By Brian Castle
For this particular engagement, across several countries with cultural and language differences, stakeholders within the client company needed a customized approach. The chosen approach must leave no doubt within the organization—nor among the external group of key opinion leaders (KOLs) chosen for engagement—that the company had taken a measured path to selecting the right members of the medical community for outreach and support in diabetes.
From our work with more than 50 leading biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies over the last decade, we know the importance of satisfying competing visions for KOL selection. Some prefer an objective methodology based on research by subject matter experts, while others prefer a guided process of nominations by trained professionals, often former practitioners themselves, tasked with outreach to leaders in the medical community.
We also know the importance of the respect that the KOLs themselves have for the company and its selection process. KOLs most obviously and critically form their judgments about companies through their personal interactions with industry representatives at every level, from commercial executives at regional and global headquarters to more locally-based medical science liaisons (MSLs). But as our sister company, Clear Point Health, showed in an industry-wide study on scientific advisory board activity, KOLs are most sensitive to the quality of the skills and experience of their respective KOLs when it comes to group activities with industry.
In light of the client company’s current and future objectives and our own past experience in this space, Thought Leader Select’s team crafted a twin-engine methodology to power the company’s support of its diabetes portfolio across several global countries. First, the team deployed Thought Leader Select’s validated identification approach, utilizing key areas in which doctors and other health care professionals define themselves as thought leaders in a therapeutic area: innovative research and treatment as well as publishing and speaking about their groundbreaking work. This methodology has proven critical to revealing KOLs at international levels, medical community stalwarts critical to a series of engagements ranging from scientific advisory boards to major conference and publication planning.
Next, the team developed a comprehensive method for evaluating skills and experiences of field-nominated physicians, driven primarily by data obtained from curricula vitae and cross-referenced with online data searches in key thought leadership categories. This methodology has proven critical to unveiling KOLs at local, in-country levels. These physicians have a great impact on the work of their colleagues at local levels as they perform their work at regional centers of excellence with important footprints for research and treatment within each country.
By taking a combined approach, we’ve been able to satisfy the needs of multiple constituencies within the client company, as well as within the KOL group that they’ve recruited for engagement and collaboration in support of their portfolio of diabetes treatments. At the same time, this approach has yielded a comprehensive look at the global stage of thought leadership in diabetes at every level, from international down to national and regional. Physicians at each of these levels are very important as they impact research and treatment and push patient care to new levels of excellence within the countries where they practice.