Healthcare workers with tablet meeting in hospital boardroom; KOL relationships concept

The Future of Medical Affairs: How Data-Driven Strategies Are Shaping KOL Relationships

Identifying, engaging, and managing key opinion leader (KOL) relationships plays a significant role in the work of Medical Affairs professionals. Data-driven approaches can help Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) manage the significant amount of information available, including the information in publications and presentations by KOLs.

With real-time data access and analytics, MA teams can identify the most influential KOLs on a particular topic, engage with these KOLs effectively, and maintain and deepen KOL relationships over time.

KOLs and the Abundance of Data

Because key opinion leaders participate in the publication, presentation, and dissemination of scientific information, they leave footprints in the vast sands of available data — footprints that can be tracked.

Just a few decades ago, tracking KOL output through examining scientific journals’ tables of contents or reviewing conference programs may have been sufficient. Today, however, information overload affects Medical Affairs teams along with everyone else in the communication sphere, write Miriam Arnold, Mascha Goldschmitt, and Thomas Rigotti in a 2023 article in Frontiers in Psychology.

Not only are Medical Affairs teams awash in data, they also have work to do with that information. In addition to capturing more information, MSLs must identify the right experts and disseminate that data appropriately.

KOLs, healthcare providers (HCPs), and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in data access as well. “Many health care stakeholders are looking for a more thorough analysis of clinical-trial results, real-world data, and additional patient endpoints and outcomes to help them understand the value of therapeutics throughout their lifecycle,” write Kurt Conger and Ming Shen, Managing Directors at Deloitte. MSLs that have access to data-driven insights can share this information readily in KOL conversations, building trusted relationships.

The world is awash in data. With technological solutions that identify essential data points, analyze them, and provide actionable insights, MSLs can have more effective and meaningful conversations with KOLs.

Training class for healthcare workers and business people in conference hall; KOL relationships concept 

Using Data to Shape KOL Relationships

“Medical affairs can up its game in defining strategies that will truly impact patient outcomes at scale over the next three to five years,” and one way to do that is to use available data to advance evidence-based practices, write Jeffrey Algazy and fellow authors at McKinsey.

One focus area ripe for exploration is building KOL relationships. For example, access to publicly-available data can help MSLs build and shape KOL relationships by:

  • Accessing information from publications and presentations to pinpoint KOLs working on the same questions or with the same methodology as that used in a target study or treatment.
  • Map KOL relationships through shared publication credentials, co-presentations, and other professional connections.
  • Identify areas of concern for KOLs, HCPs, and other stakeholders to address potential questions and challenges.

Access to essential data can also help MSLs keep the conversations going. Due to their position as experts in their respective niches, KOLs frequently raise questions or objections during discussions about scientific topics. MSLs equipped with the data to go beyond surface-level conversations can foster stronger understandings and relationships.

“Objection handling represents an opportunity to strengthen relationships, establish credibility, and be a resource to help solve problems, provide additional information to further educate on key topics, and deepen understanding,” write Larry Dollar and Cherie Hyder in The MSL. With insights from existing publications and presentations readily available, MSLs can have deeper conversations — improving understanding and deepening relationships.

Three doctors look at laptop, reviewing data; KOL relationships concept 

Data-Forward Solutions for KOL Relationship Management

Gathering data about KOLs and even analyzing it for actionable insights, however, does little if MSLs lack access to a simple, user-friendly workflow that allows them to take the available analysis and use it to build stronger KOL relationships, writes Jessica Wong in The Journal of the Medical Science Liaison Society.

The right data solution supports MA teams’ workflow needs when it comes to building KOL relationships. Tools like Anju’s TA Scan CRM can support these data-driven strategies by providing Medical Affairs professionals with up-to-date KOL information and analytics for real-time strategy evaluation.

TA Scan CRM offers an out-of-the-box, repeatable framework that supports both online and “off-line” data access, allowing MSLs to plan effectively for KOL conversations, both remotely and in person.

MSLs can benefit further by pairing TA Scan CRM with TA Scan‘s KOL database. This public KOL data provides insight into KOLs’ professional activities, while TA Scan CRM provides in-house engagement information. Together, they offer a true 360-degree view of a KOL’s activities and influence.

TA Scan CRM supports Medical Affairs’ efforts to build stronger KOL relationships by:

  • Providing real-time, current KOL information based on access to deep data sources, including publicly-available publication and conference presentation information.
  • Allowing MA teams to capture interaction information, including medical information requests and other key topics raised during conversations with KOLs.
  • Complying with regulatory requirements and other essential guidelines for Medical Affairs.
  • Managing events, programs, and speakers, as well as collaborative social engagement.

To facilitate MSLs’ efforts, TA Scan CRM offers an intuitive user interface, complete audit trail capturing, extensive reporting capabilities, and the ability to access information both online and off through mobile devices.

In their predictions for Medical Affairs between now and 2030, McKinsey’s Algazy and fellow authors note that embracing data-driven decision-making is a must for nearly every Medical Affairs function in the coming decade.

“Looking forward, medical affairs can lead an integrated process that uses data and insights to identify the evidence needs of patients, healthcare providers, payers, regulators, and other stakeholders and select the best evidence tool to deliver them,” write Algazy et al. Using data to manage and drive KOL relationship-building is a fruitful place to start.

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Authored by Steven Anzuini, Senior Solutions Engineer

Steven Anzuini, a seasoned Senior Solutions Engineer at Anju, brings over a decade of experience in the life sciences software industry, with seven years dedicated to Anju after its acquisition of OpenQ in 2017. With a BS in Communication from James Madison University, Steven draws inspiration from industry leaders like Jim Zuffiletti and actively engages with associations like ISMPP to stay updated on industry trends. Connect with Steven on LinkedIn to explore his achievements and insights further.

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