Jul2

Does Size Always Matter?

How Pharma Engages With Its Followers Online

Social Network Blog Image_EDPharma is investing more heavily in social media than ever before; tweets are up 530% since 2013 and Twitter followers have increased by nearly 300%. So far, so good. Because more followers means more opportunities to get involved, and the more impact you make online, right?

But engaging in genuine, meaningful conversations about a corporate brand isn’t easy, and it’s important to ensure we don’t fall into the trap of focusing too much on numbers and not enough on engagement. Companies need to ensure they don’t build followers just to push out messages to anyone willing to pay attention. While people are increasingly more open to finding new knowledge on social media, they don’t want to wade through hundreds of pages of information, images or tweets to do so.

The balance between community size versus engagement is becoming more and more of a priority, and formed one of the focus areas for a recent report published by Ogilvy Healthworld, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide (the health behavior specialists of Ogilvy & Mather).The report, Connecting the Dots: Which Pharma Companies Are Succeeding in the Social Media Space?, was the first of its kind to provide insights into which pharma companies are leading the way in integrated social media marketing strategies.

“We know that some pharma companies have been cautious in their approach to social media, but our report clearly demonstrates a dramatic and successful increase in activity,” said Rebecca Canvin, Social Media Manager at Ogilvy Healthworld, adding: “Social media has changed the way pharma companies communicate—it allows them to build corporate reputation and engage in genuine, meaningful conversations with audiences. For companies who want to stand out from the crowd, it’s time to be brave, get personal, educate and integrate social media into their wider marketing strategy.”

Interestingly, companies that ranked most highly in the audit weren’t necessarily those with the largest communities, but those who engaged their audiences through frequent activity. And it’s not hard to understand why the more active companies enjoy the most engagement with their followers—after all, social media in its very nature demands participation and interaction. But the companies that do it well manage to create content that is less about the organization and more about connection points or interests that followers share.

The report highlights that although the focus for pharma companies is still on building brand profile, the priority is turning to attracting, keeping and engaging with loyal followers. And to do this, the onus needs to shift to “quality over quantity.” It’s more powerful to engage with a small group of passionate followers, whether they’re consumers, doctors or media, than to blast one message to 10,000 followers and “see what sticks.”

And loyal followers will reward companies who engage continuously in this way—so really, shouldn’t we all be asking, how much does size matter?

Connecting the dots - infographic UK Post

To find out more on Connecting the Dots: Which Pharma Companies Are Succeeding in the Social Media Space? please visit: http://bit.ly/1P5R5Ws

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Jun22

Google Changes Search Ad Format For Pharma Brands

Search-For-PharmaGoogle has announced that it will be updating the Google Search ad format it offers to healthcare and pharmaceutical brands. This change affects support for pharmaceutical brands with black box warnings and those that require adverse event information as part of the ad.

URL architecture for black box brands

As of July 20, 2015, Google will be moving to a common AdWords format that no longer supports an additional line of copy and additional URL for black box brands and those requiring adverse event language. This is an evolution that is optimized for its paid search marketing solution that has been available to pharmaceutical advertisers for the last five years.

An example of how a brand might be using search engine marketing in Google AdWords before and after the July 20th update:

Pre-July 20th AdWords Example:
Brand Ad 1
Post-July 20th AdWords Example:
Brand Ad 2

 

 

 

What does this change mean for pharma brands?
Brands that are currently using Google AdWords for marketing will need to consider a rewrite of existing creative and landing pages. The pages that the new AdWords ad links to will need to prominently feature adverse events information for the product. This will require revisiting of search marketing strategies as well as potential user experience and design changes to optimize inbound traffic from paid search campaigns.

Brands currently using paid search programs with Google should leverage Google’s Sitelinks feature, which provides several links to content within a product website within the AdWords format. Product managers and agencies should also reinvest in paid mobile search with this change, as there is a broader efficiency with this change in having a single ad format for all platforms (desktop and mobile search).

Post-July 20th AdWords Example with Sitelinks:
Brand Ad 3

The changes to Google’s AdWords program will have a significant impact on pharma brand website marketing performance as well as the cost of paid search solutions currently used for search engine marketing programs. Expect to see changes in your category as well as behavioral changes for your paid and organic search performance.

