Who is a Key Opinion Leader?
Douglas Adams indicates that not all opinions are equal in one of his famous statements. A few outlooks are stronger in logic and argument than others. Key opinion leaders, also known as KOLs, spread scientific information and introduce drug innovations with their peers, which is fundamentally essential for the continuous enhancement of patient treatment and health outcomes. Pharmaceutical companies hire key opinion leaders in the pre-drug development stage. KOLs play a very important role in clinical research and the early stage of the drug development process. The KOLs have the aura to influence the peers and the decision-making functions of pharmaceuticals companies. However, the roles portrayed by the key opinion leaders are more diversified in various domains like pharmaceutical research and development, healthcare and product launch, etc.
KOLs are often referred to as ‘thought leaders’ or ‘healthcare ambassadors’ who have pristine academic or clinical credentials, and command respect and stimulate the prescribing behavior of other physicians. KOLs are expert physicians who have influence over medical practice and set the pace for industry trends.
Characteristics of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)
KOLs can significantly influence their peers’ medical practice and stimulate their prescribing behavior, which is the differentiating factor of the top KOLs from the other prescribing physicians. The KOLs command respect as they have a participatory role in the medical field across multiple backgrounds and expertise.
KOLs are leading physicians and scientists who are respected and acknowledged in their specific area of expertise. They:
– Provide insights into diseases and treatment regimens
– Influence thinking and treatment paradigms
– Provide assessments of competitive therapies
– Write practice or treatment guidelines
– Publish journal articles
– Participate regularly in conferences (regional, national, and international)
Key Opinion Leader (KOL) Management
The alliance between healthcare companies and elite physicians is increasing at a rapid pace due to the changing healthcare environment. Identifying and engaging with key opinion leaders and networks of influencers is becoming an increasingly important activity for pharmaceutical companies. The identification and management of KOL relationship has emerged as a crucial business discipline for pharmaceutical companies.
Key opinion leader management is an essential element for the marketers and medical staff throughout the product life cycle process of a specific product. Thus, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and biosciences companies anticipate heavily on key opinion leaders to help establish the knowledge base about their drugs, and expand their markets throughout all stages of the life cycle management. KOL management enhances the comprehension of research and development, clinical research, clinical trials, and the education and enlightenment of promoters as well as patients about new products.
How Key Opinion Leader (KOLs) Management Works
A wide adoption of relationship management is an essential part of any key opinion leader and collaboration planning program due to the large number of potential key opinion leaders with whom a life sciences organizations works. The individual departments within an organization may unknowingly approach the same physician without key opinion leader management. The KOL management approach should be revised regularly as per the changes in the business objectives or market changes. The consequences of the adverse effects in the relationships can cost some pharmaceutical company millions in unnecessary marketing dollars or create significant compliance problems.
How Can Life Sciences Companies Improve KOL Management?
Life sciences companies should create various definitions of KOLs to segment them for specific tactics and activities to define their influence. Additionally, it is important to visually map the connections between the KOLs to generate lists of highly influential KOLs who may not be immediately apparent when the data is viewed in a one-dimensional format. The companies can then run segmentation reports to clearly identify which KOLs:
– Conform to a second tier of influence within each country
– Are segmented based on specified criteria
– Will be important for market access versus clinical activities
– Influence specialists and GPs (General Practitioners)
KOL Management as an ROI (Return on Investment) Tool
The interpretation of Key opinion leader (KOL) management varies greatly across companies. Key opinion leader management can be defined as a cyclic process whereby companies identify the best qualified thought leaders in particular areas of specialty, validate how best to deploy their expertise and influence, and how to form mutually beneficial relationships with them to achieve specified business goals and objectives. A tremendous amount of time, efforts, and expenses are invested into opinion leader management by the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device firms. A successful key opinion leader management program must contain a directing and controlling element.
The Future of KOL Management: Key Relationship Management
The impact of key opinion leaders on product or drug adoption is unquestionable. The co-operative relationship between the pharmaceutical company and KOLs are essential to manage the drug evolution properly and to maintain co-operation and physician independence at each point. Key opinion leader management will continue to evolve and develop as a business discipline with lessons that could translate to key relationships in other industries as pharmaceutical and life-sciences companies continue to realize the tremendous positive impact that key opinion leaders have on their business.