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How to Tackle Bias Problems on Third Party KOL and Clinician Panels

Bias is often a major concern in life sciences market research. The third party Key Opinion Leader (KOL) and clinician panels on which many market research organizations rely can be particularly susceptible; recruiting physicians using standard lists, from multi-disciplinary patient management in varied institutional settings, often doesn’t give commercial teams the impartial, birds-eye view of the market they need.

And since commissioning pharma companies often rely only on screening questions to select participants, which the savvier ones can easily manipulate, the risk of recruiting a less-than-impartial panel is high. As a result, precious time and resources can go to waste.

Choosing the right KOLs and clinicians the first time is, then, a must. It’s vital, at every stage in the market research process, to keep an eye out for warning signs when selecting third party physician panels.

They might include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable about how well you know the KOLs and clinicians you are engaging
  • Seeing double-blind confidentiality broken to provide you with respondent characteristics
  • Losing too much physician panel time to the screening process
  • Needing to educate market research partners about your treatment area
  • Noticing research partners don’t have existing insights and/or anchor points to other data sources
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Any of these warning signs could indicate bias in your market research process. How, though, to address such challenges? There are several steps you should take to ensure your market intelligence is actionable, insightful and impartial.

  1. Reach out to a large sample of KOLs and clinicians to prevent ‘canned’ responses diluting the outcomes.
  2. Be sure to include qualified physicians from across the healthcare landscape, bringing experience in a broad range of treatment areas to the table, and verify their identities and backgrounds independently.
  3. Create in-depth profiles of each target KOL and clinician before research begins, detailing why they should be targeted for this particular study.
  4. Move fast: conduct research over a maximum of six weeks to further reduce disparities in physician responses.
  5. Check the quality of KOL and clinician responses at every stage of the process, recruiting replacement participants where responses have been of poor quality.
  6. Check physician responses against existing data points to ensure veracity.

Reconsidering your methodology could be the key to brand success. With the stakes so high in bringing new treatments to market, research insights which are 100% unbiased – or, at least, as close as can feasibly be – could be the difference that makes or breaks a treatment. That’s how to create better outcomes for every stakeholder; not least, the patients.