The LGBTQ+ community encompasses a wide range of patients across all races, ethnicities and gender identities. However, when seeking healthcare resources and support, many of these patients feel underrepresented and mistrustful of pharma advertising, new data shows.
Less than half (44%) of LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma ads reflect their experience as members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to survey data collected by Phreesia Life Sciences and Klick Health from more than 1,500 patients in early 2022 as they checked in for doctors’ appointments. Similarly, only 45% of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma understands their unique needs, with those who identify as transgender or female being even less likely to feel understood by the pharma industry.
This lack of representation and understanding has affected LGBTQ+ patients’ overall trust in pharma, with 2 in 5 surveyed patients (41%) reporting that they don’t trust pharma ads at all and another 26% saying that they trust them “only a little.” And while representation is vital for building and maintaining that trust, outreach to the LGBTQ+ community also is crucial for bolstering these patients’ confidence in pharma, says Thea Briggs, Associate Director, Content Strategy, Phreesia Life Sciences.
“Representation matters, but it’s not enough to address disparities on its own,” Briggs says. “Pharma marketers must actively pursue robust outreach efforts, such as learning about LGBTQ+ individuals’ healthcare experiences, hiring LGBTQ+ people and partnering with community organizations to create effective campaigns, as well as dedicating consistent energy and attention to addressing the issues that this community experiences.”
Those issues range from having higher rates of either being uninsured or underinsured to postponing or avoiding medical treatment because of bias and discrimination. Additionally, although more than 50% of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients say they are aware of many preventive care services, the percentages of those who have recently used such services are much lower. For example, while 59% of LGBTQ+ patients are aware of blood-pressure screening, only 32% got screened in the past year.
As for outreach, many LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma still has more work to do: Slightly more than one-third (34%) of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients “strongly disagree” and another 22% “somewhat disagree” that the pharma industry conducts sufficient LGBTQ+ outreach beyond HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications that high-risk individuals take to prevent getting HIV.
To improve LGBTQ+ patients’ perceptions of the pharma industry, as well as their preventive care knowledge, Amy Gómez, PhD, Senior Vice President, Diversity Strategy, Klick Health, emphasizes that it’s important to include members of the LGBTQ+ community at every stage of the pharma-marketing process, including foundational research and concept and message testing. Doing so can help pharma companies develop a deeper understanding of these patients’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and ensure that those attributes are accurately reflected in pharma communications.
“We can and should use our skills to create empathy and urgency,” Gómez says. “We can partner with our clients and providers to develop model programs that demonstrate the positive effects on community health outcomes when empathy for LGBTQ+ people and awareness of the health issues that impact them help to ameliorate implicit bias.”
And while engaging with LGBTQ+ patients to better understand what they need from their healthcare experiences can help boost preventive care usage, Phreesia survey data shows that greater inclusion also translates into more opportunities to positively impact LGBTQ+ patients’ perceptions of the pharma industry. Overall, 82% of surveyed patients said they have more positive feelings toward pharma companies that conduct outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.
“We’re proud to be using our platform to connect with members of the LGBTQ+ community to learn from them directly about their experiences in navigating and accessing healthcare,” says David Linetsky, Phreesia’s Senior Vice President, Life Sciences. “Our hope is that the insights we generate from this work will help advance and guide efforts among providers and pharma manufacturers to address biases and create more equitable healthcare experiences for these communities.”
Actively engaging with members of the LGBTQ+ community and gathering data that educates providers and better equips them to meet these patients’ needs is crucial for continuing to build their trust in the pharma industry, Briggs explains. However, fostering that trust must be a broadly inclusive, long-term commitment for life sciences organizations if they want to make true progress within this community.
“It’s easy for marketers and public health professionals to fall into the trap of becoming prescriptive— assuming we know how problems are experienced by individuals without asking them and deciding that we’re going to go in with our preferred solutions, regardless of community buy-in and participation,” Briggs says. “That’s not effective or respectful. Building trust and designing effective interventions and campaigns that will be well-received and work in patients’ real lives requires a lot more listening and learning than talking.”
It was a typical Thursday morning in Medical, Legal, and Regulatory (MLR) review, and we were about to review a simple branded banner ad for a prostate cancer drug. The team has always been accustomed to allotting 15 to 30 minutes at most to review a tactic as simple as a banner ad, but this was certainly not the case that day. The banner ad was pulled up onscreen for review and within two seconds of it being displayed, the legal reviewer abruptly said one word: “Nope.” Everyone in the room and on the phone was confused, so naturally, the lead marketer asked if there was a problem. The legal reviewer explained that the first frame of the banner ad displayed an African American male representing a patient with prostate cancer, and then the reviewer followed up by indicating that the prominent use of an African American male misrepresented the brand.
