Group of business professionals meeting in boardroom; KOL connections concept

Deeper KOL Connections: How Information Design Empowers Medical Affairs

The key opinion leaders (KOLs) you need to reach are busy people. Busy people who are already overwhelmed by the research and the ideas coming to them. Getting KOL connections to collaborate with you on your organization’s research means finding a way to cut through the noise.

This is where information design comes in. Information design is a sufficiently straightforward idea: package your information in such a way that it’s easier for audiences to parse.

Here is how medical affairs teams can leverage the tools and the concepts of information design to deepen their connections with KOLs.

Why Is Information Design Necessary in Medical Affairs?

First, the case for information design at all.

Each of us deals with information overload in our daily lives, at least on some level. In 2022, Charlotte Huff wrote for the American Psychological Association about the impact of information overload from the media — social feeds, TV news, etc. — in particular, and how psychologists help patients deal with those burdens.

“To help patients cope in a world where news is omnipresent, psychologists with media expertise advise practicing dietary media restriction and taking steps to better process and rightsize the news in their personal lives,” Huff wrote.

It’s fair to imagine KOLs do something similar when their inboxes start to overflow. They look for ways to rightsize inbound information until it feels manageable again.

At the moment, “manageable” can feel like an increasingly distant horizon. “Most KOLs are being slammed on all sides and channels by information and engagement from the pharmaceutical industry,” says Deepak Patil, Senior Director of Medical Strategy at Aktana.

“They are drowning under the deluge yet need it to stay on top of the latest medical science innovation. … Companies need to work harder than ever to break through the increasing level of noise and work effectively with KOLs.”

Information design helps make information manageable for those KOLs.

Group of doctors and healthcare professionals in lecture hall at hospital; KOL connections concept

When Research Goes Unseen, Patients Feel the Impact

It’s easy to connect the downstream effects of low KOL engagement.

We’ve cited research before that found more than four in 10 medical science liaisons say their top challenge is simply getting a KOL to respond to an email.

In aggregate, this means lots of good research goes unnoticed, and innovation stalls. Research from the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Research suggests as many as 40 percent of patients “don’t get treated using the best evidence.”

Even in the face of better evidence, though, standards of practice take time to change. “Even when we learn something doesn’t make us better, it’s hard to get the system to stop doing it,” writes Austin Frakt, Health Economist and Director of the Partnered Evidence-Based Policy Resource Center at the Boston VA Healthcare System.

“It takes years or even decades to reverse medical convention. Some practitioners cling to weak evidence of effectiveness even when strong evidence of lack of effectiveness exists.”

It’s a long journey from KOL outreach to point of care, but this first touchpoint is a crucial one for ensuring innovation makes it all the way to patients.

Group of doctors talking to pharmaceutical sales representative; KOL connections concept

4 Tips to Help KOLs See and Understand Your Research

Below are four things medical affairs teams can do to ensure their research cuts through the noise of information overload.

Connect Via Familiar Tools

Don’t make KOLs download new software or log into clunky interfaces just to connect with you. Use the tools everyone already knows for engagement.

In a recent roundtable discussion, hosted by the Medical Affairs Professional Society, participants agreed that connecting remotely with healthcare providers, in particular, is most comfortable via a tool like Teams or Zoom.

“Ease of use is still a challenge, and HCPs often don’t want to take the time to learn more complicated interactive tools for a single meeting,” said Joshua Ziel, Aerami Therapeutics COO and interim CEO.

Rightsized Information Is Often Bite-Sized

Next, think about your informational materials and whether it’s easy for someone without the full context to understand, at a glance, what you’re trying to say.

Often, slide decks are where this critical eye can be most beneficial. “[Y]our audience needs to be able to visually parse what’s important,” Wesley Portegies at Medcomms Experts writes.

“Using design to highlight key takeaways and call attention to the main concepts makes it easier for audiences to learn and retain information. When your slide deck looks like an encyclopedia entry, you lose the audience’s attention and decrease knowledge retention.”

Zoom Out for the Bigger Picture

Put your organization’s research in the larger context of patient care.

None of what you’ve researched happens in a vacuum, writes the team at frog, part of Capgemini Invent, and it’s helpful for KOLs to see how your ideas and your innovations fit into the larger continuum of care.

The frog team recommends using a service blueprint tool to visualize those touchpoints: “Think of it as a map that visualizes the realities and steps of service experiences from multiple perspectives, including both digital and physical touchpoints and processes. When visualized, the interactions and sequencing of service touchpoints can be seen across organizational silos.”

Give Them Opportunities to Collaborate and Co-Create

Your research and your data likely leave plenty of room for exploration and understanding. So, why not make it easy for KOLs to do that kind of exploration?

This is something the team at NEWDIGS, part of Tufts Medical Center, has done. NEWDIGS Director Gigi Hirsch spoke about this when she talked about how the NEWDIGS LEAPS project would help collaborators parse data and generate new hypotheses quickly.

“Wherever possible, data access and analytics will be embedded in workflow processes to enhance scalability and sustainability,” Hirsch said. “Dissemination of evidence will be optimized for timely delivery to decision makers at the point of care, and in meaningful ways for incorporation into processes by which policy and practice standards are updated for key stakeholder groups.”

Learn More

Anju’s TA Scan CRM offers an out-of-the-box solution for KOL management. Medical affairs professionals around the world use TA Scan CRM to plan calls, arrange in-person meetings, and optimize KOL relationships.

By embracing the principles of information design and having a structured system for managing interactions, medical affairs teams give themselves the best opportunity they can to connect with the key opinion leaders they need to reach and deepen those KOL connections.

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