Certain cancer screening types, including mammograms and colonoscopies, are well-known among patients. But lung cancer screening isn’t one of them—and even high-risk patients aren’t getting the message.
More than half of current smokers—54%—know little or nothing about lung-cancer screening, according to recent data from Phreesia Life Sciences, which surveyed more than 14,000 current and former smokers as they checked in for doctors’ appointments. And only 28% of survey participants with any smoking history—many of whom also are considered high-risk—said they were aware of lung-cancer screening.
Early detection in lung cancer is key to better chances of survival, which makes the survey figures particularly alarming. Patients who are diagnosed when their cancer is still localized to the lungs have a five-year survival rate of 61.2%, according to data from the National Cancer Institute. But that rate nosedives to just 7% for patients whose cancer has spread to other parts of their body before it’s detected.
So what can pharma marketers do to help? For starters, getting the word out about who should be screened—to both patients and doctors—is critical. Just last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force expanded screening recommendations to include adults ages 50 to 80 who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and either currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
Now, “doctors just don’t know about it. They don’t talk about it,” Heather Kun, CEO of nonprofit Fuck Cancer, says. And on top of that, “the criteria for being screened is beyond complicated,” she notes, pointing to the pack year count.
Patients need more education around the screening itself, too, explains Nancy Ibach, associate vice president of U.S. Oncology at Merck. Screenings consist of low-dose CT scans, and “people realizing that it is not an invasive procedure … could actually help us help others,” she says.
And he way pharma marketers communicate that information is important, Kun adds. “Make it funny, make it lighter,” she suggests. “This isn’t a big deal—you’re getting your picture taken!”
But boosting awareness alone won’t solve the problem, Phreesia survey data shows. Of the 28% of current or former smokers who said they were aware of screening, just 5% have been screened for lung cancer in the past 12 months, and only 11% plan to be screened in the next 12 months. Those stats suggest there are other hurdles to screening that marketers must address.
For one, smokers and former smokers may experience feelings of guilt or shame that stop them from getting screened. “There’s a lot of guilt, if you will, a lot of, ‘I did this to myself,’ and sometimes that can impact their ability to even undergo the screening,” Ibach says.
In some cases, those feelings may stop them from even sharing their smoking history with their doctors, Kun adds. Destigmatizing the conversation around smoking can help ensure that patients and providers can have open, honest conversations. “It’s super important to get people out of the dark to say, “‘I’m owning my risk factors,’” she says.
Patients in underserved communities may also face additional barriers, leading to later diagnoses and worse fatality rates. Currently, screening isn’t accessible enough for all patients, says Kun, who suggests expanding the technology to a certain number of community health centers per zip code.
Patients in these communities can also be less trusting of physicians, Ibach says. “We have to get into the community with the message, and we have to partner with people who can get into the community and deliver this message from a trusted source who can help them understand the details of it,” she notes.
While the challenge of upping screening rates is a big one, it’s one that comes with the opportunity to save patients’ lives, Ibach says.
“We’ve got a lot of education to do, but I do think if we as an industry within the pharma space can create more awareness, we can really change health outcomes within this particular diagnosis.”
Cancer is the word that no patient or family member ever wants to hear, and it is news that no clinician wants to deliver. Yet, it is the second leading cause of death in the United States and each year more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer and nearly 600,000 die from it.[i] In addition to the toll on life, the financial burden to the U.S. healthcare system is about $200 billion dollars, and the cost of cancer care continues to rise.[ii]
The good news is that more people are surviving cancer than ever before. There are an estimated 17 million cancer survivors alive in the United States today, and that is expected to grow to more than 22.1 million by 2030.[iii] Effective communication plays an essential role in survivorship and promoting healthy outcomes for oncology patients, and is needed to support early detection, treatment, and care planning before and after treatment.[iv]
Several challenges to communication in oncology care exist. According to recent studies, patients may be reluctant to ask important questions about their disease and care, unless directly invited to do so.[v] In addition, some limited studies on the differences in culture and race reflect a positive or disparate impact on the interaction among patients and their healthcare practitioners, demonstrating the need for greater cultural competency.[vi] In their quest for more information, patients may seek online sources where there is a crowded array of both reputable and non-authenticated information. In addition, the number of therapeutic-focused communications have increased dramatically from the early 2000s when direct-to-consumer marketing in oncology was largely nonexistent, adding further to the information patients will be exposed to as they seek to make sense of their diagnosis and review treatment options.