Before diving into the rationale that this legal reviewer provided for this decision, let us briefly discuss the reality of the prostate cancer patient population. This year, an estimated 268,490 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. The number of new cases diagnosed in Black men is 73% higher than the number of new cases diagnosed in White men. Black men in the United States and the Caribbean have the highest incidence rates of prostate cancer around the globe.1 In addition to being more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, African Americans have the world’s highest incidence of prostate cancer and a more than two-fold higher mortality rate compared with White men.2
Now back to the MLR review where the legal reviewer refused to review the banner ad due to the representation of the patient in the first frame. You could hear a pin drop in the room when this decision was made. There was an overwhelming sense of discomfort among the marketers, ad agency partners, and even certain MLR review team members, especially since this was at a point in time when we as a nation were at the height of sensitivity around racism and racial disparities, including health disparities. It was at a time when Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) was at the forefront of corporate culture across all industries in our nation. But let it be clear that this legal reviewer was not acting on or making a decision under any racial or prejudicial ideologies or ways of thinking. The legal reviewer stated that we were misrepresenting the brand because the clinical trial of the product we were promoting had less than 1% African American patients represented in the study population. Consequently, this reviewer deemed it as a substantial legal risk to prominently represent an African American male on a branded piece promoting the product. All other reviewers then followed suit and the decision was made to replace the Black patient with a White patient—all because it misrepresented the clinical study population when in reality, it was most representative of our national population fighting prostate cancer.
The intent here is not just to tell a story about an instance that occurred in one MLR review, but to use this story to set the stage on a topic that runs rampant in the pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing and advertising industries. The topic of patients being underrepresented or misrepresented in marketing efforts across various disease states is neither novel nor unique. It has been an issue plaguing the pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing industries for quite some time now. Although many companies are actively attempting to address this issue, especially with the recent uptick in DE&I efforts, we still have a way to go when it comes to matching our industry’s multicultural representation with the multicultural reality. Therefore, the intent here is to briefly highlight just a select few of the fairly recent and successful trends in our industry that are being used to combat this issue, with a focus on three specific points: (1) representative clinical trial recruitment, (2) representative patient inclusion within pharmaceutical advisory boards, and (3) the importance of effective multicultural marketing.
Representative Clinical Study Recruitment
Let us first address one of the main principles that will help shift the narrative of multicultural representation in the pharmaceutical industry, which is the corporate recognition that multicultural recruitment efforts for clinical trials need to be significantly better and truer to the epidemiology of each respective disease state’s population. Ensuring people from diverse backgrounds join clinical trials is key to advancing health equity.3 Participants in clinical trials should represent the patients who will use the medical products. Unfortunately, this is often not the case as people from racial and ethnic minorities and other diverse groups are underrepresented in clinical research. So, while it may seem obvious, one significant step researchers and medical product sponsors can take to confront healthcare disparities is to ensure clinical trials for medical products are more inclusive of multiple populations.
In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued final guidance in late 2020 with the agency’s recommendations of designing and executing clinical trials of drugs and biologics that include people with different demographic characteristics (e.g., sex, race, ethnicity, age, location of residency) and nondemographic characteristics (e.g., patients with organ dysfunction, comorbid conditions, and disabilities; those at weight range extremes; and populations with diseases or conditions with low prevalence). This guidance provides the FDA’s current thinking on steps to broaden eligibility criteria in clinical trials through inclusive trial practices, trial designs, and methodological approaches. In turn, it aims to provide recommendations for how sponsors can increase enrollment of underrepresented populations within their clinical trials.4
Ultimately, this will allow medical product manufacturers to reach their respective patient populations more accurately and effectively through even more targeted marketing efforts. It will also help prevent any uncomfortable conversations around potential risk due to legal technicalities associated with clinical trial recruitment and promotion of the product at hand.
Representative Patient Inclusion Within Pharmaceutical Advisory Boards
It is exceedingly important to understand that now, more than ever, patients of all socioeconomic or demographic statuses have access to self-research medical information. DeepIntent fielded a study in which they found that while stuck at home during the pandemic, people saw more pharma ads than ever and it was not just on televisions, but on computers and mobile devices. The study also found that consumers watching ads and searching for health information online weighed almost equally when measured against their physician-provided knowledge.5
As patients take their health and future into their own hands with the help of digital health tools, they also should be treated as equal partners within hospital, pharmacy, and even pharmaceutical company settings. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly employing patients who have experience with the given company’s products on their advisory boards, and better yet, accurately represent the most affected patient populations. This allows companies to capture detailed patient information to inform future strategies and effective targeting approaches.
