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Discovering and Engaging Hidden Thought Leaders and Their Networks.
In this episode of the Elevate podcast series sponsored by IQVIA, MAPS speaks with experts on two sides of thought-leader engagement — namely the side of discovering thought leader networks including those below the radar of PubMed and major conferences, and also the side of leveraging understanding of these networks to personalize engagements with these thought leaders in a way that has the potential to shift the scientific landscape.
Garth Sundem 00:01
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society Podcast Series: “Elevate”. I’m your host, Garth Sundem, communications director at MAPS. And today we’re speaking about discovering and engaging hidden thought leaders and their networks with experts from IQVIA. We have Jen Millard, Vice President of Field Medical Affairs and Market Access Deployment Services. And Kim Platten, Lead Principal for the Thought Leader Network Center of Excellence. This episode is sponsored by IQVIA with a mission to discover previously unseen insights, drive smarter decisions, and unleash new opportunities. So, Jen, let’s start with a question I have always wanted to ask, which is we know the terms KOLs and thought leaders, but are they the same? And is there a difference?
Jen Millard 00:57
That’s a great question. In fact, I’m gonna let Kim take the first pass at answering and addressing that one.
Kim Platten 01:02
Sure, so, Garth, we actually tend to stay away from the term KOL, as it really focuses on prominent scientific focused HCPs, who are publishing, speaking and are known at the National and even global level. That’s not to say that that’s no longer important. It’s incredibly important. But identifying traditional KOL is no longer enough. Identifying thought leader networks and communities allows you to reach leaders at every level of leadership and their HCPs and communities. This is crucial to ensure your scientific platform and the brand goals can be executed effectively, and HCPs make decisions to adopt an advocate for brands like we all do, they want to be thorough make the right decisions for their patients treatments. So, they start with educating themselves, and then they lean on HCPs they trust at the regional and local level to validate or invalidate their treatment decisions.
Garth Sundem 02:03
Well, okay, so why do we then engage these thought leaders, you know, if KOLs are driving the key opinions, why would we look below those key opinion leaders that tend to be easy to find, and, and maybe look for these hidden thought leaders?
Kim Platten 02:24
Well, advisors, and at these levels, these peer and community levels are trusted peers, if they have a friendly relationship, a trusted relationship. And so ultimately, they pay a big, play a big part in a decision to try a new novel treatment, they’re kind of in between that KOL and the high-volume practicing practitioner. So, getting these peers that provide advice and discussion, helps you make the difference to potentially get early adopters and an uptick early in the life cycle, and closer to launch. And this is really the difference between getting early adoption versus lagging adoption.
Garth Sundem 03:08
Okay, you mentioned launch. And that is something that is on our members minds a lot lately, especially in this new era of COVID, which has had a major impact on launch activities. Jen, do you see in this new normal of launch, are there industry or environmental changes that make it especially important to engage with these thought leader networks?
Jen Millard 03:35
Yeah, I think, you know, largely, we’ve lived in a face-to-face environment. Us, as people, doctors who they’re communicating with, right, and we all know that the last 18 months plus have really accelerated, that change to include dirt, digital and virtual, or screen-to-screen interactions. You know, we hear from lots of surveys that are being done, that the thought leaders, the KOLs, they really want to maintain some level of face-to-face interaction especially with MSLs, and those who are communicating medical and scientific information. I always think about, I’m a consumer of healthcare. And so, I like to kind of think through what do I want my doctor to know whether they’re considered a thought leader, or in someone’s network, I want my doctor to be the smartest at what they’re treating me, right? I think about my grandmother and wanting her doctors to be informed and provided with the right information. And so, when we think about the network, and the dissemination of that info, we really, really want all of our health care providers to be the most informed and it is the changing, very dynamic environment we’re in because we have these virtual, or screen-to-screen interactions that can be challenged, more challenging to schedule more challenging to communicate the right information in the time that you’re allotted. So, I think from identifying who are the most influential folks, and what their network looks like to be able to activate it is really important. And you need to be as impactful as possible during that during that interaction that you have with that particular HCP or thought leader.
Garth Sundem 05:29
Alright, so Kim, let’s talk about how to do it, you know, we have these famous KOLs, and we have these hidden thought leaders, I don’t know if it’s a difference between a top-down approach where you could look at KOLs easily from the top and work down and maybe a bottom-up approach for the hidden thought leaders. But what is the best way to create and then leverage these thought leader networks, you know, we do this locally, regionally, nationally, how do we do it?
