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All DOLs Are KOLs Now: The Changing Perception of Pharmaceutical Opinion Leaders 

Traditionally, key opinion leaders did the research, wrote the publications, and authored the books.  They had a scientific background with specific expertise, whether they were MD, PharmDs, or PhDs.

As technology has changed, so have opportunities for being an opinion leader. Those opportunities now include digital. Some KOLs have become tech-savvy and have begun sharing through non-traditional channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as physician-only social networks like Doximity or SERMO. 

We recently interviewed a client of ours on the matter. He is an expert on the emergence of the Digital Opinion Leader and a C-level executive of a global biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Europe. While some Medical Affairs organizations have been slow to adopt DOL engagement best practices or have remained uncertain about how to manage those relationships differently from the offline KOLs, this executive cuts right through the uncertainty. 

“All DOLs are KOLs now,” he began. Let’s read his explanation. 

“I look at a digital opinion leader as a KOL. They’re just disseminating information across a different channel, and that’s a different way to look at things. Some people look at it as though they’re doing something different, but they’re not.”  

He didn’t stop there. Our client went on to describe the superiority of digital for medical education distribution. Opinion leaders can take the conversation online and in real-time, which offers endless opportunities. With daily updates, changing opinions, and new technology, DOLs allow you to remain at the forefront of what’s happening and participate by association along each path. Here are the executive’s own words on the matter. 

“Now with the advent of social media and these new digital key opinion leaders, they’re not waiting for a publication to get approved when they have pieces of information to share. They’re not always waiting to get stuff out there. They have the ability to get it out very quickly to a large audience of people that care about this information because they’ve gone ahead and self-followed individuals. ” 

Both digital and traditional opinion leaders would be wise to leverage new opportunities. Many opinion leaders in all therapeutic areas already have. The DOLs’ near-instant massive reach and its benefit to Medical Affairs cannot be understated. 

Still, change does not come easy. We’ve also noticed some Medical Affairs organizations put off Digital Opinion Leader monitoring simply because they do not yet have the team or software to do so. What it comes down to is accepting the new way of engaging influential physicians and their peers. What has come migrated online is not going offline any time soon. By reconciling conflicting thoughts about KOLs and DOLs, your organization can ride the digital wave and ensure your expertise reaches the right audience. We’ve teamed up with Pharmaspectra to help.  

Click here to learn more about our Digital Opinion Leader planning, monitoring, and engagement dashboards. 

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