Next steps
The changes to Google’s AdWords program will affect every brand using paid search for healthcare professional and consumer engagement. Work with your agency partner to identify the best counter-measures for these changes and how to recalculate your performance metrics.

Ogilvy CommonHealth offers digital strategy, content strategy, creative development, and analytics services for all of our clients to guide brand leadership through these and any future changes to search engine marketing and market changes in digital and traditional media.

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May28

Satisfying Patient Needs Across Generations via Patient Portals

When it comes to healthcare, patients from the “Greatest Generation” to Millennials want three things: 1) a strong patient-physician relationship, 2) easy-to-understand healthcare information, and 3) this information? preferably in a digital format. How do we accomplish all three? Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at how different generations access healthcare information.

Monica Wong Blog Image

The “Greatest Generation” (Age 65+)
While almost 60% of people ages 65 and older use the Internet on a daily basis, this generation of patients are heavily influenced by their doctors when it comes to recommendations, health information and referrals. However, children and caretakers of this generation, Baby Boomers, may also play a role in making these decisions on behalf of the “Great Generation.”

Baby Boomers (Age 45-65)
While this generation is also influenced by physicians, Boomers are more likely than the “Greatest Generation” to research their options, challenge assumptions and rely on peer-to-peer conversations to make their healthcare decisions. 79% of Baby Boomers go online every day or almost every day. A Google/Nielsen Boomer Survey also reported that 78% of Baby Boomers have searched for health information after seeing something on TV. Baby Boomers also influence healthcare decisions of their Gen X and Millennial children.

Gen X (Age 30-45)
According to research done by Smith & Jones Healthcare Marketing, Gen X are only moderately responsive to healthcare advertising. Since this generation is the first to experience the digital age, Gen X shops for healthcare like they do for retail goods and services. They are partial to TV and in-office messages compared to other forms of marketing channels, but they also have a tendency to search for ratings and reviews online, as experience matters to them.

Millennials (Age 20-30)
Like Gen X, Millennials highly value positive patient experiences. They are young and healthy and as a result, they mainly use healthcare for primary care, urgent care and OB/GYN. Online advertising, TV and in-office messages are the best ways to reach them close to the care decision. Millennials seek information from a variety of sources, including online, social networks and word of mouth.

Satisfying Patient Needs Across Generations With Patient Portals
What do these generations of patients all have in common? They want positive patient experiences with their physicians. They want information they can easily understand and they want easy access to it online. So how do we satisfy these needs? Patient portals. Why? Because increasing positive patient outcomes and experiences begins with making physicians more accessible when patients have concerns. Physicians can distribute timely and relevant information to their patients on a digital platform that can be accessed 24/7. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 41% use portals for secure messaging, 35% use them for patient education, and 30% use them for prescribing medications and scheduling appointments.

How Can Marketers Leverage Patient Portals?
By repurposing existing healthcare marketing material and creating a depository for digital assets, these resources can be made available to HCPs who can then share these assets with their patients. Their patients will likely be more receptive to information as it is coming from a trusted source, their physicians, and through a channel they have easy access to. However, there are limitations.

Opportunities to Take Patient Portals to the Next Level
For elderly patients, additional features like the ability to increase portal font size is a simple fix. For digital natives, mobile-optimized portals can facilitate prescription refills and requests as well as schedule appointments. For non-native English speakers, portals available in different languages can dramatically improve patient services. But for those who do not have access to the Internet, we’ll have to find a way to close that gap. If you have any thoughts, please share in the comments below.

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May19

Wearable Wonder: Will They Improve Patients’ Quality of Life?

LeanneLakeBlogImageSizedClearly wearables are “all the buzz” in our industry. Soon our Fitbits, watches and the like will become an essential part of connected healthcare, monitoring our bodies and feeding important data about our health to the cloud to be analyzed by our healthcare professionals. More data in, better outcomes come out—it’s fantastic news. But what if these devices can go the next step and actually respond to the data they are monitoring? Can you envision a future where a wearable device can improve our body’s function and a person’s quality of life in real-time? I recently learned about one that just might.

