Jul16

“It’s not a tumor!” Cyberchondria and the Diagnoses That Spawn From It

2287994It’s 7 am; I’ve just awoken. My eyes are adjusting and I’m sprawled in my bed. My mind is not coordinated enough to move my body. Man, I am exhausted, I think. How is it only Thursday? My head kinda hurts. Good God I have to pee. I could probably snooze for like fifteen more minutes, if I shower quickly. Seriously, my head hurts. Right in my left temple. I must have slept wrong. I don’t remember hitting my head or anything. I sit up abruptly. Oh Lord now I’m dizzy. I’m dizzy and I have a sharp pain in my temple. Holy crap what if it’s a tumor, or an aneurism. When I did those brain cancer interviews last year they all said they woke up with headaches. This is that exact same situation. Where’s my iPhone? How do you spell meningioma, two “n”s? No, one “n.” Thanks Google. Okay WebMD…signs and symptoms…yup, here it is. Headache: check. Dizziness: check. Weakness in arms and legs: now that you mention it, I can barely hold this phone it feels so heavy. Blurred vision: that one’s probably next. Yup. It’s definitely a meningioma. I should call my dad. Just tell him I love him.

But just as Arnold said, it’s not a tumor. And while that example might be a tad exaggerated, I’ve certainly had this type of half-awake, neurotic, cyberchondria once or twice in my life. Though the above situation was more likely caused by one too many glasses of wine and a refusal to admit to a hangover.

Nevertheless, the concept of self-diagnosis is an ever-growing phenomenon in this digital age. According to a survey conducted by The Pew Research Center, over 35% of Americans in 2012 had gone online to diagnose themselves, and more than a third never confirmed that diagnosis with a doctor. What’s worse: some 30% of self-diagnosed women have admitted to purchasing and consuming medication for their supposed illness, without a consultation. That’s the part that shocks me. Sure, I might convince myself I have a pet-dander allergy, but that does not mean I trust my diagnostic abilities enough to assault my leg up with an EpiPen.

But it does happen. And those working in the healthcare industry appear to be the worst culprits—after all, we live and breathe this stuff; it shouldn’t be hard to tell if we have chronic migraines, or insomnia, or endocarditis, right? Our increased level of knowledge mixed with a splash of arrogance is just enough to convince us that there is little a PCP’s gonna tell us that we don’t already know.

And while the hyperbolic, often terminal, self-diagnoses are more my style, physicians say they are more concerned with the prevalence of under-diagnosis among systematic Googlers—as we all know, convincing oneself that a rash is just a rash, or numbness is just an innocent side effect can have irreparable effects.

Now, I’m a huge proponent of self-education and using today’s technology to our advantage—in fact, I think it sparks productive dialogue when information is brought into the doctor’s office—but as cliché as it sounds, I cannot emphasize enough the need for a professional diagnostic assessment. Trust me; the $15 copay is worth it.

Think of it this way: your doctor is your agency of record, but for some reason, you’ve decided to do your own brand website, aka diagnosis. We all know from AOR experience that your doctor is going to take one look at that diagnosis and say, “Damn, this is a mess; I wish they’d just paid me to do it.”

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Also posted in behavior change, Digital, Healthcare Communications, Medical Education, Medicine, Patient Communications, Self-monitoring, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
Jul2

FDA Social Media Draft Guidance Released June 2014

fdaLeading up to its final guidance to be released in July 2014, the FDA has released draft guidance on how pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers should interact with social media platforms with regard to fair balance and brand messaging. The first part of the recently released recommendations is focused on how companies post advertising and promotional messages to Internet and social media platforms with character space  limitations, such as Twitter and Google Sitelinks. The second part of the recommendations addresses how pharmaceutical and medical device companies may correct independent third-party misinformation about their brands online. While this guidance is recommended and not required, it will be beneficial for pharmaceutical companies to adopt the FDA recommendations going forward.

A brief review of the FDA recommendations is listed below, along with suggestions for practical implementation.

Internet and social media platforms with character space limitations

In its draft guidance Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations—Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices, the FDA outlines its recommendations for promotion of brand and product information using Twitter and other character-space-limited communications, such as Google Sitelinks. The recommendations are direct and seek to include fair balance in each individual communication.

