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Involving Multiple Stakeholders in Ad Boards

Originally posted by Jeremy Vannatta, Vice President of Business Development

Advisory Board meetings (ad boards) are generally held to collect feedback from experts external to the company paying for their informed advice and opinions. The overwhelming majority of ad boards involve asking MDs to a specific location at a specific time to both advise the company and share confirmatory or dissenting opinions on advice given by their peers.

Here I will build a case for why inclusion of multiple stakeholders throughout the healthcare system (MDs, PAs, RNs, NPs. PharmDs, Formulary Decision Makers, Managed Care Executives, Hospital Administrators, Patients, Caregivers, etc.) makes sense at a given ad board and why these ad boards can be moved online and held in a “virtual” setting.

 THE CASE FOR MULTIPLE STAKEHOLDERS AT AD BOARDS:

To be clear, not every ad board must, or even should, involve multiple stakeholders. The decision on who to involve is driven by the questions asked in the business case and the feedback desired.  However, asking the right questions is an acquired skill – and different, broader, and more probing questions might be asked if the company is not thinking of ad boards comprised of merely one type of stakeholder (KOL MDs, most often).  The model of including multiple stakeholders differs from the traditional model where KOL MDs are confirming company hypotheses and fail to uncover many novel ideas or pain points. Ask yourself in the last ad board you attended, how many truly novel ideas were developed and then implemented? What was their impact?  Probably less than you had wanted.

First, it must be understood that this is a more difficult exercise to execute because of different interests and incentives from each stakeholder. However, in order to overcome these different interests and incentives, stakeholders must be aligned, typically under the common goal of increasing patient outcomes.  This requires both a discussion and an understanding of each position that will be recruited to the ad board. This exercise alone can uncover understandings as it is uncommon to have any position dedicated to looking across constituents for broader solutions.

Second, the use of these different stakeholders is an inherently attractive idea as they provide:

  • Multiple perspectives which spawn multiple ideas on how to solve a problem and
  • Multiple insights into potential risks.
  • With multiple perspectives comes a better understanding of the entire ecosystem and the patient journey. New ideas, new perspectives, new partnerships, and new messaging to a broader audience can address newly discovered pain points that have unknowingly adversely affected adoption of a product or limited ideal patient outcomes

Third, multi-stakeholder advisors are typically looking for more than a one-off transaction, but rather an ongoing relationship. Consulting leads to engagements. Engagements lead to emotional connections, which are crucial and essential for productive two-way honest feedback that leads to insights and novel ideas.

THE CASE FOR VIRTUAL AD BOARDS

Many of the reasons that virtual ad boards make sense in this setting are the same reasons that virtual ad boards make sense for traditional KOL MD ad boards. However, there are other reasons to add to this list that are specific to the multiple stakeholder idea.

  • They are cost-effective. Who has a rapidly increasing budget?
  • They require less travel, less time, and less coordination from participants, sponsors, and vendors, thus increasing the number of attendees able to participate at shorter notice
  • There is little to no pressure from existing stakeholders to get together to see old friends and network as the attendees are usually new to one another, save a few familiar faces
  • They can be executed on shorter notice than live ad boards; thus, they can allow you to react quickly to unanticipated market events
  • There is less pressure internally from senior management to have “face-to-face” interactions with some of the more alternative stakeholders. By engaging them online you are not losing the opportunity cost of a face to face meeting.
  • Because everyone is on camera, you still get that face to face feeling that allows you to develop those emotional connections

So, who do I invite to these virtual ad boards with multiple stakeholders?

  • New contacts who have not attended previous ad boards, but with whom you have a relationship. These new contacts need to display a penchant for innovative thinking both in your conversations and in their past work histories coupled with an ability to work well with others.
  • Representatives from previous ad boards. People who display understanding, empathy and have a penchant for getting outside their box.

 Best Practices:

  • Define expectations for each participant’s participation, roles & responsibilities ahead of time
  • Formalize the agenda and each participant’s role on a slide and distribute it to the group prior to starting
  • Enroll an experienced moderator who knows the disease state, but more importantly, who knows how to engage each of the stakeholders”