The Evolution of Thought Leadership in the MedTech Industry: Insights from Jeff Jones

In the rapidly advancing world of medical technology, establishing credibility and trust is paramount. And one of the best ways to establish that credibility is to seek—and follow—the advice of prominent experts in a particular medtech field. Combined with a strategic public relations strategy, such key opinion leaders (KOLs) can then help raise awareness and provide an invaluable validation of a technology’s importance and value. Together, thought leaders and PR experts enable businesses to gain media exposure, present results at scientific meetings, and secure speaking engagements at industry conferences, thus raising the companies’ visibility and credibility.

Jeffrey Jones, Managing Partner at The Deerborne Group, a global diagnostics and life sciences consulting firm, has learned the importance of key opinion leaders over the course of a long and successful career at both Fortune 500 companies like Abbott, Bayer, and Quest Diagnostics and venture-backed startups like Agendia, which offers genomic testing for breast cancers. Here are his insights:

Thought Leadership: Shaping credibility and trust

In his years at major corporations, Jones says he’s “worked for some incredible leaders, and also a couple of knuckleheads.” He started off in sales at Abbott, “carrying a bag in a small little territory in Northern California,” he recalls. Thereafter, he worked his way up to various    product marketing and sales leadership roles and eventually to senior executive commercial and GM roles.

Along the way, he learned three key lessons about leadership. Leaders must make sure every single person on their teams is successful. They need to be comfortable knowing that they aren’t always going to be popular among the troops. And they must realize they don’t have all the answers. Instead, “you hire really smart people and then you listen to them,” Jones says.

Jeffrey Jones, Managing Partner at The Deerborne Group

But not until he got involved with Agendia did Jones truly understand the importance of thought leaders and public relations. “When I first got there, Agendia needed a great deal of help,” he recalls. The big problem: the company had a product the industry didn’t want.

So, Jones hired an experienced PR firm, Dowling & Dennis, and, yes, he listened to them. Their advice: Go out to key opinion leaders and ask them what they really wanted. That feedback was priceless. “The interviews with key opinion leaders ended up dramatically changing the trajectory of Agendia,” Jones says.

Now as managing partner of The Deerborne Group, Jones actively cultivates experts and reporters as a key part of his work for a variety of clients, guided by the expertise of Dowling & Dennis.

Jones cites his recent experience of conducting a survey among corporate leaders in liquid biopsy at this year’s meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He was able to write up the results of his KOL survey and will be presenting it at an international scientific meeting in Spain, which he expects will earn even more recognition from the press, from researchers, and from clinicians.

“My team and I go out and find who the KOLs are and whom they influence,” he explains. It’s not rocket science, he adds, “but it is hard and takes years.” Yet it must be done for a company to be truly successful, he argues. “Key opinion leaders can make or break a drug, medical device or diagnostic test.”

“Key opinion leaders can make or break a drug, medical device or diagnostic test.”

Jeffrey Jones

Adapting to modern communication channels

Identifying key opinion leaders and taking advantage of their advice is only part of the challenge, however. The other fundamental element is getting out the right messages, which means developing an effective media strategy. So when Jones goes to conferences, “I make sure to meet the press and nurture those relationships,” he says. That effort brings results. “We’re probably in at least one article a quarter right now,” he says.

It’s also important to harness the power of social media, Jones says. The Deerborne Group was quick to jump on Facebook, Twitter (now X), and LinkedIn, he says. But a young digital marketing intern that Jones hired pointed out that young physicians didn’t grow up on Facebook or even LinkedIn or Twitter. Instead, their social media of choice is Instagram. So, Jones created an Instagram page. “Like I said, I try to hire and surround myself with people that are smarter than me,” Jones says.

Driving innovation

Jones’ expects is that key opinion leaders will play increasingly important roles in the future. They don’t just guide companies’ current decisions and technologies, he explains, they also drive innovation within the industry. As a result, companies that recognize the value of thought leadership and that are able leverage PR initiatives will be those that lead the medtech industry of tomorrow.

