Delivering Innovation Through Effective Partnership With MLR Teams

Have you ever gotten excited by an innovative idea, one of those “first of its kind” creative executions, the one that’s going to put you on the map at your organization? Then only to submit it to MLR (Medical, Legal, Regulatory) and have it come out the other end, 18 months later stripped of all innovation and creativity? Or have you ever gotten so frustrated by the end product or process that you kill the program and forfeit the $75,000+ you spent on it in the first place? 

I’m sure those of us who work in the highly regulated world of healthcare can relate to this. The media and marketing landscape continues to change rapidly. It’s a customer-driven world and the proliferation of new channels and technology (social, mobile, virtual/augmented reality) means that we all must figure out how to stay relevant and execute quickly or be left behind.

But before we rush to blame the “evil” MLR team for our inability to drive innovation, let’s reflect on whether it’s actually the result of poor collaboration and planning with the MLR team throughout the process. 



First of all, we have to respect that the MLR team has a critical role in protecting all of us who work on a specific project. These teams do genuinely want the brand and every project to be successful, so long as it’s done in a medically accurate, legal, and regulatory compliant way. They enjoy being part of the project development process and bringing them in early (and I mean E-A-R-L-Y) and frequently are the keys to building mutual support for the project and making sure that the end product is all that you hoped it would be. The most painful projects for all parties are the ones that are already 100% designed and developed the first time MLR sees them. 

Here’s are some of the best practices to working effectively with MLR teams: 

Phase 1: Education & Planning

  • Educate every project stakeholder, including MLR, on the customer, their needs, and habits relating to the project supported by actual data
  • Fully brief them on the delivery channel, the opportunity, and the general requirements for execution (What is Snapchat anyway? How does it work? What are we recommending?)
  • Showcase studies and visuals of similar projects for other brands (the closer the example to your brand or project, the better – e.g., black box product execution)
  • Develop and review a detailed timeline with all parties – assume at least two concept reviews and never shortchange MLR review time for new tactics
  • Allow your agencies or third-party vendors a seat at the table during the process so that they can hear feedback from the MLR team directly
  • Conduct a pre-mortem – talk about all the potential problem areas and how you might be able to solve for them proactively

Remember, all of this should be done before you even formally commit dollars to the project to ensure viability and minimize out of pocket costs due to later cancellations

Phase 2: Execution

  • If possible, do not show any brand visuals just yet! Instead, review and gather feedback on easily editable wireframes, flowcharts, and content outlines before beginning a more complex design or build
  • Make sure to document all feedback throughout the process as support material for the actual MLR submission
  • Only after take into account all feedback to date, finalize the project for MLR submission

Phase 3: Post-Execution

  • Celebrate the success of your innovation and partnership! 
  • Keep the MLR team informed about performance of the project – did it make an impact? Was it worth the effort?
  • Don’t forget to communicate your final product, templates, and lessons learned with others in your organization.
  • Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
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