How KOLs Help HCPs Connect with Consumers

The healthcare industry is vast, and so are the conversations happening online about the industry. Consumers from every corner of the world have lots to stay, in fact, and understanding those specific wants and needs starts with social listening, including listening to what key opinion leaders (KOLs) have to say.

The importance of market insights for brand strategy

But what are healthcare KOLs and how they can help you not only understand but connect with  your consumer better than ever? We’ll explore that in a moment, but first, here are some stats speaking to the importance of KOLs:

  • 74% of consumers say word-of-mouth is a key influencer to their purchase decisions – and key opinion leaders fit neatly into this word-of-mouth category.
  • 92% of people are more likely to trust a recommendation from a stranger over branded content online.
  • Key opinion leaders may only generate a small amount of content; however, those messages resonate with huge audiences and can impact revenue.

Additionally, healthcare KOLs can start a trend just by mentioning a specific topic that resonates with consumers. Locating them, knowing who they are and what they’re saying is critical to any company’s long-term success

Key Opinion Leaders and What They Do

KOLs unfortunately get lumped into the influencer category. And they are influencers, however unlike the influencers of TikTok and Instagram, this group cannot be bought. They are revered for their expertise in a field of study, and as such would find payment for their opinion offensive – not mention unnecessary, as they’re typically well off.

Think of Dr. Fauci, American physician-scientist and immunologist. If he advises anything about COVID or the vaccine, people perk up and listen. He is well respected, and his opinion is valued. Likewise, physician and entrepreneur Michelle Longmire is much the same, as she has set her sights on transforming human health through advanced technologies:

The point is whether it’s Fauci, Longmire or even Chief Medical Microsoft scientist and researcher, Junaid Bajwa, knowing what healthcare KOLs have to say is extremely beneficial.

For HCPs, understanding a KOLs’ talking points is pivotal when it comes to consumer/patient relations. They have your audience’s ear already, after all. Consider them a patient-centric solution to issues concerning consumer connections. This is something Cerner Envizia understands well. This savvy company uses the combination of intelligence and KOLs to improve daily health for all people globally. They recognize that to fully grasp the healthcare landscape, locating a KOL to interact with will help them understand the needs of a therapy area, for instance. And this, in turn, allows them to help their clients more effectively.

By locating adjacencies to speak to, when possible, or reframe narratives to align with – healthcare providers can capture the attention of their patients. It’s also helpful when trying to explain a point-of-view in a way that makes sense to the listener.

And your first step in finding a KOL relates to that tactic–identifying what the conversations are, right now, within the healthcare space.

Identifying Pertinent Conversations and KOLs within Healthcare

Without knowing what the conversation is in the first place, you can’t hope to locate the right key opinion leader. Many assume they understand the hot topics of the day, and many will have a good idea of them, but there are always surprises and gaps in assumed understanding. To truly check the industry’s temperature, you want to uncover the most highly engaged content for each audience you hope to reach. With healthcare, the discussion is quite immense, and so we will be focusing on one aspect of it here – dental care.

Below is a three-month conversation surrounding dental care. There are many ways to slice this social listening pie, and here we’ve highlighted outlier clusters. Why are they outliers? Because these represent trending conversations that have high engagement counts, but low published rates. Locating these pools of social posts and opinions could be critical to understanding what may be on the horizon for you in healthcare, and where you need to connect. Pulling back the curtain reveals conversations and news pieces on dental access globally:


This has been a huge topic, as for many people, dental care is out of reach – which could explain some of the high engagement. Digging deeper we can look to see who is being mentioned. These healthcare KOLs may be saying something that consumers relate to or want. The bar chart below highlights primary people winning top mentions within the outlier clusters:


Bob Fantana is the most mentioned KOL here––and for good reason. He is founder and CEO of Aspen Dental, whose goal is to “break down barriers to care and put patients at the center of everything, creating more choice, greater value and better access to care.” This is someone who seems to be speaking to the topics on a lot of consumers’ minds. This can help HCPs understand their consumers better and begin to provide offerings that are attainable for their patients.

Another great example of this is Yele Aluko, Chief Medical Officer and Managing Director of EY Americas. He is known for his empathetic manner as well as his team building, accountability, mentorship, and innovation. The point? Healthcare KOLs are key to unlocking the doors in healthcare communication with consumers craving authenticity in an overly promotional and increasingly digital and detaached world.

Utilizing KOLs to Connect

As we’ve seen, healthcare KOLs may not be just doctors. In fact, they could be hospital executives, health system directors, researchers like Dr Tedros Adhonom Ghebrevesus, patient advocacy group members and more.

There are many ways in which these healthcare heroes may have distinguished themselves. Perhaps they’ve held a position as a board member within an esteemed organization. They may have been a speaker at a national event or published their research in a well-known medical publication. Maybe they discovered a new treatment.

Regardless of why, the fact remains – when these KOLs talk, your target consumers listen. And their opinions can generate awareness about new drugs, devices, or treatments. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies may consult with a KOL when it comes to development and testing. And that’s because they can provide unique insights, such as product improvement or even market messaging. And winning a KOL over early based on the merits of your offering is worth its weight in gold, as they’ll share their impressions with their vast online audiences.

By leveraging the relationship with a key opinion leader, companies can find favor with their patients and with other factions in the healthcare system. They are a pivotal tool for any part of healthcare when it comes to connecting with consumers on every level – from product innovation to bridging the gap between doctors and patients. But to harness this power, you need the right tools to identify the conversation in your space and then locate the KOLs that everyone is listening to or talking about.

If your social media analytics game is feeling a little under the weather and you’re ready for market intelligence that provides your healthcare ventures with a treatment it can count on, we have the right medicine––reach out for a demo!

The importance of market insights for brand strategy

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