Diabetes and the rise of the Patient Opinion Leader

There is no doubt that diabetes is one of the most searched and discussed health topics on the web. According to Manhattan Research, over 24 million U.S. adults researched diabetes online in 2007. I wanted to get a better handle on the diabetes blogosphere so I turned to the source: Kelly Close, CEO of Close Concerns. There is no one who knows more about the diabetes landscape than Kelly, a former Wall St. analyst and Type 1 diabetic, whose company publishes Diabetes Close Up for industry and Diatribe for patients. Kelly CloseKelly sent over a vetted list of quality diabetes resources, many blogs among them. I must admit to being overwhelmed by the sheer number on her truncated list. But to me it underscored the arrival of a new phenomenon that I believe is here to stay: the Patient Opinion Leader. These are individuals who are well-versed on their disease and are influencing thousands of others with their writing. I'm not saying that KOL's (Key Opinion Leaders, usually refers to physicians) are on the wane, but industry should start paying more attention to this new generation of influencer. I'm planning to profile many POL's over time in all different specialty areas. Here are a few I thought were particularly interesting in diabetes.

Kerri MorroneKerri Morrone is one of the pioneers of the diabetes blogging movement having founded Six Until Me in 2005. She started the blog to connect with "all the people who were living with this disease" like she had been since age 6 (hence the blog's title). She describes life with diabetes on a personal level but is equally adamant that diabetes is only part of what defines her. She is a freelance writer and editor, member of the dLife editorial team, and founder of a second blog, co-authored with her cat, called LOLDiabetes to add levity to living with diabetes day in and day out.

Bernard FarrellBernard Farrell is a software architect by profession. He brings those technology insights to his avocation as a diabetes blogger. With posts like, "Testing your A1c from home," he describes diabetes devices and treatments in great detail for readers of Bernard's Diabetes Blog. He shares on his home page that he uses a Cozmo 1800 insulin pump and DexCom glucose monitor and takes Symlin. If you're in industry and don't read his blog, you should.

Oregon native Allison Blass is the 22-year-old founder of Lemonade Life, which is her latest venture helping to educate other young people about life with diabetes. Allison has been involved in diabetes outreach since her mid-teens, first as a delegate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and then as the founder of CureNow, an online magazine about research and advocacy. Later she went on to launch Diabetes Teen Talk, which she sold it to dLife. Today she works in public relations in NJ. Her philosphy: "I believe that positive things can come from living with diabetes, which is why my blog is named for the phrase 'when life hands you lemons, make lemonade!'"

Amy TenderichAmy Tenderich, the force behind Diabetes Mine, is definitely a thought leader. Her blog has been featured in many national and international news outlets. I saw her speak at both Health 2.0 conferences where she mentioned getting a product's color changed after blogging about it. She talks about everything from "food scales to pharma news and book reviews, to the exasperating things other people say" on Diabetes Mine.