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What is an insight and how do MSLs get them from KOLs?

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

The word “insight” is frequently thrown around in the MSL community, but what exactly is an insight? In this article, I’m going to explain what an insight is (and isn’t) and also share a simple strategy that can be used to get insights from KOLs.


What is an insight?

An insight can be defined as any knowledge that enlightens the internal pharmaceutical company about the external therapeutic environment and can be used to inform the pharmaceutical companies strategy. Insights can take many different forms, therefore it is imperative you can recognize them when you hear them! The following list provides an overview of types of insights, accompanied by examples of what the KOL might say.


1. Opinion of KOLs or key medical groups on the pharmaceutical companies product or competitor product which includes rationale for their opinion eg. “I like product X because my patients experience less dizziness than on the product Y”


2. Changes to guidelines that impact clinical practice eg. “Based on the new guidelines just published, I will be using product X for all patients who don’t respond to product Y”


3. General concerns/needs of health care professionals in a specific therapeutic area eg. “There is a need for a therapy that enables patients to adhere to treatment”


4. Data gaps for a product eg. “I need to understand what happens when product X is given concomitantly with product Y”


What is not an insight?

Throughout your discussion with KOLs, you will have a lot of general chit chat, much of which will be useful for building a relationship, but will not be useful for informing the companies strategy. Examples of things that KOLs say, which do not constitute insights are;

  • “My wife and I holiday in Barbados every year”

  • “I have never used product x” (so? – probe further to understand why they haven’t used it then you will get your insight)

  • “My days are so busy since I moved to this practice”



How do I get insights?

Insights can be obtained by simply asking the right questions and listening to the answers. Each example listed above could be obtained by a few carefully chosen questions. Don’t be afraid to probe and ask a follow up question to get additional insights and increase your understanding!


1. Insight: “I like product X because my patients experience less dizziness than on the product Y”

Questions to obtain insight:

  • Have you used product X?

  • On what type of patients did you use it?

  • How was your experience?

2. Insight: “Based on the new guidelines just published, I will be using product X for all patients who don’t respond to product Y”

Questions to obtain insight:

  • How do you choose treatment for patients who don’t respond to product Y?

  • Are there any guidelines that you reference in your clinical practice?

  • Who writes these guidelines?

  • What do they say?

  • When will they be updated?


3. Insight: “There is a need for a therapy that enables patients to adhere to treatment”

Questions to obtain insight:

  • What are the current challenges facing you in treating condition X?

  • How could this challenge be overcome?


4. Insight: “I need to understand what happens when product X is given concomitantly with product Y”

Questions to obtain insight:

  • Have you used product X?

  • Are there any data gaps, that as a company, we can address to assist in your understanding of where product X could be used?

In summary, insights are useful bits of information from the external environment and well thought out questions are the path to an MSL obtaining great insights.

If you have further questions about insight gathering or question development, please comment below or contact me info@mslconsultant.com