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.