Monday, August 27, 2012

You Too Can Be a KOL

As in the previous post, I'm grateful to our friends at Health Care Renewal blog for this pair of items.

I have, more times than I wish to count, mentioned the infamous KOL--the Key Opinion Leader, a.k.a.Shill, the doc who engages in marketing for the drug firm and reaps rewards in the form of speakers fees, consulting contracts, involvement in seeding trials, and the like.

So--how do you get to be a KOL?

The first post in order of appearance is by Franz Wiesbauer on a blog called MedCrunch, which describes itself as, "A new kind of online magazine covering health, medicine, entrepreneurship and technology all centered around new trends and the challenge of being a physician."

In a post dated January 14, 2011, Wiesbauer discussed "Pharma Marketing 101":

Wiesbauer first reassures the readre that everything he says is strictly on the up-and-up: "While certain physicians have taken advantage of these unethical matters, many of our peers have skillfully used their liaisons to the pharmaceutical industry for the advancement of their careers in an entirely ethical way, and you can do the same." Nobody here except us highly ethical physicians, boss.

The post then goes on to explain what makes a KOL--first, writing a lot of prescriptions so the company wants you on their side; and second, having influence over your peers. Wiesbauer helpfully concludes, "So, to sum up, pharma can provide you with a platform to increase your network, enhance your visibility and strengthen your personal brand. As a physician, you are THE critical component to pharma’s marketing and sales outlets. Know your value and use your influence wisely. It entirely depends on you if you are the ball or the player in the pharma marketing game."

Funny thing--when I took the physician's oath upon graduating from medical school, I have no recollection of any mention of my "personal brand" as a key aspect of my career in medicine.

Now fast forward to August 21, 2012, and to Dr. Lukas Zinnagl writing on a different blog, Dr. Zinnagl, we learn, is co-founder of MedCrunch, and he references the earlier post by Wiesbauer in this entry, which adds a new wrinkle--social media:

The earlier post said that if you want to sell yourself to Pharma as a KOL, you need influence. This new post explains how you can get influence virtually overnight if you're a savvy blogger or Facebooker or Tweeter, or whatever today's new thing is. But don't expect that to last long because whatever niche you now fill in the social media world, expect to be jostled by a horde of other docs tomorrow as they move into your turf. So I guess the lesson is, get it while you can. Or as Dr. Zinnagl summarizes: "If you’re one of the physicians who understand and master Twitter & Co, you’re well on your way to establishing your personal brand. But be aware that this advantage will become smaller and smaller as more and more physicians catch the social media train."

Funny--there's that "personal brand" thing again. I really must have a talk with the curriculum committee here at the med school and ask why we don't have a course or clinical clerkship in personal branding. Sounds much more important than anatomy or neurology. Or ethics or professionalism.


Kelly said...

Given that doctors are receiving more training about running a business (which makes sense) than ethics (does not make sense), this push towards "your brand" isn't terribly surprising.

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