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Healthcare purchasing: Key opinion leaders vs. decision-makers


Every seasoned sales professional knows that the key to closing a deal often hinges on who you know. Building strong relationships is the lifeblood of success in healthcare sales. It goes beyond just making connections – it's about identifying the right people to truly champion your product. 

In healthcare, two key groups stand out: key opinion leaders (KOLs) and facility or health system decision-makers. By fostering relationships with both, you can accelerate market penetration, improve patient outcomes, and solidify your position within the healthcare landscape. 

Uncovering the right key opinion leaders

Key opinion leaders play a crucial role throughout the go-to-market process. These experts, who can be physicians, researchers, or even leaders in patient advocacy groups, are widely respected for their credibility in their respective fields. Their influence extends not only among peers but also among decision-makers in hospitals and healthcare institutions.

By engaging the right KOLs, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies can gain a significant edge in a competitive market. Early access to KOL insights allows for faster development cycles and more strategic market positioning. As trusted voices within their professional networks, KOLs hold sway over the opinions and decisions of other healthcare providers. Their endorsement of a new drug or therapy can influence adoption rates, making them crucial partners in marketing and communication strategies. 

You can typically identify KOLs through a strong track record of published research, citations for their work, and presentations or awards that demonstrate their contributions to the field. KOLs often hold leadership roles and memberships in professional societies and organizations. They also participate in advisory boards, formulary committees, and guideline panels, demonstrating their influence on purchasing and treatment decisions within healthcare institutions. Increasingly, KOLs can be found on digital platforms sharing insights and engaging with broader audiences through social media, podcasts, and other online channels. Definitive Healthcare tracks more than 15 million experts globally to help you see who’s influencing the life science and healthcare universe.  

Identifying hospital decision-makers

Decision-makers at healthcare facilities are responsible for purchasing, partnerships, and other strategic initiatives. It is difficult to win an audience with these executives without first developing a relationship with KOLs and other experts who can advocate on your behalf.

Where KOLs are influencers that inform strategy and execution, decision-makers are the contacts that need to be swayed into purchasing your product. Decision-makers, occasionally known as “budget-holders,” are executives of hospitals and IDNs and may hold titles such as CEO, CFO, or COO.

Who qualifies as a decision-maker depends on the product and goal of the company selling into that care facility. For example, a biotechnology company selling genetic testing kits may seek out physician leaders or specialty department heads at a physician group or hospital. The same company might target a Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) at a larger hospital or health system, as these executives control patient engagement and clinical quality—and are often physicians themselves.

A staffing firm, on the other hand, will likely target the Chief Operating Officer (COO)—who is responsible for recruiting and retaining internal leaders and other staff. Software and technology vendors will have the best luck with Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), who oversee hospital IT departments and data safety.

Who orders supplies for hospitals?

Ordering supplies for hospitals typically involves several roles and departments. These include:

Purchasing or procurement department: This department is primarily responsible for ordering supplies. Staff in this department work with vendors to purchase necessary medical supplies, equipment, and other items.

Supply chain management: In larger hospitals, the supply chain management team oversees the entire process of procurement, inventory management, and distribution of supplies within the hospital.

Materials management department: This department manages the inventory and distribution of supplies within the hospital. They ensure that all departments have the necessary supplies and that stock levels are maintained.

Nursing staff and department heads: Nursing staff and department heads often identify the need for specific supplies and communicate these needs to the purchasing department. They may also be involved in selecting the type of supplies and equipment needed for patient care.

Hospital administration: In some cases, hospital administrators or financial officers may be involved in high-level decisions regarding the budget for supplies and large equipment purchases.

Clinical staff: Physicians, surgeons, and other clinical staff may request specific medical supplies or equipment based on patient needs and treatment plans.

IT department: For supplies related to information technology, the IT department may handle procurement of hardware and software.

Learn more

Looking to better understand an expert’s sphere of influence and find the right KOLs or hospital decision-makers for your treatment or device? Book a demo with Definitive Healthcare today.

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Definitive Healthcare

This blog was written by a former contributor at Definitive Healthcare. At Definitive Healthcare, our passion is to transform data, analytics and expertise into healthcare…

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