by David Lee Scher, MD
Physician key opinion leaders (KOLs) have long been viewed as a valuable resource in the pharmaceutical industry. Digital pharma marketing currently is generally categorized as patient-focused or physician-focused. There should be a third and possibly even more effective strategy, that of targeting the patient-physician engagement team. Multichannel marketing will thus also include hybrid customer group marketing. Physician KOLs will blaze the trail laying the foundation for provider acceptance of shared decision-making. These new KOLs will not displace traditional ones but will compliment them. These KOLs will have respect by peers on a medical level and will be faces of patient advocacy. They will help physicians adopt the tools as well as work with digital technology tool clinical investigators. We present 5 fundamental reasons for the need for physician Digital KOLs:
1. The efficacy of mobile apps should be evaluated with clinical studies. This will be a new necessary focus of healthcare in the future, from both marketing and clinical outcome perspectives. Clinicians will always ask “Has it been shown to work?” Physician Digital KOLs are those who will present the supporting efficacy data.
2. Physicians are at the crossroads of all things medical and digital. The EHR is seen as the digital hub of healthcare today. At a future point in time this will no doubt shift to the patient portal. The patient portal will ideally become the gateway to connected health data. A patient-facing Digital tool will have maximal success of adoption and adherence if recommended by a physician. The clinical loop around the app (pertinent actionable data provided by the patient and hopefully generated treatment recommendations) will necessarily flow through the clinician via the EHR.
3 .KOLs provide the best insight into clinical and workflow problems addressed by digital tools. There is no more obvious an example of a potentially great digital tool that has not been well-received because of its difficulty in conforming to clinical work flow than the electronic health record. It was designed to address regulatory and reimbursement issues, not conform to the way care itself is delivered. Success of digital tools is dependent upon their insertion into the HCPs clinical workflow
4. It’s not about the product; it’s about the human experience. As noted above, success of digital tools ultimately hinge on the behavior of patients who must leave the office and consistently engage the tool. Patient’s must see it as a beneficial part of their health pathway. Suggesting a digital tool to the patient or caregiver conveys empathy by engaging the patient in new behaviors. KOLs can provide the support, encouragement, and clinical rationale for the adoption of these technologies to their HCP peers.
5. Patient engagement necessarily involves the physician. Patient engagement can best be defined as “actions individuals must take to obtain the greatest benefit of healthcare services available to them.” The best patient care includes shared decision-making by an engaged patient. The physician closes the loop and is a therefore a critical component of the patient engagement tool. Physician Digital KOLs are experts on the role digital tools play in driving a high level of patient engagement.
We invite you to engage us to talk more about your digital clinician strategy, and how we can help you add value to the physician-patient digital engagement pathway.