It’s called the WAK, short for the Wearable Artificial Kidney. This wearable innovation has the potential to be truly life-changing for the more than 400K patients with end stage renal disease who are currently undergoing hemodialysis every day in our country.

For the majority of these patients, treatment is their lifeline, but it can also take over their life. Hemodialysis patients receiving treatment in centers spend on average 4 hours a day, 3 days a week completely immobile—tethered to a chair, tied to a machine. Much like chemotherapy, the treatment that is saving them often makes them sick for hours afterward. In the absence of a successful transplant, they will undergo dialysis until the end of their life.

The WAK is designed to help patients get out of the chair and back into life. It is a miniature battery-powered dialysis device that is worn like a tool belt. It is connected to the patient by a catheter, weighs approximately 10 pounds and offers dialysis 24/7. Some experts believe that in a perfect world, more frequent dialysis would yield better control, however this comes with a tremendous burden to the healthcare system. If proven successful, the WAK could improve outcomes and deliver new hope for patients, reducing their time in the chair and giving them the mobility to go about activities of daily life—a more “normal” existence. The FDA fast-tracked the WAK, and it is currently undergoing its first human trial in the United States. Human clinical trials conducted in Italy and London already concluded successfully.

For me, following the progress of this wearable technology is personal. I lost my dad to end stage renal disease and its complications three years ago this June. During the five years he “survived” on dialysis, I watched his body and spirit wear thin. Early on, the dialysis center gave him the personal connection he needed to share with patients having a similar experience, but soon after getting into the three-day-a-week routine, he and my mom longed to get back the flexibility that every retired person deserves. The ability to hit the driving range with his buddies on a Tuesday, attend his grandson’s football game on a Thursday, or even make the trek to NJ to visit me and my family on a Saturday afternoon.

Looking back, I wonder how the WAK would have changed my dad’s dialysis experience and the burden it placed on both him and my mom.

What’s your wearable wonder?

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May12

Product Launch Made to Work

Product Launch Blog ImageIntroducing a new product into the highly diluted pharmaceutical market is no easy feat. Our industry spares no time for coming up short of flawless, where the barriers to entry are a proverbial North Korea for the inexperienced and unprepared. The road to success is windy and narrow, but once achieved, the view is unmatched.

In today’s marketplace, suppliers are red-flagged for doing things the way they have in the past, and the competitive edge gained is in the ability to differentiate completely in some cases, and only partially in others.

How can we differentiate ourselves?

For a baseline, any transaction within the pharmaceutical space is a complex sale. The traditional model of selling a product, handling the logistics, and looking forward to a reorder does not cut it. As suppliers, we must adapt to the notion that we are no longer offering or launching a product, but rather have entered the era of solution-based selling. We must come to terms with the reality that being “geared” toward a client or industry is no longer acceptable, and complete customization comes at little or no extra revenue.

Make no mistake: selling a product is still physical, but an in-depth understanding of the customers’ base is now essential to the sale of a creation. The utilization of that understanding is to align our goals to match the customers’ needs. The result of a properly executed alignment is the transformation of the supplier into the partner. By outgrowing the paradigm of being the wholesaler, and embracing a newfound cooperative mantra, trust becomes the foundation of our rapport.

But trust isn’t just a way in, and a share of the market isn’t the only measure of our success. We have to continually push the limits of our capabilities to stimulate fresh ideas, and remain at the forefront of innovation to our clients. The growth driven from market advancement is what will allow us to maintain our business and simultaneously cultivate new opportunities. With trust, our new partners will expect us to act on our promises and will be more critical of our deliverables. We are no longer reacting to a signed Statement of Work (SOW) or Request for Proposal (RFP), we are building a proactive and cooperative plan of action. Suppliers cannot simply provide a product; they must also act as consultants.

The stigma of “Big Pharma” having deep pockets and quick trigger fingers is far from the truth. Pricing is critical and partners will expect us to eat a slice of the risk pie when entering into an agreement (you are a partner now, why wouldn’t you?).

