When profiling healthcare professional digital opinion leaders (those who are leading online conversations in a certain therapy area) I am often asked by clients what level of information we can find out about them. Our clients want to understand what useful knowledge we are able to share with them around their healthcare professional (HCP) digital opinion leaders so they can understand their needs in order to support them better.

Today I wanted to share an example of an HCP digital opinion leader (DOL) with you so you can see how useful the insights are in helping you understand, learn from and improve engagement with them.

How open are HCPs on social media?

In most markets HCPs who are using social media for professional purposes are generally very open about who they are, what they specialise in and where they are based. It is this openness that builds the trust between them enabling them to form close relationships and collaborate by sharing information, discussing issues and responding to one another’s questions.

In February 2016 we carried out a public, non-commissioned study into how HCPs were discussing non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) on social media. One of the HCPs identified as actively contributing to the online conversation about NSCLC throughout the study period was Dr Nathan Pennell, a US-based Thoracic Oncologist.  Our researchers identified that Dr Pennell was active on Twitter, Research Gate and LinkedIN.

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We identified that Dr Pennell regularly posted content relating to NSCLC and saw he lead discussion around a number of topics relating to the disease during the study period. To understand the impact of Dr Pennell’s contribution to the online conversation, and his level of online influence in the NSCLC space, there are a number of factors that we would take into account.

For example, although it is useful to understand the volume, frequency and content of Dr Pennell’s mentions of NSCLC topics in the study, we also want to understand how influential Dr Pennell is among those discussing non-small cell lung cancer online. Using CREATION Pinpoint, we can identify how often within the study his opinions are retweeted and engaged with, or how often he is mentioned by others. This gives us an indication of Dr Pennell’s standing within the NSCLC virtual community, and whether he can truly be considered a ‘digital opinion leader’ in this space.

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We can also use the proprietary technology in CREATION Pinpoint to understand how many of Dr Pennell’s followers are themselves HCPs. Mapping the networks between these HCPs, and identifying which other HCPs are influenced by content that Dr Pennell shares, allows us to see if his opinion is listened to and valued by colleagues and peers.

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Studying online digital behaviour

Having considered the factors above, we established that Dr Pennell is a key influencer of online conversation within the NSCLC space.

However, using CREATION Pinpoint, our team of researchers is able to provide further analysis of his online behaviour. From our research we can see that Dr Pennell participates in conversations with peers through Twitter and forums, is often a guest blogger for certain sites like CancerGrace, is very active during medical congress meetings like ASCO, and commonly uses the hashtag #lcsm when tweeting. Insights such as these can be helpful when planning engagement with influential online HCPs.

It can also be helpful to understand an influential HCP’s opinion of or level of advocacy towards specific products. Our research team identified which products Dr Pennell discusses and carried out manual analysis of each product mention to understand context and sentiment (due to the nature of healthcare professional discussions, all of our sentiment analysis is put into context by our team of analysts, instead of using automated processes.)

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If you would like to know more about identifying HCP digital opinion leaders please sign up to one of our webinars which are free to those in pharma/healthcare organisations.