Pharma and biotech companies thrive on communication with key opinion leaders (KOLs). However, connecting with these individuals can be a challenge. Identifying your outreach goals helps eliminate logistic roadblocks. Once you have your organization’s goals in mind, you can seek out individuals who can help you on the path to success. Read on to learn more about what KOLs can do for your organization and how to make the most of these valuable relationships.
When planning their outreach efforts, most companies scramble to connect with world-famous oncologists. Internationally recognized experts are alluring, and your company may be eager to speak to one of these “big names,” but these KOLs have many demands on their time, and they’re often difficult to reach.
Fortunately, practicing physicians aren’t the only thought leaders around. Anyone with profound experience and influence in the medical community may be a useful point of contact. Members of the cancer care team can be KOLs, and medical directors and clinical pharmacists also have significant influence.
As medical costs continue to rise, consider reaching out to KOLs who make decisions for large health plans. Managed-care leaders and pharmacy benefit managers are influential and drive formulary decision-making. Connecting with these individuals can help your organization overcome barriers that prevent your drug or medical device from reaching the market.
The Role of KOLs
The field of hematology/oncology has only grown more specialized in recent years. A wealth of information is available to clinicians, but there isn’t enough time to develop expertise in every subspecialty. As a result, community oncologists turn to experts for guidance and resources.
There’s no doubt that KOLs guide decision-making within the hematology/oncology community. Clinicians, patients, and caregivers rely on these experts to guide their treatment decisions. KOLs can also boost participation in clinical trials and ensure their success, but not all of these thought leaders offer your organization equal expertise.
When planning your outreach, consider who has the highest level of expertise within your subspecialty. Practicing physicians usually play a critical role, but other individuals may also hold some sway. In recent years, journalists, academics, health authority reps, and members of patient advocacy groups have gained a powerful voice. Practicing physicians often listen carefully to their opinions, and these KOLs can give your organization a fresh perspective.
Engaging With KOLs
Once your organization has identified the most valuable KOLs, you need an outreach strategy. Many companies rely on marketing software to help with these tasks, but not all software systems allow for targeted outreach. Some KOLs may also be reluctant to connect with marketing experts. So what’s the best way to connect with KOLs? Consider the following strategies:
- Use Medical Liaisons
KOLs are often skeptical of anything that sounds like a sales pitch, but medical liaisons can connect with physicians on a peer-to-peer level. Liaisons offer a unique combination of medical and business skills. Experienced medical liaisons build partnerships with KOLs, sharing medical knowledge and expertise. During this partnership, they can trade resources and data. This relationship can last for years, providing your company with ongoing insight.
- Get Creative About Communication
Face-to-face meetings are still ideal for connecting with clinicians. However, busy oncologists seldom have time for in-person meetings. Geographic distance can also be a barrier. Digital channels help to bridge the gap. Your blog and social media accounts can provide valuable information to KOLs. Online meeting tools and digital communication platforms also allow virtual access to KOLs across the globe.
- Do Your Homework
Today, most KOLs focus on one subspecialty. Their in-depth expertise in their chosen field can be an invaluable resource. During your outreach efforts, familiarize yourself with each KOL’s interests and activities. Too often, KOLs receive formulaic requests or copy-and-pasted communications. These outreach efforts are not likely to spark a response.
Your medical directors and medical liaisons are invaluable when it comes to personalized outreach. A medical liaison can initiate peer-to-peer discussions about a KOL’s area of expertise. Their in-depth scientific knowledge makes the most of an expert’s limited time.
- Leverage Connections Between KOLs
KOLs boast a vast network of colleagues and patients. If you build relationships with the right KOLs, your organization can make dozens of useful contacts. Your chosen KOL may help you spark interest in new drugs or encourage participation in your trial. This tightly knit network can be a double-edged sword, however. Because the top KOLs are so well-connected, one misstep can destroy countless relationships. Professional, circumspect communication is essential. Medical liaisons may be useful in this area, too.
- Incorporate KOL Feedback Early On
Pharma and biotech companies often seek out KOLs toward the later stages of clinical trials, when their drug or product is almost ready to hit the market. Although KOLs can still offer valuable feedback at this point, delayed outreach can waste time and money. By the time you receive expert feedback, it may be too late to correct mistakes or limit costs. Engaging with KOLs throughout the development cycle helps streamline this process. Successful organizations establish scientific collaboration and build interest before the development process even begins. KOLs have the expertise needed to structure clinical trials and avoid costly mistakes. Some may also be willing to assume the role of principal investigator. Initiating outreach early on protects your organization’s valuable resources. By incorporating feedback from KOLs into early initiatives, you can profit from their expertise.
Dig Deep Into Advisory Boards
Advisory boards and committees provide feedback on a wide range of topics. They usually include practicing physicians who can offer real-world data and discuss factors that affect a clinician’s willingness to prescribe new treatments. Including KOLs in these groups ensures that you receive on-the-ground feedback.
The Axess Network: Streamline Your Outreach
Live meetings offer unparalleled opportunities for connection, but they aren’t always feasible. Social networking and tech-enabled solutions are excellent alternatives. Your organization needs a time-sensitive, cost-effective method for connecting with experts.
Aptitude Health’s Axess Network provides access to over 600 global scientific and clinical thought leaders, and 1,500+ practicing physicians, covering all major tumor types and hematologic malignancies.
Using the Axess Network, Aptitude Health’s OncoBoard online collaboration platform provides life science companies a closed online platform for rapid answers to immediate questions from industry-recognized KOLs and community physicians. It allows for customizable content, including multiple question types, digital stimuli, and discussion tools to bring thoughts and opinions to the forefront. Life science partners receive comprehensive insights within a week of project completion.