The State Of Digital Excellence In The Global Pharmaceutical Industry, 2022: Medical Operations

Executive Summary

A key function of the medical affairs (MA) organization is the orchestration of “medical” engagement with healthcare professionals (HCPs) concerning scientific knowledge, product data, and information. Within this scope, MA teams increasingly use a range of digital channels such as social media, email, and mobile apps to reach a broader audience and personalize the entire customer experience (CX). Our research into the state of digital excellence (DX) in medical affairs in 2022 showed a drop in DX maturity compared with 2021, indicating that many pharma firms are struggling to reap the benefits of successful digital transformation.

Medical Affairs is Looking to Accelerate Digital Transformation

Digital technologies play an important role in enabling pharmaceutical firms to more effectively engage healthcare providers and patients, gather insights and data, and improve operational efficiency.[i] To maximize the benefits of these technologies—including stronger customer engagement, more efficient operations, and enhanced patient outcomes—pharma firms must systematically build and improve their digital capabilities and associated operations. For the second year in a row, we surveyed senior VP-level leaders of medical affairs organizations at 17 major pharmaceutical firms who have digital transformation in their remit to understand how medical organizations are progressing on their digital transformation journey. We found that:

  • More MA organizations are implementing their own digital strategy. In contrast to last year, the majority of senior MA leaders now follow an MA-specific strategy for digital transformation (see Figure 1). Such strategies typically have a time horizon of two to five years, although about one-quarter of organizations have a strategy aiming to attain digital excellence in medical affairs in five to ten years (see Figure 2).
  • More firms are taking change management steps to enable MA digital transformation. Nearly all leaders take change management seriously throughout digital strategy execution—a sharp increase over last year (see Figure 3). The three focus areas in change management that leaders most often turn to are getting senior leadership buy-in, securing the required dedicated budget and resources, and clearly communicating the digital transformation plans and ongoing status to the broader MA organization (see Figure 4). Nearly three-quarters of companies have leadership positions specifically tasked with leading the digital efforts, an increase from 2021 (see Figure 5).

Senior leaders remain unsatisfied with digital excellence progress. Almost all senior leaders say they have rolled out digital transformation initiatives to regions and countries—a substantial improvement over 2021 (see Figure 6). Like last year, around two-thirds of senior leaders say their organization is very ambitious in achieving digital excellence in medical affairs, although only one-quarter are satisfied with their actual progress (see Figure 7).

[i] See the October 19, 2021, DT Consulting report “The State of Digital Excellence In The Global Pharmaceutical Industry, 2021: Medical Operations”.

Figure 1: In 2022, more companies are implementing a digital strategy specific to medical affairs


Figure 2: Most organizations are looking at executing their digital strategy in the next five years


Figure 3: Medical affairs organizations increasing follow change management practices


Figure 4: Senior leaders are gaining internal consensus on their digital transformation plans


Figure 5: Digital transformation leadership positions are increasing


Figure 6: More medical affairs digital initiatives are rolling out at the regional and country levels


Figure 7: Senior medical affairs leaders are not satisfied with digital transformation progress


Digital Excellence Maturity in Medical Affairs is Only Fair

The conditions for medical affairs organizations to accelerate their digital maturity are very favorable; we see stronger strategic focus, improved senior leadership support, digital programs extending to the local level, and more use of change management. We define “digital excellence maturity” as the extent to which an organization—in this case local MA teams—adopts digital capabilities and the degree to which it is able to employ best practices for them. To determine how the life sciences industry is advancing towards the DX-CX opportunity, we applied our Digital Excellence Maturity Assessment (DEMA) framework. The DEMA framework:
  • Assesses key digital capabilities for medical affairs­­­­­. Six of our framework’s eleven capabilities are HCP-facing and relate to remote communications between a company and HCPs; the other five are behind-the-scenes and represent key technologies required to plan, coordinate, or measure the CX delivered in these channels (see Figure 8). Each capability has a set of practices associated with it; these practices (123 in total) are categorized into tiers according to how complex they are to execute. More complex practices typically depend upon prerequisite practices in lower tiers and often require more time, effort, and coordination to get right. For example, development for both iOS and Android is a core practice for mobile apps, but using advanced analytics to measure overall CX outcomes is a more complex practice. This year, we reviewed the list of practices and updated it where necessary to keep pace with trends and industry needs.
  • Has leaders rate their organization’s adoption of best practices underpinning each capability. Armed with an up-to-date maturity framework, we fielded an online survey to senior MA leaders at seventeen large global pharmaceutical companies. Together, they form a working group that validates the approach and stimulates collaboration across the industry by sharing lessons learned about digital transformation​ informed by DEMA data. For each of the eleven key digital capabilities, we asked senior leaders to identify the practices that their organizations deliberately and consistently follow.
  • Scores maturity based on overall capability creation and adoption. Each firm’s DX maturity score is determined by the number of practices MA leaders see their organizations using in each capability. A firm that uses half to three-quarters of these practices spread across different capabilities ranks as having good DX maturity; anything above that is considered excellent—the sweet spot for any company and the zone in which the DX-CX imperative comes to fruition.