As an example, Novo Nordisk is committed to incorporating the patient voice at all stages of their product development process. They believe it takes a multistakeholder approach to develop new treatments for patients living with chronic diseases, and Novo Nordisk is convinced that patient partnerships are the best starting point for all medical innovations. As a result, in 2020, Novo Nordisk established patient advisory boards called DEEP (Disease Experience Expert People), which is a framework for placing patients center stage and providing an environment for their input to affect the patients’ care delivery model, as well as future patient communication strategies for Novo Nordisk products.6
Importance of Effective Multicultural Marketing
Multicultural marketing is the process of representing diversity within a brand’s collateral, messaging, and content, as well as speaking directly to diverse cultures, races, and groups. The multicultural or cross-cultural segment constitutes the largest, fastest-growing consumer segment in the US market. This is due to the significant treatment gaps across therapeutic areas that not only represent potentially millions of new scripts but also represent the strong brand upside and a reputational boost from the opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to improve patient outcomes on a national scale. The multicultural segment is also at the forefront of the consumer movement when it comes to digital, mobile, and social media use and when communicated in a way that is relevant and resonates, has a higher promotional response. To address this growing populace, the number of pharmaceutical companies investing in multicultural marketing teams has more than tripled within the last decade. The good news is that although the industry is a bit behind, the needle is certainly moving in the right direction as many pharmaceutical companies have also adopted multicultural or multiethnic corporate strategies.7
A key part of effective multicultural marketing is that to close some of the gaps, an incremental investment is needed to specifically target these audiences, as traditional efforts can prove less effective. Using Nielson media data, a direct example of this can be seen in a breakdown of primetime TV viewers. When the top 10 English language networks were compared to the top Spanish language networks, it was determined approximately 70% of US Hispanics (18 years or older) are exclusively tuning in to the Spanish-speaking Univision. The data clearly show that traditional investments in the English language TV space are underreaching this audience.7
It is also important to gain the necessary vocabulary and language for essential conversations around cross-cultural marketing and to hear directly from leaders in cross-cultural marketing on how to create a business case for the investment internally and how best to collaborate successfully externally. Consideration of necessary ways to apply existing tools and data sets to communicate with a diverse audience more effectively is what sets apart a truly successful multicultural campaign from the status quo. For example, social media marketing and the content shared on various platforms, should mirror the diverse audience it’s targeting and seek to engage them, which will undoubtedly prove far more successful than those brands choosing to employ a more blanketed approach, designed to appeal to a broader and more general audience. Now is the time for marketing teams to appropriately budget for a targeted multicultural, multichannel approach to adequately communicate health information directly to communities of color through the specific platforms where they most engage. The inevitable result? Better DE&I practices by marketers, better brand visibility and results, and more informed and engaged target audiences.
In conclusion, a key takeaway is that multicultural marketing is simply marketing. It should now be the standard across any marketing strategy throughout any industry. But when speaking directly to the pharmaceutical industry, the main point is that patients want to be heard and most importantly want to understand treatment options available for their conditions, and that especially goes for the most at-risk patients, which for the most part, happen to be ethnic minorities in low socioeconomic geographic areas. However, it will be difficult to notice a significant shift without effectively addressing at least the three trends that were just highlighted: (1) representative clinical study recruitment, (2) representative patient inclusion within pharmaceutical advisory boards, and (3) the importance of effective multicultural marketing. It is imperative that all three items feed into each other, and as such, strengthen each other when done properly. Lastly, it is critical for the pharmaceutical companies in collaboration with all their partner agencies to continue to fight for appropriate, accurate, and necessary representation of patient populations not only as they pertain to clinical studies, but as they are truly represented in those most affected, especially in the underserved ethnic minority communities. Because as many of the team members in that MLR room reviewing the banner ad that one Thursday morning can attest, they never want to have to sit through a conversation like that ever again.
