Digitalization is changing the healthcare space, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for it in some ways. As innovation in biosciences and technology is advancing rapidly, top life sciences companies are gearing up to discover and launch new drugs or products. When any new drug or a product is discovered and goes through its product life cycle, life sciences companies require the guidance of key opinion leaders and digital opinion leaders to take the product from discovery to commercialization.
According to a 2019 PubMed survey conducted on social media usage by plastic surgeons, it was found that “62% of plastic surgeons have active professional social media accounts.” On Twitter, “tweets with “#PedsICU” were shared 49,865 times on six continents between February 1, 2020, and May 1, 2020.”
Is there a way the life sciences industry can utilize the influence of digital opinion leaders for their drug or product? Read on to learn more about the benefits life sciences companies can reap from digital opinion leaders’ expertise.
Who Are DOLs?
Digital Opinion leaders (DOLs) are the new breed of HCPs that have arisen recently. DOLs are healthcare professionals (HCPs) who use digital platforms like social media to disseminate medical and scientific information to their patients, peers, and followers. DOLs do not frequently attend conferences or do not publish articles in journals, but their goal is to share valuable and engaging content to educate their community. DOLs are not social media influencers but are the real “thought leaders” as they do not self-promote but are advocates of the brand they promote.
Specific to healthcare, the top influencers (DOLs) can be HCPs and non-HCPs. They range from physicians, allied health professionals, medical & scientific writers, caregivers, nurses, and pharmacists to patient advocates, industry analysts, cancer survivors, health bloggers, journalists, and patients. The non-HCPs Digital opinion leaders use the social media platform to write about general topics in healthcare like innovations in the healthcare landscape, and trending topics on specific diseases like cancer, diabetes, etc. Non-HCP DOLs also disseminate information in their groups but the information is mostly generic and may or may not be scientific.
Why Should Life Sciences Companies Engage DOLs?
Key Opinion Leader (KOL) identification and management in life sciences organizations have been the “bread and butter strategy” for decades. A traditional KOL can be influential in terms of the conference attended or articles written, but it is the DOL who can increase the reach of this medical and scientific content through social media.
Leveraging the influence, the DOLs have on digital platforms, life sciences companies can utilize their DOLs:
- In amplifying the brand messaging the company wants to propagate.
- Helping the life sciences companies recruit new talent with their influence on digital platforms (clinical trial recruitment).
- By collaborating on developing marketing materials and providing valuable feedback.
- Assisting the medical and marketing team in creating educational material for patients.
- Acting as spokesperson/member of the advisory board/judges for contests, etc.
- By sharing their voices on disease awareness, best practices, and the new initiatives, the life science company is undertaking.
By involving DOLs and building meaningful relations with them over a while, life sciences companies can reach potential customers they hadn’t even noticed before with just a click of a button.
How Can Life Sciences Companies Identify and Engage DOLs?
In the present time, many DOLs are the new KOLs!
“The 5 Ws” must be answered by the Life sciences companies before identifying and engaging DOLs.
- Why Should Life Sciences Companies Identify DOLs?
The medical and commercial teams should be clear on the strategy and objective of the brand to be advocated before deciding on the DOLs.
- When Should Life Sciences Company Think About Identifying DOLs?
The life science company should know the challenges or opportunities they are trying to resolve by identifying DOLs.
- What Parameters Should be Considered to Identify The Right DOLs?
- Are they posting relevant and innovative content online?
- Do these DOLs have a solid digital presence (public and peer following?)
- Do their peers believe their voice and content? (Are they trustworthy?)
- Are they influential offline too?
- Are they already engaged with your company on different projects?
- Who is the right DOL to Engage?
After addressing the WHAT, let’s talk about the WHO.
- Who is the DOL (HCP) sharing content relevant to the company’s therapeutic area/ brand?
- What is the specialty and sub speciality of the concerned DOL?
- How is the quality of the content that the DOL shares?
- How frequently does the DOL post the content?
- Is this DOL engaging with its peers, or is it a one-way communication by just posting the content online?
- How to engage DOLs?
Once the DOLs have been identified and mapped, a team member (medical/commercial) must communicate with them. Face-to-face meetings are preferred mainly by DOLs so that they can meet the teams in person and understand their engagement objective.
