Thought leaders (TL), or also referred to as Key Opinion Leaders ( KOLs ), play an important role in proper development and effective marketing of medical devices and drugs. BioPharma companies must interact with TLs regarding science, technology and the Sunshine Act. The growing number of laws and ethical restrictions in the medical world requires that companies focus on building a mutually beneficial and productive relationship with TLs in order educate and stay grounded with legal and regulatory issues that include the provider’s perspective.
There is no question that thought leaders play an important role as consultants and educators so it is important that their selection be done in a way that uses analytical and social science to identify the best candidates. Thought leader targeting by BioPharma companies is achieved by using multiple forms of evaluation criteria including medical claims, publications, clinical trial research and affiliations. Socio-metric evaluations collected from medical peers can also serve as a useful barometer of TL status and a measure of their clinical accomplishments.
Another part of the selection and management of thought leaders includes the role of MSL (Medical Science Liaison). The MSL impact efforts must be guided and measured so that the most successful and positive approaches can be taken while establishing TL relationships between Sales and Medical Affairs. Candid feedback from TLs about their interactions with companies must be collected to gain valuable insights regarding treatment methodologies combined with their roles and responsibilities as a TL. Ongoing reviews of thought leader engagement methods, criteria and metrics are needed to ensure a mutually beneficial and ethical relationships. To do this well companies need to consider the following:
- Develop best practices for TL engagement and recruitment.
- Analyze TL recruitment criteria and selection process
- Conduct ongoing reviews of roles and responsibilities by medical affairs and sales
- Identify ways to enable and maintain open communication channels.
- Solicit input from TLs about how they work with Pharma.
- Provide software programs with features that are convenient for TL use.
- Assess TL impact on company objectives
- Develop metrics used to measure the activities of Medical Science Liaisons.
These considerations are of immense value to managers and directors of whom wish to excel in the process of finding and maintaining the very best thought leaders.