We optimize the product for the consumer experience through the ability to launch a solution directed toward a specific client and their void. This style is undoubtedly the wave of the future, and the relationships formed via this approach will be more personal, more customized, and ultimately, more lucrative.

Differentiation begins with common interest, and results in great success.

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Apr15

ResearchKit: A Medical Research Revolution?

Research Kit Blog Image SizedIn what boils down to crowd-sourcing medical information, Apple’s ResearchKit promises to turn the iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research. But will it live up to that promise?

Apple is putting the power of clinical trials in our pockets with ResearchKit, the open-source software framework designed for medical and health research. It will help doctors and scientists gather data more frequently and more accurately from clinical research participants using iPhone apps, enabling faster insights at lower cost.

ResearchKit leverages the sensors and other capabilities of the iPhone to track movement, take measurements and record data. When granted permission from the user, ResearchKit can access data from Apple’s HealthKit app such as weight, blood pressure and glucose levels, which are measured by third-party devices and apps. ResearchKit can also request access from the user to access the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors to gain insight into a user’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

Several world-class research institutions have already developed apps with ResearchKit for studies on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Using the built-in templates for informed consent, users decide if they want to participate in a study and how their data—and which parts of their data—is shared. Participants can perform activities and generate data wherever they are, providing more objective information than simply filling out forms for their activities.

More data will be generated through these apps for researchers to analyze than ever before. For example, just four days after its release, Stanford University School of Medicine’s MyHeart Counts app was downloaded 52,900 times, with over 22,000 users consenting to the study. But more data isn’t necessarily better data.

On the surface, ResearchKit sounds like the long-awaited answer to ongoing issues in traditional clinical trial processes, including limited participation due to proximity to institutions running trials, frequent data entry and the integrity of that data and limited data collection.

Apple has created three customizable modules to address the most common elements across different types of clinical studies: surveys, informed consent and active tasks. Programmers can use these modules as they are, build upon them or even create new modules of their own.

ResearchKit initially includes five active task modules that invite users to perform activities under semi-controlled conditions, while iPhone sensors actively collect data. The tasks can be a simple ordered sequence of steps or dynamic, with previous results informing what is presented. In this way, researchers and programmers can create custom apps for their relevant disease states. These modules simply record the data and pass it on to the researchers; Apple does not store it or track it in any way.

Since ResearchKit resides on the iPhone, it will be easier to recruit participants for large-scale studies, accessing a broad cross-section of the population. The data that it collects mostly comes from sensors and other apps; there is little chance of error in the measurements as compared to patients recording their data in paper-based diaries. Even the data that patients will enter themselves into ResearchKit apps will be more accurate: programmers can put limits on that data so that it fits within proper parameters.

Although ResearchKit solves many issues with clinical trials, it also creates some of its own.

Patient population

Apple promises access to a diverse, global population through ResearchKit, but that population might not represent the population as a whole.

IPhone users are more wealthy and educated than the general population, and minority groups are underrepresented in its user base. Additionally, ResearchKit is only available on iPhone 5 and newer models and the latest generation of iPod touch, which excludes a large segment of iPhone users.

On top of that, the patient populations for ResearchKit apps will be largely self-selected: those using the apps are already likely to be interested in their own health. So can the results generated from this narrowly defined population be extrapolated to the population as a whole?

Another point to consider with the self-selected patient population is that app desertion rate can be high, so researchers won’t have complete data from those who don’t finish the trial. This will also bias the data toward better outcomes since those who actually finish the trials are more motivated to see a positive outcome.

Data Validation

There is no validation that participants have a specific condition before they can enter a trial. This lack of verification can further skew the results of the trials. Going forward, tighter controls on who can enroll in each trial by verifying their basic information will lead to better qualified participants and more robust trial data.

Secure Communication

Verifying participants’ information might be hampered by the current lack of secure communication mechanisms between ResearchKit apps and their researchers’ servers.

This is up to the app developers to implement, as is HIPAA compliance and compliance with international research regulations. Even if secure communications are implemented properly by app developers, sharing personal medical information is a sensitive subject—especially with current data breaches. There will likely always be privacy concerns, especially in participants who don’t fully understand how their health data will be used.

