Medical influencers are not only important sources of information but are also crucial in effectively engaging and connecting with your market. But they are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ – with your ‘medical influencer’ depending on what you see as important.  At, we are specialists at asking the key questions to help you identify those key influencers who align with your specific objectives.

What is a ‘medical influencer’?

Broadly speaking, a social media medical influencer is someone who has established credibility in a specific area, and shares their experiences and expertise with a huge online audience using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, among others. Ultimately, they influence others to act based on their views and opinions. 

An increasing number of healthcare professionals (HCPs) are developing a professional presence on social media platforms with a growing proportion now referred to as ‘medical influencers’, or Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs); a term coined by over a decade ago. Medical influencers or DOLs facilitate access to information, educate on a range of important health topics, provide general medical advice, and raise awareness of public health campaigns, such as mental health and cancer screening. 

At, we believe there are different classifications of DOLs. For example, ‘scientific influencers’ are highly likely to be tracking the release of new data, to be active on social media platforms like Twitter and Sermo, and have influence over their peers. Whereas ‘brand ambassadors’, another possible category of influencer, are less likely to have scientific credentials, but be active on channels like Instagram and TikTok, and influence a younger audience in the general public. So what are the different types of influencers?

Different types of medical influencers to follow

There are many ways of defining a DOLs’ influence. In a 2019 study where we analysed the conversation of HCPs discussing pancreatic cancer we identified five DOLs who influenced the online conversation in distinct ways. While by no means an exhaustive list defining HCP influence five areas include:

  • Content creator – a tendency to express their views over sharing other content
  • PancChatter – very engaged with monthly Tweet chats
  • Patient advocate – focused on supporting and communicating to patients online
  • Content distributor – a trusted source of new information relevant to HCPs and patients alike
  • HCP influencer – heavily involved and trusted in the HCP, disease focused conversation

Identifying medical influencers is more about strategy than reach

It is important to know who are the right voices to be listening to. Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs), who can be any type of HCP, including nurses, doctors, and medical students, are qualified online medical influencers who are impacting the views and behaviours of HCPs, policymakers, and patients. Furthermore, it is essential to identify, listen to, and collaborate with the ‘right’ DOLs, and notably, this is not necessarily the person with the greatest number of Twitter followers.

So, what do we mean by the ‘right’ influencer or DOL? In the pharmaceutical industry, not all medical influencers, or DOLs, are created equally – meaning it is not as simple as reaching out to a ‘Top 10’ list of influencers with the largest reach and partnering with them to share your message. In fact, it is much more important to align yourself with medical influencers, or DOLs, who are the best fit for your business needs and share your overall key business objective. This is imperative if you are wanting impactful influencer marketing (i.e. endorsements and product placements from healthcare influencers).

Therefore, it is vital that you identify and engage with the right healthcare influencer to ensure you are communicating with your key audience. At, we not only use a series of metrics to qualify a DOL based on a set of measurable indicators (e.g. social media presence, peer or public following, and relevance of content) but more importantly, we help you ask the right questions to ensure you are identifying the right DOLs for your objectives. Discover more about identifying and understanding online HCP influencers.

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Related FAQs

The definition of a ‘patient influencer’ and their role within the healthcare industry varies greatly. Generally, a patient influencer is a highly visible and trusted health consumer, who uses social media to share their experiences of living with or caring for someone with a chronic illness. Their goal is to raise awareness of, and help others with their condition. Many patient influencers see themselves as patient advocates, helping others on their health journey, however, their massive online audiences truly make them influencers. 

For a list of ways you could engage your DOLs, click here.

At, we’ve led the way in using data science to identify and profile healthcare professional Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) since we first introduced the concept in 2012.

Deciding how to identify, profile and engage DOLs is a process as unique as your own goals. So we work with you to define what’s most important in your particular DOL identification and profiling exercise.

Below are 10 questions to ask about your DOLs: 

  • Do they post relevant content?
  • Do they have an HCP or public following?
  • Are they trusted among online HCP peers?
  • Are they active in online conversations?
  • Do they have a public influence?
  • Do they have a social media presence?
  • Are they in an existing relationship with you?
  • Are they engaged in the online scientific community?
  • Is their online influence local or global?
  • Do they support other health communities or patient groups?

To learn more visit our Digital Opinion Leader Mapping page

At, we believe that this is the wrong type of question to be asking, as an influencer is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ across the pharmaceutical industry. The key influencers that matter to you will be based both on context and strategy, and it is much more important to align yourself with medical influencers, or DOLs, who are the best fit for your business needs and share your overall key business objective.