Digital Insights: A Gold Rush For Medical Organizations

By Kristen Smithwick, Digital Insights Lead

In the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of digital opinion leadership in the medical community. With more experts sharing their findings and professional opinions on social media and other digital avenues, many organizations are scrambling to collect and analyze this data in order to improve their offerings. With the fast pace of digital communication, it can be tempting to throw together a group of your top medical affairs executives and rush the process of generating insights. However, you hit the pause button and create a solid strategy before proceeding.

Reach Across the Aisle

Because the digital space is fast-moving and constantly changing, it’s best handled by the parts of your company that can move and act fast. Since medical affairs departments typically cannot operate with this level of speed, leaders in this space should reach out to members of your marketing team and learn how they’ve been using social media and other digital platforms to extend brand identity information, educate consumers, and identify customers in the medical space. Your marketing colleagues have a wealth of knowledge about engaging people on digital platforms, and it’s important to incorporate their wisdom into your strategy.

Create a Cross-Functional Team

After speaking with your marketing team,  pull together a cross-functional team of stakeholders, with a majority coming from medical affairs and a smaller number from marketing, clinical development, and even sales. A common mistake is creating teams comprised solely of medical affairs representatives, and expecting them to be able to identify and properly engage with digital opinion leaders. By taking the time to form a cross-functional team, you can pull from the strengths of each department and successfully develop a plan for engaging with digital leaders in the medical field.

Create the Proper Infrastructure

Once you have your team in place, the next step is to establish the right infrastructure for handling digital engagement. The medical affairs department is full of skilled professionals, such as former physicians, pharmacists, and nurses, who provide tremendous value in terms of scientific and medical knowledge. But let’s face it:  they weren’t hired based on their ability to create engaging content and successfully promote it on social media. You must develop and implement a team infrastructure that will optimize the talent of your scientifically-minded colleagues, as well as those well-versed in crafting content and driving social media engagement.

Additionally, you’ll need to put together a review process that will work for the fast-paced world of social media. Medical affairs has the important responsibility of reviewing content and putting their stamp of approval on it but for most organizations, this process is highly time consuming. As a result, many businesses get bogged down with the review process and miss out on the opportunity to engage others in the digital world in a timely manner. You need to create a new review structure that will allow your team to move at the speed of social media, while remaining compliant and true to your standards for medical communications.

Understand the Activity Level

Next, you’ll need to determine the activity level of your area of interest in the realm of digital communication. For some therapeutic areas, thousands of digital opinion leaders post content daily and for others, there are only a handful of posts made per week. It’s important to take a look at how often experts are posting about your point of interest and mirror this activity level. You should monitor the activity level with a one to two-year lookback,  in order to determine if the activity level is consistent, erratic, steadily rising, or going down. For instance, if you see that the amount of activity has dropped significantly over the course of a year, it might not be worth the time, money, and effort required to engage digital leaders in this space.

Once you have determined that the level of interest in your area of concern is sufficient, you should look at the activity over the course of one to three months to gauge who the top leaders are and what they are posting online. You should also take a look at what types of posts are getting the most attention throughout the medical community. You may find that posts including links to lengthy clinical studies are being largely ignored, while ones featuring visually appealing graphics are spreading around the digital sphere like wildfire. It’s important to arm yourself with the proper information before making any decisions on your digital engagement strategy.

For more information on our services around digital opinion leader identification and other digital insights, drop me a line at ksmithwick@thoughtleaderselect.com.

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