings that bring 5x more insights.
Discover how to run a highly effective pharmaceutical advisory board with event technology and best practices from pharma event experts who work with 10 out of the top 20 leading life science and pharma companies worldwide.
You’ll soon be on your way to pharma advisory board success and reaping the benefits of outside expertise to gain a competitive edge.
What Are Pharma Advisory Boards and Why Do They Matter?
Pharmaceutical advisory boards involve bringing a group of external healthcare experts together to get their professional insights on a specific scientific or healthcare-related topic. These external experts or advisors could be specialized healthcare professionals (HCPs) – often key opinion leaders (KOLs) – payers, patients, or patient advisors.
For pharmaceutical and biotech companies, advisory boards are a critical tool for:
- Gaining knowledge about the latest treatment options for a specific disease
- Learning about the real-world experiences of HCPs and patients
- Gaining strategic insights throughout the entire drug development program
- Making sure new medicines are valuable to doctors, patients, and the disease
- Understanding if the market is ready for the new therapeutic drug, and if it’s not, devising a plan to successfully launch it
- Understanding the education and training needed to support the introduction of a new medicine
- Identifying unmet medical needs that might shape future clinical strategies
- Strengthening KOL relationships through collaboration, exchanging information, and sharing feedback
Companies organize multiple pharma ad boards at every stage of the drug life cyle to meet different objectives. For example, early on, meetings may focus on clinical trial design, risk management plans, and target patients. And during clinical trials, KOLs who attend advisory boards can help to interpret trial outcomes. Then, as soon as a drug is licensed pharmaceutical advisory boards help to devise post-marketing clinical trials, review medical education programs, and provide expert suggestions for life-cycle management.
“While pharma ad boards take a lot of effort to organize, they can yield data and guidance to shape strategies, uncover new opportunities, and gain competitive advantage. By leveraging the right technology and expertise, pharma companies can overcome common challenges like limited time with advisors or difficulties capturing and sharing key takeaways from meetings. When done well, advisory boards are worth their weight in gold.”
Types of Pharma Advisory Boards: In-Person, Virtual, Hybrid, Async
According to a medical affairs solution provider, over 90% of pharmaceutical advisory boards have a face-to-face format. But after conducting a survey with 100 KOLs who attend pharma ad boards, they found that they would all prefer to attend using digital technology. In fact, 97% responded that taking part in a virtual advisory board would not have a negative impact on the interactions. This is partly due to the fact that 68% of the KOLs surveyed believe that attending a pharma ad board in person puts their patients at risk while they travel.
“We’re seeing more and more of our pharma customers organize a mix of in-person, virtual, and asynchronous advisory boards to meet KOLs’ needs, boost attendance, and, most importantly, avoid any detrimental effects on patient care. They rely on SpotMe’s compliant event platform to get the most out of every ad board – no matter the format – and enable beneficial collaboration between meetings.”
Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of different pharma ad board formats:
The options for pharma advisory boards are plentiful. Choose the approach that aligns with your objectives and resources to gain actionable insights that will guide strategic decisions and bring lifesaving treatments to market. With the right technology and expert partners, you can overcome the challenges of remote work and fragmented healthcare systems to connect with your most valuable advisors.
Best Practices for Managing Pharma Advisory Boards
Managing an effective pharma advisory board requires meticulous planning and execution. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
Choose The Right Advisors
Select advisors with expertise in your therapeutic area that can offer diverse, objective viewpoints. Aim for a group of 8-12 advisors for in-person or hybrid boards. For virtual or async boards, you can have a few more. Look for advisors from leading medical centers, academia, and private practice. Make sure they are great communicators, have opinions based on expertise, understand advisory boards, and ideally have experience serving on them. Refer to your field medical teams & engagement reps to confirm if they are “Thought Leaders.”
Pro Tip: Give yourself enough time to complete the contracting process with the advisors. The best practice here is to set up a Master Service Agreement with the advisors that contracts for a block of hours to be used throughout the year as appropriate. This will greatly speed up the contracting process.