To help overcome these challenges, effective oncology marketing should focus on increasing awareness about prevention, as well as the clinical trials and treatment options currently available. These communications should also drive awareness on emerging therapies and engaging with influential intermediaries who will help patients make difficult decisions about their care, including healthcare professionals and caregivers. Some suggestions for oncology marketers:
Leverage the work of stakeholder organizations to amplify the support needed for patients and doctors to provide effective communication tools. This can help healthcare professionals, caregivers, and patients engage with more preventative measures for early detection and to aid in the development of a care cancer plan that can greatly improve a patient’s experience, survival, and overall health outcomes. A new diagnosis can be traumatic, and patients have to navigate learning a new cancer care language, while also managing some of the most important sets of decisions in their lives. No patient should feel like they have to start from ground zero when trying to navigate the cancer care system. The American Cancer Society has a survivorship app and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship has a Cancer Care Toolbox, both resources can aid patients and their caregivers to navigate what can often be a very difficult time in their lives. Resources that help patients ask concrete questions, take home information to help them process their next steps, and choose a treatment plan, will help reduce anxiety and outline a clear path forward.
Consider cultural competency training and develop materials that demonstrate diversity and inclusion in cancer marketing, clinical trials, and educational materials. Mortality rates are higher among African Americans with prostate and breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute Communication in Cancer Care PDQ® notes distinct healthcare disparities in Latina patients with breast cancer who are older in age. These patients were less likely to receive interactive informational support from their doctors than younger patients who present with the same disease.[vii] In addition, therapeutic clinical trials are less likely to have included racial and ethnic minorities, which can have an impact on the understanding of how a therapeutic treatment would work in some populations. Moving toward more inclusive communications and authentic engagement that helps facilitate trust can help spur better detection, clinical trial participation, and uptake on important treatment plans.
Design integrated oncology communication approaches to engage patients across the spectrum of patient populations. Cancer communication must go to where the people are, where they live, work, and play and to networks and influencers they trust. Traditional ways to engage, online streaming content integration, social influencer engagement, and education on a wide variety of digital platforms can help to reach new audiences through compelling story telling by patients, as well as healthcare professionals. As oncologists are becoming even more technologically savvy, they are taking to social media to share their knowledge and garnering large followings. Real people are sharing their personal journeys and helping other patients find their way, which can lead to greater communication opportunities to help patients. Oncology professionals and marketers can help guide the way to accurate information, while also connecting patients and caregivers to resources so they don’t feel alone in the process, while leveraging the experience and expertise of others who have survived the system and their diagnosis.
Oncology communications show promise in helping to address challenges and disparities in cancer care and can help improve health outcomes for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals when effectively leveraged. Our nation’s healthcare system and the families affected by cancer deserve innovation in oncology communications to help get the right treatment or intervention to the right patient at the right time. Life depends on it.
As out of pocket healthcare costs grow, consumers and patients are sometimes faced with the challenge of being able to afford and take their medication as prescribed. Within the past two years, dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, FAAD had a situation where he had prescribed an anti-fungal cream to a patient. In a follow-up, he discovered that a treatment that should have cost her less than $8 ended up costing $1,200.
“I have drugs that I used to prescribe to patients that were $4. And now they’re $800 to $2,000. The same drug. It’s getting unsustainable,” he told Business Insider. (In 2019, several lawsuits were filed against multiple generic pharmaceutical manufacturers for alleged price-fixing.) As the Business Insider article noted, “Though [doctors] write prescriptions, most don’t know what drugs will cost their patient. That is, unless they hear back about issues.” Connecting with other dermatologists who were experiencing similar situations with their patients, Dr. Bhanusali ultimately founded Skin Medicinals to help combat this issue.
The medical entrepreneur had previously launched a platform to compare prices between different local pharmacies as well as an EMR platform for Dermatologists and even helped launch Amazon’s first private skincare brand. Skin Medicinals, an online platform that utilizes compounding pharmacies to specially mix medications for patients, emerged as a result of that work. Dr. Bhanusali is also an instructor in the Mount Sinai Health System and works in private practice in NYC.
