Key opinion leaders (KOLs) have a profound impact on the business world. Sadly, many brands overlook them and a key piece of their market intelligence puzzle for some reason. With respect to their market shifting abilities, we’ll take a look at KOLs in the healthcare industry. In doing so we’ll explore:

  • A quick healthcare industry overview.
  • The impact KOLs have on the healthcare industry.
  • How to harness the power of KOLs and move forward.

And here are a few stats around the healthcare industry to keep in mind as we go:

  • In 2018, the global healthcare industry was valued at $8.45 trillion and could top $10 trillion by 2022.
  • Healthcare’s percentage of GDP in the U.S. has grown from 5% in 1960 to 2% in 2018.
  • The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) market in the healthcare industry is forecast to hit $136 billion by 2021.

There’s a lot going on in the healthcare industry, so let’s dive in for a brief overview.

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Healthcare Industry Overview

As kicked off a new decade in January, the forecasts and trending topics surrounding the healthcare industry largely pointed at the increasing integration of technology into the space.

Artificial intelligence tools, cloud computing data solutions, digital outpatient care and data security for patients were some of the hot topics on the menu of trends to monitor.

healthcare market tech focus

But the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that – but not in ways you’d expect. It has placed gargantuan strains on the industry and revealed shortcomings in supply chain and delivery of PPE and ventilators. And obviously, the need for a vaccine is on the top of the list for short term needs.

But today, if anything, the healthcare industry’s hunger for all things tech has only intensified since the beginning of the year. Below, you can see the healthcare technology trends cluster, taking up 7.9% of our healthcare industry analysis.

healthcare tech trends cluster

Technology and online strategies have seen strong growth throughout the pandemic and those trends will likely continue for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has proven how effective our technology can be, if properly applied. So now, the challenge is applying it! And in the healthcare industry itself, trends and consumer sentiment are increasingly moving with the news cycle through the words and actions of the key opinion leaders who have become household names.

Several top KOLs that are exerting influence in the healthcare space include:  Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Nadine Dorries, the UK Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent for CNN and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

As we’ll see, key opinion leaders can carry a lot of sway in their industries and its super important for brands to be watching for the spikes in conversation.

KOL Healthcare Industry Impact 

One of the most visible examples of a KOL’s market impact can be seen in the ongoing mask conversation in the U.S. In mid-to-late March, as the virus began to spread around the country, mask wearing was not advised as a precaution.

However, in early April Dr. Fauci reversed course in tandem with CDC guidelines and advocated for the wearing of cloth masks by the general public. That announcement, coupled with the known PPE shortage, moved markets to action. Before you knew it, everyone from Louis Vuitton to the smallest Etsy shop where making masks and other PPE items. And brands got a lot of consumer love for it.

Etsy shops creating PPE 

And as consumer sentiment usually follows the news cycle, a key opinion leader’s actions, suggestions or endorsement carries the clout to move the needle on the conversation.

To give you an idea of the movement they can create in the online conversation, check out the graph below paying particular attention to the spike on July 28th.

KOL summary metrics conversation

That was simply caused when Dr. Fauci threw out a bad first pitch for the MLB season opener between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees. He was then put through the paces online for being spotted in the stands with his mask on his chin.

Fauci throwing out first pitch 

It had nothing to do with policy or innovation in the healthcare industry, but the point is brands need to closely monitor the key opinion leaders in their industry or they’ll miss the wild pitches in the conversation. They can definitely shape the narrative – even when they don’t intend to.

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Using the Power of KOLs to Move Forward

A brand’s market intelligence strategy is not complete without an ongoing analysis on KOLs making an impact in their relevant industries. It’s a key area to monitor in understanding the conversational fluctuations outside of consumer or competitor influence. Here’s a snapshot of our KOLs in the healthcare conversation.

KOL healthcare industry conversation

And it’s super important to watch these conversations move over time. As you can see here, Nadine Dorries’ contribution to the narrative has been sporadic over the last six months. But if her actions have impacts on your industry, then it’s critical to be monitoring for when she interjects into the conversation again. And mental health is certainly an important, recurring theme:

mental health KOL conversation

Since key opinion leaders have the means to shift not only consumer sentiment, but public policy as well, understanding the social mood surrounding their activity is also essential. Here’s a glimpse at how our healthcare KOLs have fared over the past six months.

KOL social mood healthcare conversation

As you can see, trust is the highest returned emotion in our analysis. However, the social mood looks a lot different when we take a look at how it has evolved over time.

social mood KOL healthcare conversation 2

That’s a big difference in perspective. It’s apparent from the timeline view that most of the trust returned in the analysis was from March and then suffered a swift decline; giving way to anticipation and disgust. And this is exactly why a brand must understand the sentiment around their KOLs.

They may be well received one moment, only for their initiatives to be met with disdain the next. This bit of insight is one of the key ingredients to competitive intelligence.

Having a firm grip on KOL impacts in your industry, along with consistent monitoring of their activity will help your brand navigate inevitable market shifts. It most certainly gives you a leg up on the competition. Key opinion leaders are like influencers on steroids and should be leveraged as such, particularly as they generate quite a bit of news coverage. Brands that underestimate the impact of their KOLs will always be playing catchup to those who’ve done their homework.

Go ahead and reach out and we’ll show you how to be on the cutting edge of KOL conversation in your category.

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