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Our recent survey of health system chief information officers (CIOs) revealed that they take a lot of stock in what Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) have to say. In fact, KOLs ranked number one and outpaced “influencers” and even “peers” when it came to who they listen to the most related to healthcare technology purchasing decisions. 

The use of KOLs in marketing isn’t a new concept, yet there are too many instances of healthcare technology companies not leveraging their KOLs enough or utilizing them the wrong way to support their overall mission. Inspired by our recent healthcare campaign, here are some of our top tips for using KOLs to connect with health system CIOs.

Who are KOLs, and how can you find them?


Before we dive in, who is a KOL? In healthcare, KOLs are typically clinicians or physicians who have developed stellar credentials in their medical field. They are usually prominent at key healthcare conferences and author numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals on their particular area of interest. KOLs are important as they can amplify the science associated with your solution and lend company credibility in front of the health system CIO. 

It’s also critical that you understand how to launch a KOL program in the first place.  The first step is identifying and engaging with KOLs who can support your overall goals. Build a profile of the ideal KOL and establish what characteristics and opportunities for engagement (i.e. published articles, speaking, thought leadership, etc.) are essential to achieve your objectives. Once you have this together, it’s time to start your search. 

KOLs can typically be found by article searches, asking your network for referrals, attending speaking engagements, and browsing social media content and research-specific forums. Once you have your KOL(s) onboard, their activities should be defined in a strategic plan with goals and KPIs to measure.

The best ways to utilize KOLs in reaching health system CIOs:


  • Speaking at events – When putting together submissions for speakers at key industry events, include your KOL(s) on strategic panels that educate attendees on the problems your solution addresses. Put forth solo submissions for the KOL as well to build their eminence in your area of focus.
  • Educating marketing/sales – For company meetings, sales training, marketing summits, etc., KOLs should be at the top of the agenda to educate these teams on the core issues the solution addresses for patients.
  • Videos/webinars – Similar to speaking at events, bringing KOLs into videos or webinars to educate the health system CIOs with real facts and data can add huge credibility. 
  • Social media – Part of your social media strategy should be to boost the profile of your KOLs and also leverage their content on your channels to enhance company credibility.
  • Publishing articles – In addition to the journals that your KOLs are already submitting to, there are a wealth of contributed article opportunities at key healthcare publications. You could submit your KOL for an article or create a joint submission from your KOL and a key company subject matter expert.

How not to utilize KOLs in reaching health system CIOs:


  • Integrate the KOL as part of the sales team – Using your KOLs to educate your target buyer on the science around your product is acceptable, but having your KOLs be positioned as part of the sales team diminishes their credibility.
  • Product promotion – Along the same lines, any of the strategies listed above are not the time or place for your KOL to push your product. This can tarnish the image of your KOL and make it difficult to establish credibility in your marketing going forward.

While KOLs have become almost a necessity in any healthcare technology marketing organization, it’s about having the right strategy to ensure that you get maximum value. Getting the KOL to come onboard is usually the hard part, but what you do from there will determine your success as a marketing team.

To learn more about how to reach health system CIOs and important considerations for your healthcare technology marketing strategy, please see our 2023 Healthcare Technology Marketing Guide.

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