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KOL Mapping: Finding The Right Experts At The Right Time

Kol Mapping: Finding The Right Experts At The Right Time

KOLs are Key Opinion Leaders, or ThoughtLeaders (TLs), who can impact understanding and adoption of healthcare products as they travel through developmental life cycles. By utilizing the right KOL mapping approaches, pharmaceutical companies can identify and engage the right experts at the right time in a treatment’s life-cycle to ensure their brand reaches its full potential.

Who Are KOLs?

KOLs are most often seasoned healthcare professionals and doctors who have established themselves as experts in a particular disease state through institutional leadership, clinical trials, research publications and influence on peers. They often play a role in formularies, treatment algorithms and can impact the prescribing behaviors of other KOLs and clinicians by sharing what they believe to be “best practices.” For these reasons, their support for a treatment (even if that support is conditional based on disease state or formularies or patient characteristics) can be very powerful.

In many cases KOLs have extensive experience in the fields in which they are recognized as experts. For example, many are physician specialist at universities and research hospitals. Others are often the disease area experts in a provider network. Some KOLs may be junior “up-and-coming” doctors and they are often described as “rising stars.”

What Can KOLs Do For Life Sciences Brands?

For starters, brands can tap KOLs to help educate other KOLs and clinicians about the treatments they are developing and marketing. These experienced professionals can offer advice and best practices that guide decision making through the various stages of a treatment’s development. 


Specifically, KOLs help brands meet their objectives by:

  • Influencing payer formularies 
  • Influencing treatment algorithms for institutions (EG hospitals and networks) 
  • Leading clinical trials 
  • Authoring reports on treatment benefits
  • Speaking on behalf of treatments
  • Speaking about treatments in a specific disease state
  • Participating on advisory boards 

What Is KOL Mapping?

In simple terms, KOL mapping identifies KOLs and the institutions, other KOLS and clinicians they influence. Ideally, KOL mapping is both broad and precise. Broad mapping includes global, national, regional and local KOLs. And precise mapping is disease state specific and has a firm grasp on specific areas of influence. KOL mapping enables brands to conduct targeted searches for influencers so they can find the best matches on their brand’s journey based on:


  • Disease state
  • Geography
  • Institutions
  • Formularies
  • Level of influence
  • Loyalty toward other treatments 

KOL mapping allows companies to develop comprehensive strategies to engage the right influencers to help their treatment reach its full potential in market. A good platform for KOL mapping will help companies not only identify candidates based on specific search criteria but also enable brands to connect, communicate and incorporate KOLs into all phases of their brand’s journey (clinical trials, market research, studies, advisory boards, and speaker bureaus).


At various stages of product development, KOL mapping can aid in strategy development and execution. First, KOLs can help companies identify and understand unmet needs and gaps in current treatments. Second, it can help companies identify KOLs for research, who can provide insights on positioning and messaging for treatments in clinical trials or preparing to launch. Third, KOLs can share a brands research data and fuel formulary adoption, acceptance in treatment algorithms and adoption by other KOLs and clinicians. Fourth, KOLs can play powerful roles in peer-to-peer programs (often known as advisory boards). 


KOLs become identifiable based on a number of factors, including:


  • Their participation in clinical trials
  • Their authorship of research and publications
  • Their leadership among institutions
  • Their nomination to KOL status by other KOLs, clinicians and trusted experts

However, sifting through these criteria without well-organized KOL mapping can prove a cumbersome task. To find the right KOLs at the right time in your brand’s journey, it is ideal to work with an established KOL mapping partner, such as MDOutlook with time-proven mapping algorithms and approaches and already mapped KOL networks by disease area and geography. An ideal KOL mapping partner will be able to map and engage the top 200 to 400 KOLs in a disease area, not just the to 40 or 50. Also, an ideal partner will be able to:


  • Engage Global, National, Regional and Local KOLs for research
  • Engage KOLs for peer-t-o-peer programs
  • Engage KOLs for educational programs

When Should A Brand Initiate KOL Mapping?

KOL mapping allows companies to identify the best ThoughtLeaders at the exact time they can play a role in advancing the brand. It is important that brands do not simply settle for KOLs based on availability and budget. Instead, they should be mapping and developing a network of influencers that impact specific points in a brand’s life-cycle, including clinical trials, pre-launch, launch and brand optimization. 


For this reason, KOL mapping can be initiated at any time to help the brand reach full potential. But, for obvious reasons, the earlier the better to lay out a winning brand strategy and avoid costly missteps.  


In the pre-clinical trial stage, brands can tap global and national KOLs for market research. Experienced professionals with specific niches can help companies identify the unmet market needs and then support and even recruit people to clinical trials. 


During clinical trials, those same high-level KOLs can consult companies on the best paths forward for adoption based on demand and network requirements. During pre-launch and launch stages, KOLs can be engaged at all levels to energize markets and encourage adoption by clinicians and end-users. In-market, KOL mapping can help companies identify people to support ongoing engagement and coordinated messaging. 

Can I Try KOL Mapping Myself?

It’s possible, though burdensome, for companies to conduct their own KOL mapping.

Here’s some ways you can find ThoughtLeaders to support your projects:

  • Identify authors of research in respects journals
  • Scour LinkedIn for people who identify as and publish content as KOLs
  • Peruse institutional leadership to find niche experts
  • Look through past clinical trials to find segment leaders

Many pharmaceutical companies might not want to put in the effort to navigate a complex KOL landscape. By delegating the task to people with established networks and experience, companies can quickly identify influencers and achieve company goals.

The MDOutlook Solution To KOL Mapping – Lumineer®

By using MDOutlook’s powerful Lumineer platform, companies can access dynamic KOL mapping that enables teams to search for the right KOLs at the right time. Lumineer enables brands to access up-to-the-minute information regarding the sphere of influence of physicians and healthcare providers. With Lumineer, companies can access ThoughtLeaders with the most relevant influence at the exact time they’re needed so that companies can maximize the effectiveness of their product rollouts.


Lumineer goes beyond the top 50 or even 100 KOLs. Lumineer offers access to the top 400 or 500 KOLs, ranging from industry leaders to rising stars across a wide range of disease states and budgets so that brands can easily identify and activate the right KOLs to ensure their brand reaches full potential.