Understanding Which KOLs are Key for You

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) play an essential role in clinical trials and medical affairs. Most KOLs are respected medical experts in their field, known for their ability to converse thoughtfully on nuanced issues. They’re often involved in innovative research of their own, and thus provide informed opinions on others’ research and findings.


Keeping key opinion leaders engaged and organizing the information they provide is a must for clinical trial and medical affairs teams. The right digital platform can streamline this process, allowing teams to focus on building relationships and understanding their KOLs’ contributions.

Why Your KOL Choices Matter

Key opinion leaders play an important role in the clinical trial and medical affairs realm. They help contextualize findings, encourage adoption of promising new medications and devices, and provide an important foundation of trust. KOLs can also provide follow-up on the development and use of various therapies and treatments.

Distinguishing among KOLs, digital opinion leaders (DOLs) and influencers is important. While all three play a role in contextualizing and sharing information with the public, influencers take a more general approach, while opinion leaders tend to be specialists in the topic of discussion. And although DOLs can appear to have a broader reach due to their online presence, this reach can come at the cost of depth and nuance. To make the right choices, teams need the right information.

How you build a relationship with a key opinion leader matters as well. Mutual exchanges of value, clear communication, and timely integration of the opinion leader with the clinical trial and medical affairs process are all essential, writes Kunal Sampat, clinical operations director at medical device company Ceribell and host of the Clinical Trial Podcast.

The easier it is to organize and streamline communications with KOLs, the more time and energy medical affairs teams have to focus on the conversation and the science.

Organizing Your KOLs and Their Contributions

Today, there are more options than ever for identifying KOLs and mapping their relationships with one another. Yet having access to more data is only one step in finding the best KOL for your situation.

As Medical Affairs Professional Society Director and Membership Committee Chair Robin Winter-Sperry, M.D. notes, “data are useless unless the appropriate filters and analytics are applied.”

Sorting through data is essential. A 2022 study by Marie Clinckemaillie and fellow researchers found that key opinion leaders tend to have more complex financial connections than similar experts who don’t contribute as KOLs. Similarly complex relationships among KOLs can exist in other contexts as well, such as research or teaching partnerships.

A tool like TA Scan Essential makes it easy for teams to gain insights from KOL-related data. It integrates data from a number of sources to provide deeper insights into potential KOLs, including their work and their connections. By examining otherwise-disconnected data sources in concert with one another, advanced KOL identification tools like TA Scan Essential spot connections that might otherwise go unnoticed. These connections can provide a better understanding of key opinion leaders and their potential contributions to the work of clinical trial and medical affairs teams.

In the past, KOLs were identified through complex networks of human relationships. While these connections had and still have value, they were not able on their own to manage vast quantities of data. TA Scan Essential and similar tools enhance these relationships by providing data-based insights and visualizations to help KOLs and teams make better partnership decisions.

Teams with the right tools to make sense of these connections gain insights into KOL contributions and opinions that can enrich the relationship and provide better information.

Watch our video below to learn more on KOL data solutions for Medical Affairs teams:

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