Big Data

ResearchKit trials could potentially have hundreds of thousands of participants, each one with the potential to have inaccurate data. How will researchers separate the signal from the noise with such large amounts of data?

Cleaning that data will be a huge job, and further making inferences from that data to the general population could be difficult. Building trust in the trial results in light of the challenges listed here could be an uphill battle with the general public. More thought needed here.

Going forward, simple improvements such as data validation will go a long way toward more qualified patient populations and more robust trial outcomes. But how can ResearchKit be made available to a more representative patient population?

The answer could lie in the open source framework of ResearchKit. Researchers will have the ability to contribute to specific activity modules in the framework, like memory or gait testing, and share them with the global research community to further advance what we know about disease. And since it’s open source, there is the opportunity to expand into the Android realm as well.

On a global scale, Android is the far more popular operating system, and its user base is more representative of the population as a whole. It would benefit these clinical studies if users across platforms could use these apps.

That said, Android has a fragmented operating system with disparate hardware platforms that have differences in their sensors (accelerometers, GPS, gyroscopes), and even in chipsets from device to device. Researchers would have to account for all of these differences and build and test apps across platforms, which is nearly impossible on their limited budgets.

While ResearchKit is not the perfect solution for clinical trials research, it is a good first step, especially when it comes to to clinical trial recruitment, which has been the bane of the healthcare industry for far too long. Results of the pioneering ResearchKit apps—for asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease—will reveal the true utility of such a mobile, global medical research solution.

This article was originally published in Medical Marketing & Media.

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Mar11

Are You Harnessing the Power of Video in Healthcare Yet?

Young woman with gold fish tankDid you realise that the average attention span of a person has dropped to only 8 seconds? That’s one second less than a goldfish!

Video can combat this. It is a fantastic way to hook people in and capture their attention. Online video is growing so quickly that this is an opportunity that’s impossible to ignore:

  • Views on mobile devices have increased 400% in the past 2 years
  • YouTube is now the second most popular search engine behind Google, with 40% of its traffic coming from mobile
  • 80% of online visitors will watch a video all the way through, compared with 20% who will read a webpage

Patients are being diagnosed via video, surgeons are swapping clips on operation techniques, and, as everyone is rapidly becoming more and more mobile-connected, healthcare knowledge sharing will soon have no boundaries.

It’s likely that for whatever purpose, be it for a symposium or for patient education, your video will end up online, where it will receive the majority of its views. But it’s a noisy world out there, and one rule is key: keep it short, smart, and snappy.

What kind of video content should you choose?

The great news is that there are all kinds of exciting options that won’t break the budget. Think about who the audience is and how they’ll be watching. Are they using a small screen? With or without sound? On social media? Or at a live presentation…could Dr Smith at the back please put his mobile down and watch? (Hopefully if he enjoys it he’ll search for it later online, “like” it and share with his colleagues.)

Explore the different ways to cThe Other Sideonnect with your audience. Enriched video content is great for increasing user engagement, and interactive user-defined storytelling can be a totally immersive experience. It lets you get the right messages to each individual user by letting them click on objects in the video to influence what they see. “Choose a Different Ending” is a beautiful example of a great campaign tackling knife crime that drew immediate response. And another of the best ones I’ve seen recently is The Other Side of Honda.”

Or, if you need to get more complex data across in a way that quickly informs and engages, use an animated infographic to make data come alive. These motion graphics pack a huge visual punch, are bursting with information, and are rapidly becoming key tools to promote branded messages. For a truly multi-layered, fast and constantly moving example with beautiful visual transitions, you can’t beat “STUXNET: The Virus That Almost Started WW3.”

Whatever you want to achieve, remember you’re not alone. We recommend that you use a Creative and Motion team to help you get all those questions answered on the way to making great videos.

Video is a super strategy to stand out from the competition and it’s definitely a healthcare trend that’s already here and set to keep on growing.

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Feb26

Twitter and Google Forge Deal That Reintroduces Tweets to Google Search Results

Social Search Blog Image_This article was co-authored by Buddy Scalera from Ogilvy CommonHealth – Parsippany, NJ.

