Identifying KOLs in the Field of Oncology: Why It’s Essential for Pharma Companies to Connect With the Entire Care Team

When life science companies visualize their ideal key opinion leaders (KOLs) for cancer treatments, they typically think of oncologists and/or hematologists. But in their rush to connect with skilled physicians, many pharmaceutical companies in the United States overlook a vital resource: the rest of the oncology care team.

Cancer patients don’t receive care from an oncologist alone. Instead, they associate with a complex network of care providers. The oncology care team can include several nurses, pathologists, radiologists, social workers, dietitians, and therapists. These healthcare providers can offer pharmaceutical companies a wealth of expertise.

Well-known KOLs may have published dozens of papers or led regional medical conferences. Oncology nurses or social workers may not be as familiar, but ignoring the care team’s expertise can close many doors, depriving pharmaceutical companies and cancer patients alike.

Care Team Members Guide Treatment Decisions
Many regions of the United States are struggling with a dire shortage of qualified oncologists. As a result, each physician may be responsible for seeing dozens of patients each day, and a heavy caseload limits the amount of attention an oncologist can provide to each patient. To bridge the gap, oncologists rely on the care team to provide essential feedback that informs treatment decisions.

Oncologists may only see their patients once every few months. During these rushed appointments, it can be tough for oncologists to gather all the information they need. However, the oncology care team often sees their patients several times each month. They’re ideally positioned to make on-the-ground observations that help guide treatment recommendations.

Care Team Members Understand Their Patients’ Experiences
Care team members let oncologists know how patients are tolerating their treatment and what side effects the patients are experiencing. They also have a vital understanding of how cancer affects patients’ lives.

Pharmaceutical companies must recognize that oncology care teams know their patients best. Care team members have a unique ability to assess their patients’ needs and preferences. This information helps the oncologist select treatments and plan their patients’ care.

Their expertise is also a tremendous asset for life science companies. The oncology care team can provide insight into how specific treatments work with particular demographics. They also have a keen understanding of why patients may prefer one treatment over another.

Medical studies and data gathered by professional marketing organizations can be valuable tools, but medical marketers sometimes have trouble understanding how data apply to ordinary patients. The oncology care team has this information at their fingertips. Establishing contact with the care team can help guide the pharmaceutical company’s marketing efforts and long-term strategies.

Care Team Members Are an Essential Link in Your Organization’s Network
Busy oncologists may struggle to balance treating patients and keeping up with the latest research. As a result, they might be reluctant to meet with yet another marketing representative; but oncologists are often willing to listen to their trusted nurses and medical assistants. Targeting the care team during pharmaceutical marketing efforts is wise, because they provide a listening ear that oncologists can trust.

Every day, oncologists gather essential information from their trusted colleagues and team members. Routine conversations about a patient’s progress can be an opportunity to share research data and new treatment strategies. Keeping the entire care team supplied with this information helps them provide feedback to doctors, who can then use this information to explore cutting-edge treatments and keep up with the latest research.

Targeting the entire oncology care team in outreach efforts can also help pharmaceutical companies identify which oncologists represent the most valuable contacts. Oncology nurses can help pharmaceutical companies sift through lists of oncologists to find the providers that are open to hearing from their representatives.

Reaching out to care team members also allows your organization to emerge as a trusted, reliable source of information. Pharmaceutical representatives can then forge closer relationships with local oncologists and other stakeholders.

Care Team Members Are Connected by CME
Most medical providers are on the lookout for ways to increase their medical expertise. Building relationships with these KOLs creates rich opportunities for advancing pharmaceutical companies through continuing medical education (CME).

Using CME as an opportunity to construct relationships with the care team is a true win-win scenario. The oncology care team benefits by gaining expertise in new treatments, tests, and strategies. Care team members also learn to view leading pharmaceutical companies as trusted resources in the field of oncology.

CME programs also help ensure that care teams understand how to administer new treatments. Care team members play a vital role in preventing medical errors and ensuring that patients know how to follow treatment recommendations. Pharmaceutical companies who target care team members through CME can make sure the care team understands new cancer treatments.

Care Team Members Help You Connect With Patients
During the cancer treatment process, many pharmaceutical companies are puzzled by unexpected gaps in data. At times, companies may discover that treatment reports from medical practitioners don’t align with their expectations. Care team members work closely with their patients on a day-to-day basis. Their on-the-ground experience can help pharmaceutical companies close these gaps in understanding.

Learning or language barriers can affect patients’ experiences with cancer treatment. Building relationships with oncology nurses allows pharmaceutical companies to better grasp the factors that can interfere with diagnosis and treatment.

Care Team Members Are Your Allies in the Fight for Better Cancer Coverage
Oncology care team members are well positioned to help many medical organizations advocate for better cancer coverage. These healthcare providers witness what patients and their families are experiencing on a day-to-day basis. They also have an intuitive understanding of why comprehensive cancer coverage is vital. Their expertise makes them valuable allies in influencing healthcare policy.

Oncology care team members work tirelessly to fight for better coverage of new drugs and increased funding for cancer treatments. Pharmaceutical companies who are mounting similar initiatives often find that the oncology care team can help build a network of influential collaborators and add their voice and authority.

Liaising With the Oncology Care Team
Today, opportunities for outreach are limited only by a pharmaceutical company’s imagination. Modern technology has slashed costs and provided cheaper alternatives to expensive conferences and in-person meetings. Virtual meetings, online courses, and digital surveys offer the opportunity to connect with care team members like never before. Reaching out to new KOLs has never been more straightforward or more cost-effective.