The term Key Opinion Leader implies a seasoned professional, a thought leader who is highly regarded by their peers and able to educate and influence other healthcare providers (HCPs).
Becoming a key opinion leader, therefore, implies a lot of experience, an impressive publication record, various speaking engagements, clinical trial experience, leadership positions in relevant medical associations and societies – in short, a reputation that takes many years, if not decades to build.
Pharmaceutical companies rely heavily on key opinion leaders (KOLs) throughout the drug development process, during product launches and beyond for expertise and advice. Established, influential and widely respected HCPs are highly sought after as KOLs, but as of lately, pharmaceutical companies add a different type of KOL to their roster of external experts and their Advisory Boards. These individuals are young, promising HCPs, who bring less experience but a lot of potential to the table: so-called “rising stars”.
Five Reasons to Work with Tomorrow’s Top Influencers Today
Grooming tomorrow’s top KOLs today is a smart move for a number of reasons. Here we discuss why you should be targeting and engaging young healthcare providers and rising stars.
Tomorrow’s thought leaders for tomorrow’s drugs – the pharmaceutical industry has infamously long product development cycles. Therefore, finding promising physicians and working with them while the drug goes through the various stages of the clinical development can be time consuming. Building a relationship of mutual respect and trust ensures that well-informed physicians at their peak are available as KOLs when the drug finally enters the market. After years of developing a good working relationship and sharing information the former “rising star” might just be your ”rock star KOL”.
Get them before they are too busy - healthcare providers are busy people even without serving as advisors to pharmaceutical companies. As their career progresses and they become more well-known and sought-after as opinion leaders their time will become more and more limited. They might simply not be able to sit on another advisory board, speak at another conference or conduct another clinical trial, even if they wanted to. Having established a long-standing mutually beneficial working relationship with an HCP that dates back to the days when they weren’t in such high demand can help secure their ongoing involvement and commitment to your company.
Get a different perspective - rising stars among physicians are by definition younger and can bring a fresh perspective, unorthodox ideas, and a new approach to healthcare. The stars among tomorrow’s thought-leaders might well be today’s rebels, who are doing something novel, different, or ground-breaking. They often conduct new innovative research and challenge the status quo. These qualities are becoming increasingly important in a time of faster changes and disruptions in science and healthcare delivery. Today’s unconventional ideas might be tomorrow’s established solutions and you will want to be part of those solutions from the start.
Reach their young colleagues - young thought leaders are in a better position to reach their young HCP colleagues. While physicians age 60 or older are currently the largest age group with 29%, physicians younger than 40 make up around 24% of all physicians (see chart below). These younger HCPs are tech savvy and comfortable using digital technology for everything from communicating with their patients and peers, to researching the latest publications, and reaching out to a Medical Science Liaisons for information. Becoming a top thought-leader will increasingly entail comfort with actively using digital technology – something younger HCPs have grown up with and are more engaged and experienced with than their (average) older colleagues. A young, tech-savvy rising star will utilize these technologies to reach out to and work with their younger colleagues.
- Communicate with younger patients – what goes for communicating with colleagues is also true for communicating with patients. Younger patients expect their healthcare providers to use technology whether it is scheduling an appointment, accessing lab results, or doing a video consultation. As healthcare gets more patient-centric and the importance of real-world data collected directly from patients, e.g. using wearable devices increases, working with highly tech savvy – and therefore often younger – HCPs will become even more important.
Healthcare and science is changing quickly and dramatically. Pharmaceutical companies need to make it a priority to stay on top of these developments. While professionals with many years of experience will always be sought after as advisors and key opinion leaders, adding younger, tech savvy HCPs with novel ideas and approaches to the KOL roster is one way to prepare today for what the future of healthcare might bring tomorrow.