The most salient points are as follows:

  • Reminder communications, which call attention to the name of a product but do not make claims, are exempt from this guidance
  • The full indication must be used when making claims in a communication
  • Benefit information should be accompanied by risk information within each individual communication
  • The content of risk information presented should, at a minimum, include the most serious risks associated with the product
  • A direct link to a more complete discussion of risk information about the product must be included in the communication

While a link to the ISI is adequate in such communications, the FDA further recommends that companies develop landing pages devoted exclusively to the communication of risk information about their products (e.g., www.product.com/risk). The format for the URL and landing page should clearly communicate that the destination will explain the risks associated with the product.

Many social media tools automatically use link shorteners to keep within the character space limitations of the communications. While the FDA does not directly oppose the use of shorteners, it recommends that the resulting URL denote to the user that the landing page contains risk information. (For example, prod.uct/risk clearly communicates that the destination is about risk.) Another solution to character space limitations is for the company to register shorter domain names that can then redirect to its product sites for use in social media.

One challenge that brands with black box warnings will face following this guidance, especially on Twitter, is in fully communicating risk information within a single tweet. For such brands it will be impossible to communicate all risks in the platform-restricted space; therefore, we recommend against using Twitter as a channel to communicate those products’ indications, benefits, and risks.

The FDA guidance also extends to paid search communications, such as Google Sitelinks. The Sitelinks feature displays up to 6 additional destination URLs for users to choose from when a paid search ad is displayed. In complying with the FDA’s draft guidance, most of the additional destination URLs provided by the brand would link to risk information in an attempt at fair balance, which might portray the product as riskier than it actually is. This might deter some companies from using Sitelinks to promote their products.

Correcting third-party misinformation

The second round of draft guidance from the FDA, Internet/Social Media Platforms: Correcting Independent Third-Party Misinformation About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices, seeks to improve the quality of public health information by allowing companies to correct third-party misinformation that they find online about their products. Again, these are recommendations; it is not required that a company respond to such misinformation, regardless of whether it appears on a company’s own forum or on an independent third-party forum or website.

The FDA defines misinformation as positive or negative representations or implications about a company’s product by an independent third party. There are two types of misinformation: a misrepresentation of the label, which a brand will typically want to correct, and an exaggeration of outcomes, which a brand may be tempted to leave uncorrected. The FDA recommends that companies respond to both types of misinformation.

If a company decides to correct misinformation on a third-party site, it should:

  • Provide corrective information and a link to corrective information
  • Post corrective information alongside the misinformation or refer to the misinformation in its response
  • Limit the scope of the corrective information to be specific to the misinformation, and keep it non-promotional
  • Correct positive misinformation as well as negative misinformation
  • Keep records of corrective interactions

The FDA clearly states that it will not hold a company accountable for an independent third party’s subsequent actions or lack thereof after corrective information has been supplied. Further, companies do not have to continue to monitor the third-party site after information has been corrected.

Going forward

While it is not feasible for a company to monitor all third-party sites for misinformation about its products, creating Google alerts (or similar) will help ensure that it is notified when user-generated content (UGC) about its products is trending. A company can then respond appropriately if they desire. However, consideration must be given to the level of time and effort that legal and regulatory teams must spend reviewing and filing the corrections versus the impact smaller third-party sites and individual bloggers can have on public health information.

Alternately, a company can and should focus its attention to more prominent third-party sites, such as WebMD, Wikipedia, and brand-specific hubs, in their quest to correct misinformation. This will maximize the intention of correcting the message while appropriately weighting the effort.

Overall, the draft guidance marks a significant milestone in the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to keep pace with other industries in the social media space where consumers are increasingly seeking out health information. This guidance has been a long time coming, and now pharmaceutical companies can jump into social media knowing they will be FDA compliant when the final guidance is released.

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May29

A Patient is a Virtue

sales reps and docsIn the age of WebMD, Everyday Health, and Facebook, consumers are more informed and involved in their health than ever before.  And with social media infiltrating every aspect of their lives, they are now more vocal than ever.  Patients can – and in most cases are willing to – tell you what you want to know about your brand.  Just ask…and listen.  So why is it that some brands fail to take full advantage of tapping into their own customers for insight, ideas, and even inspiration?

