Introduction to Digital Opinion Leaders

Have you ever wondered what Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) can bring to enhance disease awareness & improve patient adherence? How will they fit into your omnichannel medico-marketing strategy? At drcom, we are convinced that well-trained DOLs can benefit to the whole healthcare ecosystem increasing patient awareness or upskilling the HCP community on new treatments. In this article, you will find some ground rules on the definition of DOLs and key benefits.

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Definition of a DOL

A healthcare Digital Opinion Leader is an influencer with a strong online presence, utilizes multiple digital channels (especially social media) and has a better influence & reach online versus traditional channels.

So what are some of the differences between a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) & a DOL?

  • KOLs focus on traditional media, usually limited to specific conferences & events.
  • DOLs exert influence online, reaching a broader audience instantly.

Note that both DOLs & KOLs can coexist, with some individuals being both. A KOL may intentionally build online influence, becoming a DOL. Furthermore, DOLs can be versatile to influence both HCPs & patients.

Benefits for Pharmaceuticals to Partner with DOLs

1) Online Co-operation
• DOLs collaborate online for presentations, symposiums & videos
• DOLs may have influence on peers

2) Rapid Knowledge Dissemination
• DOLs can assist in spreading disease awareness & medical knowledge quickly online whether it is for the public or amongst the HCP community with all of the necessary compliance required

3) Open Discussions
• DOLs can facilitate open discussions among HCPs, creating engagement.

4) Advice on Digital Campaigns
• DOLs can be sound advisors providing insights for targeting effective digital campaigns.
• DOLs content can align with your medical and marketing goals

5) Driving Engagement
• DOLs can bring the audience, but the campaign should be the driving force

At drcom, we foresee 4 potential roles of DOLs with specific functions. Note that they’re not mutually exclusive.

  • Moderators: Moderating online discussions – Usually friendly, good with technology & deeply involved with the community
  • Content Creators: Skilled at creating & co-creating content to reach your targeted audience & boost credibility.
  • Panelists: They help to gather insights from HCPs & patients, also providing advice on digital strategies.
  • Experts: They’ll be knowledgeable about certain topics – Also providing unique perspectives to bring fresh ideas.

Criteria to find the right DOLs

We suggest considering these 4 main criteria to find the right DOL for your goals. Note that there isn’t a fixed rule as it depends on your goals and pool of available DOLs.

  1. Activities (online activities, level of engagement & active participation)
  2. Reach among HCPs
  3. Trust & influence (followers growth & reposts provides tangible evidence of trust)
  4. Independence & unbiased voice (adds credibility to their opinions as they’re perceived as authentic)

Examples of influential DOLs

  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta (@drsanjaygupta): As a neurosurgeon, medical correspondent, and bestselling author, Dr. Gupta’s influence knows no bounds. His active presence on LinkedIn and Twitter serves as a platform for sharing insights on healthcare policy, medical breakthroughs, and public health initiatives, making him a trusted voice in the industry.
  • Dr. Emily Landon (@emilymichelelandon): Dr. Landon, an infectious disease specialist, rose to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic for her clear, science-driven communication. With a strong presence on Twitter and YouTube, she educates the public on pandemic-related topics, debunking myths and promoting evidence-based practices.
  • Dr. Mike Varshavski (@RealDoctorMike): With his charismatic presence and relatable content, Dr. Mike has become a household name in the healthcare space. His informative videos on YouTube and engaging posts on Instagram make complex medical topics accessible to the masses, earning him millions of followers and cementing his status as a Digital Opinion Leader.

Most of the DOLs mentioned are US-based, with a focus on the grand public given the legislation in the market and the widespread use of social media for healthcare related topics. There is still a huge potential to enhance digital skills among the HCP community in other parts of the globe such as in Europe and in Asia. Will you be the first few to lead this change?

In a nutshell, DOLs are increasingly important as part of your digital medico-marketing goals with a strong influence online. You’re 1 email away to transform your KOLs into DOLs.

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