As the healthcare landscape is rapidly driven by technological advancement, It is essential that life sciences companies use advanced software tools to identify, map and engage Digital Opinion Leaders.
konectar Social- our robust digital opinion leader platform is built on the latest technology combined with an NLP framework for accurate web crawling and entity extraction. konectar Social has several features which enable Life Sciences companies to find the right Digital Opinion Leader from drug discovery to commercialization.
How Can Life Sciences Companies Utilise the Expertise of DOLs?
Life sciences companies should customize DOL engagement strategy according to their business goals. Here are a few common ways life sciences companies can engage DOLs and utilize their skills efficiently:
- Empower the DOLs with knowledge and resources
Life sciences companies must educate and train their DOLs on the drug/ product that the DOLs will be advocates for. The internal team should share the resources prepared for that therapeutic area with the digital thought leaders. These resources would help the DOLs disseminate their platform’s correct information to their audience.
- Understand their areas of interest
This is imperative when the Medical Science Liaisons’ (MSLs) interact with the DOLs. The MSLs should be aware of the DOLs area of expertise so that relevant topics are discussed with them.
- Form an advisory board of DOLs
As with KOLs, life sciences companies should form similar advisory boards with the top DOLs to obtain more diverse insights. As the DOLs interact with communities, patients, and peers online, they can bring a fresh and unique perspective regarding new research, the latest launches, drugs, or products concerning their therapeutic area. This can help life sciences companies to innovate and explore new avenues.
- Help the DOLs to increase their reach
Some DOLs may be active on one or two digital platforms. Life sciences companies can assist and guide the DOLs to use other platforms according to their therapeutic needs. This collaboration will benefit the life sciences companies in promoting their drug or product on multiple platforms and will aid the DOLs in increasing their community network.
- Build and strengthen relationships with DOLs
Life sciences companies must deepen their relationship with their DOLs by empowering them with company insights, resources, events, etc. so they can better understand the digital space.
- Engage on Digital Platforms with DOLs
Medical & commercial teams should chat, organize webinars, tweet, etc., with the DOLs to build long-lasting relationships by sharing medical and scientific insights. This will empower the DOLs to reach out to the relevant communities online.
- Keep track of the competitor DOLs.
It is always essential to keep track of the competition. Life sciences companies should track the activities that the competitor DOLs are into. This will help them strategize better.
The future of Digital Opinion Leaders’ engagement in the Life Sciences Industry
The evolving healthcare landscape has brought about a change in the work perspective of life sciences companies. The DOLs have become indispensable to organizations and are here to stay!
- Life sciences companies have become digitally active and are enhancing their presence on digital platforms by engaging DOLs. To transform and grow, life sciences companies in the future would need to co-work with both KOLs and DOLs on the same platform for generating insights, creating materials, and disseminating knowledge rather than working with either one. This will enhance the strength and reach of the life sciences companies.
- A new breed of thought leaders apart from KOLs and DOLs are paving their way into the life sciences space- they are known as Digital Scientific Leaders (DSLs). DSLs are DOLs with excellent scientific knowledge and credentials; they use digital platforms to disseminate information about the latest clinical studies, trials, diagnoses, and treatment mechanisms. In the future that we look upon, life sciences companies will be hiring KOLs, DOLs, and DSLs together for broader and deeper reach.
Healthcare is transforming, and DOLs or DSLs will be carving the way forward!
Disclaimer: This article is written by Aissel Technologies and is for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered a substitute for medical expertise. Aissel Technologies will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.
Dr. Preeti Sharma MBBS, D.C.P, R.C.G.P
Dr. Preeti Sharma brings over 20 years of diverse and rich experience in the healthcare industry with multi-faceted roles as a Physician, Medical Consultant, Technical and Scientific Writer, Marketeer, Medical Trainer, and an Entrepreneur. She is responsible for development and execution of Medico Marketing Strategies at Aissel. As a Medical Advisor, she provides medical, clinical and scientific expertise to internal and external stakeholders.
konectar – Software from Aissel Technologies, embraces the power of technology to transform healthcare landscape by using artificial intelligence (Machine Learning & Natural Language Processing) and advanced analytics. konectar is our next generation AI Powered Healthcare Professional Engagement Platform that enables global life sciences companies to discover, profile and engage the right healthcare experts.
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