Cancer.Net®. Prostate Cancer: Statistics. Accessed July 20, 2022. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/prostate-cancer/statistics
Hoffman RM, Gilliland FD, Eley JW, et al. Racial and ethnic differences in advanced-stage prostate cancer: the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001;93(5):388-395. doi:10.1093/jnci/93.5.388
Clinical Trial Diversity. US Food & Drug Administration. Accessed July 20, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/minority-health-and-health-equity/clinical-trial-diversity
FDA Offers Guidance to Enhance Diversity in Clinical Trials, Encourage Inclusivity in Medical Product Development. US Food & Drug Administration. Accessed July 20, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-offers-guidance-enhance-diversity-clinical-trials-encourage-inclusivity-medical-product
The Patient Perspective: Paving the Path to Awareness, Ad Relevance and Empowerment. DeepIntent+®. Accessed July 20, 2022. https://www.deepintent.com/the-patient-perspective-paving-the-path-to-awareness-ad-relevance-and-empowerment/
Coquerel C, Kuruvilla S, Eichmann L. Inside Novo Nordisk’s Patient Advisory Board Meetings. Accessed July 20, 2022. https://www.clinicalleader.com/doc/inside-novo-nordisk-s-patient-advisory-board-meetings-0001
Nielsen. The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers. Accessed July 20, 2022. https://www.nielsen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/04/the-multicultural-edge-rising-super-consumers-march-2015.pdf
The patient experience at the point of care is rapidly changing. Today, medical groups continue to implement more consumer-centric workflows and digital engagement platforms to manage operational, clinical and financial processes. While the COVID-19 outbreak accelerated the adoption of these tools among providers, it was not the initial catalyst. Prior to the pandemic, many healthcare providers had already begun to adopt digital engagement tools to manage operational, clinical and financial processes. Phreesia’s patient intake platform was designed to support these trends, which has allowed us to quickly adapt to the current industry environment and to deliver valuable applications to our provider network and the broader market. We recognized the urgent need for intake products that could support telehealth visits, screen for COVID-19 risks and minimize contact during in-person visits and shifted our efforts to helping medical groups stay safe, stay open and continue to see patients. As we navigate a new normal in a post-COVID-19 world, we believe digital engagement tools will become even more critical to ensuring that the POC stays relevant to Life Sciences manufacturers and healthcare marketers.
The evolution of the patient experience during COVID-19 has brought
POC marketing to a tipping point. Today, amid tremendous disruption to the U.S.
economy and healthcare industry, marketers are questioning whether the POC is still
an effective environment to engage with patients. The answer is yes, but to be
effective, healthcare marketers must adopt new standards for success that consider
the realities of a post-COVID-19 environment and how patients and staff are
adjusting to a different kind of intake experience.
Below are five important changes that we believe the POC
marketing industry must address:
The POC is no longer tied to physical locations—it’s wherever patients choose to engage with their providers and seek care
In-person visit volumes are fluctuating and have created tremendous uncertainty for advertising exposure and impression volume, making one-to-one engagement tactics more valuable
Increased provider sensitivity to shared surfaces will decrease the effectiveness of many traditional marketing tactics
Patients are more receptive to personalized content that’s tailored to their individual health needs
Disruptions in patients’ access to care has created a greater need for support programs
The POC was moving beyond the walls of the physician’s
office well before 2020, but COVID-19 has led to specific workflow changes that
are likely to become the norm and as a result, will impact the future of POC
marketing. Medical offices have implemented contactless, or “zero-contact”
workflows to help minimize exposure and reduce contact between patients and
staff. Many of our clients have eliminated the waiting room by asking patients
to wait in their cars when they arrive for their appointment and to check in
using their mobile devices. They’re also removing shared surface spaces and
assigning the majority of their non-provider staff to remote work. Telehealth
has also brought significant change to POC marketing. Prior to COVID-19, the
telehealth market was dominated by specialty services offered through employee
benefits plans. But as healthcare organizations look for ways to provide care
and limit contact between patients and staff, a growing number of them are offering
virtual visits. The result of these
operational changes, both contactless workflows and telehealth, is a more personalized
intake experience that relies on patients using their mobile devices to engage
with providers outside of the traditional office setting.
Even as medical groups rebuild their appointment schedules and patients begin
to return to their providers’ offices, it’s clear that the overall the nature
of in-person visits, including opportunities to engage with patients during
those sessions, has changed. As more providers adopt telehealth and
zero-contact workflows, we’ll need to find new ways to measure impression volumes
that were traditionally based on the in-person visit. We can no longer rely on
patients’ idly reviewing screens, thumbing through magazines or picking up
brochures and pamphlets in the waiting room. We’ll need to deliver targeted,
one-to-one engagements to patients’ mobile device, while also ensuring that the
content is restricted for their personal use only.
In addition to facing a new intake
experience, patents today are inundated with new information about their
health. As COVID-19 guidance and recommendations continue to evolve and
patients navigate through a constant stream information, medical marketing must
be personalized to patients’ specific health interests and concerns. Those solutions
that are tied to office operations, rather than a specific office location, will
stand out. Healthcare marketers can leverage self-service digital platforms,
such as patient intake software, to engage with patients about their health. At
the same time, the one-on-one nature of these personalized engagements have a
far greater chance of catching patients’ attention. The point-of-care offers us
an opportunity to reach patients at a critical point along their healthcare
journey—the moment when they are most attentive to their health concerns and
just before they speak with their provider about those needs.
