What is a Peer Nomination Network?

Peer Nomination Network
Peer Nomination Network

The market for pharmaceuticals and life sciences treatments has become increasingly complex, and the global pandemic has only added to the challenges of reaching ThoughtLeaders (TLs also known as Key Opinion Leaders – KOLs) and clinicians. This trend is largely driven by the high volume of existing options available for treatment in most fields, and the high volume of new brands seeking their place on the treatment landscape.

Achieving commercial success in such a complex and saturated marketplace requires a multi-channel approach to build a reliable network map of global, national, regional and local ThoughtLeaders – and identifying the drivers of meaningful engagement with them. Rich understanding of ThoughtLeaders is best achieved by understanding their peer nomination networks.

Simply put, peer nomination networks are powerful strategic levers for success. Here is a closer look at what a peer nomination network is and the value it delivers by identifying the top KOLs in a specific disease area.

What is a Peer Nomination Network?

How does one discover a peer nomination network? Typically, the network already exists – the challenge is to find it and understand it. It takes shape through rigorous unaided primary research techniques with qualified clinicians nominating their peers within a specific disease area, and with consideration for geography (national, regional, local). While this approach is commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry, these rankings may not always be obvious. They are built on hard earned recognition and expertise related to KOLs advice and clinical approaches.

How Are Peer Nomination Networks Formed?

Peer nomination networks form over time, as KOLs gain the respect of other physicians or professionals in their respective fields. Physicians gain prestige with their peers via participation in clinical research efforts, published reference information and articles, and participation at medical conferences and other speaking engagements.

KOLs may have various levels of peer nomination depending on their reach. For example, local KOLs gain the nomination of local peers as trusted colleagues that they refer a difficult case to. Additionally, a KOL may take on larger, nationally driven projects and have influence over regional and national clinicians. Therefore, their peer nomination network may be substantially larger.

The Importance of a Peer Nomination Network to KOL Identification

When working to identify the top KOLs, an understanding of their peer nomination network is especially valuable. Once the network of influence among a group of peers is well-understood, targeting efforts are simplified. It grows easier to understand specifically which KOLs should be targeted or which engagements will have the broadest levels of influence.

A well mapped peer nomination network yields rich insight for brand strategists. Teams can use these insights to:

  • Target the KOLs for specific product research efforts, such as clinical trials and research programs
  • Target KOLs most fitting for speaker bureaus and programs
  • Connect KOLs with synergistic clinician audiences
  • Target publications and messaging from KOLs with the right clinicians
  • Build engagement through educational programs, round tables, and ad boards that pair KOLs with the most receptive clinicians

Understanding peer nomination networks can be the largest difference-maker in a brand’s strategy and long-term success. Instead of drawing conclusions from indirect assumptions – such as two clinicians are in the same field so they must influence one another – peer nomination is based on reliable, direct feedback from other clinicians.

Clinicians that write a large volume of prescriptions may appear as obvious targets for engagement. However, their prescribing behaviors may be due to the influence of an informed KOL in the network. In fact, research cites “head of department and colleagues” as one of the top five influencing factors when it comes to what a physician prescribes. So, a primary care physician may follow a certain prescribing pattern based on the guidance of a specialist. And, other clinicians may follow suit. For this reason, understanding KOLs and mapping peer nomination networks often lays the groundwork to have impact on clinician prescribing behaviours.

How Are Peer Nomination Networks Formed

An understanding of the peer nomination network helps to shape clinical engagement strategies, plan messaging and communications, and execute those plans. The question is, then, how do you discover the peer nomination network that’s in place in a specific disease area? The answer is through a robust peer nomination discovery process.

The best-designed peer nomination discovery process involves a multitude of research and information-harvesting tools and techniques. The goal is to collect data from a substantial number of qualified clinicians to determine who they turn to for best practices, treatment advice, problem-solving, etc. This may involve multiple information gathering approaches, such as:

  • Interviewing clinicians face-to-face
  • Conducting online surveys with clinicians treating in the disease area of interest
  • Reviewing medical presentations to determine which clinicians are most qualified
  • Pinpointing ThoughtLeaders / KOLs and their sphere of influence Utilizing tools like Lumineer ®
  • for robust ThoughtLeader profiles of disease experience

Clinicians who have a great deal of influence among peers can either be “rising stars” that gain more reach year after year, “static” that garner the same traction annually, or even “declining” with the numbers of peer nominations on the decline. Usually, those professionals with a stable or growing level of peer nomination can have the most predictable influence.

It can also be valuable to glean an understanding of how clinicians and KOLs get advice from nominated peers in the network. For example, do clinicians get advice from other experts in their fields via direct meetings, in-network communication, phone calls, or literature like journals and medical publications. Do you need help mapping your peer nomination networks? Actionable precision intelligence from MDoutlook can help. Reach out to get the conversation started.

