What's New

MDoutlook® Delivers Precision Intelligence

ThoughtLeaders in Healthcare: Have You Selected the Correct Ones?

Thoughtleaders in Healthcare

When a life sciences company prepares to launch a new treatment or product, support from leading voices can be a critical component of success. These “leading voices” are called ThoughtLeaders (TLs). Thoughtleaders in healthcare are the most valuable launch catalysts to target for a treatment launch. Let’s consider why ThoughtLeader and clinician engagement is important, and how can life sciences leaders be confident they have identified, mapped and targeted the right ThoughtLeaders in healthcare.

How To Define and Identify ThoughtLeaders in Healthcare

Clinicians are healthcare providers (HCPs) that spend the majority of their time treating patients versus focusing on medical research. ThoughtLeaders (TLs) in healthcare are specialized experts who influence formularies, treatment algorithms, institutions, networks, and other healthcare providers (HCPs). 

Most ThoughtLeaders in healthcare have specific disease area expertise and can be influential with the broader community. Their influence often develops naturally over the course of a successful career of participation in clinical trials, speaking engagements, or publish in medical journals. Some are in institutional leadership, such as acting as the Chief Medical Officer or Department Head in a hospital or large medical organization. Likewise, some ThoughtLeaders are considered experts in their field due to reputation of successful patient outcomes. And often other clinicians look to these experts for advice. 

Why are ThoughtLeaders in Healthcare Important?

According to research by Accenture, 64 percent of sales rep meetings occurred in person prior to COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, most pharmaceutical sales reps and medical affairs teams had direct, in-person access to HCPs to share new treatment information. In-person conferences, meetings, and advisory boards were common.

For many treatments, pharmaceutical brand managers took a combination approach with digital and face-to-face engagement. Prior to the pandemic, digital engagements were a major part of engaging healthcare providers, slowly gaining ground as a common core component of marketing strategies among life sciences companies.

ThoughtLeaders impact how a treatment performs in the marketplace, and the impact looks different at different stages of product or treatment development. Let’s take a look at how ThoughtLeaders in healthcare can have an impact at different stages of product development. 

The Clinical Trial Phase

TLs impact how the treatment is positioned or perceived within the research community. They may also help with research and support publications prior to treatment approval.

The Pre-Launch Phase

TLs help prepare the market for a new treatment or a new indication. Early adoption is a key indicator of a treatment’s success and long-term value. TLs may advocate for a treatment to be approved on a formulary or included in treatment algorithms. Additionally, TLs may influence how institutions or provider networks view a new treatment prior to launch.

Launch Phase

ThoughtLeaders continue to advocate for the new treatment and help educate other clinicians. Common TL influence opportunities include speaking engagements, peer-to-peer panels, and sharing best practices with clinicians – either in person or digitally (i.e., on social media platforms like Twitter).

“Rising star” ThoughtLeaders bring particular value at this stage as well. These up-and-coming experts get a lot of attention from a variety of sources. For instance, some garner attention from  Becker’s Hospital Review, which publishes a list of rising stars in healthcare annually. With growing prowess and trust among peers, these “rising star” experts often have a rapidly growing reach. This level of support could potentially influence the receptivity and success of a new treatment for years to come.

Post-Launch Phase

ThoughtLeaders can continue to help a treatment reach its full potential beyond launch. Their continued support could mean:

● Overcoming formulary barriers
● Being added to treatment algorithms
● Continuing clinician education
● Influencing other clinicians by their behaviors

Additionally, a well-versed TL with an affinity for one treatment may also identify less favorable features of other competitive treatment options. A TL’s influence can blunt a competitor’s launch by creating uncertainty about a new competitor. ThoughtLeaders can play a powerful role in launching new indications for an in-market treatment.

How to Know Your Efforts are Focusing on the Right ThoughtLeaders

When scouting for ThoughtLeaders in healthcare, certain efforts help identify the right experts. Two key areas to look at include prescription volumes and the impact on increased screening and diagnosis.

Prescription volume is the number of prescriptions for a treatment and all competitive treatments, and most pharmaceutical treatments can be tracked at the individual HCP level. In other words, it’s possible to determine which HCPs are prescribing specific treatments the most and which competing treatments they are prescribing. Pharmaceutical companies often use prescription volume to measure their market share globally, nationally, regionally, and locally. Market shares can be tracked at the aggregate network level and down to the individual HCP. Product developers can also identify which institutions and networks have the highest treatment (or prescription) volume.

Many HCPs—particularly in primary care—are in a position to diagnose diseases and start treatment early, which is also important. Early screening and diagnosis grants patients access to care quickly, but also means the treatment will be in use for years to come. For example, early detection of hypertension can add years to a patient’s life and simultaneously increase treatment volume.

How to Know the Right ThoughtLeaders and Clinicians are in Place

Asking the right questions helps to understand if the right clinicians and ThoughtLeaders in healthcare are in place to support a treatment:

 
1. Is the ThoughtLeader influencing formularies, treatment algorithms, institutions, networks, and other HCPs? Are you able to measure the reach of their influence?

2. Do ThoughtLeaders also appear at the top of peer nomination lists?

3. Are your selected ThoughtLeaders gaining prominence? Are the TLs at the top of their field, region, locality, or institution? Are they on the decline?

4. Are selected TLs social media influencers or digital ThoughtLeaders as well?

5. Are chosen TLs influenced by competitors? If so, which competitors and to what extent? Have they been paid by competitors for research, clinical trials, speaking engagements, and advisory boards?

Are ThoughtLeaders identified and engaged at the market level? Many mapping tools only identify the top 20 to 50 TLs, but completely miss the next 200 to 500 influential professionals.
Not only should a ThoughtLeader’s value be assessed in the beginning phases of product launch, but continued assessment is also important. Reflect on TLs and clinicians supporting the treatment regularly, even after the product is launched. Doing so ensures the most influential players are steadily backing the treatment.

Prescription volume is the number of prescriptions for a treatment and all competitive treatments, and most pharmaceutical treatments can be tracked at the individual HCP level. In other words, it’s possible to determine which HCPs are prescribing specific treatments the most and which competing treatments they are prescribing. Pharmaceutical companies often use prescription volume to measure their market share globally, nationally, regionally, and locally. Market shares can be tracked at the aggregate network level and down to the individual HCP. Product developers can also identify which institutions and networks have the highest treatment (or prescription) volume.

Many HCPs—particularly in primary care—are in a position to diagnose diseases and start treatment early, which is also important. Early screening and diagnosis grants patients access to care quickly, but also means the treatment will be in use for years to come. For example, early detection of hypertension can add years to a patient’s life and simultaneously increase treatment volume.

Find the Best Support from Influential ThoughtLeaders in Healthcare

In order for a new treatment to be successful in a heavily saturated market, a brand’s message and value have to be clear. ThoughtLeaders in healthcare are the vehicle to make that happen. MDOutlook gives you the insight necessary to harness the attention of the right ThoughtLeaders. Schedule a call today to find out more about our solutions.