Traditionally, experts have been referred to as “opinion leaders”, or “key opinion leaders” (KOLs) and while some experts are indeed key opinion leaders, the broader and more encompassing term (external) expert more accurately describes their role in general.
Categories of experts
External experts set themselves apart from their peers by standing out in one or several categories, e.g. by actively publishing in high-impact journals, frequent speaking engagements at conferences, or membership on advisory boards [add link to glossary item Advisory Boards], Editorial boards [add link to glossary item Editorial Boards] or medical society boards or committees [add link to glossary item Medical Societies]. Other categories are type and amount of funding, clinical trials they are involved in or affiliation with a highly regarded institution.
More recently, digital influencers who engage via online and social media, e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, have emerged alongside the more traditional external experts.
Traditional external experts are typically categorized as national, regional and local depending on their sphere of influence.
- National and sometimes international experts are well-known in their therapeutic area and have earned accolades. These experts provide thought leadership, sit on advisory boards where they inform business matters ranging from clinical and medical to commercial issues, speak at highly relevant conferences and are well networked and highly regarded by other healthcare providers.
- Regional experts often represent a more targeted level of influence in key geographic areas to address localized issues. Regional experts often have extensive experience in treating patients. They get involved in the pre- and post-launch phases to educate their peers based on their, e.g. in the context of symposia, webinars, CME or other regional/local focused events.
- Local experts are HCPS with a community network of peers that trust them and reach out to them for advice. These experts are important because they have a peer leadership role that creates an adoption pattern among local communities and physicians. The experts are important during the late stages of drug development before marketing approval to get information about the new product out.
Identifying external experts
Identifying the appropriate external experts is critical for medical affairs as well as their colleagues on the commercial side. While relying on existing contacts, networks and referrals can be used to identify top international or national experts, finding specialized expertise or HCPs with regional or local influence is difficult using these networks and can lead to biased lists.
A data-driven process that draws on a database that contains millions of detailed profiles of medical and scientific experts makes the process of finding the specialized knowledge and experience easy, fast and avoids bias.