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The value of multi-disciplinary external expert collaboration

Well-planned collaborations result in productive and sustainable programmes

Medical education is fundamental to increasing disease awareness, therapy literacy and ultimately improving patient outcomes. An impactful educational programme is essential for pre- or post-launch success. The strength of such a programme is significantly increased through the early involvement of a multi-disciplinary external expert steering committee.

The committee should become an integral part of consensus-based scientific platform development, advocacy activities, and disease awareness and therapy education initiatives. True collaboration with a cross functional group of external experts not only adds richness to the programme developed but is key to successful and broad implementation.

To ensure successful medical education programme development, the engagement of an agency with proven experience and expertise in the convening, managing and sustaining of multi-disciplinary steering committees should be an important selection criterion.   

Benefits of collaboration
Increasingly stringent regulation and scrutiny is driving external experts to think carefully before they embark on collaborative initiatives. Educational scenarios with a strong disease awareness, referral and treatment prioritisation focus can prove to be fruitful ground for robust and sustainable external expert collaborations. If the therapy area scenario also includes the need for cross functional team patient management then the multi-disciplinary steering committee is essential.

The management of chronic conditions provides a number of scenarios where a cross-functional collaborative approach can be particularly well received and productive.

Prevalent conditions like the complications of myocardial infarction and stroke, diabetes and various cancers are driving the need for healthcare professionals to work collaboratively to improve patient outcomes. Therefore, initiatives that have been developed, endorsed and implemented by a multi-disciplinary steering committee are likely to appeal to and resonate with all members of the cross functional team.     

Convening the steering committee
The first challenge when convening a multi-disciplinary steering committee is to identify the educational 'win:win' that will encourage external experts to become part of the programme. This is generally an area of clinical interest and unmet need, where there is a 'gap' between current and best practice that can galvanise experts into action.

Increasing the focus on aspects of chronic disease management that are not routinely of great interest to therapy area thought leaders, but where they have significant influence, may represent fertile ground for 'win:win' educational initiatives. 

For example, engagement with a group of stroke specialists who are generally focused on acute stroke management, in a multi-disciplinary committee, has shifted their attention to the improvement of quality care and support after stroke. This has led to to a successful call-to-action and the implementation of initiatives that are improving the management of post-stroke complications and leading to increased uptake of important post-stroke therapeutic interventions.

Sustaining collaboration
Productive and sustainable collaborations are based upon mutual respect, consistency and the significance of the educational programme. The programme should be strategically designed to ensure evolution, such that the interest and enthusiasm of the multi-disciplinary group is retained.

Key elements of strategic design include:

  • Continual identification of new ideas and initiatives;
  • Rigorous prioritisation to ensure excellence in delivery;
  • Agreement on measures of success;
  • Broadening initiatives to include collaboration with professional or scientific organisations as appropriate.


A strategically planned multi-disciplinary collaboration can lead to the delivery of a rich, productive and sustainable medical education programme that will support pre- and post-launch success.


Neil McLelland, MedErgyMedErgy
The Author
Neil McLelland
, senior vice president, Medical Education, MedErgy
nmclelland@medergygroup.com

4th September 2012

From: Marketing, Healthcare

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