Replace your focus on the name of the network with the names in your network and reap the reward.

Social networks, KOL networks, influence networks, referral networks, or whatever buzzword you use, there’s plenty of confusion over what each means and which advantages one may have over the other, if any. Regardless of the label, there’s plenty of appeal to understanding your brand’s health care practitioner (HCP) network to gain more insight into the dynamics that influence your success. But wrangling over names and conventions doesn’t get you any closer to a network that delivers a positive return.

Life science marketers need to leverage an understanding of networks to further the success of their brand and gain a competitive advantage. The name a brand manager uses to label a network will not be nearly as important as the name of the individual HCP in the network. There are two absolute requirements for a meaningful network:


Granularity is critical in successful marketing. Broad and deep knowledge of all physicians, as individuals, is at the crux of direct, one-to-one customized marketing (aka relationship marketing). Surprisingly, this isn’t factored into most social network analysis and development. But it should be, and here’s why: Take the example of survey-based assessments where HCPs are asked to identify key opinion leaders (KOLs) in their field. This approach will certainly reveal some of the national KOLs, but it won’t identify all of them. The survey is likely to miss those who don’t spend as much time in research or publishing. More important, it may fail to name influential HCPs at a local level. And when your business is done locally, the impact may be immeasurable. In short, what good is a network without the detail to make it useful?


By complete, I’m referring to covering the diagnosis and treatment continuum. This applies to geography, therapeutic class, patient population or any clinical or demographic attribute. Unfortunately, this has become more difficult for Life Sciences with the growth of specialty products and medical devices— recognizable by their “non-pill” delivery mechanisms (e.g. injected, infused, medical device) or their non-traditional distribution channels (e.g. specialty pharmacy). Why call out specialty as a roadblock to a complete network? Because anonymized patient-level data (APLD) from prescriptions is often the basis for network development. For retail prescription products, this represents an excellent foundation; however, when the majority of APLD data comes from the retail pharmacy, you end up with incomplete coverage, having missed all of the “non-pill” activity.


The good news is it’s possible to develop HCP Networks that meet both utilization tenets for granularity and completeness. But you need a different source of data to link HCPs and truly understand patient flow, one that doesn’t have the restrictions of Rx data. That source is medical claims. Building networks for oncology products is a perfect example, as most of the products are neither oral nor distributed via retail pharmacy. You’ll only by able to build granular, complete physician networks in oncology using medical claims. They carry the necessary information to connect HCPs with each other. They are available across all geographies in the U.S. And, most important, they reflect both retail and specialty pharma products as well as medical devices across care settings. This foundation is essential for creating a granular, complete network, no matter what you name it.

Email your question to Zach Henderson, our physician markets expert, for the answer.

  • Zach Henderson

    Zach Henderson is vice president, Corporate Strategy, at Health Market Science. Since joining Health Market Science in late 2007 as head of marketing and product development, Zach has led Health Market Science to seven innovative product launches and has created numerous strategic partnerships to continuously further the growth of the company. As VP Corporate Strategy, he currently leads the company


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