COVID-19 also caused a tremendous disruption to patients’
access to care. The initial outbreak forced many medical offices to close or to
reduce operations, delaying care for hundreds of thousands of patients. Sadly,
it also exacerbated social determinants for many patients, including
employment, health insurance and education. Today’s patients need more than
just information about new therapies, they need to learn about diseases and to understand
the importance of resuming treatment protocols that may have been interrupted,
such as vaccine schedules, infusions, preventive health screenings and
diagnostic testing. We also need to ensure they’re aware of the numerous patient
support programs available from life sciences manufacturers. These programs can
be invaluable in helping patients gain access to and stay on therapy, yet fewer
than one in five patients are aware they exist. Increasing visibility of these
programs is critical for improving patient adherence, as well as to ensure that
qualifying patients can access the right therapies to achieve their health
As we enter a new media planning season, healthcare
marketers and life sciences manufacturers need more detail and strategic
insight into how the POC can become an integral part of their digital and
mobile strategy. Patient utilization data demonstrates the value of mobile and
how it enables provider to deliver safe care via zero-contact workflows and telehealth
services. We must also personalize content and create directed, one-to-one
engagements to cut through the noise and influx of health information aimed at
patients to address their specific needs and priorities. Finally, we should incorporate
disease education and patient support programs into digital engagement campaigns
when they can improve health outcomes for target patient populations. As the patient
experience becomes increasingly mediated by the converging forces of digital
adaptation, patient centricity and pandemic response, we must find a way to
align our digital engagement strategies at the point of care to every patient’s
Click here to learn more about Phreesia’s digital engagement solutions.
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.
You would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t been affected in some way by the national epidemic of opioid addiction. Whether as an individual, or through family, friends, colleagues, neighbors—we all know, or at least know of, someone who has struggled with this growing issue.
It’s no wonder, then, during the past year many beautiful and incredibly influential disease awareness and DTC campaigns have been created to destigmatize and humanize this heartbreaking issue. These campaigns drive home the truth that people with addiction issues are not just the individuals who live questionable lifestyles, have separated from society, and are living on the streets. They are the people you see every day, the individuals who have full, successful lives—the high-powered executive, the college athlete, the church-going grandmother who is recovering from surgery. A few current ads speak to this issue; all of which are doing the important job of bringing the conversation forward and shedding light on the issue, as well as challenging the misconceptions around opioid addiction. Here are some of the best:
Prescribed to Death, National Safety Council
This robust, award-winning campaign by the National Safety Council was originally launched in 2018, and it has been evolving and growing ever since. It hits all touchpoints—from the traveling monument that personalizes the effect of loss through a display of pills carved with the faces of 20,000 real people lost to opioid addiction in just one year, to the newly implemented “Opioids: Warn Me” stickers designed for people to apply to their insurance cards to ensure doctors and pharmacists have a conversation about the benefits of, and concerns around, the drugs being prescribed to them.
It’s not every day that you come across great creative coming out of a state health department, but this is certainly a wonderful exception. The series, each page of which beautifully illustrates how naloxone truly does help breathe life back into people on the cusp of death from opioid overdose, captures the powerful impact of the drug and the importance of being able to save a life—all in one striking image.
Impossible Questions, Partnership for Drug Free Kids
Most public service announcements (PSAs) tend to be directed toward individuals who are immediately at risk, with the objective of raising awareness and/or changing individuals’ attitudes or actions. This one views opioid addiction with a different lens by speaking to the effect it has on the parents of an addicted child. Through the simple art of storytelling, this PSA highlights the impact of addiction on an intensely personal, relatable level, and shows how, even within the bonds of a marriage, the fight to help someone in the throes of addiction can leave people feeling isolated, afraid, and alone.
The stopping power of this particular campaign is significant, in part because the ads leave no room for interpretation. By transforming a familiar, everyday object into a depiction of small, powerful vignettes, First Call and VML do a masterful job of illustrating what the future likely looks like if you’re an opioid addict. The individuals shown are literally trapped in the day-to-day reality of addiction—a future that is ominous, dark, and alarming. The powerful imagery captures the incalculable human cost of this rampant epidemic.
This awareness ad comes from Huggies, an unlikely source considering the brand is universally recognized as being associated with the warm, happy feelings that babies tend to evoke. The video itself addresses the littlest and most innocent casualties of opioid addiction and shares the powerful way Huggies is looking to help effect change in the lives of newborns who are born to addicted mothers. Huggies really shows its values and commitment to its customer base in both this ad and the program the company funds.
I know the pain of losing a loved one to opioid addiction. My family continues to grieve the loss of an incredible young man who, after an awful car accident, began a decade-long battle against addiction to his prescribed painkillers. Three years ago, he lost that battle.
