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Is there an ROI on KOLs?

Can you measure return on investment (ROI) from compliant, patient-centred skills training for key opinion leaders?

Excel Nic HallettPatients, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies all want effective diagnosis and management of disease, and key opinion leaders (KOLs) play an important role in this.

They are at the leading-edge of disease management and each is driven to not only deliver the best possible care for their patients but also to inform, educate and inspire their peers to do the same.

Why develop KOLs?
It is easy to assume that best-in-class disease management will naturally be adopted by eager, open-minded peers. But the reality is that we are all vested in maintaining the status quo. Current practice may not be perfect but we are creatures of habit, confident in what we are doing.

So KOLs have a challenging job; more than just presenting data they have to inspire confidence, motivate change and educate their peers. This requires exceptional communication skills which few are born with. Most need to learn these skills and this level of sophisticated training is not usually available on the health service.

The pharmaceutical industry has always invested in people. By sponsoring its training partners to work with KOLs, the same level of skill development can be made available to the healthcare professionals whose knowledge and commitment can directly increase the quality and longevity of their patients' lives.

Why measure ROI?
Historically KOL development programmes have been offered without quantitative proof that they were creating more effective opinion leaders. Even in the data-driven, double-blind, placebo-controlled world of clinical decision-making, training was widely prescribed with no primary end points or measurements in mind.

But now that budgets and time are increasingly scarce it is more critical than ever to design, deliver and measure the impact of KOL development programmes.

What to measure
As with any clinical trial you need to understand what you want to achieve before  you can determine what to measure: skills, knowledge or behaviours?

We expect a doctor to know about our condition (knowledge) and well as diagnose and treat us (skill). However the most important consideration for a patient is what they do... their behaviours. It is only when a doctor's knowledge and skills are put into action that the patient benefits, and so it is with communication skills.

If you are investing time and budget in KOL development you want to be measuring the impact of training on actual behaviours.

KOLs have to inspire confidence, motivate change and educate their peers

Which behaviours to measure?
Presenting clinical data and chairing meetings requires different skill sets. The best chair-people are always good presenters, but great presenters aren't necessarily effective facilitators.

Presenters broadcast one-way communication and most want to be perceived as confident, knowledgeable and professional. Presenters with these qualities demonstrate common behaviours: 

  • How they stand and gesture
  • How they use eye contact and facial expressions 
  • How they use their voice, words and visual aids.

Effective chairmanship requires two-way communication. Audience participation is essential and must be managed to a point of consensus. Excellent chair-people again demonstrate consistent behaviours, how they:

  • Create an environment of inclusivity
  • Encourage balanced contributions
  • Build consensus and commitment
  • Positively manage conflict.

How to measure behaviours?
The challenge is to evaluate behaviours and capture the information, allowing comparisons to be made between KOLs, as well as over time. Subjective measurement is quick and simple but tends to be very generalised and fails to take into account the perspective and insight of the observer.

Objective measurement using tools such as Excel's Evaluate avoid these problems. It defines at least ten precise behaviours which are then numerically assessed on a frequency/quality scale. The more specifically the behaviours are defined, the less subjective the measurement becomes.

Gains and consequences
Objective measurement means that KOLs can determine their strengths and pinpoint specific development needs that are targeted for training. Measuring the same KOL before and after training gives you a percentage shift in their behaviours and a measure of return on investment. 

Once ROI is calculated you can finally assess:

  • Which KOLs/roles/therapy areas are most receptive to training
  • Which training interventions are the most cost-effective
  • Which trainers or training companies get the best results.

And how to invest your marketing budget and time to best support your customers, their patients and your brand.

Without measurement you might be lucky, but with no way to prove this you are at the mercy of the classic marketing quote 'half of the budget is wasted, the problem is we don't know which half'.

Excel Evaluate is an online tool that empowers organisations to easily and cost-effectively measure the behavioural impact of their internal training or the expert training provided by the Excel Communications group of companies - visit

Nic Hallett is managing director of Excel Evaluate

In association with Excel Evaluate

28th September 2016

From: Marketing



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