While not entirely welcomed by some in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Bhanusali told DTC Perspectives that “overall, people understand the mission and respect what we are trying to do.” He added, “We are coming directly from the end users who WANT to reduce prices, and this platform is showing it is possible.” Since having launched Skin Medicinals in August 2018, the network has nearly 3,000 healthcare providers and dermatologists registered, as well as 73,000 patients. (A doctor must be registered with the platform before their patient can create an online account and begin ordering their medication for home delivery.) “This has demonstrated a true unifying of the field and become a mission for patient care nationally,” he noted.
Awareness and growth about this enterprise has been “organic” thus far. Dr. Bhanusali informed DTC Perspectives, that while there may be the possibility to do more direct marketing in the future, so far “this has been a grassroots effort from physicians to educate patients (and ourselves) about the rising drug costs.”
“We handle everything from Rosacea to pigment conditions, warts to chemotherapeutics. We also regularly provide options for inflammatory conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and more. [We] want to start with dermatology and hopefully inspire physicians in other fields to create similar [help for patients],” concluded Dr. Bhanusali in our interview. “While physician-led innovation tends to be rare, this is one of the first times that such a large number has come together so fast, showing the absolute need for innovation in the space. As prices continue to rise, it will be interesting to see if Skin Medicinals becomes a viable alternative to traditional pharma, one in which the physicians take control to better the access for patients.”
Earlier this month, Ogilvy Health kicked off their #EverydayMatters campaign, setting in motion a long-term commitment to “make an impact on cancer”. The endeavor began with a public relations and communications teammate suggesting the agency do something to support World Cancer Day as so many people across the globe are affected by cancer – whether it be patients themselves or maybe you know someone suffering from the disease.
Speaking with DTC Perspectives, Amy Graham and Sherry Novembre shared that this is currently a year-long project about which they are highly passionate, with each month highlighting a different type or types of cancer. Novembre, SVP, Management Supervisor at Ogilvy Health, shared that “the spirit of what we are doing is … small, regular gains that add up.” March’s effort sees the agency’s Young Professionals Network leading a colored band-aid drive for children to benefit the Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ’s Pediatric Wing. An additional focus in March will highlight colorectal cancer: an educational poster created to generate awareness among Ogilvy Health employees is now being shared publicly to help bring awareness to the masses, allowing other companies to access and distribute the poster share with and educate their staff.
Graham, client engagement officer at Ogilvy Health, detailed that another way they are trying to educate is through psychosocial aspects: why a patient may choose to be treated or not, or the challenges of navigating information during what many find to be overwhelming or could be a crisis-time, for example. By better understanding how decisions are made for treatments and during a treatment cycle, they are able to reshape education and support to better help those affected through a difficult time.
The #EverydayMatters campaign will be constantly evolving to ensure they are providing much needed education or support appropriately. Future elements will include walks/runs and other distribution materials. Novembre also shared that the team is in talks to partner with advocacy groups, partially via Ogilvy Health’s oncology business, “on activities to help amplify their voices through our channels.” Thinking in the long-term, this has the potential to take things beyond one year or beyond just the US, said Graham. The team is also exploring ways they may partner with their global offices to further efforts. The ultimate goal is to push the conversation further and create a strong call to action in a “lifelong endeavor,” Graham remarked.
It was announced last week that the American Oncology Network, LLC (AON) has chosen PatientPoint to “educate, inform, and improve communication among oncology patients, care partners and providers” for its growing network of community oncology practices. AON, founded in 2018, is an “alliance of physicians and seasoned healthcare leaders partnering to ensure the long-term success of community oncology.” It is led by the leadership team responsible for the success of Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, the nation’s largest independent community oncology practice. The group is quickly growing as it currently represents 58 physicians and 20 nurse practitioners and physician assistants across ten states.
“PatientPoint allows us to customize information at so many different touchpoints to ensure patients, caregivers and providers alike are receiving the specific and appropriate information they need to know to feel truly informed,” said American Oncology Network Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Shelly Glenn. “We are confident that PatientPoint solutions will help AON practices foster that same personalized, engaged and informed experience that is the hallmark of community oncology.”
