globalisationJudging by the size of the audience, the globalisation breakout session at the recent DIA US Med Comms workshop was very popular with more than 100 delegates. Chaired by Leena Jindia, Tibotec Therapeutics, I was privileged to speak on the topic, along with Dan Kates, Senior Director, Global Communications, Gilead and Tom Gesell, Global Head, Medical Communications, Novartis.

A world cloud on globalisation created on

After defining globalisation and what that means for medical communications, I covered some of the key drivers and challenges we face. Common drivers are the need for global information consistency and accuracy, ensure compliance, optimal resource utilisation (including repurposing of information), common labels and alternative ways of working collaboratively.

However the challenges that any regional or global Medical Information professional faces are

  • language and cultural differences
  • product licence variations
  • medical practice variations across regions and between countries
  • resource management across virtual teams
  • proof of value and ROI
  • territoriality (“you’re not having my FTE”)

I particularly focused on different organisational models of global or regional groups, using Krispy Kreme doughnuts as a metaphor (you had to be there to appreciate that one!). Overall, there is no one model that works for every company – the company culture, resource levels, key objectives and legacy organisation will be strong determinants of what works best at the time. Globalisation or at least setting up regional groups is a growing trend as indentified by a recent European survey of medical information departments that Janet Davies and I ran in 2008 (awaiting publication in the Drug Information Journal later this year).

Dan Kates gave us a case study of how the International Medical Information department (now headed up by Janet Davies) was created and has developed over the past 6 years at Gilead. The key drivers were consistent medical messaging, resource efficiency and regulatory findings. A common tracking and document management system, standard response documents and regular global conferences are all necessary elements to make the organisation work to deliver high quality consistent information to satisfied customers.
Lastly, Tom Gesell talked about critical steps and success factors in globalising medical information;

  • Pick the right goal
  • Establish a strategy
  • Determine the structure and plan that best fits
  • Minimize constraints and maximise resources
  • Execute the plan using a broad alliance of players
  • Measure and share the success

Although it all sounds so easy with set steps and clear goals, those of us experienced in this field know that it can be a long frustrating journey. Tom used some great quotes to describe the challenges.

Vision without resources is just hallucination

rings true to anyone trying to develop a regional or global team. “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible” from St Francis of Assisi encapsulates what we’re trying to achieve!

Leena closed the session by reminding us that people are very open-minded about new things – as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.