Figure 8: Core capabilities required to lead digital transformation in medical affairs


Digital Excellence Maturity Decreased At Large Pharma Companies In 2022

Applying the DEMA methodology to our 2022 survey results shows that:

  • The industry’s overall digital excellence maturity score decreased from good to fair. A whopping 54 points separate the medical affairs DEMA leader (with a maturity score of 79) from the last-placed firm (see Figure 9). Just one company has a score in the excellent range; four companies rank as poor. More importantly, the industry average fell from 52 in 2021 to 46 in 2022, indicating that large companies struggle to have their teams adopt digital capabilities.
  • No digital capability achieves an excellent score. While all capabilities have at least one firm rating it excellent, none of the capabilities achieves an excellent score overall (see Figure 10). Only three capabilities—virtual events, CRM, and interactive digital content—attain a good level of maturity; most score in the fair range. The decline in CRM capability is partly attributable to the introduction of AI and advanced analytics as practices when assessing the capability. The least mature capabilities are the medical, legal, and regulatory review process (related to digital content and assets) and mobile apps.
  • Best-in-class companies excel in capabilities that support CX strategy and measurement. Content and virtual events are now merely table stakes in firms’ attempts to design superior CX via the MA function. In contrast, the effective implementation of strategic “medical” omnichannel orchestration in combination with CX measurement does appear to confer a competitive advantage. While omnichannel strategy is one of the capabilities local teams struggle the most with, MA leaders perceive it as the one that contributes most to making customer experiences intuitive and effortless (see Figures 11, 12, and 13).
  • Lack of sufficient resources hinders digital maturity. When we asked about the top challenges to achieving digital excellence in medical affairs, senior leaders most often cited difficulties in getting sufficient budget to execute the digital transformation and defining an effective overall strategy (see Figure 14). Another obstacle to digital transformation success is the lack of effectiveness in the chosen digital strategy.

Figure 9: The state of digital excellence in the global pharmaceutical industry, 2022: medical affairs


Figure 10: Industry leaders focus on capabilities that have customer success at their core


Figure 11: Intuitive and effortless customer experiences require an effective omnichannel medical strategy


Figure 12: Medical affairs organizations are adopting global strategies to integrate digital capabilities


Figure 13: Adoption of digital technologies by medical affairs teams is still very low


Figure 14: Resourcing and defining the digital strategy are delaying medical affairs digitalization