Provide Materials In Advance
Give advisors all background materials, such as the meeting agenda, discussion guide, and any pre-reads, data, or information to review, at least 2 weeks ahead of your pharma advisory board meeting directly through your event platform. This allows them to come prepared to actively participate in discussions and provide valuable feedback. For virtual or async boards, sharing materials in advance is even more critical.
Have Clear Objectives And An Agenda
Determine 2-3 key objectives or questions you want input on. Develop an agenda that allocates adequate time to meaningful discussions around those objectives. Share the objectives and agenda with advisors upfront and make them clearly accessible on your event platform so they know what to expect.
Pro Tip: During the ad board meeting, a skilled moderator should keep conversations on track while allowing for open discussion.
Capture And Share Feedback
Have a dedicated note taker capture feedback, suggestions and key discussion points. Then share a summary report with all advisors on your event platform after the meeting to validate the key findings. Look for ways to implement the useful recommendations from the ad board to demonstrate you value the advisors’ input.
Follow Up And Stay In Touch
Follow up with a thank you and any post-meeting surveys that you can send directly from your event platform for the advisors to provide additional feedback on their experience. Let them know how their input is being used. Stay in regular contact using your event platform feed, notifications, and targeted emails to provide program updates and new data. This ongoing engagement will make advisors more willing to participate in future boards.
With the right approach and advanced preparation, pharma advisory boards can be highly productive and yield actionable insights to help guide strategies and decision-making. Applying these best practices will help you get the most value from your pharma advisory boards.
Find out how to take the stress out of pharmaceutical meeting management with our comprehensive guide.
Overcoming the Biggest Challenges With Pharma Ad Boards
Getting the most out of your pharma advisory boards requires overcoming some common challenges. Here are some of the biggest obstacles and how to tackle them:
Pharma Ad Board Challenge #1 Achieving 100% KOL Attendance
Securing attendance from the right KOLs can be difficult given their busy schedules. As part of their day-to-day working lives, they often run busy outpatient clinics or are heads of hospital departments. That means attending a pharmaceutical advisory board takes them away from their patients, especially if they have to travel to an in-person meeting. In fact, ⅓ of 100 KOLs surveyed by a medical affairs solution company recalled a time when their patient’s clinical condition worsened because they were absent from the hospital to attend a pharma event.
That’s why being flexible in offering different options for in-person, virtual, hybrid, and asynchronous participation is crucial in helping you maximize KOL attendance and minimize the effect it has on their (and their patients’) everyday lives. Providing an honorarium or other compensation for their time may also improve attendance and commitment.
Here are some other solutions to help you boost KOL attendance at your pharma ad boards:
Clearly Define The Objectives & The Agenda
Based on a research study conducted by a medical affairs solutions company, KOLs often don’t understand the objectives of the pharmaceutical events they attend.
There are 3 major problems with not clearly defining what you aim to achieve with your pharmaceutical advisory boards:
- How do you know which KOLs to invite? If you are aiming to get high-level advice on a medical product strategy, you will need to invite nationally recognized KOLs who have deep expertise in the relevant disease and treatment landscapes. On the other hand, if your goal is to understand how your medical product is used with patients, you will need to invite regional or local KOLs who spend most of their practice in direct patient care.
- How will you attract KOLs to your pharma ad board? KOLs have busy schedules and often take part in several pharmaceutical advisory boards for different organizations. So, if you are not clear about your goals from the beginning, they are not likely to want to participate in yours. That may result in you losing out on engaging with the KOLs that are would have given you the most valuable insights.
- How do you expect to meet compliance standards? According to the IFPMA, EFPIA, PhRMA, and ABPI codes of practice, among others, for a pharmaceutical advisory board to be legitimate, advisors should be chosen according to their expertise so that they will be able to contribute meaningfully to the objectives and outcomes of the meeting. So, if you fail to declare the objectives from the beginning you will contravene compliance regulations. In addition to complying with laws, regulations, and codes of practices, your organization may have its own policies to follow. These could be communicating a clearly-defined objective, being transparent about documentation, and reporting advisory board outcomes.
