Looking Towards an Integrated Oncology Future

By Ronak Patel





August 8, 2022


Ronak Patel is an Associate Director of Scientific Engagement and Digital Communications on Eisai’s US Medical Affairs team. He aims to enhance the effectiveness of Eisai’s US digital operations through innovative technological solutions, and specializes in combining traditional medical information and education channels with innovative digital communication solutions to deliver consistent and trusted information to health care providers (HCPs).

Over the past two years, there were very few facets of life that have not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The way in which we collaborate and communicate is no exception. Our medical affairs team is crucial for the appropriate communication of scientific information within Eisai and between the company and health care community industry leaders. As a team, we engage creatively with our colleagues, facilitate meaningful discourse with our partners and thought leaders and take great care to adapt to an increasingly virtual world as we grow together in our roles at Eisai.

The Expanding Role of Oncology Professionals in a Hybrid Work Environment

As we pivoted to remote work, our reliance on digital channels only grew in order to engage with our coworkers and increase exposure to the online discussion occurring among clinicians. Through social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, we’ve noticed the emergence of Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) as thought leaders who engage online and are able to share their insights and opinions on data in real-time while engaging a wider audience. Rising online visibility has resulted in broader communication between academics, community oncologists, patients and the pharmaceutical industry.    

Prior to 2020, we did not see nearly as much engagement activity from thought leaders in the oncology space on social media compared with today. As many medical conferences shifted to virtual formats, we witnessed DOLs emerge as drivers of online conversations with their peers and social channels became the preferred media for sharing industry opinions and facilitating topical discussion. My colleagues and I have been following these developing trends and aim to shed light on their impact and significance through conversations like, “How Social Media is Breaking Silos in the Oncology Community” with Dr. Vivek Subbiah, M.D., Executive Medical Director, Medical Oncology Research, and Associate Professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Now, as conferences convert to hybrid formats, I’m excited to see how the online discourse of DOLs adapts.

Concurrently, the format of virtual advisory boards has rapidly evolved to become more interactive with health care professionals (HCPs) across the country over the past few years. To keep these once primarily face-to-face conversations engaging, we incorporate different exercises (e.g., interactive workshops, polling questions and surveys) into our presentations to facilitate participation and helpful practices such as utilizing virtual platforms to incorporate forum-based engagements. Doing so allows us to better capture insights from HCPs and continuously receive meaningful feedback.

We’ve used these practices to great effect in virtual webcasts as well. For example, to help our team gain a better understanding of telemedicine in practice, we engaged with HCPs directly through a virtual discussion panel on the evolving role of telemedicine in a “New Paradigms in Cancer Care” expert forum. Participants engaged with presenters via polls and a Q&A to exchange views on the role of telemedicine in oncology, its strengths and limitations and how it may be used by providers and their patients.

Adapting to an Integrated Digital Future

Looking ahead, we envision an omnichannel approach within Medical Affairs that helps create a consistent HCP experience across:

social channels,
disease awareness and medical information sites,
peer exchange platforms,
and more.

When we’re able to ensure consistency across these channels, the omnichannel approach will aid HCPs in finding relevant content to their field and also ensure that information portals are addressing and anticipating their needs when treating patients. The adoption of digital initiatives across the industry has only accelerated, and our use of social channels to communicate key data and information will continue to expand. We are seeing an increased focus on how our industry integrates digital tools to deliver consistent and trusted information to HCPs.

Whether working remotely or in-person, the era of digital communication and the emergence of DOLs leading the conversations are here to stay. As the world continues to open up to more in-person events and interactions, we’ll continue to evaluate the personal preferences of HCPs so that we can meet them where they’re at—whether that’s face-to-face, via video call or online.

Life at Eisai is moving into a hybrid model as well with many people (myself included) working virtually or heading into our new US headquarters in Nutley, NJ a few times per week. I’m eager to see the results of this integrated workforce as we continue to innovate new technologies for the HCP community, patients and our team at Eisai.

As part of our human health care mission at Eisai, we continuously strive to understand the patient’s reality so that we can work to better serve their needs. Adopting an integrated omnichannel approach in how we communicate with HCPs and each other will only continue to help us as we aim to discover and develop innovative solutions that help address unmet medical needs.