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The Evolving Roles and Responsibilities of Digital Opinion Leaders

In the past, patients entrusted their healthcare providers to provide information about health-related matters. With the rise of digital healthcare communications, this trend has shifted dramatically. Today, patients can readily access an abundance of digital healthcare data right at home, no longer relying solely on their doctor for advice to help inform healthcare decisions. However, patients are at risk of receiving data that has not been validated by the healthcare community, which can lead to misinformed—or worse—misdiagnosed patients.

Sifting through today’s medical information

While immersed in the rapid pace of current medical practices, clinicians are also inundated with huge amounts of information, and often lack the time in their busy schedules to process these data. To maintain quality in medical practice and apply new and emerging therapeutics, medical education must meet clinicians in ways that are both timely and engaging.

Today’s medical education disseminated through social media platforms helps meet the ongoing educational needs of clinicians. Social media enables clinicians to access personalized, succinct healthcare content on demand. However, this same ease of access to medical information on social media also subjects clinicians to medical misinformation, where the sensationalism of a sound bite rather than the content itself drives social engagement. Clinicians must be vigilant against falling victim to misinformation online, by carefully analyzing healthcare data and seeking information from trusted sources.

Knowing who to trust with medical information

In the analysis of healthcare information for patients and clinicians alike, Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) emerge as crucial sources of responsible data. Curating and supporting truth in medical science, DOLs possess a deep drive to connect with other HCPs to share information, knowledge, and perspectives on the newest data and treatment practices and know how to do this best on social platforms. This trusted expertise combined with digital presence means they have a tangible influence in the discussions taking place among various medical communities online.

It is crucial for Medical Affairs to also play a role in these efforts, by identifying DOLs who promote validated data that can help improve patient outcomes. Researching and selecting potential DOLs objectively based on scientific credibility, influence, and leadership within a focused disease state/treatment area, along with a custom engagement plan tailored to the unique strengths of a DOL can lead to a strong and lasting partnership. DOLs help support Medical Affairs by fostering organic connections through social media with niche audiences, participating within closed HCP platforms like SERMO for authentic and clinically validated peer discussions, and by acting as advisors to provide input on digital or social content development.

Building a Med Affairs strategy for tomorrow’s healthcare needs

Understanding the availability and potential of new therapies and the subtleties of the optimal application to patient subgroups, while ensuring physicians and patients receive clinically validated information, is a monumental task. But by leveraging DOLs to correctly interpret, contextualize, and provide guidance on healthcare information, Medical Affairs organizations can take an active role against the spread of misinformation, ultimately supporting positive patient care and outcomes.

Our unique offerings are designed specifically for Medical Affairs organizations, meeting your specific objectives with a customized DOL identification and engagement plan. Let’s connect.

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