We’ve all heard the phrase “typical pharma ad” and as an industry we are guilty of producing far too much of it.  Sometimes it’s driven by regulatory conservatism.  Often it’s a stubborn client who is afraid to push the envelope, while at other times there just isn’t enough budget to upset the status quo.  So we’re forced to pick up some stock photography, reach into our bag of preapproved claims, slap the all-important “pharma swoosh” on the piece, and call it a day.

But is the work resonating with patients?  Is it even being noticed by patients?  In order to make a connection with patients, the marketing needs to tap into what drives them, what worries them, and what will help them take the desired action.  Put simply, they need to see themselves in the marketing.

Market research and reports can obviously give you broad-stroke generalizations about your audience.  But how can you dive deeper into the psyche of your patients?  There are numerous ways you can do this and they don’t require significant investments:

·         Develop and leverage a standing Patient Advisory Board – Recruit patients to participate in an advisory board…and use it!  This is a great channel for bouncing ideas off patients and hearing first-hand about the challenges they face with their condition every day.  These boards can be conducted virtually (although at least one face-to-face meeting a year helps build camaraderie).  Also, be sure to refresh the participants so that you continually get the latest perspectives.

·         Seek input from stakeholders outside of the Brand Team – The Brand Team can sometimes be the furthest removed from the patient base, as they can get bogged down with sales reports and budget meetings; so try to engage those on the front line.  Sales reps often can provide direct feedback from HCPs and office staff on what they see in patients.  Is there an 800 number for you brand?  If so, speak with the customer service reps who field those calls.  What issues do they hear about most often and what questions are they asked most frequently?

·         Establish a patient eCRM program – A CRM program can be simple or complex – but in order to be useful, it must be trackable.  From that you can see firsthand what content is looked at most often and therefore assumed to be of most relevance.  You can also conduct quick surveys or online polls to get insight about your target.

·         Attend events and conferences – Again, this is another opportunity to hear from those on the front line: sales reps, patients, and HCPs.  You can also see, in one fell swoop, what the competition is doing to market themselves.

Nothing I’ve suggested is earth-shattering or groundbreaking, but I do find that these often get overlooked in favor of more complicated (and costly) research.  I happen to work on a well-established drug that was first-to-market in a category that is now undergoing seismic changes.  We needed to defend our turf from new therapies, new dosing formulations, and new administration devices, and we needed to do it with a limited budget.  “Gaining new patients was going to be increasingly difficult,” we thought, “so let’s at least be sure to hold on to the ones we have.”

So we set out last year to develop a campaign unlike anything this brand has seen in its 20+ years of existence.  We needed to reinvent ourselves while remaining true to our heritage and what kept us successful all these years.  We employed all of the tactics I mentioned above to help us paint a clear and vibrant picture of who our patients – our very lifeline – were.  What we learned was that our old marketing reflected misconceptions about what people with this condition were “supposed” to be like.  In no way did we reflect their vibrancy, defiance, and zest for living.  And because of that, our patients felt like the brand was letting them down.  How could we expect them to be advocates for the brand if we weren’t living up to our end of the deal?

The new campaign has just recently launched, so I can’t tell you yet how successful we’ve been at defending our turf.  But what I can say is that the feedback from patients, sales reps and HCPs alike has been overwhelmingly positive.  It is bold and defiant, and goes beyond the standard “talk to your doctor about…” with a rallying cry that conveys our patients’ inner strength.  In other words, it is a clear reflection of them.

So if your brand feels like it’s stagnating or worse yet, losing relevance, don’t panic.  Put your ear to the ground and listen for the voice of the patient – and then make sure it comes through in the work.

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Also posted in Branding, Creativity, CRM, Data, Efficacy, Great Ideas, Healthcare Communications, Learning, Marketing, Pharmaceutical, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
Apr24

A Blog, About a Blog, About Fragile X

blogFragile X is not a code name for someone I was in a relationship with. It’s a syndrome. Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know what the heck it was either. Nor did my sister when her 17-month-old son was diagnosed with it. Now hold that thought—we’ll come back to this…

Presented with the opportunity to submit a blog entry at work, I pondered a vast array of potential topics. I thought a lot about blogs themselves. I thought a blog (entry) about blogs was an interesting approach. I jotted down a list of blog-related questions I had, thinking they might send me down an insightful path…

How many are there? How many are focused on healthcare? What’s the official definition of a blog? When was the first blog created? What are the Top 10 blogs? What do people most commonly blog about?

