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Defining Key Opinion Leaders — a simple model

Within specialty pharmaceuticals, Medical Scientific Liaisons (“MSLs”) are the new holy grail to reach HCPs. Those teams of extremely well-trained professionals come at a very high cost. This forces companies to use them with parsimony but also to ensure that they are focused on the right physicians. In all fairness, you would rather have them speaking to the head of the oncology department in a major hospital rather than a summer intern in a remote location. In short, you want them to focus on Key Opinion Leaders. My colleague, Luca Morreale, discussed in a previous blog focused on onboarding medical teams on your CRM some points on KOLs profiling. In this piece, I will focus on various approaches to define KOLs. Essentially, how do you come up with a definition of those specifics physicians and where do you source the data from.

The first point is to get an agreement across countries of what an opinion leader means. The concept is simple but it’s not as easy to put in practice. How do you measure the “influence” of a physician over its peers? Assuming you can come up with a score, how do you end up categorizing them. To support companies in this daunting task a simple framework can be leveraged. Starting with the easiest dimensions to quantify and source, it becomes possible to score KOLs as your maturity evolves. It is key to take a rational, almost scientific approach to identify KOLs. Too often, by relying on non-objective criteria, the results are skewed by human relationships. This process should ideally happen real time within your CRM but the reality seems more to be a cross-functional event done twice a year.

BASE life science — STAR Framework for KOL Scoring

Once you have assessed each dimension; it becomes possible to aggregate the data and having a simple score. Ideally, you put a grade from 1 to 10 and then just sum up all the dimensions you are accounting for. In a perfect world, you should be able to source all this data from your CRM. If it’s in your system, you should ensure to some extent that the data is reliable and maintained. If you are simply using the insights from your team, you would be skewing the results as well as they may only remember the lead investigator and not the entire team. Setting up the dimension is crucial and should be adapted to your organization. You need to look at the data you can retrieve and the importance of it in your medical discussion. If you think about the dimensions around professional societies, you could include perspectives on medical societies or, if it’s relevant including position related to procurement.

Assuming you are starting the process, using only the first two categories. You will need to define a score for each title. A professor may get a score of 8, head of a department a score of 6, etc… You would move to the second category and decide the number of trials with your company you want to set the bar on. The smaller your company, the lower the number of trials required to get a high score. If you have run only two trials, 2 trials should give you a score of at least 8. The final KOL score would simply be the sum of the two. You can have some iterations with your teams to calibrate the model. Once you have a working formula, you can input it in your CRM to calculate the score for each HCPs. This may uncover some HCPs you had never thought of.

Once you get accustomed to your KOL scoring, you will be able to define the level of granularity you would like to detail the KOL. Imagine, you can consider KOLs at the therapeutic area (such as ophthalmology), dig a level deeper and mention the disease (for example diabetes type II) or even a specific subset of the disease (adjuvant HER2 positive). It will require an alignment of the organization before having the possibility to decide. The model can become a tool to perform such activity.

The quality of the model is highly dependent on the quality of the data put in. Therefore, managing the source of data is essential. Some providers can help you with the standard data input. It may be as simple as standardizing your CRM base. For some more internally oriented data, you may leverage your field force or your medical team to input the data. As you are becoming more and more mature, you may be able to integrate with a data source such as PubMed to give more reliable data entries. Leveraging social media may become a source of competitive advantage but it also creates some new challenges around privacy.

Once the score of the KOL is known and agreed at the company level, it’s possible to move to the next stage of profiling to become more KOL-centric. If fact, you would like your medical teams to provide the right insights, it’s important to track where in the scientific journey the KOL is so the teams can provide the content that matches. At the beginning of the journey of an HCP in a specific area, it’s more valuable to provide disease level content while towards the end of the journey deep scientific insights on a specific outcome become relevant. As KOLs are well passed the disease state information, it’s important to ensure all the data shared is extremely deep and detailed. Naturally, MSLs should be the ones tailoring the content, but it’s the role of the technology to support them in doing so, typically by informing them on the preferred type of data, specific outcomes they are most interested in or simply the channel.

About BASE life science

BASE life science is a fast growing, fast paced consultancy focused on the life science industry. Established in 2007 and based in Copenhagen, Denmark, BASE targets a local as well as a global customer base.

Since inception, BASE life science focuses on helping Life Science companies create real business value from digital platforms and data within its area of expertise; Commercial Excellence, Clinical, Regulatory Affairs and Quality & Compliance. Since 2007, the company has been active globally from Denmark and employs more than 50 employees.

Want to learn more?

Read our whitepaper: Commercial Technology supports Pharma in increased Competition

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About the author — Jesper Grønkjaer, Co-Head of Customer Engagement

Jesper has more than a decade of experience within the life science area including a vast number of projects within pharma sales and marketing and digital/multichannel marketing. He excels within process and technology advisory and project management and has a strong track record of transforming new technology into business solutions.

BASE life science is a fast growing, fast paced consultancy focused on the life science industry.

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