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  • Susan Cuozzo

Expert Identification and Mapping




We have worked on countless medical education initiatives over the years that were successful and achieved the desired impact because of external experts vetting and ratifying our work. Strategy and tactics are based on many factors including our experience and research; however, this can all be meaningless if not pressure tested with the experts on the frontlines of patient care. This type of engagement goes by many names: key opinion leader identification, external expert mapping, clinical stakeholder strategy, and so on. Regardless of the nomenclature, the objective is typically to identify independent experts who will assess and provide constructive input to our work based on their intimate subject matter expertise. Their micro focus combined with our macro approach yields invaluable high-impact insights.


We have worked with clients who have been entrenched in their respective fields with an established network of external experts to tap into for opinions and feedback. It is important to proactively determine if the network is still current and multipurpose. For example, have any stakeholders retired? Does the network include clinical trial experts? Does it include experts focused on diagnostics as well as treatment? Are regional or global perspectives represented? Does it take into account all of the health care professionals (HCPs) involved in the patient journey? For example, endocrinologists are diabetes experts. But depending on the initiative, they may not have the specific insights of primary care physicians, registered dietitians, and nurses.


In other cases, we often start from scratch by assessing the landscape in a given therapeutic area to build a network of external experts and tier them based on a number of priorities. It’s all too tempting to start listing the more prominent experts on the podium at major medical conferences but we prefer to delve deeper with a more targeted approach. When we worked with a client in the chronic kidney disease (CKD) space, we knew that nephrologist experts were essential stakeholders to help us make a real impact on the lives of patients with CKD. Based on our goals, we also determined that patient advocacy experts, clinical guideline committee members, and seasoned clinical trial investigators (who were well published in peer-reviewed medical literature) had critical expertise that we needed to be successful. It’s a dynamic process that involves assessing and revisiting who we should be working with and why their contributions matter.


In our experience, once the right experts have been identified, they are typically thrilled to engage with us and provide input. Passive involvement such as attending a didactic advisory board is not stimulating or considered a good use of an HCP’s valuable time. Instead they are eager to brainstorm, assess, critique, and ultimately improve the work that we are doing. As partners with a singular focus on advancing care for patients, we accomplish so much more.

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