Explaining Key Opinion Leader (KOL) Market Research in Healthcare


Businesses that choose against market research are like ships that set sail without a navigation system, hoping to reach an unknown destination by following their gut.

You might catch a lucky gust of wind now and then, but chances are you'll find yourself lost at sea, wondering why you didn't invest in a reliable map and a compass.

Understanding target audiences and stakeholders is essential in healthcare for new product development, roadmaps, operations, training, marketing, and strategy.

A growing and critical audience to understand in the healthcare space regarding market research is KOLs.

What Are KOLs in Healthcare?

Very simply, KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader(s). These can often be referred to as subject matter experts (SMEs) or those who might be recognized or considered experts and influencers in the healthcare industry.

KOLs are essential in influencing and shaping the opinions of their organizations, peers, industry, and the general healthcare community. KOLs can be internal or external influencers.

They often have a significant background or experience in the industry, which can vary from pharmaceuticals, medical devices, healthcare organizations, and other related responsibilities.

Their opinions often influence important decisions and paths for organizations and the industry.

Healthcare building blocks

What Makes a KOL? Here Are Some Characteristics

  • Expertise. These are intelligent people and experts in their domain. KOLs in healthcare often have advanced degrees, decades of experience, and a full track record and resume of achievements—the best of the best.

  • Credibility. Trust is apparent with their peers. Their opinions and views on operations, healthcare marketing, strategy, and the industry are trusted. These KOLs carry weight when they speak.

  • Influence. Not only do they have opinions, but because of their expertise and credibility, these opinions influence others, including healthcare professionals (HCPs), doctors, researchers, policymakers, and many more. These KOLs often drive change, best practices, and new implementations at healthcare institutions.

  • Network. These individuals have strong relationships in the healthcare community. They attend critical conferences, participate in vital email chains, join essential calls, and collaborate on educational activities.

In the experience of our healthcare market research company, KOLs are often a focal point for market research since these are often the early adopters/influencers that will help new products, services, and approaches trend in the healthcare industry.

Benefits of Conducting KOL Market Research

Engaging KOLs in healthcare can offer a multitude of benefits in research can benefit you in the healthcare space. Here are several critical advantages.

  • Insights. Leveraging surveys and interviews with these experts can create a roadmap and summary of valuable insights for your brand. The research can help you better understand trends, emerging technologies, and relevant issues.

  • Trendsetting. KOLs are often at the front end of trends in the healthcare industry. Involving them early in market research allows a business or brand to get ahead of what is coming, including innovations and potential disrupters, and can create competitive advantages.

  • Validation. If you have a new concept or device to test, KOLs can help you feel confident in your go-to-market approach or force you to rethink the design. The good and bad aspects of KOL feedback is worth its weight in gold as they guide your next steps.

  • Strategic guidance. This is particularly important for startups shaping their strategies, product development, or overall business roadmap. The feedback can be engrained in your business plan to ensure the data is driving your direction.

  • Thought leadership. When KOLs participate in your market research, you can leverage their feedback in your marketing, strategy, and outreach to help validate your case. Their participation as business leaders can contribute meaningfully to your project goals.

  • Better product development. One of the most valuable ways to leverage KOLs is through product development research. Here, you can pitch your concept and get the good and the bad, barriers to entry, differentiators, price points, etc.

  • Risk mitigation. We’ve long talked about market research being an insurance policy to help reduce the risk of mistakes. By leveraging KOLs, you can better understand these risks and potential ROI.

How to Collect Feedback From KOLs

Although many types of research with KOLs can prove valuable, here are the best methodologies for collecting feedback according to our market research company.

1. Online surveys

These surveys often combine high-quality feedback with cost-effectiveness and affordability.

They are by far the industry's most common methodology and can combine close-ended questions (measurement) and open-ended questions (exploratory).

Even better, they allow your KOLs to complete the survey at their convenience.

Here's a quick look at the process our online survey company follows to gather quick, cost-effective insights for healthcare facilities and brands.

online survey process

2. In-depth interviews (IDIs)

These 1:1 conversations, conducted either in person or virtually, can offer a wealth of rich information. They are pre-scheduled and follow a guide with a professional moderator.

Additionally, in-depth interviews are much better than a focus group because they allow for more overall time and feedback and help individualize views and opinions to separate group bias.

3. Focus groups

These can get you a lot of bang for your buck in a 60-90 minute session.

Think about getting a room of KOLs or having 6-8 KOLs in a virtual meeting room together at once. The feedback and options would be extremely valuable.

However, trying to gather 6-8 KOLs at the same time on the same date for focus groups can prove very challenging. It is often why we favor 1:1s to allow for great flexibility.

Contact Our Healthcare Market Research Company

Drive Research is a full-service market research agency working with all types of brands. Our custom market research spans from direct impact with startups up to Fortune 50 companies.

Are you interested in learning more? Contact us below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.

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