Patient programs include digital waiting room screens with custom, engaging content; interactive exam room touchscreens with videos and 3D learning tools for more than 20 cancer types; the ability to easily share the information via text and email. These tools will also allow AON to “highlight key practice initiatives, quality scores, and keep providers and staff up to date.”
“PatientPoint is proud to offer cutting-edge digital engagement solutions to AON to help their practices educate and inform patients in the waiting room, exam room and beyond the four walls of the office to help ensure better outcomes,” said PatientPoint Chief Provider Officer and President, Hospital Chris Martini. “We look forward to partnering with AON to make a positive impact on patients, care partners and providers at these key touchpoints and beyond for many years to come.”
Your parents are the ones who always take care of you. Mom kissed your knee when you fell on the playground, and Dad drove you to the hospital when you needed to get your tonsils out. Your parents kept you healthy and safe. They were your rock and knew all the answers and just what to do.
Time passes. You’re in your thirties and somehow in an instant the role of caregiver has flipped. This was the case for me. Nothing could prepare me for the moment I learned my mom, my rock, was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I recall googling “NHL” only to be served hockey statistics; I was frustrated and scared. Every time we went to see her oncologist or when I accompanied her to chemo, I would get hit with a wall of anxiety. Each time we stepped into the hospital, what my mom and I truly needed most was support.
As a caregiver and patient, I understand the emotional moments that can happen at the point of care. As a healthcare marketer, I also understand the value of this space as a channel, and I’ve been fortunate to see it evolve over the tenure of my career. Today, pharmaceutical brands and healthcare and lifestyle advocacy groups push messages at these point of care (POC) settings, hoping to educate patients about therapy options.
But POC as a marketing channel needs to be treated both similarly and differently from other marketing strategies if a marketer wants to appear relevant and connect in a meaningful and useful way. The reality of distracted, concerned patients and worried caregivers means brands that want to engage with patients at the POC need to approach them with greater empathy and understanding, with content that resonates emotionally and rationally with this audience.
But what makes POC unique anyway?
The POC channel supports the patient at critical moments of their health journey.
From acute illness to more chronic or prolonged conditions, important milestones of the health journey happen at the point of care. Through a recent survey collaboration between Outcome Health and Nielsen, we learned that the wait times within the rooms of point of care are substantial, with patients waiting on average up to 38 minutes in the waiting room and then another 36 minutes in the exam room. These wait times represent a huge opportunity to communicate with and impact patients, caregivers and physicians all at the same time — essentially turning a “captive” audience into a “captivated” and educated one.
Inventory is finite if POC content is done right.
POC differs from other digital ad channels because inventory is specific, targeted, and limited. Think about it. There are only so many rheumatologists in the United States, and there are only so many brands that treat or support patients who see a rheumatologist. Factor in the attention span of the average person today, include the other places they can get content in the doctor’s office (like magazines, posters, pamphlets), as well as the fact that we are all walking around with smart devices that can deliver content that we ask it anytime, anywhere, and you realize how critical it is to provide content that is aligned with why a patient may be in that rheumatologist’s office in the first place. This content (continuing with the Rheumatology example) could include anything from signs and symptoms of Lupus, to managing rheumatoid arthritis through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices, to understanding how to best support a loved one who has osteoporosis — this is just the short list of potential content that may be pertinent to patients or caregivers seeing rheumatologists. The funnel of dependencies leading to the opportunity to message a patient who is seeing their provider for an ailment and being able to support that patient on their journey means that there are finite opportunities like this, which makes messaging at the POC more sophisticated and challenging in the same breath.
The point of care is the final touchpoint of the marketing message.
On many occasions, I’ve heard pharma marketers muse, “What if we could hold hands with patients when they have those important conversations with their provider?” In the POC channel, you can. Unlike TV, print, and digital that serve to create awareness for new therapies or reach patients before they reach the office, POC holds their hand in the office, moments before and during time with their physician.
POC drives patients to take action.
Messaging at the POC has been proven to impact and shift patient behaviors. In a study by ZS Associates, patient behavior was measured after being exposed to digital signage at their provider’s office. Of those exposed, 84% were more likely to ask their doctor about an ad they saw, 68% asked their doctor for a specific medication, 31% were more likely to fill their prescription, and 34% were more likely to take their medication as prescribed.
