Friday, January 7, 2011

Paying Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: KOL Handlers for Hire

Yes, I know, maybe this blog and Health Care Renewal should simply merge and be done with it. But I was quite impressed with Roy Poses' detective work:

Dr. Poses was checking out some facts related to another issue when he came across mention of a type of firm neither he nor I had previous heard of. He here posts his findings about three commercial outfits that cater to drug companies and similar firms, and offer their services to find and manage key opinion leaders (KOLs) in medicine.

Dr. Poses's main point is that these KOLs continue to imagine that the drug companies want their expertise and opinions, when in fact the companies regard them as marketing devices pure and simple. (Or, as in his polite phrase, "idiots.") The marketing stuff that the KOL handlers use on the drug companies to peddle their services try to sugar-coat it as much as they can, but it takes little sophistication to read between the lines and see that they are appealing purely to sales potential.

The implicit message in these marketing messages seem to be that you can view KOLs as either sheep or goats. Sheep are like, well, sheep. You herd them and then you shear them. The handling firms promise that they'll get you a whole lot of sheep, and herd them in the direction you want them to go. Goats, on the other hand, are pesky critters with much more of a mind of their own. They can be troublesome and get into things they're not supposed to. The handling firms promise that if you are dealing with the goat species of KOL, they'll help you to manage them so that they stay out of trouble.

The comment that I would add to this comes from HOOKED, where I belatedly learned that if you check out the website of a large medical meeting (in my case, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians, my own specialty society), you'll see that it is really two parallel websites. There is one for the docs and another for the advertisers and others who want to rent booths and sell their wares. The doc website is what you'd expect, all about the great things you'll learn, plus of course the fun you can have visiting the city where the meeting is held, especially if youbring your family. The advertiser website is another beast entirely. It basically says that we have this captive audience of docs, all of whom we can lead around by the nose at will, and if you rent a booth in our exhibit hall, we'll lead all those docs direct to your booth, and then your sales will skyrocket. Plus when those docs go home they'll tell all their envious colleagues, who did not get to go to our meeting, what they saw at your booth, and then your sales will skyrocket even more.

It seems simply to be assumed that the docs will never read the advertisers' parallel website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's because, clearly, doctors are sheep.