Countless other families have experienced similar losses due to our nationwide opioid crisis. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 130 people die from opioid overdoses every day. It’s a devastating epidemic that impacts people of any age and from all walks of life.
To help combat opioid addiction, PatientPoint® collaborated with Shatterproof – a nonprofit organization focused on ending the stigma of addiction and improving addiction treatment – to create a powerful opioid education program at the point of care. It launched nationwide in October 2017 across the digital PatientPoint engagement platform, reaching an estimated 15 million patients and caregivers each month in waiting rooms, exam rooms, and in the physician back office. The content is designed to increase the awareness of opioid addiction and encourage doctor-patient discussions about other treatment options.
And the best news is, it is working and we are making a difference. An independent analysis by Symphony Health revealed that each of the 20,793 physicians who had the education program in their practices distributed 142 fewer opioid prescriptions over the eight-month study period than closely matched, non-participating physicians. That adds up to nearly 3 million fewer pills prescribed. If that doesn’t prove the effectiveness of messaging to physicians and patients at the point of care, I don’t know what will.
I often talk about the power of messaging at the point of care, but the results of PatientPoint-Shatterproof campaign really drive it home. I encourage you to read the case study for more details about this fantastic campaign and its impact on the fight against opioid addiction. You can find here.
At PatientPoint, we’re always looking for ways to take our approach to messaging patients to the next level. Having heard professional patient advocate Dr. Grace Cordovano speak at several conferences, I knew she could give us valuable insights from inside the care experience.
Grace is an award-winning, board-certified patient advocate (BCPA) who specializes in fostering private, personalized patient advocacy services in the cancer arena. She gained a unique view of the patient journey by working intimately with dozens of cancer patients – including her mother – and by going through the journey herself when she was misdiagnosed with advanced lymphoma. As a result, Grace sees opportunities for brands to improve the care experience for these patients.
Q: You’ve helped many patients through their care journey. What does it take for a patient to complete that journey successfully?
A: Many things are required to be successful as a person living with a diagnosis, and some of them are not clinical. We have to be mindful of things like social determinants of health. When patients go home, do they have food in the refrigerator, transportation, and someone who can help them care for themselves?
And what about coordinating care? That’s a big unmet need people face routinely. People with a chronic, life-altering condition are often distressed and disappointed by how little is done to make sure all information is communicated seamlessly to every essential care person and caregiver.
Q: How can healthcare marketers help in that regard?
A: I would love to see brands provide a tool to guide patients. When someone’s given a life-altering diagnosis, they aren’t given a map or basic list of steps to tell them that when they get home, they need to do A, B, and C. What do I do when I leave that point of care? What do I do when I go home and I have work, family, children, and so many other obligations that don’t stop because I have this diagnosis? Lay it out for me: tell me what I need to do next and what do I do if I get stuck.
Q: What would a guide like that include?
A: Ideally, it would be a digital tool, so when a person leaves the doctor’s office, they have an app that maps exactly what they need to do for next steps. Having a to-do list is not enough because the path is never straight-forward. We need significantly more than just scheduling the next appointment or establishing medication reminders. People need to know how to request their medical records, how to navigate an insurance denial, or what to do when the medication is not covered by their pharmacy. This could be easily crowdsourced, similar to how Waze crowdsources traffic and navigation. Let’s crowdsource and navigate our diagnoses together!
Q: What is a patient story that’s really stuck with you?
A: I collaborated with a woman whose blood work indicated she might have a rare cancer. She met with a surgical oncologist who recommended a Whipple procedure, a surgery that could seriously impact her quality of life. The oncologist shared his medical expertise and his concerns, the patient and I did extensive research and, after months of work, we decided to go ahead with the procedure. Two days before the surgery, the oncologist called the patient and said, “You know, I think you should seek a third opinion.” Everyone relaxed, the patient got another opinion, the surgery was put off and she is now asymptomatic with no signs of any cancer. She’s doing great today because her oncologist was thoughtful and humble enough to get another perspective. The process was a beautiful example of shared decision-making between the patient and the doctor.
It’s been five years since Gartner called Prescriptive Analytics “the final frontier for Big Data, where companies can finally turn the unprecedented levels of data into powerful action.” Will prescriptive analytics be the final frontier for health marketers?
Pharma Marketers’ Analytics Adoption Curve
Let’s start by understanding where pharma marketing is on the analytics adoption curve.
Do you retroactively analyze what happened with your media campaigns? If YES, you’re using Descriptive Analytics.
Do you evaluate, in a deliberate and controlled fashion, why it happened? If YES, you’re using Diagnostic Analytics.
Do you have enough data and intelligence to predict what is most likely to happen? If YES, you’re using Predictive Analytics.
Do you use logic and math to decide how to make it happen? If YES, you’re using Prescriptive Analytics.