As a result, clearly laying out your objectives and agenda before you even start contacting advisors is crucial if you want to invite the most valuable KOLs, maximize attendance, and adhere to compliance regulations.
Pro tip: With SpotMe’s compliant advisory board platform, you can clearly lay out your agenda and objectives, so that KOLs can find all information in one place. By making information access easy, you also increase the likelihood that 100% of them will attend.
Choose A Convenient Time & Reach Out Early
Once you’ve defined your objectives, it’s time to start reaching out to the KOLs you would like to attend. With their hectic schedules, you’ll need to consider when the most convenient time is for them. Evenings and weekends may work best for pharmaceutical advisory boards. Send out personalized email invitations directly from your medical advisory board platform about 3 months in advance with all the important information they need to know.
Pro tip: For the advisors who are particularly valuable to you, prioritize aligning their availability with the date and time of your pharma advisory board. You may want to reach out to them before sending an official invitation to ensure you organize the first meeting for a time that suits them.
Hold Your Pharma Ad Board During A Large Event
As mentioned above, you can choose to hold an in-person advisory board meeting as a standalone event or link it to a larger pharmaceutical event, such as a congress. By linking your meeting to a congress that your advisors are attending, it is more likely they will be able to attend. This is because they will already be onsite and won’t necessarily have to take extra time away from their patients.
Share Pre-Reads In Advance
To get the most out of your pharma ad boards, you need to fully prepare KOLs for the discussion beforehand. This is also a great way to get them engaging with your content before your meeting, making it 60% more likely that they will attend.
“The traditional method is to send pre-reads via email. But if you opt for this technique, there is no way for you to quickly and easily track who has read the material without having to ask for a reply to your email. Leading pharma companies upload all their pre-reads to a secure event platform like SpotMe. Once KOLs have read the material, they can check a box. This is then automatically recorded in your pharma CRM, such as Veeva, so you can track which advisor has done what – an essential aspect to ensure all contractual obligations are met.”
Warning: Be aware that including pre-work is company-dependent as this is part of the needs assessments and FMV (fair market value) calculation for KOL time and payment allowance at pharmaceutical advisory boards.
Send Reminder Emails 2-3 Days Before
KOLs have a lot on their plates juggling inpatient care, outpatient clinics, scientific research, technology development, educational events and conferences, publications, and other advisory boards (to name a few things). It is therefore easy for them to forget about a pharma ad board meeting (especially if online).
That is why it is essential to send a reminder email 2-3 days before your advisory board starts. Email them directly from your event platform in just a few clicks and include the platform link, so they can easily find all the logistical information they need to attend.
Provide A Premium Experience KOLs Will Remember
KOLs participate in lots of different pharmaceutical events, including other pharmaceutical advisory boards led by your competitors. So, to ensure they attend yours and are willing and happy to do so, you need to provide them with a premium experience.
By joining the top 10/20 pharma and life science companies that use SpotMe’s compliant medical advisory board platform, you too can create a seamless experience that KOLs love, collaborate effectively both during live meetings and asynchronously between meetings, and get the most value out of your pharmaceutical advisory boards.
Pharma Ad Board Challenge #2 Getting Similar, Consistent & Timely Input From All Advisors
Many moments in the drug development lifecycle require timely communication from expert advisors. For example, as soon as one of your medicinal drug receives FDA approval, you will of course want to talk about your brand and how your drug can make a difference to patients’ lives. But you cannot start doing so if you have no way to quickly contact KOLs for first-hand insights.
As this lack of quick and convenient ways to gain in-depth insights from KOLs before, during, and between pharma advisory board meetings is one of the biggest challenges for medical affairs teams, many of them often resort to unexpected calls to advisors who have attended meetings in the past.