Twitter announced recently that it will be providing Google with access to its microblogging service for search indexing. Although Twitter activity appears in Google’s search results now, the staggering volume, more than 6,000 tweets per minute, makes crawling and organizing the data impractical.

The new partnership between Twitter and Google will grant the market-leading search engine access to Twitter’s “firehose” of data. This data is generated from the stream of 140-character tweets produced by Twitter’s 287 million users. Google’s unique access will enable it to parse, arrange, and develop rank and relevance for the social content in real-time.

It is not clear how Google will present Twitter’s data in search engine results, but the real-time and topical nature of the social network will make it especially relevant for breaking news, cultural subject matter, and rising trends. It will also likely be aligned to searches for individuals and personalities. It seems natural to index a person’s Twitter account, recent posts, and other activity in Google’s Knowledge Graph. It is also likely that user activity provided by Twitter will help determine if Twitter data is shown at all and with what prominence.

Of course, Google and Twitter have both been smart about how to monetize their offerings. We expect them to maximize their shared advantage for advertisers on both platforms.

What does this mean for healthcare brands?

For brands that are participating on Twitter, this continues to extend the reach of those messages into keyword-oriented searches. It also gives added pause to those concerned about the impact of influencers and popular Twitter users who mention brand names and conditions. Although it is not likely that a rogue Twitter handle will appear in a product search return in the first few pages, it will be extremely relevant to the nature of searches surrounding patients, their discussion of their disease, and treatment options.

For brands not active on Twitter, there is still the need to monitor activity on social networks, especially those that are publically searchable. Users who share brand information may be competing with your brand for users’ attention. Those users may also be candidates for influencer engagement, or an opportunity to correct brand misinformation.

The new inclusion of timely social posting would work to tremendous advantage for those brands that seize conventions and meetings for social sharing and engagement. The timely nature of event hashtags and the limited shelf-life for this type of communication create an ideal pairing for topical search and brand engagement.

Brands that have not engaged in social media marketing or listening programs are likely to be surprised by the changes in search results for their brand names, disease state terms, and other organic search results. Brands will now be competing with many more voices and another variable of timeliness. As with many of the changes Google has introduced for marketers in recent years, the changes will come quickly and with little time to react for a process-oriented industry like healthcare.

Many brands participate in social listening to understand the way patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals are discussing the health category and their brand. These brand teams are likely to be better prepared for the deluge of information to come from this announcement, and how to process it.

Both Twitter and Google are companies that are comfortable experimenting in real-time. So while these changes will probably start with search engine results pages, we expect to see a ripple effect across other properties. Google+ and YouTube channels may be the first places where we see different types of experimentation and integration. After all, these properties are all part of Google’s ecosystem of data and advertising.

Although the announcement has been made, both parties have noted that it will be several months before tweets begin appearing in users’ searches in real-time. This announcement should have tremendous impact on the Draft FDA Social Media Guidelines presented to the industry last year.

To learn more about how this announcement and other market changes may affect your brand, please contact our team here at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide.

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Feb20

Idea Is King, Guard It With Your Life

OHW Blog Image 2.20.15“In the dizzying world of moviemaking, we must not be distracted from one fundamental concept: the idea is king.” – Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney Chairman (’84-’94)

This fundamental concept also holds true in healthcare communications. All great work starts with a great idea. But arriving at a great idea is not enough. In our highly scrutinized and regulated world, a great idea is at risk of an untimely death at numerous points in its life. From internal creative reviews and client presentations to market research and medical/regulatory review, a great idea is often pushed aside because it looks and feels different than the status quo. A great idea makes people feel uncomfortable. But that is exactly what it should do: grab our attention and challenge our thinking.

Healthcare advertising is plagued with bad clichés, overused metaphors, and happy slice-of-life imagery. Contrast these campaigns to the quality of the work that many creatives in our industry include in their own portfolios. The difference is amazing. It’s an eye-opening experience to see the original idea that devolved to the happy couple sitting on a park bench with a benign, lackluster headline. We need to come together as a united community—creatives, account, planning, digital, and analytics —to courageously support great ideas, protecting their creative integrity all the way through final execution. Because in healthcare, great ideas can lead to more than awards; they can help save and improve lives.

