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Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Relationships With KOLs?

Your relationships with Key Opinion Leaders are critical; the insight and influence of thought leaders can ensure that your products reach practitioners and patients.

With that in mind, it’s important to be conscious of your organization’s management of its KOLS. How often do you contact your KOLs for feedback? What happens to that feedback next? Are you able to leverage it into proprietary knowledge and actionable insights? Your conduct towards KOLS needs to be determined by more than just intuition—when it comes to KOLs, you can’t just go with your gut (even when making friends with gastroenterologists)!

Applying systems to your KOL management can streamline and simplify your relationships through repeatable, results-driven cycles. Backed by hard data and aided by technologies to facilitate consistent communication, systematic management provides the information you need while fostering strong emotional connections. You can use this feedback to make informed decisions both internally and in external communications regarding your product or disease state.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose you’ve recently launched a product. Study data looks good, you have multiple entrants and you want to increase your market share. A technologically informed, systematic approach to KOL management can be an invaluable aid!

  • Once you’ve selected the right women and men for the task, keep communication consistent and easy for your experts with tools like the KOL Portal.
  • Gain consistent expert insight through Monthly Feedback Forums, ensuring that you make use of the unique perspective of your experts throughout production.
  • Invite your KOLs to a Virtual Advisory Board. Gather feedback, reduce hassle for your experts, and increase attendance without straining your budget.
  • Use discussion forums to give your KOLs a virtual platform for speech and argument.

Clear, consistent, and transparent communication is the key to effective KOL management, and a carefully thought out approach can help put you on that track. Ensure that your relationships with your KOLs is healthy and productive through systematic management!

Involving Multiple Stakeholders in Ad Boards

Originally posted by Jeremy Vannatta, Vice President of Business Development

Advisory Board meetings (ad boards) are generally held to collect feedback from experts external to the company paying for their informed advice and opinions. The overwhelming majority of ad boards involve asking MDs to a specific location at a specific time to both advise the company and share confirmatory or dissenting opinions on advice given by their peers.

Here I will build a case for why inclusion of multiple stakeholders throughout the healthcare system (MDs, PAs, RNs, NPs. PharmDs, Formulary Decision Makers, Managed Care Executives, Hospital Administrators, Patients, Caregivers, etc.) makes sense at a given ad board and why these ad boards can be moved online and held in a “virtual” setting.

 THE CASE FOR MULTIPLE STAKEHOLDERS AT AD BOARDS:

To be clear, not every ad board must, or even should, involve multiple stakeholders. The decision on who to involve is driven by the questions asked in the business case and the feedback desired.  However, asking the right questions is an acquired skill – and different, broader, and more probing questions might be asked if the company is not thinking of ad boards comprised of merely one type of stakeholder (KOL MDs, most often).  The model of including multiple stakeholders differs from the traditional model where KOL MDs are confirming company hypotheses and fail to uncover many novel ideas or pain points. Ask yourself in the last ad board you attended, how many truly novel ideas were developed and then implemented? What was their impact?  Probably less than you had wanted.

First, it must be understood that this is a more difficult exercise to execute because of different interests and incentives from each stakeholder. However, in order to overcome these different interests and incentives, stakeholders must be aligned, typically under the common goal of increasing patient outcomes.  This requires both a discussion and an understanding of each position that will be recruited to the ad board. This exercise alone can uncover understandings as it is uncommon to have any position dedicated to looking across constituents for broader solutions.

Second, the use of these different stakeholders is an inherently attractive idea as they provide:

  • Multiple perspectives which spawn multiple ideas on how to solve a problem and
  • Multiple insights into potential risks.
  • With multiple perspectives comes a better understanding of the entire ecosystem and the patient journey. New ideas, new perspectives, new partnerships, and new messaging to a broader audience can address newly discovered pain points that have unknowingly adversely affected adoption of a product or limited ideal patient outcomes

Third, multi-stakeholder advisors are typically looking for more than a one-off transaction, but rather an ongoing relationship. Consulting leads to engagements. Engagements lead to emotional connections, which are crucial and essential for productive two-way honest feedback that leads to insights and novel ideas.

THE CASE FOR VIRTUAL AD BOARDS

Many of the reasons that virtual ad boards make sense in this setting are the same reasons that virtual ad boards make sense for traditional KOL MD ad boards. However, there are other reasons to add to this list that are specific to the multiple stakeholder idea.