This is neither a productive nor compliant way of doing things. 1. You’re asking for advice for someone who is not prepared or expecting it. 2. You are asking for free advice, which is not compliant. 3. It is almost impossible to record the insights you get.
That is why having a dedicated, always-on medical advisory board platform where you can engage KOLs efectively before, during, and between meetings is one of the best ways to get the most valuable feedback from all advisors.
Here are some other solutions to help you facilitate effective communication before, during, and between your pharma ad boards:
Moderate Pharma Ad Board Meetings Effectively
It can be challenging to facilitate productive discussions and gain consensus from a group of KOLs during a pharmaceutical advisory board, especially if members have different communication styles or levels of experience. An experienced moderator is key to keeping conversations on track, clarifying any points of confusion, and achieving useful outcomes within the allocated time. Sending prep materials in advance helps ensure everyone comes prepared to discuss.
Engage KOLs To Maximize Participation
As mentioned earlier, KOLs take part in numerous events, including your competitors’ pharmaceutical ad boards. So, if your advisory board does not stand out from the crowd, you may fail to engage KOLs and get the valuable insights you need from everyone involved.
Luckily there are engaging event platforms on which you can host your pharma ad boards that have countless features to get KOLs interacting with your content. Here are just some of the tools that are sure to boost KOL engagement and participation:
- Interactive newsfeed & gamification
- Polls, moderated Q&A & word clouds
- Advanced file sharing: videos, slides, articles, study data
- Chat, networking & breakout rooms
- Closed captioning & live translation
- Fully branded & customized platform
If you’re looking for an HCP engagement solution for your events, check out our ultimate guide.
Make Asynchronous Collaboration Easy
Another way that medical affairs teams cope with the lack of quick and convenient methods to gain in-depth insights from KOLs is by collecting a huge backlog of questions for the next scheduled meeting. But the major issue here is that if weeks or months pass before a question gets answered, it may not be relevant anymore by the time the meeting comes around.
That is where a dedicated medical advisory board platform like SpotMe comes in. With 24/7 cross-device availability, a moderated activities feed, surveys, targeted emails, and on-demand content, asynchronous collaboration between meetings is simple. You can even set up push notifications to get feedback from KOLs in real time so that insights are timely and relevant.
“Advisory boards are more likely to deliver meaningful outcomes when using a blended approach, because, in this way, KOLs can collaborate when it’s convenient for them. Examples of deliverables include collaboration and reviewing of documents such as publication manuscripts, abstracts, protocols, and medical education materials.”
Follow Up With Post-Event Engagement
Given that pharma ad board meetings are not always one-off events but often a series of recurring events, following up after each meeting is key. Make sure you have a dedicated space on your event platform to debrief with the rest of the medical affairs team immediately after an ad board meeting. This instant feedback can help you refine content, topics, questions and shape deliverables for future pharma ad board meetings.
But you should also be following up with the advisors who attended:
In a recent survey, a medical affairs solution company found that a staggering 81% of 100 KOLs questioned very rarely or rarely receive follow-up information on the outcomes of pharmaceutical advisory boards. That means that ⅘ KOLs who took part in a pharma ad board discovered whether their input had any difference on the company they advised.
Pharmaceutical advisory board collaboration will be much more fruitful and discussions will be more in-depth and of higher value if you continue the conversations asynchronously between meetings, providing KOLs with feedback on the advice they gave.
The best way to do this is by using the following tools on your event platform like SpotMe:
- Send targeted surveys to KOLs to ask follow-up questions
- Make live meeting replays available in just a few clicks
- Share reports in the dedicated file sharing area
- Post updates on the moderated activity feed and send push notifications as reminders
If you’re looking for other HCP engagement strategies for your events, check out the latest trends, metrics, and strategies as presented by Boehringer Ingelheim, Reckitt, and SpotMe at one of the latest Veeva summits.