Where does POC marketing fit in alongside DTC and traditional channels? The point of care should serve as a complement to your brand’s other marketing and sales efforts, with specificity and context for patients waiting to see their doctors, moving them forward towards treatment. POC marketing can be leveraged as a digital tool, as a TV alternative, and even as a patient engagement solution to share benefits like co-pay assistance programs. Because your ad is now in the room with patients and their physician, messaging must be tailored for this space; simply dropping your TV spot onto an exam room screen isn’t likely to cut it with patients who are waiting to see their doctor. Advertisers should welcome the opportunity to become more deeply integrated into the patient-doctor experience and develop content that can be integrated into the clinical setting.
Because there’s such a range of experiences (and emotions) that happen at POC, it’s important that any content (sponsored or not) intended for this space is sensitive to that. You can’t create effective content without considering the patient’s mindset. Content must be curated and contextualized for each touchpoint of the point of care experience. Videos should be relevant for that clinic’s specialty and help to facilitate physician-patient conversations. When you’re at the doctor’s office, sitting in a gown (or in the passenger seat supporting an ill parent), wouldn’t you prefer fact-based, custom information that’s helpful and supportive of the conversation you’re about to have with your physician?
On the other hand, there are also moments of the health journey when patients don’t want to dig further into their treatment plan or condition and prefer access to content that simply entertains or distracts them. We as marketers need to take into account the range of experiences that happen within the point of care and provide content that aligns with and supports these unique moments.
The most important thing to remember is that patient needs vary within the POC environment, and you can’t take a “one size fits all” approach with your messages within each channel. The diversity of needs and experiences is prompting the space to evolve beyond just awareness. New trends within the space include patient education, adherence, support group registration, and more. The channel is poised for continued growth and we, as healthcare marketers, need to continue to innovate so that everyone entering the POC space can feel informed, inspired, entertained, and renewed during the most critical moments of care.
The global digital health market is on the rise. Digital healthcare is the future, and increasingly the present, of how patients are diagnosed and treated. With the shift in healthcare, DTC marketers are presented with a new challenge: understanding how patient needs change as new technologies enter the market.
It’s no longer enough to talk simply about the promises of new technologies. Now it’s time to take a hard look at how digital healthcare impacts the patients and consequently, how new needs and expectations are formed. Cybersecurity, or lack thereof, is becoming a major factor in this equation.
Concerns Around the Internet of Medical Things
You probably already know that the Internet of Medical Things has a huge potential for medicine. Elderly patients’ health can be remotely monitored by care-givers, extending the period of independence. Medicine can be automatically administered, ensuring the right dosage at the right time. Reports can be composed and sent to an app on the patient’s phone, giving them greater agency over their own health. Emergency alerts can be sent directly to hospitals if the patient’s health rapidly deteriorates.
In short: countless lives can be saved or made easier thanks to the Internet of Medical Things.
But that doesn’t mean that the technology behind the Internet of Things (IoT) is flawless. In fact, security experts have been raising concerns about IoT since its very inception. And while having a smart light switch or smart TV hacked shouldn’t have any effect on users’ health, a hacked medical device is a whole other story.
To give you an idea of how disastrous things could turn out, security researchers discovered security flaws in the Medtronic implantable insulin pump that allowed them to remotely disable it, cutting off the delivery of medication. The same researchers demonstrated also taking total control of a pacemaker system.
The message from this and many other experiments was clear: if insufficiently protected, IoT medical devices could be a danger to patients’ lives.
Cybersecurity and Telehealth
Telehealth is yet another field of digital healthcare that carries a great promise. Telehealth entails providing remote care through means of telecommunication which increasingly means the Internet. Its great advantage is that it minimizes the need for in-person visits to the doctor’s office: particularly important for elderly patients or those with mobility issues.
Giving the popularity of smartphones and laptops, most households are equipped for telehealth. As the infrastructure develops, we’re likely to see many patients schedule doctor visits online and consult specialists remotely via a video chat.
