Gen Z is changing the face of healthcare from every angle. As patients, this generation prioritizes communication, access and convenience over privacy and wants flexible ways to connect with healthcare providers. As employees, they are ambitious and bring more diversity and technological knowledge to healthcare organizations. And as key opinion leaders, they are adept at using social media and other digital channels to bring their research and evidence to attentive audiences to better influence outcomes.
This generation of inherently tolerant, diverse, socially aware and digitally savvy scientists will forever change the future of research. By 2030, actually. 74% of the US workforce will consist of Millennials and Gen Z. This segment will completely transform medical affairs teams, how KOLs (key opinion leaders) are defined and engaged, how clinical trials are conducted, and how treatments are brought to market – everything hopefully it will lead to a more equitable future for healthcare.
Generation Z wants to be the generation that will finally achieve equality for all. Gen Z MSLs (medical science liaisons) can be agents of change by promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity in all aspects of the healthcare lifecycle.
Gen Z MSL
Generation Z is defined as those born between 1997 and 2012 – and up 2025they will make up about 30% of the workforce.
Gen Z grew up in the digital age. Access to information, social media, and technology often come as second nature, especially with trends and tools like analytics, AI, and machine learning. This generation is used to collaborating in virtual environments, and Gen Z MSLs will interact differently with physicians. They don’t feel the need to build relationships in person, face to face. Picking up the phone is a thing of the past, and Gen Z MSLs are more likely to communicate via text or other digital channels. The way they access and use the data is also different. That’s why so many pharmaceutical and healthcare companies are investing in digital platforms to find new and emerging thought leaders.
Right now, almost 60% of all medical connections were white, and 49% were over 40 years of age.
Arthur Chan, vice president of medical affairs at Tarsus Pharmaceuticals, recently wrote article on the importance of diversity in medical affairs in which he states, “Diverse medical affairs teams are best positioned to serve their clients.” The industry is on board and taking steps to support these efforts. For example, on Society for Liaison of Medical Sciences recently launched a diversity and inclusion initiative for the MSL community.
Gen Z also has a different perspective on diversity than their more experienced peers. Like World Economic Forum said: “While older generations tend to view diversity through the lenses of race, demographics, equity and representation, [the new generation sees] diversity as the blending of different experiences, different backgrounds and individual perspectives. They see the ideal workplace as a supportive environment that allows space for different perspectives on a given issue.”
It is also important that Generation Z works for companies that have sound principles and strive to make the world a better place. This generation often values company culture and the impact they make in the community as more important than things like compensation. Racial equality is a key issue for this generation and they also prioritize gender equality more than any other age group according to recent study.
Gen Z MSLs will redefine the KOL
Pharmaceutical companies seek KOLs with expertise and experience in a specific therapeutic area to offer support in interpreting data, recruiting patients for clinical trials, and educating fellow physicians about treatment regimens and which patient groups benefit most.
The problem is that medical questions tend to only target the “top” academic medical centers and KOLs, and these experts often don’t reflect the demographics of real patients or doctors, nor is there much diversity of thought. This leads to underrepresentation throughout the health care lifecycle, from biased clinical trials to inequitable treatment allocations. It’s a vicious cycle, but Gen Z MSLs are ready to fix it.
I call out: In almost 78% of clinical trials, people of color are underrepresented. Gen Z may finally be the agent of change to reverse troubling statistics like this.
As medical affairs teams themselves become younger and more diverse, they will use technology to reinvent how they identify, discover and engage key opinion leaders. Gone will be the days when the same handful of frequently published experts are considered the top voices in health care. Amid the rapid digital transformation of the industry, a new class of thought leaders and influencers has emerged. Like a Kardashian-like effect in consumer brands, digital opinion leaders (DOLs), rising stars, and untapped “gems in the rough” can significantly raise awareness of clinical trials and positively impact patient outcomes and healthcare equity . These KOLs are leading treatments in previously underserved patient populations and are fluent in digital media not traditionally used by the industry. They have the potential to be the next big influencers – and Gen Z MSLs have the tools and the brains to find them.
I call out: A new class of experts—digital opinion leaders, rising stars, and unpolished gems—will emerge as Gen Z MSLs use technology to find and connect with these KOLs digitally.
These experts may seem hard to pin down, but their opinions may be as close as Gen Z MSL’s Twitter feed. Gen Z MSLs will embrace social media and other digital channels to uncover tomorrow’s thought leaders and connect with these modern experts to accelerate research and treatment. The new MSL will include social listening and sentiment tools to find the diverse DOLs that are most impactful (ie, 400 DOLs across 12 different therapeutic areas based on reach and social impact were uncovered using a leading digital HCP platform ).
They prefer to use an intuitive platform that mimics what they use in their daily lives, with up-to-date KOL profiles that include social content to gain insight into these experts and their spheres of influence. And with 75% of the US workforce set to be digital by 2025, using digital platforms to collaborate with HCPs and key opinion leaders will soon become the norm.
Gen Z is the most diverse, digitally savvy generation yet. Gen Z MSLs have the skills and power to change the future of healthcare by using technology to redefine who KOLs are, how they are engaged, and ultimately how clinical trials are conducted—and with it, the potential to make healthcare equity a reality.