Thursday, July 25, 2013

61 percent of KOLs use diagnostic and reference mobile apps: implications in my interview with Med Ad News

Last month, I was interviewed by Med Ad News about a new study showing that key opinion leaders are far more digitally savvy.

Here are some highlights of the article:

The Kantar Media Sources & Interactions Study, March 2013 – Medical/Surgical Edition included key facts that pharma marketers and healthcare agencies need to know about key opinion leaders in order to refine digital marketing and advertising plans.

Key opinion leaders are more likely to use smartphones and tablets for professional purposes than all doctors surveyed. About 84 percent use their mobiles for work reasons. In addition, 57 percent reported that they use a tablet for personal and professional purposes.  When using their smartphones, key opinion leaders are more likely to use medical apps compared with all physicians. About 61 percent use diagnostic tool/clinical reference mobile apps and 49 percent use drug and coding reference apps.

Kantar Media collected the data in two waves for the study, which allows them to provide more up-to-date monitoring of rapidly changing media areas, including mobile, according to a company spokesperson. Although the core report continues to show data based on both the fall and spring data collection waves, the supplemental data are based on the spring wave only.

“The survey results help document what we’ve been experiencing over time, that leading physicians have higher utilization of smartphone apps, digital media, social networking, and email communications with patients,” says Mark Stinson, SVP, brand strategy, GSW.

According to the study, more than half of key opinion leaders use the Internet for professional purposes more than four times per day. On average, they use the Internet almost 14 times per week for work. About 55 percent of key opinion leaders say that their time spent on the Internet per use is between 1-15 minutes, while 20 percent say a session typically lasts between 16 and 30 minutes.

Regarding the insights derived from an agency perspective, Stinson tells Med Ad News, “I think the insight is further confirmation that the traditional term of KOLs describing key ‘opinion’ leaders is becoming obsolete. In the past, agencies might have viewed them as ivory tower, academic sources of medical thoughts. What the Kantar study underscores – and what we’ve found with brand experiences – is that a more active and desirable group of clinical leaders has emerged with more than just opinions. These new key practice influencers are using technology and digital media more in direct patient care, protocol development, clinical trial design, treatment guideline creation, and institutional practice procedures. With the application of digital media as described by the Kantar results, we can identify the shift from key opinion leaders to key practice influencers (KPIs), with far-reaching scope of expertise and decision-making effect.”

When it comes to the frequency of smartphone and medical app usage, Stinson says that GSW has seen other data to confirm that prescribing information is the most searched. “However, so many more innovative applications are quickly being integrated into practices,” he told Med Ad News. “What the Kantar survey suggests is that these influential physicians are poised for expanded smartphone use.  It’s another indicator that they aren’t just thought-leading, but actually practice-ready.”

It would be interesting to learn more from the survey, or from future research, if other characteristics common in influencers are at play in how much time key opinion leaders spend on the Internet, says Stinson. “These might include: colleagues in digital forums regularly seek them out for advice; they use blogs or other digital platforms to share insight from specialty conferences; and, they participate in more formulary or protocol review committees by virtual means.”

Key opinion leaders tend to use social networks for professional purposes more often than other physicians, as 39 percent use consumer social networks, 42 percent use professional social networks and 50 percent use medical association/society social networks. “At the heart of a brand strategist’s role is the ability to listen to what customers know, how they find information, and how they use it,” Stinson told Med Ad News. “The Kantar survey provides more evidence that physicians’ views in social media could provide a powerful qualitative research modality. Today, we can observe and learn from online communities by following the real-world conversations that take place on networks (LinkedIn, Facebook), forums (WebMD, PatientsLikeMe), bookmarking (StumbleUpon,, visual content communities (Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube), and micro-blogs (Twitter).  Most of all, we can construct a more complete picture of how these fit into a health care professional’s life and practice. We have to remember that these key practice influencers are often members of Clinical Advisory Committees (CACs). Most payers will consult with CAC members before rendering a decision on whether or not to cover a proposed treatment.  That extends the influence of a leading-edge physician who shares his or her experiences in social media.”

Key opinion leaders are multimedia journal readers with 57 percent reading both print and digital versions of current issues of medical journals, 86 percent read print editions, and 55 percent read full digital reproductions, meaning PDF or “flip view” versions.

“The Kantar results further encourage us to evaluate forums where an influential physician is posting or reading – or even where their patients with similar conditions may be interacting with the physician,” Stinson told Med Ad News.  “In this way, we can identify channels for community management, content planning, and media engagement.”

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