Kim Platten 06:00
That’s it, you really hit the nail on the head, it has to be a top-down approach, so that you still are finding the most prominent, nationally known, most effective leaders for your science for your scientific narrative. So, they’re publishing and they’re participating in your clinical trials. They’re there at the organization, such as advocacy groups, etc. These are really important because they all have pull through and they will, they’re the ones that leaders at all levels, including the practicing HCPs, are going to go to ultimately for the information. But then you do take that bottoms-up approach, where you’re trying to find those local and regional leaders that maybe are not the highest practicing practitioners, they don’t have the highest volume, but they’re kind of the intermediaries, they’re the ones that maybe have been practicing for quite a while, have a very large interest in a specific disease or therapy, maybe, you know, because of personal reasons, maybe because this is something that they’ve had great success in. And so, they really help to get from that high national leader to those high practice, high-volume practitioners that are just really busy every day. And they are able to, you know, help those practitioners make decisions when they’re trying to see, am I going to try a new novel therapy? You know, I’m treating a patient, they’ve been difficult to treat, I’ve tried different things. Why would I try this new therapy? I’m going to call, you know, Garth, to find out what he thinks because I trust him. And I know he has a lot of experience in this in this area.
Jen Millard 07:52
Kim, you have a really great example, from an oncology-specific therapy area. And I think it would be good to, as we talk about creating and leveraging, like that specific example that we had talked about, I thought it’d be great to explain to the audience.
Kim Platten 08:12
Yeah, I’d be happy to. So, you know, it is a good time to take a step back. And really understand these networks from the bottom up. And what we’ve done is we’ve done a recent oncology study on a new novel therapy, and we discovered that there were about 12,000 targets in this area of oncology. It’s a lot you know, when you’re when you’re looking at, you know, deploying an MSL team, and, and, and leading up to launch and just all of your Medical Affairs, um, you know, practices 12000s a lot to get to, how do you get to them? What we were able to discover is that there are about 2500 networks. Now, this becomes more palatable. Now, we know that there are 2500 networks across the country. But more importantly, there’s 90 communities, 90 communities. So, if you can find these HCPs that are kind of at the hub of these communities, and disseminating the information, this becomes much more impactful. Now you know, who to go after. It’s not just how much knowledge a person has, it’s who’s following them, and who’s taking advice and discussion from them.
Garth Sundem 09:30
And that’s so interesting that it’s not necessarily the people who are on PubMed, you know, you’re talking about actively finding these people who are local regional thought leaders. And you know, I can imagine that as you head to launch you, you would need to pre equip these thought leaders with your scientific narrative. But you know, different teams have different needs based on where they are in the product lifecycle? Where do you see these thought leader network engagement activities going now? And in the future? Are there emerging trends? And how teams are engaging with these networks across the lifecycle?
Jen Millard 10:17
Yeah, and I’ll start, I’ll start first and let Kim add on. I think that, you know, again, I talked about being a consumer of health care. And I think if we remember to put the, the idea that we’re here to create better health outcomes, for, you know, the population, when we put that at the center, we can really start to understand needs and gaps within these communities, within local and regional areas, right, cause not every community is going to have the same need or gap from a patient perspective. And then from the doctors who are treating those patients, they, we need to really start to understand what their gaps are, what their needs are, in order to develop the appropriate engagement plans from wherever we start in the lifecycle. And if we think about how we engage with thought leaders, as early as, you know, preclinical trials, to start to understand the medical need the unmet needs of our patient populations, you know, we start to think about it from a development, product development perspective, where we’re engaging clinical trial through phase one and phase two. And this informs, you know, our patient reported outcomes, what is going to be our primary and secondary endpoint and it aligns to the medical community’s needs and our patient’s needs from a health outcome perspective.
Garth Sundem 11:44
Kim Platten 11:45
If I could just add on to that a little bit. You know, one of the trends I really think is, is here to stay. And it certainly was contributed to, because of COVID, you know, COVID, and the pandemic, there’s less feet on the street, there’s less time with the practitioners. And so, you really do need to pivot and see how else can you get to these practitioners. So, by understanding the networks, you can expand your capacity to teach these, these HCPs they can help you advocate for your brand. And really, like Jen was mentioning, help them understand what the unmet need is, what the safety and benefit and efficacy is of the of the therapy, you know, the field forces are getting smaller. And like I said, FaceTime with the HCPs in person, and virtually is less than ever before. So, you need to find ways to create contagion. And to create contagion, you need to get to these leaders that have very, you know, large networks, and can really make a difference in your launch and even beyond into commercialization, as you’re even defending, maybe, your product as new therapies come out.
Garth Sundem 13:09
Oh, that’s such an interesting idea of contagion. And I know that there’s what a negative connotation to that. But I know what you mean, where you want your opinion to spread through groups, like a contagion might, oh, I would love to look at the modeling on that. That’s so interesting. Well, and I can imagine also, Jen, you’re talking about? So, we’re talking about across the lifecycle, the launch, I think we have fairly well nailed down, it’s interesting to think about after launch, where you might be defending your molecules or whatever. And it’s interesting to look at very early in the lifecycle, potentially, that’s an opportunity for relationship building that you’re then going to leverage once you get towards, towards launch. (Kim: Absolutely). Okay. So how do you create so these connections between these thought leader networks, we talked about how to find these hidden thought leaders. We talked a little bit about when to engage these thought leaders. But how do you create these connections between MSL teams and these thought leader networks?
