Are your HCP digital opinion leaders in non-traditional roles?

By Katie Kennedy

Are your HCP digital opinion leaders in non-traditional roles?

Healthcare professional digital opinion leaders (DOLs) are healthcare professionals (HCPs) who lead online conversation among other their peers. Identifying which HCPs are DOLs, understanding what they are discussing, knowing what is important to them and seeing which channels they are engaging their peers on is useful market research for a pharmaceutical company who wants to better understand these HCPs.

When researching which HCPs are leading online conversation our clients can be surprised by the range of roles identified as Digital Opinion Leaders. Where Key Opinion Leaders tend to be in more senior traditional roles, DOLs can be more junior or in a role pharma are usually less likely to engage with.  However, if these HCPs are influencing discussion related to your therapy area, isn’t it worth considering them in your engagement strategy? Or at least being aware of the impact they are having on conversation?

Learning from non-traditional HCP roles

Nurses are one of the most active HCP role types online. If we look at Azucena Santillán (@Ebevidencia), a nurse from Spain, she has over 10k followers and is listened to, respected and engaged with by other HCPs online.

Conversation by @Ebevidencia on Twitter discussing Whooping cough vaccines and their potential dangers ( in Spanish – English translation available here)

In a conversation relating to the whooping cough vaccine, Azucean assures a concerned twitter user about the safety of the vaccine. Her tweets and replies on this subject were retweeted by several other paediatricians and nurses. Overall, Azucean is engaged with by a number of other medical bodies and HCPs such as the paediatrician @revistaPAP. We recently used CREATION Pinpoint to set up a study looking at all HCP social media conversation around type 2 diabetes from Jan – Sept 2016. The study found 5463 mentions from 2938 unique HCP authors.  As well as seeing a number of GPs leading the conversation we also found nutritionists and nurses having a big impact. Dr Sarah Brewer (@DrSarahB), a leading UK medical nutritionist regularly posts reviews on products, comments on the latest scientific research and discusses therapy areas including diabetes. She is another example of a non-traditional HCP role who is posting relevant conversations and interacting regularly with by other HCPs online.

With 1458 HCP followers on Twitter her Tweets are often engaged with by HCPs in addition to patients and associations. As well as working as a consultant at Healthspa she also works with the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation, a charity established to raise the public awareness of diabetes. She also has her own blog as well as 1154 connections on LinkedIn.artboard-1-copyWithin the same study we also saw Laurent Bannock (@laurent_bannock), an exercise physiologist & performance nutritionist, shaping online conversation around diabetes. 9% of Laurent’s followers on Twitter are other healthcare professionals who he engages with regularly.artboard-1In addition to nutritionists, trainee nurse Laura Cleverly (@ninjabetic1) is another HCP leading the conversation around diabetes. Many trainee nurses, especially younger ones, are more digitally savvy as they use social media throughout their studies to help them learn from their peers in a format they are used to. As they move into a qualified role they continue to use social media to engage with their colleagues. Laura is interesting because she is both a sufferer of diabetes and a nurse so she is using her own experience with the condition along with her training to further discussions around this condition. Her youtube channel Laura NinjaDiabetic has nearly 47,000 views, she has 748 HCPs following her on Twitter and she runs a successful blog.


Recognising potential HCP DOLs like Laura who are digitally savvy, trusted by their peers and about to embark in their new role means pharma can identify these rising digital stars and start building trusting relationships with them now.

artboard-1-copy-2When identifying which healthcare professionals are leading the conversation online around your given therapy area or topic it is interesting to consider all role types. Though some of the DOLs may not be in roles you normally engage with if they are important to the conversation then it is time to listen to them.

If you found this article helpful, why not reserve a place on one of our upcoming webinar dates in which we  present more insights on metrics to identify digital opinion leaders, and answer your questions in a live session.
Or to find out more about CREATION Pinpoint right now, watch this two-minute movie.

Featured image provided by www.weisspaarz.com and used under creative commons licencing.

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Meet the Author

Katie Kennedy

Katie has a background working within health organisations and continues to champion the work we do at CREATION.co amongst our current and future clients.

When not at work Katie enjoys being a mother to her two little girls, a dog, a cat, and a tortoise.