While almost all pharma marketers are using Descriptive and Diagnostic Analytics to a certain extent to measure and evaluate their media campaigns, no one to my knowledge is using Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics approaches with measurable success in health. The approach has been used successfully in mass brands for marketing, and in pharma for supply chain management, customer service modeling, and even clinical trial management, but not for marketing and media.
What Prescriptive Analytics Could Look Like
And yet we talk about prescriptive analytics because the promise is extraordinary. Let’s imagine the possibility.
For example, every month nearly 100 million people visit Healthline. With big data models, we would be able to predict the condition profiles of our readers, what content they’re going to read, what ads they’re going to click on, and what brands they will ultimately buy. With that information, we could use AI in real time to individualize and personalize the experience for each reader and determine which ad unit(s) to show them, in which platform (site, social network, newsletter), and in what order, to influence specific behaviors such as visiting a particular website page, and delivering a specific outcome like a new brand start.
Sponsoring brands could manage the reach of their ad campaigns and forecast the increased demand generated by their ad spend far more accurately. The prospect is enticing.
Limitations of Prescriptive Analytics in Health Marketing
Before we fully embrace the allure, let’s recognize some of the limitations of predictive analytics in health marketing.
The scale of the data just doesn’t exist. Sure, if we’re talking about a condition like flu, which affects large swaths of the world’s population, we may be able to build models that work. But what about advanced metastatic breast cancer? Or ankylosing spondylitis? The numbers of cases of these conditions are small, so the predictive power is far from confident and the models fall apart.
Media campaigns don’t really relate to each other. To get the historical learning at scale, we’d need to combine the learning across all media campaigns, across all brands, even across all conditions. But brands are different. Insights are different. Messages and levers are different. The experience from one campaign doesn’t apply to another, even though the holistic experience can yield powerful insights.
The patient journey is truly individual. Perhaps, with really big data sets, we can find demographic or behavioral markers that correlate with condition profiles, advertising sensitivity, or likelihood to get on brand. But the correlation won’t be high, and won’t necessarily portend future behavior. It’s because health is multifactorial and every person is truly unique. Not everyone with advanced metastatic breast cancer is the same. They live under different economic conditions, social determinants, value systems, and risk curves. There may exist a handful of people who mimic similar behaviors, but never segments large enough to truly validate the effort.
Last but not least, patient privacy protection limits widespread use of patient data. Industries leveraging prescriptive analytics with machine learning and artificial intelligence have significantly fewer barriers than health and pharma marketers. HIPAA makes data matching and outcomes-based analysis extremely challenging. Add to that the data loss now with GDPR and CCPA, further diminishing the sample sizes available for testing and optimizing, and making universal recommendations impossible.
How Pharma Can Be Data-Driven
Instead of chasing big data models, marketers can be predictive and prescriptive with their media campaigns by using descriptive and diagnostic data combined with human computing: human discernment, sensitivity, and gumption.
Here are our four principles:
Live by the data. Continue to invest in machines to run the decision rules behind your dashboard, alerting you when a campaign is in the “red” or “green” zone. But make sure you have empathetic humans available to receive those alerts and act on them.
Surround yourself with a team of competitive hard-core analysts. They’re hard-wired to go beyond current standards. They’re your human engine, to fine-tune future results and predict future results.
Be smarter about how you use historical data. Ask “What worked?” Also, scenario plan by asking “What could work better?” to understand and perfect campaign effectiveness. Be strategic. Start with the end goal in mind, test and experiment, and deftly piece together the answers to “how” and “why.”
Optimize actively, not passively. When your agency or partner presents their optimization approach, don’t gloss over that section. Approach optimization as a critical strategic lever. Build rapid review cycles, and learn and codify that learning everyday.
Prescriptive analytics gives us an ideal to aspire to, but not something we can realistically participate in today. However, we can take the key principles from that ideal and incorporate them in the way we run our campaigns. We can adhere to scientific rigor, transparency, and connecting humans to the numbers to rethink and refine campaigns. For now, it may not be a golden goose, but it’s not an empty promise either.
I sat down with Charlie Greenberg, a respected healthcare industry veteran and an expert in point-of-care (POC) marketing, to discuss current trends in healthcare marketing. It’s a topic Charlie knows well, having worked for more than 30 years in the industry with giants like Saatchi & Saatchi, Wyeth, and Merck. Charlie currently serves as a media and marketing consultant, so he spends a great deal of time thinking about the ways brands can improve their reach and maximize their return on investment.
Q: How has healthcare marketing changed during your time in the industry?
A: Market research on patient population profiles and their attitudes toward treatment options has become increasingly more sophisticated. We no longer focus only on demographics and affinity interests, but now incorporate attitudes toward treatment options, healthcare status, and relevant multicultural distinctions within an overall target universe.