Although the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is increasingly ready for medical affairs digital excellence, our benchmark reveals an opportunity gap. With clearer leadership endorsement and strategic attention, there are some key focus areas that can accelerate efforts. We recommend medical affairs organizations:
  • Maximize the medical science liaison opportunity by avoiding the rep model trap. Post-pandemic research tells a clear story: HCPs prefer scientific information to promotional information.[i] While this opens the door for a proactive relationship between medical science liaisons and HCPs, merely replicating the traditional sales rep approach in a medical affairs setting can put that relationship at risk. The means of engagement, content, and mechanisms for sustained interaction will differ from those of commercial models, and the focus should be on orchestrating the delivery of scientific content at the right time and in response to a clear HCP need or journey.
  • Overcome historically siloed infrastructure. As commercial, medical, and market access teams integrate their efforts, a common understanding of HCPs becomes equally important. However, using existing siloed infrastructures and data models across departments will impede progress due to an inability to form a complete picture of HCP engagement and behavior. DEMA leaders tend to have strong CX measurement capabilities; the ability to measure these outcomes will be a linchpin of their long-term success. As HCP journeys become more complex, the ability to reach them will only be as strong as the capacity to craft and react to a connected journey for that customer, backed up by integrated infrastructure.
  • See the transformation through diligently. Tread carefully and avoid changing course halfway through the transformation journey. The transformation that MA teams are undergoing will take time, and giving in to the desire to see immediate or short-term “results” will obscure the initial burning platform that showed why change was needed. Resist the urge to shift gears if the model doesn’t prove fruitful right away; transformations take time.
[i] See the June 16, 2023, DT Consulting report “The State Of Customer Experience In The US Pharmaceutical Industry, 2022: HCP Interactions”.


The MA DEMA methodology is based on a proprietary framework of DT Consulting and was optimized in collaboration with a group of selected senior medical affairs leaders participating in the Indegene Medical Affairs Digital Council. DT fielded its 2022 The State of Digital Excellence in the Global Pharmaceutical Industry survey to global senior leaders of medical affairs at 17 large to midsize pharmaceutical organizations from June to August 2022. Respondents received a copy of this report containing the collected survey data prior to publication. The sample is not guaranteed to be representative of the population and responses do not convert directly into precise maturity scores for respondents’ respective companies. Unless otherwise noted, data is intended for descriptive purposes.

Related Research


Francesca Properzi crc

Francesca Properzi


Francesca has more than ten years of experience in life science and healthcare research projects, including frontline scientific research, digital transformation, and innovative technologies. In her current role as director of research, she is steering the DT thought leadership team to generate valuable insights into customer experiences, specifically in the clinical and medical affairs areas of the biopharmaceutical value chain.

Tim van Tongeren

Managing Partner

For more than fifteen years, Tim has worked with commercial leaders to navigate their strategic and organizational transformations required to thrive on digital technology change. In his current role as Managing Partner, he leads DT’s Solutions and Consulting offerings to advise the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms on how to best achieve customer experience success through digital transformation. He also directs DT’s ongoing effort to provide the pharma industry with the most relevant insights on digital strategy, digital health, and organizational change.
Tim van Tongeren crc

About DT Consulting

We help life sciences companies lead their large-scale digital transformation efforts for continued customer experience success.

DT Consulting brings deep industry expertise and focus you expect from a strategic consultancy and combines it with Indegene’s recognized strength in building, scaling, and managing digital-first operations for the life sciences industry. With 20 offices, 5,000+ employees, and operations in 10 countries, we can support your organization from strategy to execution throughout the digital transformation life cycle. Working together as a single unified global team enables us to get at the real issues, make practical recommendations, and deliver tangible results.

Clinical | Medical | Commercial

DT Consulting’s Solutions: The Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®)

Our solutions leverage assessments and benchmarking data to provide tailored insights into critical aspects of your organization’s digital transformation efforts.

Frame 4887 2

For heads of clinical, medical, and commercial operations and customer engagement teams.

The Digital Excellence Maturity Assessment is the starting point of your digital excellence journey. If you’re a director of a digital team that is part of your firm’s clinical, medical, or commercial operations division, the assessment provides an overview of what digital activities are happening in your area and how proficient they are.

DT’s Digital Excellence Maturity Assessment helps pharma companies:

  • Gain a complete and objective overview of digital activity, including the drivers of and barriers to your firm’s digital transformation efforts.
  • Assess in depth your organization’s strengths and weaknesses regarding digital transformation, digital capability, and digital knowledge.
  • Map the recommended interventions from an organizational readiness perspective.
  • Benchmark yourself against your industry peers to help you draft a course to achieve parity and then leadership in industry best practices.
  • Identify robust targets for a digital road map of capabilities and processes.
  • Monitor their progress over time via a standard diagnostic.

If you would like to understand how the Digital Excellence Maturity Assessment will help you improve your digital capabilities in overall customer engagement, please contact us at

Sign up to our latest insights

By checking this box, you agree to receive survey invitations and our latest insights.