 

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Feb12

So What’s Your EHR Strategy?

EMR Blog Image2As pharmaceutical marketers, we no longer live in a world of traditional marketing where we can cast a wide net and hope we’re engaging with the right customers. We need to move communications to where our physicians are. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies have shifted away from traditional face-to-face tactics to more digital interactions, spending 25% of their marketing budgets on websites and online media.

“Unlike traditional forms of advertising, digital technologies enable tailoring of advertisements to individual physicians on the basis of data from clinical encounters,” according to Christopher Manz, MD, and David Grande, MD, MPA, from Penn Medicine, who recently gave a point of view on electronic health records (EHRs) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Digital marketing provides us with tools to communicate more effectively with our customer through more individualized and personalized engagements, ensuring that the correct message is being delivered at the appropriate time. With new tools coming out weekly, it is easy to get caught up in the hype. Choosing a tactic simply because it’s the “newest” or “coolest” option will not guarantee success. Without the right strategy, we are just wasting time and resources. A strong digital marketing strategy is essential for communicating with our customers and staying ahead of our competition. The key is understanding our customers as well as a brand’s overall strategic and marketing objectives and then selecting the appropriate digital channel(s) that will help reach our target audience and goals.

As brands fight for share of voice in an overcrowded digital space, it’s time for companies to stop looking at the traditional online engagements as the cornerstone of HCP engagement and focus more on targeted engagements within electronic medical records (EMRs). According to market leaders, EMRs will become the dominant communications stream for physicians, and pharma has been slow to engage in the EMR format.

There has been tremendous growth of the EMR marketplace over the last few years. According to the latest government statistics, 72% of office-based physicians are using an EMR or EHR system, up from 48% in 2009, driven by meaningful use, which provided incentive payments for physicians and hospitals to implement them. EMR is now the center of physician workflow, and its data offers valuable insights into practice management and the physician-patient dynamic. This data can be leveraged to better serve patients and physicians by providing the tools that they need, such as patient education or reimbursement support. To that end, aligning with the right EMR solution should increase HCP engagement. What is encouraging, according to Manhattan Research’s latest Taking the Pulse survey, is that 71% of physicians are interested in interacting with pharmaceutical companies in this way, so we as pharmaceutical marketers need to capitalize on this channel in a strategic way that brings value to both providers and patients.

Integrating With the HCP Workflow

So how can we leverage the use of EMRs to benefit healthcare providers, patients and payers? With the demands placed on them today, physicians have less time for each patient, pharmaceutical reps, and for searching for information between appointments. Marketing to HCPs through EMRs will better integrate with a physician’s daily workflow and shift the mindset from disruptive marketing to a partnership. Physicians use EMRs for their tools, and the more information physicians are getting through these systems, the more opportunity for marketers to provide value. Leveraging EMRs to deliver meaningful assets to physicians when they are with patients represents a prime opportunity to change the behavior of our physicians.

There are several ways to reach physicians through EMRs. One obvious component is providing information about a brand at the point-of-prescribing that is of high clinical value to physicians. Additionally, according to Taking the Pulse, at least 40% of HCPs say patient education, samples, vouchers, patient financial support and product information are features they are most interested in seeing in EMRs. Other examples include formulary data and safety updates. EMRs can also be used for direct marketing to physicians through banner ads, industry-sponsored clinical resources and emerging solutions.

Marketing to HCPs through EMRs is not without its obstacles. There are approximately 600 EMR system vendors with only a handful offering partnerships with pharma companies. Therefore using EMRs is not a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, and it might be required to customize materials for each platform. There are also concerns about privacy, interruption of the HCP process by forcing information during a clinical decision, and the intricacies of integration with EMRs. These all need to be considered when determining if and how an EMR plan and roll-out is right for your brand.

Looking to the Future

EMRs represent an opportunity for marketers to communicate to physician throughout a product life cycle—from clinical trial recruitment to workflow “interventions.” The opportunity for marketers in EMRs is here, and physicians want pharma involvement. But it’s imperative that a brand has a clear EMR strategy to capitalize on this channel opportunity and ensure we are providing a fully integrated communications plan.

 

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