What is a Clinician Engagement Strategy?

What is a Clinician Engagement Strategy
What is a Clinician Engagement Strategy
At the onset of a new life sciences treatment, advocacy from the right clinicians is critical for success. However, clinicians are not easily accessible. These professionals carry a lot of responsibilities, are pressed for time, and new treatments may struggle to garner
their attention. Building an effective clinician engagement strategy is a multifaceted process
that requires the right tools and forethought. Below is an in-depth explanation of what a
clinician engagement strategy is and steps to develop said strategy.

A Closer Look at a Clinician Engagement Strategy

A clinician engagement strategy is a fully developed plan to reach healthcare providers, engage with them, educate them, and involve these professionals with a new product, treatment, or brand. Not all clinicians are created equal, however. Some become Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and influence other KOLs and other clinicians. KOLs often earn the trust of their peers through their work in clinical trial involvement, contributions to publications, development of best practices, speaking engagements and other opinion-shaping activities. The end goal is to optimize engagements with clinicians so over time they evolve into advocates for the brand or treatment.

The Importance of a Clinician Engagement Strategy

A clinician engagement strategy is an important part of the foundation for life science brand’s marketing plan. The connection between a manufacturer and the end-user patient is through the clinician.

Prospective patients put faith in what their clinician offers as advice and in what they support. In fact, 91.9 percent of people surveyed claim they trust their physician, making healthcare providers the most trusted professionals.

Once a clinician evolves into a brand advocate, the brand benefits from:

  • Enhanced engagement opportunities
  • Advocacy for brand awareness and use among fellow clinicians
  • Facilitating overall market access
  • Ongoing feedback and support throughout the product’s lifecycle

Building a strategy to connect with clinicians on their terms ensures a stronger relationship as a product comes to market. However, retaining the power of this relationship beyond the product launch is just as important for brand growth in the longer term. For example, clinicians may offer firsthand insight into patient experience with the new product or offer feedback regarding other appropriate customer targeting opportunities for future marketing purposes.

Steps to Building a Clinician Engagement Strategy

Clinician engagement is a battle for mindshare. An effective clinician engagement strategy will consider the following:

1. Targeting the right clinicians

The first step in the clinician engagement process is determining which professionals are worthy of targeting. Not every clinician will be worthy of the time it takes to foster engagement. The goal should be to target those with the most efficient reach to a brand’s target audience. Think about disease area specific healthcare providers or ThoughtLeaders (also known as KOLs), then consider:

  • Who does the clinician influence the most and to what degree? (e.g. patients, fellow practitioners, medical organizations, etc.)
  • Which KOLs have the highest treatment volumes (stand as “high writers” in their respective fields)?
  • Is the treatment volume solely attributed to the clinician? Or do other professionals contribute to patient treatment decision making process, such as Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician’s Assistants (PAs)?

2. Developing Plans to Reach the Right Clinicians

With an understanding of which ThoughtLeaders should be targeted in the clinician engagement strategy, develop plans to message and engage them with an appropriate degree of frequency. Several strategies can be utilized at this point, such as:

  • Arranging in-person meetings and engagements via a medical science liaison (MSL) or sales representative;
  • Use of digital platforms, such as email, webinars, social media, as well as use of direct mail to connect and engage;
  • Creating peer-to-peer engagement opportunities through advisory boards or round table meetings may also be appropriate.
  • Involving a KOL in clinical trial research and in published findings associated with the product; potentially utilizing a KOL as an educational speaker may also be appropriate.

A well-developed plan will reflect that different clinicians prefer to be engaged in unique ways, and some may engage with in multiple ways. The key is to meet clinicians on their terms, using innovative tactics, and engagement that reflects their choice or preference. Engagement tools like Activeer® from MDOutlook can be especially helpful in this process.

3. Shaping Plans to overcome common clinician engagement strategy challenges

Challenges with clinician engagement will likely arise. When building the strategy, prepare workarounds or alternative engagements to overcome unforeseen challenges. For example:

  • Problems with regional variation – get a better grasp on regional variation using Pulse Research, and consider engaging other constituents – like payers for instance – for more insight to flex the strategy as needed
  • No-see practices or clinicians – this can make a clinician especially hard to reach, so examining peer-to-peer prospective engagements may help overcoming this barrier
  • Hard-to-reach clinicians – examine how to reach that clinician on their terms — targeted email, links to brief podcasts, brief mobile-friendly surveys, or virtual lunch programs.

A thorough strategy will have alternative plans in place to pivot, adapt, and adjust as needed so the brand still gains the support needed.

The Right Tools Support a Successful Clinician Engagement Strategy

MDOutlook offers tailored solutions to support the creation of a clinical engagement strategy. Get KOL Insights, activate the right clinicians, and perform pulse research with actionable precision intelligence solutions.

Are you open to a conversation about how our solutions power meaningful engagement? Let’s talk.