But telehealth faces the exact same criticism as the Internet of Medical Devices. Most Internet users are don’t have the technical expertise necessary to protect their devices from access by unauthorized parties. Once those devices are being used to transmit such sensitive information as medical test results, doctor consultations and other health data, the question of cybersecurity becomes ever more pressing.
Should this Matter to DTC Marketers?
Before I answer this question, let’s consider another one. Does cybersecurity matter to the end-users of these technologies — patients?
The answer is a resounding yes. According to research, Americans care about their data privacy and security (85% of respondents are extremely, very or somewhat concerned about their smart devices monitoring their personal habits). And not just that, many users will take active steps to protect their privacy as well.
With surveillance and hacking scandals breaking out seemingly every week, this security awareness will only grow. It’s enough to take a look at Millennials’ laptops: many will have their video cameras taped over, GPS location disabled, and a VPN running in the background as they surf the Internet.
To come back to the question in the heading: DTC marketers need to care about cybersecurity because that’s what patients care about. Security features are slowly moving into the spotlight — when making an important decision about their health, patients will be weighting security as one of the factors. Understanding and being able to answer questions about cybersecurity will soon become a part of DTC marketer’s stack.
Digital healthcare transformation is picking up speed and so will the controversies associated with it.
To be fully prepared for the future of healthcare, we need to look critically at what this new field is shaping up to be. With patients increasingly concerned about their privacy and security, it seems that security features will be a strong selling point for any new technologies entering the health sector.
HCB Health opened their third office recently, in Parsippany, NJ. This will allow the independent, full-service healthcare agency to focus on serving large-scale pharma clients in the tri-state region. The office currently has 10 team members, and is expected to grow to 25 in the next year. According to the news release, they are “actively recruiting to fill positions in the NJ office in account services, creative, project management and digital.”
“We created this office to service existing local accounts and engage new clients in the tri-state region. Even in our virtual world, it’s essential to be close to your clients,” stated HCB Health CEO Kerry Hilton in the announcement. HCB Health President Nancy Beesley added: “We’re strategically located in the middle of the pharma belt – where talent, agencies and especially pharma and biotech companies converge.”
The NJ office joins their Austin and Chicago based locations. The agency utilizes technology to ensure “seamless collaboration and integration” across all of its team members as well as maintain it’s quality and commitment to clients, regardless of location. The New Jersey team members are (listed according to hire date, earliest to most recent):
Lee Randolph, SVP Group Account Supervisor
Nick D’ Amore, Medical Editor
Mark Davis, SVP Multichannel Delivery
John Augenstein, Group Account Supervisor
Dale Fordsman, Senior Project Manager
Allison Musante, Senior Copywriter
Matthew Musick, Account Supervisor
Lysa Opfer, Art Supervisor
Alexandra Langdon, Assistant Account Executive
Thomas Cianci, Project Manager
A special ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Nov. 4th for the newest office. From left to right: (front row) President Nancy Beesley, Francesco Lucarelli, Matthew Musick, Kelsi Brown, Lee Randolph, Alexandra Langdon, John Augenstein; (back row), Travis Waggoner, Lysa Opfer, Allison Musante, Brooks Bagwell, Dale Fordsman and Mark Davis.
One of my favorite things about PatientPoint is that we’re always finding innovative ways to improve patient engagement. Leading the charge on the technology side is David Guthrie, Chief Product Officer at PatientPoint and one of the most interesting and best hires we’ve ever had.
David is dedicated to developing meaningful, technology-enabled solutions designed to make life better. He’s most well-known for co-founding Medcast, the platform that became WebMD—which, like point of care, helps bring doctors and patients together. David later served as an adviser on early-stage life science and technology investments, then followed that with a 14-year stint as Chief Technology Officer for PGi, the world’s largest dedicated provider of collaboration software and services.
David’s amazing career and his work at PatientPoint recently earned him recognition as a 2019 DTC Innovator by DTC Perspectives. On the heels of that prestigious award, I wanted to share his thoughts on the value of patient engagement technology—and what we should keep our eyes on in the near future.
Q: What value does engagement technology bring to the patient experience?
A: To me, it’s education, education, education. Health education helps patients better understand their condition and treatment options, making them more prepared for the overall care management related to their condition. A more educated patient has a healthier outcome and better experience when dealing with healthcare providers.