Jen Millard 14:15
That’s a great question, right? One that is incredibly challenging, as Kim mentioned, fewer actual resources are able to connect. You’ve got 15 to 20 minutes, maybe during a virtual screen-to-screen interaction. And so, I do think it’s that that important, how, what do I say in those 15 to 20 minutes? And, more importantly, how do I assess what my thought leader is asking for? What do they need? I mean, it’s interesting with MSL interactions, as opposed to sort of promotional or sales teams. We’re really guided by what the healthcare provider wants, we can go as broad and as deep as the conversation, you know, lends itself to where could be not, and that interaction, you know, in order to, to really build that relationship and really guide the conversation, you have to have trust, you have to have respect. And that comes from that, you know, unbiased medical information and really understanding patient need. And you mentioned too, Garth, you know, we talked about pre-launch and maybe defending, I think it’s also important to recognize that our MSLs with that trust and respect, bring back the idea of what’s next, right, and maybe there’s additional clinical information, additional studies that need to be done, that we can then disseminate as that information comes out, because we know that our doctors, our thought leaders, were asking for it. Alright, if there’s a lot of questions that are rising, and we see this a lot with the pandemic, a lot of questions around interactions, what does it mean for my patient population. And so, all of that can come back to the Medical Affairs team to R&D to further develop the clinical story around the product.
Garth Sundem 16:13
It’s so interesting, we’re talking about such a technical landscape, you know, we’re talking about finding these networks and creating contagion that flows through networks. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about trust and relationship building, and you know, how to give HCPs the ability to treat their patients in a more successful way. So, I one thing that caught me, my eye with IQVIA that I wanted to make sure we touched on, because I don’t know what it is. And I’d like to hear more about it is dynamic deployment. So, Kim, can you tell me what in the world is dynamic deployment?
Kim Platten 16:50
Yeah, it’s, we want to talk about dynamic and, and being proactive. And, and really what I think about, especially with field Medical Affairs teams, is how do you appropriately disseminate the information that you have on your scientific narrative in order to meet healthcare providers preferences and needs? And how do you do it with the right number of people? And how do you decide when something needs to be digital, when it’s a phone call, when it’s face-to-face, when it’s screen-to-screen, and across the lifecycle, the therapy area, the clinical information that’s being developed, right, there are levers that you can pull to scale up and scale down, in order to really dynamically right in relationship to the market and the market events, you can disseminate those resources at the right time with the right content to the right person.
Garth Sundem 17:53
And you talked about how the gaps are not the same for every HCP across the country with every patient population. So dynamic deployment also sounds like individualized deployment. Kim, I, you know what other data tech’s school services do you see on the horizon?
Kim Platten 18:13
Yeah, well, you know, we talked about you know, how you can actually get to these networks and communities and something else that you can also layer on you know, IQVIA has a wealth of data that’s unparalleled and we can actually layer in let’s say, like, no see, see doctors that’s a big deal. Like how do you get to them now, you know, there’s some doctors that are nosy doctors, so like, utilizing different channels like omni channel to get to them is really important. And we can layer that on to our studies. So, we can conduct specific studies for brands and marketing to identify the scientific peer and advice leaders, as well as the social and digital leaders. We can deliver this information we have met expert platform that helps our team the brand teams segment these practitioners so that they really know who to go after for what activities it’s kind of like a playbook for the MSLs to activate their dynamic deployment. You know, it’s very closely knitted together. And when you, when you’re able to really have a great playbook to come off of and then activate a team that is armed with amazing information on the therapy on the mechanism of action on the scientific narrative, but also on the practitioner. That’s how you gain that trust and advisement that we talked about earlier.
Jen Millard 19:43
I want to, sorry, Garth. I just wanted to add to that really quickly in terms of, you know, we talked about real world data and real-world evidence, but really utilizing that information to inform in addition to bringing field insights back about preferences and needs, there’s the ability to understand the communities from a secondary data aspect to really inform the approach as well.
Garth Sundem 20:11
Well, I think it’s so neat to have these two perspectives, Kim on the discovering the thought leader networks and equipping MSL teams to go out and dynamically deploy, and Jen on the side of taking the handoff of that, what equipment package and doing this dynamic deployment. So, thank you both for joining us today. To learn more about how your organization can partner with IQVIA to discover and engage hidden thought leaders visit IQVIA.com that’s IQVIA.com. MAPS members, don’t forget to subscribe. And we hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”
602 Park Point Drive, Suite 225, Golden, CO 80401 – +1 303.495.2073
© 2023 Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS). All Rights Reserved Worldwide.