  • They are cost-effective. Who has a rapidly increasing budget?
  • They require less travel, less time, and less coordination from participants, sponsors, and vendors, thus increasing the number of attendees able to participate at shorter notice
  • There is little to no pressure from existing stakeholders to get together to see old friends and network as the attendees are usually new to one another, save a few familiar faces
  • They can be executed on shorter notice than live ad boards; thus, they can allow you to react quickly to unanticipated market events
  • There is less pressure internally from senior management to have “face-to-face” interactions with some of the more alternative stakeholders. By engaging them online you are not losing the opportunity cost of a face to face meeting.
  • Because everyone is on camera, you still get that face to face feeling that allows you to develop those emotional connections

So, who do I invite to these virtual ad boards with multiple stakeholders?

  • New contacts who have not attended previous ad boards, but with whom you have a relationship. These new contacts need to display a penchant for innovative thinking both in your conversations and in their past work histories coupled with an ability to work well with others.
  • Representatives from previous ad boards. People who display understanding, empathy and have a penchant for getting outside their box.

 Best Practices:

  • Define expectations for each participant’s participation, roles & responsibilities ahead of time
  • Formalize the agenda and each participant’s role on a slide and distribute it to the group prior to starting
  • Enroll an experienced moderator who knows the disease state, but more importantly, who knows how to engage each of the stakeholders”

Top 10 Reasons to Hold Virtual Advisory Board Meetings:

Originally posted by Jeremy Vannatta, Vice President of Business Development

So you need to engage your KOLs and need some feedback from them on some of your strategies, tactics and/or clinical trial design. You need an advisory board meeting. Getting ad boards off the ground is increasingly difficult with multiple meetings between you and your Office of Ethics and Compliance, Legal, Medical Affairs, Legal, etc. You answer their questions and jump through their hoops. The content may be a bit watered down, but it still makes sense to have the meeting.

Why consider a virtual ad board?

  1. KOL Rotation – You know who your KOLs are who want to travel to a live event and you know who your KOLs are who won’t. That group just won’t get out of their houses and come to a live ad board.  However, they will likely attend a well-planned and executed meeting for a couple of hours if they can do it from home.
  2. Wider KOL Reach – you are going to see those KOLs you need to see. A virtual ad board allows you to connect with some of your Tier 1 KOLs, but really allows you to reach those Tier 2 and Tier 3 KOLs who might speak up even more if in a room with true peers. A wider group of HCPs to engage with you translates to broader diversity of thought.  As your stable of advisors grows, consider what you could do with a series of regional ad boards where every advisor is from a similar geography.
  3. Technology – many specialties pride themselves on being up to speed with the cutting edge technology. At ExtendMed we know “technology” cuts both ways.  What could be great and simple for us, might be hard and confusing to someone else.  Before we ever allow an ad board to get kicked off, we make sure that every attendee is trained on how to set up their webcam, how to use it and how to look good!  We eliminate “technology” as an excuse.
  4. Ability to address global issues and regional issues – Since you are not flying anyone in, you are able to schedule one meeting time where everyone can make themselves available. Think about how you might get feedback using only regional KOLs followed by an ad board showing the same data to your global KOLs
  5. Novel Ad Board Design – What if you did a series of 5 virtual ad boards with different target audiences? You could execute a physician ad board, a managed care ad board, a nurse ad board, a patient ad board, and one ad board with two representatives of each. How cool would that be?  Everyone provides their feedback with their own group and we really see how this shakes out when we get everyone in the same room.
  6. Pre-Ad Board – How frustrating is it to prepare and ship materials then show up to an ad board and find few KOLs have completed their pre-reading assignment or homework? Consider holding a virtual ad board in advance of your next ad board.  Get your audience to help focus the agenda, advise on last minute issues or internal disagreements before your live meeting. Watch all participants’ non-verbal cues to get insights about dynamics between now and your live meeting!
  7. Augment and confirm learnings from live ad boards – Every opinion you get from an ad board needs to be vetted in some way. A pre-ad board virtual live meeting can work like qualitative research vs quantitative research. You need to be looking for inconsistencies and disagreements based on what job each participant holds. Use your executive summary and key takeaways from your live ad board to a virtual ad board and confirm or reject your hypothesis in a virtual ad board.
  8. Virtual ad boards can be the 4 P’s: Participatory, Proprietary, Proactive, and Professional – Ensure that your ad boards can meet these criteria, your faculty are well-trained and know they are visible to others, and your content is compelling.
  9. Cost – It is extremely expensive to hire a vendor to manage the travel and logistics – trips to and from the airport, flights, hotels, meals, etc. Virtual ad boards are typically 25-30% of the cost of a live ad board.
  10. KOLs – Items 1-9 are all benefits to the manufacturer. There are at least 10 more benefits to the KOLs attending.  Here are a few. It is more convenient to log on at night than to travel.  KOLs would mostly like to minimize the soft costs associated with ad boards but reported via Sunshine Act. It is an efficient use of time. There is a collegial atmosphere. They still get their honoraria. There is more time to craft a thoughtful response and post or speak when ready.