Pharma Ad Board Challenge #3 Tracking And Recording Data To Turn Into Informed Decisions
With all the compliance, consulting, and contractual regulations to adhere to when running pharmaceutical advisory boards, monitoring data is vital. Especially when an honorarium is offered for the time, effort, and expertise of the advisors and payment of advisory board members must be declared. It is also important to record insights so that you can turn KOLs’ advice into actions.
Tracking outcomes over time will demonstrate the value and impact of your advisory boards. But without event technology, it is almost impossible to record data accurately.
Here’s how to use event technology like SpotMe to track and record in-depth data:
Track Attendance And Participation At The Advisor Level
With a medical advisory board platform that has deep analytics and reporting capabilities, you can track the attendance, participation, and engagement of each individual advisor. This can either be done on the event platform if you are hosting a virtual advisory board or on the mobile event app if you are hosting an in-person or hybrid advisory board.
SpotMe tracks information such as:
- Login & logout times
- Active time per user
- App user engagement
- Poll & Q&A participation
- File interaction
Automatically Collect Data In Your Pharma CRM
But there’s no point collecting all this data if you don’t have a centralized hub to store it securely. That is why the best event platforms like SpotMe have deep native CRM integrations with Veeva. As a result, it is easy to prove the amount of time an advisor spent engaging with your content, so contract reconciliation is simple. This is particularly important when the country you are based in has contracts with limited consultation hours.
“We also see our pharma customers using Veeva CRM to store advisors’ opinions on their products. For example, they add a note directly to the advisor in Veeva saying “has a positive opinion on the product”. The possibilities are endless with our Veeva integration.”
Find out how to maximize your pharma CRM to get the most out of your events.
Turn Live Meetings Into On-Demand Content
The best event technology for pharma ad boards allows you to record your meetings and turn them into on-demand content that is stored on a gated content hub and accessible 24/7 from any device around the world. This enables you and your medical affairs team to re-watch the meeting whenever they want to review and capture key discussion highlights, recommendations, and next steps. Your advisors can also have access to all the on-demand meetings.
Use Live Event Captioning And Create Automatic Transcripts
With many complex topics discussed at pharma advisory boards (and not necessarily with native English speakers), two other crucial features for medical advisory board software are live event captioning and automatic transcripts. With SpotMe’s AI-Media integration, you can add technical terms before your ad board meeting so that the system will recognize them without fail. And with 96% accuracy, being able to take information directly from automatic transcripts is easy.
Pharma Ad Board Challenge #4 Organizing A Smooth And Successful Meeting That Is Fully Compliant And Secure
With pharmaceutical advisory board planning, there are many moving parts to coordinate, from inviting and engaging KOLs and scheduling meetings to ensuring all proper contracts and compliance documentation are in order. Developing a detailed project plan and timeline will keep you organized. And consulting legal counsel on any compliance questions to avoid issues.
But there are some other methods to help you ensure your pharma advisory boards run smoothly and meet all compliance standards:
Choose A Solution That Has Enterprise-Grade Security And Is Fully Compliant
Compliance, security, PV (pharmacovigilance), and AE monitoring are a number one priority for any pharma event, including pharmaceutical advisory boards. However, this should not be a barrier to using event technology. There are event platforms like SpotMe that are specifically tailored to the life sciences and pharma industries to ensure you comply with all laws, regulations, and codes of practices.
They include key features for pharma ad boards such as:
- One-click access to regulatory documents like SmPCs and PIs
- Q&A moderation
- Job code displays
- Dynamic privacy policies
- On-screen disclaimers
- Choice of event-based functionalities
- Advanced free text moderation on the feed
- Content targeting
- Adverse events reporting link
- PI display
- Medical CRM integration
Discover how to run compliant pharma events with technology in our article, with insights from Caroline Petit, Takeda.
