University of Twente Student Theses


KOL-laboration: Explorative research into the collaborations between medical companies and key opinion leaders

Megens, Nicole M. J. (2014) KOL-laboration: Explorative research into the collaborations between medical companies and key opinion leaders.

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Abstract:Background and research goal: Collaboration with Key Opinion leaders (KOL) is a common activity in the healthcare segment. KOLs are for example deployed by medical companies to spread the company’s word among their followers or to conduct research together on the development of innovations. The concept of opinion leadership is not new in literature, although it is not much applied to the non-pharmaceutical medical industry. Therefore, it is interesting to investigate how non-pharmaceutical medical companies collaborate with key opinion leaders. The main research question of this thesis is: What is the state of the collaborations between non-pharmaceutical medical companies and KOLs? Method: A literature research on general opinion leadership and opinion leaders in the medical industry has been conducted. Based on the literature research seven hypotheses have been formulated that might be applicable to the non-pharmaceutical medical industry. Next, a desk research on the current state of the collaborations between medical companies and KOLs was carried out. The desk research provided limited insight on the collaborations between medical companies and KOLs, because this information is considered confidential. In order to discover the collaboration between KOLs and medical companies 18 employees of Philips Healthcare, eight KOLs of Philips Healthcare, and six employees of other medical companies have been interviewed. Results: Derived from the literature and the interviews a KOL is defined as: “a person that possesses expert knowledge or innovative ideas in a specific field and has influence on the followers in their field of expertise based on their status as perceived by these followers.” It appeared medical companies mostly collaborate with KOLs for research, product development, strategy and commercial purposes. Further, six types of KOLs have been identified: visionary, research, commercial, economic, political and competitor KOLs. Next, a KOL segmentation has been developed which consists of KOLs’ contact points, nature of the collaboration, KOLs’ organization, duration of the collaboration, influence level of the KOL, area of expertise and influence on the adoption process. It became clear from the interviews that the collaborations between medical companies and KOLs are often unstructured. Conclusion: The hypotheses formulated based on the literature research have been compared to the results of the interviews. Five of the seven hypotheses could be confirmed in this research. The collaboration goals from literature matched the collaboration goals of the interviewed non-pharmaceutical medical companies. It was confirmed that opinion leaders are used as references by the interviewed medical companies. There was a need for transparency in the collaborations indicated by the medical companies as well as in literature. It became clear from the interviews that different KOL types have a different influence on the diffusion and adoption of medical innovations. And the respondents agreed trends in the healthcare industry should be taken care of by specific allocation of KOL management. The cross-functional teams of medical science liaisons and key account management were not identified, nor the measurements described in literature. The identified KOL definition, six KOL types and KOL segmentation are additions to the current literature. Furthermore, practical recommendations regarding the collaborations between medical companies and KOLs are made to the interviewed medical companies. Finally, the limitations of the research are discussed and future research suggestions are made.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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