Input and support from experts within your target disease area are vital to the development and commercialization of new medical technologies. But it can be difficult, especially for new companies, to make connections with physician experts, or key opinion leaders (KOL), in health care. In May, Veeva, a provider of cloud and data solution, launched Veeva Link MedTech, which combines automation and human curation to provide in-depth data to help MedTech companies identify and engage with KOLs.
We spoke with Juliane Ray, Vice President of Commercial Strategy for Veeva MedTech, to learn more about the challenges the database is designed to address and how companies can find the right experts to support them throughout the product lifecycle.
What is Veeva Link MedTech?
Ray: Veeva Link Medtech is a database of more than 2 million experts in the MedTech space who are leading the science and the digital conversations. It’s not meant to be an entire reference database of all physicians; it’s really that top 20 to 30% who are the KOLs who are leading the science and the digital conversations.
It covers all relevant therapy areas for MedTech, and it’s a global platform, covering all geographies, all therapy areas and all types of experts from your core physicians who are performing a procedure all the way through the nurses, therapists and technologists who are supporting the procedure. The world is growing in complexity, especially in MedTech. Medical device and diagnostic companies are challenged to keep up with that growing and expanding stakeholder environment.
Why are KOLs important to Medtech developers?
Ray: In the medical field KOLs are the influencers. They are getting the word out in a very different way than social media influencers, through scientific journals and conferences, but they are very credible peers that the medical community follows. A single KOL can influence thousands of other HCPs. Finding the right KOL who believes in your product and provides relevant feedback to help inform your product development and strategy is critical for a MedTech company.
How do you select experts to include and how can companies use this database to connect with them?
Ray: We get the information based on who’s publishing, who’s speaking at conferences and who’s involved in clinical trials, and we curate the data. We have a team of 600 data curators who are manually validating the accuracy of the information in Link MedTech.
We have their names, where they are practicing, contact information, and social media feeds. But in addition, we have everything that they’ve published going back all the way in their history, a timeline of all of their publications and all of the clinical trials that they’ve been part of as well as their role in the clinical trial or publication, and associations they are part of as well as those they have been part of in the past.
You can also see payment information and industry collaborations, including Sunshine Act payments. If you’re a startup or launching a new product into the space, you may not want to pursue the top experts because they are getting a lot of company from the big MedTech companies. You may want to go a layer down and view some of the up and comers or emerging experts to develop relationships with, and Link does have a filter to identify those up and coming experts.
What are some of the challenges for companies looking for KOLs during development or commercialization that you hope to address with Link?
Ray: Before coming to Veeva, I was the head of commercial operations at a cardiovascular company, so I had to build our KOL database. I did this mainly by going to clinicaltrials.gov, PubMed and other resources to look up information individually by physician and then manually inputting the information into an Excel spreadsheet. We’re definitely trying to solve that problem for companies. In addition, a couple really common use cases for customers are preparing for a conference. I’ve heard so many times from customers that they have a top KOL that the company really wants to engage with, but then they end up with 15 different people from the company meeting with that KOL at different times during that conference. Not only are you annoying the physician, you’re wasting time that could have been better spent or spent differently. And you’re not necessarily compiling the insights that you gather from that KOL in one place.
With Link you have the full information for the conference in advance—you know who’s contributing and you have the full profile of every contributor, so you can plan out how you’re going to spend your time and prepare for those conversations.
How does Link MedTech differ from Veeva Link Key People?
Ray: Link is both software and data. The data is the profile of the experts and their activities and contributions to the scientific world. The software part is the user interface—how the information is displayed. The user interface is the same as Key People, but the underlying data is different; it is unique to the MedTech industry.
Most notably, there is a difference in the nonphysician profiles. In the pharmaceutical world, you really care about the physicians and the nurse practitioners, because those are people that can prescribe. In the device world that sphere of influence or influencers is more complex. We focus and spend a lot of time on bringing those nonphysicians stakeholders to the forefront, in addition to the physicians. The other key difference is some of the therapeutic areas that we focus on that are not part of Key People, such as radiology, diagnostic imaging and in vitro diagnostics.
Can companies use Link to manage their relationships with KOLs once they have connected and engaged with them?
Ray: Yes, they can. You can build a custom list, for example, that will show you a list of all of your faculty and top users. Next year, we also will be launching a product called Link Workflow that allows device companies and pharmaceutical companies to plan and track engagement with KOLs.