Medical science liaisons (MSLs) need to perform confidently during in-depth discussions with experts in the field. As scientific peers they have to represent their company’s product, explain its position in the competitive landscape, and present relevant, up-to-date studies. To secure confidence, an MSL needs to have profound knowledge about the disease area and current therapeutic options. The foundations for this knowledge are medical guidelines, which are available for almost every medical condition and are often publicly accessible.
Learning medical guidelines can be a challenge for MSLs
However, these guidelines contain large chunks of text, detailed digressions about clinical study results, lengthy footnotes, and complex flow charts and tables that extend over multiple pages. It can be extremely challenging to understand these guidelines and to sort out the most important facts and draw connections between them—especially for newcomers to a specific therapeutic area.
Take for example the NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network) Clinical Practice Guidelines, which are the standard guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma. These guidelines are presented in a 73-page document filled with text, tables, and flowcharts. While this is the most effective way to ensure that the guidelines are as nuanced and detailed as necessary, it does not mean that the most relevant information will be identified and retained by the reader.
The more abstract and complex the content, the more difficult it is to memorize the most important information. MSLs need to form strong and lasting memories with specific information included in treatment guidelines, so they can recall the right facts at the right time. This allows them to spontaneously and confidently present their audience with compelling and accurate information.
Whether they need to become acquainted with treatment guidelines, a complex mode of disease, or the competitive landscape of a product, a tactile and interactive learning tool like a board game offers one of the best options.
Board games can give an overview of a complex topic that will be easily remembered
The video above shows the multiple myeloma treatment map, a board game activity designed to help MSLs memorize the treatment guidelines for their disease area. This board game approach works because it is built around a visual story, which is much easier to remember than pure facts. Do you still remember what Hansel and Gretel find when they get lost in the forest? You probably know the answer even though you may not have heard that story in decades. But can you remember the efficacy benefit which led to inclusion of a new drug in the last treatment guideline you read?
Medical guidelines usually lack the ability to create meaningful images in our heads, which help us internalize complex information. This is why it is so important to transform these clinical guidelines into appealing images and forge associations by telling a story with these images. In the treatment map for multiple myeloma every treatment step recommended by the guidelines is symbolized by an image. These visual analogies are connected by pathways, stairs, and ladders which represent various possible treatment journeys a patient with multiple myeloma could take.
Evocative images and interactivity are crucial aids for memorization
Board game activities like the treatment map are not meant to give learners a simple game to play. They should rather be seen as an aid for group discussion with elements of a game that make learning more interactive. By exploring the visual analogies on the board together in a team, learners can interact with both their peers and the content provided by the board game. In this collaborative learning scenario, learners benefit from each other’s knowledge, are able to detect misconceptions, and obtain new insights.
Although the treatment map may look cartoonish at first sight, behind the visual analogies, there lies a complex flowchart with the key messages from the multiple myeloma treatment guidelines. If the analogies seem exaggerated or even border on absurd, this is all the more effective to help participants form powerful visual associations with key information from the treatment guidelines.
The treatment map for multiple myeloma features memorable analogies
The starting point on the treatment map is a well which serves as an analogy for how patients often feel at diagnosis—shocked and frightened like they’ve fallen into a well and cannot see how they are going to move forward. The next area represents first line therapy. Depending on their eligibility to undergo stem cell transplantation (SCT), patients either end up in the upper part of this area with a red lawnmower or the lower part with a yellow one. The lawnmowers represent the mode of action of chemotherapy regimens, which are recommended as a first line treatment for multiple myeloma patients. Just as a lawnmower cuts both grass and flowers, chemotherapy attacks both tumor cells and healthy cells in the body. From here, patients go on to further treatment options, which all have visual analogies.
While discussing the analogies and the treatment guidelines, the participants label each area of the board and move a game piece across the map to keep their conversation on track. This adds a tactile dimension to the activity to help stimulate memorization.
Together with ten other activities, this treatment map was developed as part of a MasterClass to prepare MSLs for the launch of a new product. To learn more about the Multiple Myeloma MasterClass, you can have a look at the case study.