Over the past decade, Snowfish has provided life science companies with a range of strategic services designed to maximize the efficacy of commercial operations. In this blog posting we discuss the interrelationship between the key opinion leader (KOL), medical science liaison (MSL) role, and KOL identification and mapping.
Over the years we at Snowfish have noted the importance of KOLs in the ultimate success of a brand. For example, we conducted research involving over 200 physicians, when asked specifically what influences their decision on which product to prescribe or use, after the clinical trial data, the second most important factor was the opinion of KOLs. Given that clinical trial data cannot be altered, KOLs and how they are identified, engaged, and managed is indeed the most important modifiable factor in successful commercial operations.
The day to day engagement of KOLs has traditionally been handled by the MSL. Snowfish was interested in understanding how KOLs view the MSL role. In order to gain greater insights we reached out to over 50 KOLs and gained their insights. Not surprising, they highly value the MSL role as compared to the sales role. In particular they regard the depth and knowledge a MSL is able to provide along with robustness of a free flowing discussion. In multiple cases they specifically voiced their preference for engaging with MSLs as compared to a traditional sales call.
Given the importance of KOLs and the importance they assign to the MSL role we wonder how many companies have fully explored the opportunity to maximize the efficacy of this important constituency.
Lending to the success of the KOL-MSL relationship is ensuring adequate time is allowed for meaningful relationship building. This comes in the form of effective territory development for MSLs. As part of our core offerings we conduct KOL identification and mapping for life sciences companies along with directly supporting MSL teams. We have noted a lack of efficacy when MSL regions are simply an outgrowth of sales territories. In the example below from a Snowfish client we were able to identify the top 250 KOLs for the product and then divide each territory based on four independent factors. The first factor was the top 250 prescribers located within an MSL region. The second factor is the grouping of physicians by common address and identifying the top 250 addresses. The third factor is the grouping of physicians by a common business name. Finally, we then place the top 250 KOLs into the predefined MSL territories based on the sales regions.
What becomes instantly apparent is that the sales regions are not a good method for drawing MSL regions. For example, Sue in the Mid Central region has only 1/6th the number of KOLs in her region as compared to Mike in New England. Given that most companies try to assign somewhere between 30 to 35 KOLs per MSL you can look at the various regions and see the misallocation of resources.
Granted the importance of KOLs which we’ve documented over the years, plus the value KOLs assign to the MSL, an integrated and data driven strategy is critical for maximizing the commercial opportunity. We welcome your comments and thoughts about this posting. We have also developed white papers on MSL training and KOL identification & mapping and will be happy to make them available.