I found answers to all of my questions and then some. The blog statistics are staggering.

There are between 152 million and 230+ million in total (although I was unable to find exactly how many focus solely on healthcare). The term “web log” was coined by Jorn Bargeron December 17, 1997. The short form, “blog,” was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May of 1999. There’s a lot of debate about the Top 10 blogs, and there are many Top 10 lists of blogs organized by different topics: http://www.blogs.com/topten/

Now for the most staggering statistic: I read that there is a new blog created somewhere in the world every ½ of a second. That means there are 172,800 blogs added to the blogosphere every day. And apparently 409 million people view 14.7 billion pages of blogs, each day!

There is no topic you can think of that you will not find a blog dedicated to. Try it. I did.

My blogstorming then led my brain to think about blogs that inspire me. That was easy. The most inspiring blog I’ve ever come across is penned by my very own sister, Cara. Cara has endless inspiration for her blog. My nephew Hayden is Cara’s “supermodel-esque son who just happens to have a genetic disorder which affects his brain.” This brings us back to the real matter at hand—Fragile X and raising awareness of it.

As the parent of an almost 9-year-old with Fragile X, my sister believes there are two kinds of people in this world: those who know what Fragile X syndrome is and those who do not. Hayden’s milestones followed a timeline of sitting up when most kids crawl, crawling when most kids walk, and walking when most kids begin toilet training. At 17 months, a blood test confirmed Fragile X syndrome. Hayden has learning difficulties, exhibits behavioral challenges, sensory issues, hyperactivity, and also…an unbelievable memory, a charismatic personality, and his most prominent feature is definitely his smile.

Cara’s blog is “awareneXs”—spelled with an X, because that’s what she wants people to become aware of. Read more about the origination of the blog, and Hayden’s diagnosis, here: http://awarenexs.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-may-of-2011.html.

So, challenged with the question of what to blog about, I take the opportunity to raise the awareness of Fragile X, and introduce you to my amazing nephew Hayden. If you’re not already part of those 409 million people who view blogs every day, this one might make you part of the statistic. At a minimum, it will swing the pendulum my sister sees a bit more toward the side of “people who know what Fragile X syndrome is.”

Read more about Fragile X and Hayden at http://awarenexs.blogspot.com/.

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Apr22

Pharmacists — New Agents of Change for Improved Healthcare Delivery?

pharmacist and customerIt is becoming increasingly common to encounter new outlets for healthcare delivery within retail pharmacies, big box stores, supermarkets, etc. This phenomenon is not occurring by happenstance. We often hear there is a growing shortage of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Now, this shortage is likely to be magnified by the large number of newly insured patients entering the market as a result of the Affordable Care Act. These patients will need new places to seek care and new types of healthcare professionals to care for them.

One site of care that is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for patients is the retail clinic, due to the convenience and quality of service for basic healthcare needs. When we examine the average cost of a minor illness visit across different sites of care, we see that retail clinics provide a viable and cost-effective alternative:

  • Retail clinic: $76
  • Physician visit: $120
  • Urgent care: $121
  • Emergency room: $499

Given the reduced burden on the system, we can expect that healthcare delivery will continue to migrate outside of traditional physician and hospital channels, to non-traditional, lower-cost venues like retail clinics. In fact, the number of retail clinics is estimated to grow 25% to 30% annually to almost 2,900 by 2015. But who is primarily responsible for providing care in these locations?

Most often it is pharmacists who play a very active role in delivering care. They have expanded their role beyond drug dispensing to include medication reviews, providing education materials, administering vaccinations, and more.  Furthermore, they are well-positioned to continue to expand their influence on patient care.

As marketers, we should closely examine the potential role pharmacy could play to improve the quality and cost efficiency of healthcare delivery. As one of the key patient-facing allied healthcare professionals, they should be supported with education and tools that go far beyond their traditional focus on drug dosing and dispensing. Pharmacists have training and access to data that uniquely position them to help improve the patient’s journey from the first prescription after diagnosis, through ongoing adherent treatment, to chronic disease management and/or recovery.

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Apr15

Mindfulness: An Age-Old Concept in a Bright, Shiny New World

yoga officeIf you asked others to define mindfulness, you’d likely hear a variety of responses, the most common of which might be relating the term to a Buddhist concept. Mindfulness indeed originated thousands of years ago, and for those who conceptualize it this way, a quote from the well-known author Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates the point well. He said, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Too esoteric? This is far from the only interpretation of the word.

