Keys and ‘Klout’
Peter K. Kaiser, MD
I sometimes cringe when I see the word “KOL.” What does this really mean? Does it simply mean you are invited to join advisory boards because your opinion is valued?
I see many younger retina specialists doing whatever they can to become a “KOL.” They mistakenly equate this honorary title with “making it,” but they often miss the point that being a key opinion leader (KOL) comes with the added responsibility of educating others. Your peers have made you a KOL because they value your opinion; and insuring that you deliver this opinion in an unbiased, balanced, and scientifically accurate manner is of paramount importance.
But what really makes a person a KOL? Why is his or her opinion any more important than that of someone else with similar years of training and experience? Is it based on your surgical outcomes or your oratory skills? Is it based on the quality of your presentations or the quantity?
In the past, it was often based on working at an “academic” institution, but that standard has changed, as excellent research can be performed in any institution or practice. I would argue it should be based on excellent patient care, great surgical outcomes, continuous and effective research, and a desire to teach others. Finally, a desire to constantly improve your skills, techniques, and knowledge and to stay on the cutting edge is of paramount importance.
How do other fields determine their KOLs? In social media, there is a very egalitarian method to determine who is a KOL. Klout.com is a Web site that tracks your online clout. Your Klout score is based on how many people you influence or who listen to your ideas and opinions (just like a KOL). Someone like the President of the United States has a Klout score of 99 out of 100. People intently follow what he says. But then again, Justin Beiber has a similar score!
I embarrassingly have a Klout score of 32, which sounds reasonable until you realize that the average Klout user has a score of 40. But that makes sense because I spend very little time on social media Web sites. I am definitely not a social media KOL.
Maybe we need a similar method to determine a KOL in retina. Points can be awarded for good outcomes, numbers of papers written and how often people read them, performing well in clinical trials, and how well you teach others. The CME scores we fill out at meetings could also be included. The sum total could be a score that determines your true retina Klout.