Ensure that your event solution is:
- HIPAA compliant
- ISO/IEC 27001 certified
- SOC2 Type II audited
- Part of the Cloud Security Alliance STAR program
- Following GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy and security regulations
Combine Engaging Technology With Professional Event Services
Planning and running engaging pharma ad boards involves managing multiple aspects. With so much to manage, medical affairs teams often work with medical communications companies or pharma event management companies to help them handle everything.
However, there are some event solutions that offer professional event services alongside their technology to ensure your pharmaceutical advisory board runs as smoothly as possible. Take SpotMe, for example. We have 250+ professionals and a network of 20 certified service providers worldwide that offer:
- Day-of-event support
- Event technology onboarding & training
- Speaker orientation
- Onsite/Virtual production & coordination
- Campaign build
- Onsite video production
- Customer support that responds in 30 seconds, 24/7
With this kind of support, you can focus on running engaging pharma ad boards while your event technology provider manages all the behind-the-scenes work for you.
Use Self-Service Templates Your Event Platform Offers
Creating a pharma ad board meeting from scratch at least twice a year can be very time-consuming. To save time, you can take advantage of self-service templates your event platform offers. That way you can simply select the pharmaceutical advisory board template and have a foundation on which to build your event content.
Leveraging Event Technology To Get The Most From Your Pharma Advisory Boards
To maximize the value gained from your pharma advisory boards, leverage event technology solutions. These tools can help enhance the experience for advisors and organizers alike.
Automate Invitations And Registration
Using event management software, you can easily invite potential KOLs and handle registration. Send customized emails with event details and a registration link. Provide an online form to capture key info upfront. This streamlines planning and ensures you have everything needed to deliver a great pharma ad board experience.
Enable Content Sharing
An always-on medical advisory board platform gives you a place to share content with KOLs before, during, and after an event. Upload discussion documents, presentations, videos, and other resources. Allow advisors to review materials in advance so they come prepared to provide thoughtful feedback. You can also share recordings and summaries following the event.
Facilitate Engaging Discussions
For virtual or hybrid events, use features like live polling, Q&A, breakout rooms, and whiteboards to facilitate engaging discussions. Launch quick polls to get initial reactions and guide conversation. An open Q&A allows advisors to ask questions and provide input. Breakout rooms enable small group discussions on key topics. Interactive whiteboards let people collaborate in real-time.
Analyze Feedback And Insights
Review surveys, Q&A transcripts, chat logs, and other feedback to gain valuable insights from your pharmaceutical advisory board. Look for trends in the data to see what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. Share a summary with stakeholders and use the information to enhance future events and strengthen your pharma advisory board program.
Leveraging specialized event technology and interactive features helps drive more meaningful interactions and optimizes your pharma advisory boards. While in-person events have many benefits, virtual and hybrid options provide unique opportunities for collaboration when bringing advisors together simply isn’t possible. The key is choosing a solution that allows you to run a mix of formats and complements your particular program and needs.
The Best Medical Advisory Board Platform
There’s no doubt that event technology can help you get the most out of your pharmaceutical advisory boards, no matter whether they are in-person, online, or hybrid. But how can you find the best solution?
SpotMe’s medical advisory board platform has all the tools to help you make KOL collaboration easy, maximize KOL engagement and participation, and track valuable advisor insights to turn into concrete actions.
It enables you to manage all your pharma advisory board formats in one secure and compliant environment, with the opportunity for asynchronous KOL collaboration between meetings, pre- and post-meeting content sharing, and valuable follow-ups. And with a range of interactive features, you can spark engagement to ensure you get valuable feedback from every advisor.
Thanks to SpotMe’s deep native integration with Veeva CRM, you can monitor and store every activity of each individual advisor before, during, and between your pharma ad board meetings. And it’s all set up and managed for you by our expert team of professionals who have 23+ years of experience in running events, particularly in the life sciences and pharmaceutical fields.
Use SpotMe to run highly effective pharmaceutical advisory boards and gather all the insights you need to succeed. Book a demo today.
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