A more practical and relevant definition for business is simply: awareness. We all know full well the challenges in today’s environment, particularly within the rapidly evolving healthcare space. The digital age isn’t coming, it’s here, but all of its obstacles and opportunities are still being pulsed out over time as we answer some questions and then inevitably raise more. As if our own world isn’t changing quickly enough, that of our clients is right there beside it, equaling if not outpacing the transformation we’re experiencing. One of the keys to all of this—to recognizing the hurdles and also to overcoming them—is mindfulness (yes, that 2,000+ year old practice).

Mindfulness facilitates a more complete view of what’s around us. It compels us to consider our immediate and long-term challenges, and the resources we have available to address them. But it also encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients, to become more connected to (in other words, aware of) their work climate, and that always makes for better, more creative and insightful work.

But it is more than just awareness. Going back to the more obscure definitions, it’s about being supremely present, the result of which is the ability to recognize beauty and connectedness in the world. The more of that we see, the more impassioned we become and the more driven we are to contribute to it—through our work, but also through our hobbies, our families and our friends.

So let’s make a pact to be more mindful and to reap the rewards, personally and professionally. Become more familiar with and aware of your working environment and that of your clients, work after hours at home and even monitor those devices as needed, and you will be a better, more valuable professional for it. But when the job is done, continue to practice that mindfulness by being fully present and invested in whatever you’re doing after work. It helps us all, even those who love every waking second of their job, to unplug and recharge. There are few things that clients love—and need, especially in today’s healthcare landscape—more than an eager and fresh perspective ready to confront their most formidable challenges.

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Mar11

SXSW 2014: Technology and Health

SXSW_Logo_2013_BlackBG_CS

In Part 1 of his SXSW blog series, Robert Egert recaps some of the SXSW themes that are transforming the way the world looks at healthcare.

Massive—that’s the first thing you need to understand about the SXSW experience. At any given time, there are 30 to 50 events to choose from taking place in multiple locations throughout downtown Austin. This means that, unlike conventional conferences, each individual attendee cuts his or her own path through the events by selecting and reselecting from the nearly unmanageable array of keynotes, panel discussions, presentations, and workshops.

Events that feature celebrity speakers or that focus on hot topics can fill up quickly. Dashing from event to event, waiting in long lines, and striking up random conversations en route is part of the experience. Many events include audience QA, so if it suits your fancy you can become part of the public conversation, even if you aren’t an official presenter.

Here’s a highly personal recap of the themes, issues, and events that impressed, stimulated, and/or frightened me:

BIOMETRICS

The Idea: The pervasive collection of quantified biometric data will transform healthcare.

Wearable, implanted, and otherwise applied technologies will collect vast amounts of data on each of us throughout the day and night regardless of where we are or what we are doing. The collected data won’t only be sent to our phones—it will also be shared with physicians and aggregated into an ever-expanding library of health data.

This library can be used to evaluate the impacts of lifestyle choices on health and longevity (how much of what kinds of exercise must you do to reduce hypertension?). They can also measure the impact of pharmacologic therapies (which drug was more effective?), they can help identify disease patterns (what patterns around comorbidity should be looked at?), and they can provide real-time reports on just about anything you want to know about human behavior and health.

Why this is important:

If we combine biometrics with the predictive capabilities of DNA analysis, we’ll be able to obtain a detailed image of our individual health within the larger social context.

CROWD-SOURCED DRUG DISCOVERY

The Idea: Crowd-sourcing health studies and clinical trials.

Current approaches to drug testing and conducting health studies are expensive, slow, and cumbersome. What if we used crowd-sourcing to answer quantifiable health questions?

Jessica Richman, who is the founder of uBiome, a start-up that uses a crowd-sourced approach to collecting scientific health data, proposes that we dramatically change our approach to scientific inquiry. She suggests that with the right protocols and infrastructure in place, crowd-sourcing will be used to speed the evaluation of new products, measure the effectiveness and safety of products already in-market, and obtain quantifiable data on the health impacts of lifestyle choices.

This approach promises to allow us to quickly and efficiently collect larger data sets than ever before. But with this comes the responsibility to maintain processes and checks to maintain scientific integrity.