Q: What opportunities does patient engagement technology provide pharma brands over other advertising channels?
A: The big difference patient engagement solutions offer is interactivity at the point of care. It gives brands a presence in the moment when physicians and patients are making treatment decisions together. You can get some interactivity on the web, but you’re not necessarily present in the doctor’s office, right when those decisions happen.
With a comprehensive engagement platform, brands can take an umbrella approach that puts them in the waiting room, the exam room, the back office, and even beyond the office. We’ve added technologies that allow healthcare providers to send information to patients before they arrive for the visit or after the visit, based on what the provider sees in the EMR. It’s a holistic approach to patient education that’s unique to patient engagement technology versus traditional advertising channels.
Q: What should pharma brands look for in a patient engagement technology partner?
A: Technology is changing rapidly, so pharma brands need to think about how an engagement technology partner is responding to those changes. How interactive are their solutions? Are they utilizing mobile technologies and geolocation? What are they doing as far as integrating with EMRs, with voice technologies, with multiple platforms? You want a patient engagement technology partner that’s innovating in all of those areas. If they’re extending their current offerings into these spaces, that’s a partner you can really grow with.
Q: You have a unique insider view of the medical technology industry. What’s on the horizon for patient engagement technology that you’re eager to explore?
A: I’m interested in solutions that foster more effective communications before and after the doctor visit—education and tools that are tailored specifically to the patient. Today’s engagement technology is at the point of care; I want to get us to the point of patient.
For example, I may be at an oncologist for lymphoma and seeing point-of-care education about all types of cancer, but lymphoma education is all that’s relevant to me. If we take the engagement tools available inside the physician office, extend them out and make them more precise, we can deliver only the information that’s most relevant and valuable to an individual patient.
Q: Last question: What’s the best vacation you’ve ever had?
A: Beaver Creek, Colorado with my family for the summer. Hiking, four-wheeling, horseback riding, rafting, paragliding, zip lining—it’s an outdoor summer paradise. People think of Colorado for skiing or snow sports, but we started going out there in the summer and it became one of our top places. It’s great in winter and spring, but summer in Colorado is just amazing.
With digital pharma teams in the throes of 2020 annual planning, omnichannel marketing has risen to the top of the priority list.
As our industry rushes to keep pace with customer expectations shaped by faster-moving sectors like CPG, marketers have broadened their focus beyond the channel-based tactics of the past. “Omnichannel” is now shorthand for the ideal future state of pharma marketing: a seamless and personalized experience for all customers, and a martech ecosystem that gives brands the power to deliver it.
Still, marketers are wondering: how exactly do I achieve omnichannel success?
I recommend a methodical approach. Our experience working with hundreds of pharma marketing teams has revealed that there are three phases every brand must navigate on the path to true omnichannel marketing — each with its own considerations and requirements.
As your 2020 plans take shape, think about which phase of omnichannel transformation you’re in now. What actions you can take next year to continue the momentum?
Phase 1: Channel Optimization
How well is your brand performing in each channel? Your ability to answer this question is a good indicator of your readiness for omnichannel marketing.
Brands in Phase 1 are leveraging a standard set of digital platforms that provide data for the channels they support; email automation platforms measure open rates, CMS platforms and analytics tools track site traffic, and media platforms count ad impressions. Data exists, but it’s mostly transactional. Quarterly reports might correlate data for each channel to top-level goals, but the attribution is not precise and conclusions are not actionable.
Phase 1 organizations should focus on two areas.
Reporting — Look beyond transactional data to understand how well each channel is supporting KPIs. Keep in mind that KPIs are key performance indicators; there should be a limited number of meaningful outcomes that your team can accurately measure and consistently report on: prescription lift, adherence, etc. Dashboards for every team (media, web, email, others) should attempt to demonstrate how their channel is impacting KPIs. With all stakeholders reporting on the same KPIs, the brand will naturally start to align on more customer-centric goals and consider how multiple channels could work better together.
Segmentation — Phase 1 brands have established demographic customer segments that drive high-level messaging; for example, physicians in the same practice area all receive the same email sequence. These demographic segments are a start, but deeper behavior-based segments that align to KPIs (e.g. frequent prescribers, non-adherent patients) a valuable next step. Determine what data would help you establish segments of customers who share key behaviors, even if you don’t have access to the data just yet.