Vascular Access Group on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a tremendous information resource for professionals. But for the most part those in nursing – especially professionals with an interest in infusion therapy and vascular access – have been underrepresented on LinkedIn.

No more! We’ve just established a new forum for vascular access professionals on LinkedIn. It’s open to anyone interested in the field, who wants to read or post about issues and questions pertaining to vascular access.

We hope you’ll consider joining the group. To do so, go to Join LinkedIn if you are not already a member, then search the “Groups” function for the phrase “vascular access.”

Thanks, and we hope to see you over on LinkedIn soon.

Patient Safety Gets a Certification Program — At Last

More than a decade after patient safety hit the national agenda with the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s “To Err Is Human” report, someone is finally putting together a certification program for professionals involved in ensuring patient safety.

The leading group in this field, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), has just launched the certification program. It’s designed to standardize a curriculum, elevate the profession and share best practices.

“Patient safety is a top priority for our healthcare system,” said Dr. Lucian L. Leape, chair of the Lucian Leape Institute at NPSF. “But we will not be able to truly move the needle until those who are involved in the practice have the knowledge base necessary to do the job. The certification program is an essential element in that quest.”

Dr. David Shulkin attempted as far back as the late 1990s to highlight the profession through creation of the Patient Safety Officers Society. PSOS got some early traction but hasn’t been active for several years. Dr. Shulkin is now president of Morristown (N.J.) Memorial Hospital and vice president of its parent, Atlantic Health.

This time around, NPSF reports, membership in the American Society of Professionals in Patient Safety is open to professionals whose primary responsibility is patient safety as well as others across the healthcare disciplines.

Our view: The patient safety field represents the essential nexus of numerous healthcare fields, and NPSF’s new initiative represents a major step forward in better protecting patients. More details at


TV Appearance by Greg Dennis

Greg Dennis got his 10 seconds of fame on Vermont television over the last few days. His comments about the opening of the new bridge in downtown Middlebury, Vt., where Greg lives, were featured in a report on Channel 5, the local NBC affiliate. The Middlebury bridge was a joint effort between the town and Middlebury College.

PR Spending Rises, Even in Recession

The respected Economist magazine reports that even in this horrible recession, corporate spending on public relations is on the rise.

“According to data from Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS), a private-equity firm, spending on public relations in America grew by more than 4% in 2008 and nearly 3% in 2009 to $3.7 billion,” the magazine writes. “That is remarkable when compared with other forms of marketing. Spending on advertising contracted by nearly 3% in 2008 and by 8% in the past year. PR’s position looks even rosier when word-of-mouth marketing, which includes services that PR firms often manage, such as outreach to bloggers, is included. Spending on such
things increased by more than 10% in 2009.”

Why the rise?

Part of the answer is that PR is so cost-effective, at a time when
everyone is carefully counting dollars. In healthcare, ad dollars have been shrinking because advertising is very costly and far less credible than media coverage and other awareness-building achievements generated by good PR. Moreover, the increasing need for businesses to be involved in social media — where PR shines in delivering the message — also drives investments.

Excelsior, Novian Added as New Clients

We’re happy to report that even in the economic downturn, we’ve added two new clients:

* Excelsior Medical is a leading maker of prefilled catheter flush syringes. The company is also launching an exciting new technology called SwabCap™. This product promises to pioneer more effective prevention of potentially deadly catheter-related bloodstream infections.

SwabCap provides passive, verifiable disinfection of the top and threads of luer access valves. These valves are a critical part of providing IV medication and nutrition. Both the Joint Commission and SHEA/IDSA Compendium have new guidelines calling for hospitals to have a specific disinfection protocol– meaning Excelsior expects strong demand for SwabCap as part of the company’s focus on preventing intra-luminal contamination of catheters.

*Novian Health makes the Novilase™ laser ablation device to treat fibroadenomas of the breast. These non-cancerous lumps are a troubling breast health problem for many women. Novilase provides a minimally invasive alternative to surgical lumpectomy, with no scarring and less infection risk. Novilase is FDA-cleared for treating fibroadenomas.