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Choosing the Right Key Opinion Leader for Medical Affairs Engagements

Deciding which Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) to connect with is one question we’ve answered; the key is segmentation. Knowing which KOL to choose for which engagement is quite another.

Any KOL your Medical Affairs (MA) organization identifies as a top expert is likely a good (if not a great fit) to engage in the tactics from your medical plan. As medical influencers trusted by their peers, these physicians have likely been involved in studies, published extensively, and presented at medical congresses. They’re also probably well-versed in discussing efficacy, safety, patient population differences, and the risks of therapy switching. In short, pick any KOL for any engagement, and it will probably go well. Would it go as well as it could have, leading to actionable insights that inform or alter Medical Affairs strategy? No. That’s why we need to choose specific KOLs for specific engagements.

Keep in mind your reason for partnering with a KOL, then look for skills, traits, and experience that match your engagement’s purpose. By using the available data, you can see which experts should be prioritized. Here’s how.

First, rank your experts based on their overall scientific impact within the indication. You may be doing this manually through research alignment already. Otherwise, you may have a more sophisticated system based on data like what our partners at Pharmaspectra provide. Over a dozen factors are leveraged, resulting in an overall ranking of a KOL’s influence in their field and specific areas within that field.

Second, search for the specific sub-topic you are interested in learning about for your engagement such as an advisory board or upcoming event. This search can be done manually or using Pharmaspectra’s advanced search engine for more complete results.

Why continue past step one? So you can classify potential KOLs based on their subject of expertise and find the exact expert in exactly what you are working on. Although experts may seem similar at first, in some cases, the overall number one expert in a therapeutic area is not the KOL who fits your brand or message best. The most successful engagement happens when there is mutual respect and subject interest.

We’ll give you an example. Natale Brunetti is a physician and researcher at the Università degli studi di Foggia. He is certainly among the top 1,000 experts in heart failure in the world. However, of all the heart failure specialists, Dr. Brunetti has done more work on telemedicine than any other. Out of over 350 publications and presentations in the past ten years, 5 percent mention telemedicine—more than all others in his field. So if you’re doing a telemedicine project, even Dr. Brunetti is not the top heart failure expert in the world, he is arguably a top expert on telemedicine for heart failure.

When you start by understanding the individual expertise of each KOL, you will be able to discover the ones who make suitable partners for each engagement. If you would like to deploy a strategic search function to find the right experts right away, contact Acceleration Point.

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