If you’re still struggling to define KPIs or to understand how demographic segments are engaging with your brand, your short-term focus should be on optimizing the core platforms you’ve put in place to support your channels today.
Phase 2: Data Centralization
With a solid understanding of how channels are performing, you’re ready to leverage cross-channel analytics. This sets the foundation for optimizing spend.
How? Suppose that prescription rates are falling within a physician target segment. The media team ramps up display spend on target networks, the brand team tests new creative, and field reps increase email frequency. Too often, these uncoordinated efforts result in overspend and do nothing to improve real-world customer experience (CX). Considering that HCPs are 2.7 times more likely to prescribe a drug when they are satisfied with their overall CX versus a single channel, orchestrated omnichannel journeys have a real impact on the bottom line.
With pharma marketing budgets historically allocated by channel, teams often default to adjusting tactics within channels to improve performance. In Phase 2, you’ll focus on centralizing data to inform smarter strategies.
Customer data platform (CDP) — A CDP is software that aggregates customer data from every channel in a single database. It integrates with your existing platforms to resolve user identities, track interactions across platforms, and trigger messaging. A CDP provides a more holistic picture of how your customers are interacting with your brand in real time, replacing disconnected transactional metrics. It doesn’t replace the platforms you already have in place; it complements them.
Behavioral segments — In Phase 1, you identified the behavioral data you need to create segments of customers who don’t just look alike on paper, but act alike in their digital journeys. With a CDP in place, you can gather and analyze behavioral data to craft better user journeys instead of optimizing “conversions” like ad clicks that don’t correlate to KPIs. What events signal high-value behavior? What combination of touch points indicates a likelihood to convert?
Keep in mind that you may not have enough data to create omnichannel journeys for every customer group right away. Start small; our clients typically run pilot programs designed to create one behavioral segment and practice using cross-channel analytics to improve their experience. Don’t despair if Phase 2 lasts six months or more; transforming from a channel-based to customer-centric brand takes time and effort.
In this simplified example, patients are grouped according to their behavior (engagement level) and KPI (adherence). With centralized data, the marketing team can begin to understand the triggers for each group, and track what combination of touch points improves engagement and achieves KPIs.
Phase 3: Refining the Mix
With centralized data and behavior-based customer segments in place, you’re ready to focus your investment in areas with the highest possible return.
High-performing pharma brands are using omnichannel optimization to outthink (rather than outspend) the competition; in fact, Gartner’s 2019 Digital IQ Index reported that 19% of the top 88 U.S. drug brands are generating higher site traffic with lower display impressions. If those brands had budgeted based on channel data alone, they’d be wasting valuable marketing dollars.
How will you know what combination of messaging, channels, and tactics will make the greatest impact?
Testing — Your CDP gives you real-time customer insight and the ability to immediately deploy changes to your campaigns; no need to set up a fixed email sequence and wait for your quarterly business review to understand the full impact. You can personalize messaging on the spot for a specific individual or group to learn how it affects engagement. Leverage your CDP capabilities to create and test hypotheses that will validate how customers respond to changes in their journey.
Deeper Data — Consider additional third-party data could deepen customer insight; sources may include wearable devices, claims data, electronic patient records, and more (with an eye on compliance, of course).
Predictive Analytics — With your technical infrastructure in place, you can begin to draw on historical data and customer behavior patterns to predict what changes could be made to drive higher conversion rates.
Phase 3 brands have the pieces in place to deliver the personalized, low-friction customer experience that is considered true omnichannel success. Then what?
In 2020, pharma marketers will prioritize omnichannel transformation to provide customers with a “consumer grade” experience. Before we know it, the very idea of “channels” will take a back seat to customer experience. Our reporting dashboards, language, team structures, and strategies will change.
Eventually, “omnichannel” will become synonymous with “marketing” in pharma. It will sound redundant, and we’ll wonder why channels — not customers — were even a priority to begin with. Until then, identify the phase of omnichannel transformation that you’re in right now and how you’ll take it to the next level in your 2020 plan.