Paid media in the marketing mix has embraced this more sophisticated market research by employing greater targeted media tactics. This is not only a function of the evolution of digital media but greater opportunities within the point-of-care arena and the availability to refine how mass media can reach a target audience.
Q: What’s the biggest thing healthcare marketers aren’t doing that they should, or that they should be doing more of?
A: Good marketers set themselves apart from the pack when they are willing to make bold decisions and address the marketplace by shaping customer thinking. Adopting a mindset of “test and learn” around how marketing dollars are spent needs to be better embraced. Short-term thinking often leads to stagnation and missed opportunities.
Secondly, marketers should also be investing more in communication which has the goal of building health literacy. This will not only support the ability to shape consumer thinking, but health literacy campaigns have been shown to lift the efforts of branded commercial campaigns when the two messages are running together.
Q: What effect can point of care (POC) have on the overall media plan? What benefits can brand managers and media planners realize from adding this channel to their mix?
A: Adding POC to a plan will increase the ability to laser target reaching prospects and patients. This complements the efforts of other tactics within the plan. Secondly, POC offers a guaranteed ROI, which also enriches the promotional effectiveness of the overall marketing plan.
Q: Why is healthcare personal to you?
A: It is rewarding to be able to feel a sense of achievement from launching that new snack food item on shelf, introducing a new car model or driving purchases of yet another shade of red lipstick. However, healthcare marketing offers a benefit of knowing that you are helping people understand health conditions and offering treatment to increase their quality of life.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a New Yorker?
A: New York City offers real mobility since it is one of few places in America where you have the option to walk to get to your destination rather than being tied to your car.
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most powerful sectors in the United States. The United States government has long realized how much of an influence the industry has had since its origin over a century ago and has regulated the industry as such.
Pharmaceutical companies’ largest expenses are research and development costs, which typically range from tens of millions of dollars to several hundred million dollars. With such substantial costs, companies have dedicated more time and energy into developing creative marketing strategies to attract additional consumers.
Here are some of the best marketing strategies that the pharmaceutical industry has seen thus far.
Lobbying and TV Advertisements
Did you know that the United States and New Zealand are the only two countries to allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise their drugs directly to consumers? In the United States alone, pharmaceutical companies have spent countless billions of dollars in order to maintain the ability to advertise directly to consumers over the years. Although lobbying costs are not technically considered marketing expenses, they have a significant effect on direct-to-consumer advertising and, therefore, correspond with advertising expenses.
Although direct-to-consumer advertising in the pharmaceutical industry has several benefits for consumers, it is important that these ads instruct consumers to see physicians prior to deciding on their own that they need to take drugs that are advertised directly to the public. In order to prevent any complications with the medication and to build reliability between consumers and the company, direct-to-consumer advertisements should always encourage consumers to check with their doctor before taking a new medication as well as accurately describe the drug and its purpose.
In 2017 alone, the pharmaceutical industry spent over $6 billion on advertising in direct-to-consumer fashion in the United States. Without lobbying, the government would likely have shut down this form of advertising in the pharmaceutical industry. The industry’s unique ability to keep the direct-to-consumer channel open, along with persistent and coordinated lobbying efforts, make DTC advertising one of the most powerful marketing strategies in the industry.
Drug Discount Cards
Few places outside of the pharmaceutical industry offer coupons that reduce the cost of goods purchased by up to ninety percent. One of the most popular marketing strategies in the industry is the use of drug discount cards. Drug manufacturers work with pharmacies to provide consumers substantial discounts. In return, manufacturers give pharmacies a portion of the original purchase price in exchange for accepting less money directly from consumers.
Pharmacies support discount cards because they encourage people to spend more money on non-drug items inside their stores. In addition, pharmacies that do not accept discount cards have been known to consistently miss out on business in their local markets because the cards have been so widely adopted. Discount cards are both useful and convenient and have therefore been a largely successful marketing tool for the pharmaceutical industry.
Content marketing is a relatively new form of marketing that has taken the world of business, not just the pharmaceutical industry, by storm over the past few years.
Rather than paying for advertisements that blatantly push messages such as “Buy me now,” content marketing involves authoring helpful guides and blog posts that help consumers learn new information or otherwise offer them something that is completely free of charge.
Content marketing is especially important in pharmaceuticals because it helps build customer loyalty. Most people look up information related to pharmaceuticals when they are concerned about themselves or loved ones due to an illness or medical condition. Accurate and informative guides help build a sense of trustworthiness between the consumer and the company. Connecting with consumers at such significant and emotional times is a solid way of building loyalty to the pharmaceutical company.