In 2017, fewer than 20% of Key Opinion Leaders have a social media presence alongside their traditional medical education dissemination. Four years later, civilization is markedly different. The great wave of in-person to online transitions has carried medical opinion leaders with it. So much so that one of our clients, led by a veteran of KOL engagement, stated that “all DOLs are KOLs now” and vice versa.
Essentially, Key Opinion Leaders must become Digital Opinion Leaders. Gatherings, where KOLs would share findings, have been canceled or rescheduled. For the near future, medical conferences and congresses are a thing of the past—at least where in-person engagements are concerned. This puts digitally savvy medical influencers at a distinct advantage.
The same opportunity exists for Medical Affairs organizations. Monitoring and engaging Key Opinion Leaders who make their presence known online brings your organization forward into our post-COVID world.
The obvious question, which we’ll address very shortly, is how? How can Medical Science Liaisons engage Key Opinion Leaders in a digital environment?
First, monitor Key Opinion Leaders’ behavior online.
Medical influencers are active on social media for primarily altruistic reasons. Yes, it feels good to build a highly engaged audience who cares about your opinions, but we consistently observe the number-one motivation to share the latest medical research: improving patient outcomes.
Several Medical Affairs organizations work with Acceleration Point and our partner Pharmaspectra to monitor both KOLs and DOLs online. For a preview of how this works, here’s an excerpt from the conversation with our client.
Leveraging external vendors like Acceleration Point and others has allowed us to begin to develop dashboards where we can better understand who are the people that have both expertise as well as influence and are sharing information across social platforms, everything from Twitter to Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, YouTube, etc.
Now more than ever, healthcare practitioners are getting their information from online sources. Medical Affairs would do well to “listen in” to what they are saying.
Second, consider digital engagements with only relevant KOLs.
Just because a physician has 5,000 other medical professionals who follow them on Twitter (as many do) does not mean that their platform is the right opportunity for a Medical Affairs engagement. Here is our client’s perspective on this.
The expertise is more important than anything else. We need to make sure we’re grabbing people that have the expertise, that know the science and are specialists in the area that we’re working in, rather than picking just someone that’s going to be a great aggregator of new science. We want a person that is a trusted source of information in that expert, in that specific area.
At the same time, a highly specialized and well-regarded KOL who has three LinkedIn connections may not be right for a digital engagement. The science is there; the platform is not.
A KOL and DOL monitoring dashboard solves both concerns. You’re able to see at a glance which medical influencers share the most relevant, consumable, and educational content while determining which have the most relevant audience.
Third, start small with a manageable digital engagement.
If your organization is cresting into digital KOL relationship-building for the very first time during COVID-19, we recommend choosing an engagement that all parties will find familiar—scientific dissemination. This is how the advantage of digital over traditional will become immediately clear. Peer-reviewed studies take many months; a Twitter thread takes a couple of hours. Digital medical education is almost instant. After a (video) meeting with your Medical Science Liaison, a healthcare practitioner with a relevant audience of their peers may share their thoughts on new research by end of the day. It’s remarkable, and we recommend you consider approaching all KOLs with social media information sharing in mind.
These and other ways to engage Digital Opinion Leaders come down embracing new technology to maximize what opinion leaders can do for your organization. If you would like to develop or refine your DOL or KOL engagement strategy and manage, contact Acceleration Point today.