Why this is important:

It can dramatically reduce the cost of conducting health and drug studies, and it can generate libraries of data for ad hoc inquiry and analysis.

SXSW Series:

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Also posted in clinical trials, Data, Healthcare Communications, Pharmaceutical, Science, SXSW | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Feb28

How Can Self-monitoring Best Support Behaviour Change?

3907691Some of today’s biggest public health challenges, such as obesity and  heart disease, can be linked to personal lifestyle decisions. Governments have tried tackling these issues with smoking bans and taxes on high-fat foods, with moderate success. However, personal health behaviour change is needed to make a significant, lasting impact. Can self-monitoring of health information be the answer?

Studies in diabetes, hypertension, medication compliance and weight loss have shown that patients who successfully self-monitor their activities and set personal goals enjoy improved health outcomes and better adherence to treatment 1-6. We now have an abundance of apps and wearable technology at our fingertips to comprehensively track numerous aspects of our lifestyle, analyse results and observe improvements over time. These self-monitoring tools can then be easily integrated into social health networks so that we can share experiences, track our progress against that of our peers, and give and receive advice on how to succeed.

It is estimated that there are more than 40,000 health and fitness apps available. But with this bewildering variety of choice, how can we know which ones will encourage lasting behaviour change?

Easy does it

The apps which make the process of data upload as effortless as possible for the end user are the ones most likely to catch on in the long-term. Devices that automatically record data and synchronise it with online analysis programmes in real time provide a seamless transition and are not hampered by general forgetfulness or lack of time.

Keep it simple

Health information needs to be engaging, and simple enough to be universally accessible. The average person is likely to find sorting the data that matters from what doesn’t time-consuming and intellectually daunting—in fact, many patients who have to actively monitor a condition like type II diabetes don’t always fully engage with self-monitoring for these very reasons.7

Be realistic

Establishing aspirational but realistic goals and providing reinforcing feedback can help bring self-monitoring systems to life and make them personally meaningful.  A recent study into self-monitoring to improve diabetes treatment found that the main concerns patients had with the system were disappointment with unmet expectations and difficulty fitting the programme into the demands of daily life. 1

Collaborate

Ideally, fitness or health tracking app developers should collaborate closely with specialist healthcare providers and device makers as well as social scientists who understand how to bring about behaviour change. Such cross-fertilisation could result in truly useful tools that track fitness alongside other health metrics, such as blood sugar levels or medication adherence.

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1.  Barlow J, et al. Self management approaches for people with chronic conditions: a review. Patient Education Counseling 2002;48:177–87.

2.  Benhamou PY. Improving diabetes management with electronic health records and patients’ health records. Diabetes Metab 2011;37(Suppl 4):S53–6.

3.  Dennis EA, et al. Weight gain prevention for college freshmen: comparing two social cognitive theory-based interventions with and without explicit self-regulation training. J Obes 2012;2012:803769.

4.  Parker R, et al. An electronic medication reminder, supported by a monitoring service, to improve medication compliance for elderly people living independently. J Telemed Telecare 2012;18:156–8.

5.  Ralston JD, et al. Patients’ experience with a diabetes support programme based on an interactive electronic medical record: qualitative study. BMJ 2004;328:1159.

6.  Wagner PJ, et al. Personal health records and hypertension control: a randomized trial. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2012;19:626–34.

7.  Choose Control Survey. Choosing to take control in type 2 diabetes. Available at: http://www.diabetes. org.uk/Documents/Reports/Choose_Control_report.pdf (Last accessed May 2013).

Also posted in adherence, Apps, behavior change, Data, Digital, Healthcare Communications, Patient Communications, Self-monitoring, Technology, Wearable Health Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Feb18

Taking the Pulse…Tuning In to the New Patient Network

1741356 sA guest blog post from Craig Martin – Chief Executive Officer of Feinstein Kean Healthcare, an Ogilvy & Mather Company

Most of us are far too young to remember the early days of television. What I do recall from my childhood is that three networks owned the airwaves, large numbers of people followed a small number of notable programs, and the screen turned to fuzz at midnight. You made note of the TV Guide schedule, and you adjusted your schedule to the TV shows that interested you. The networks and the stars were in charge.

A lot has changed since then, obviously. There are now countless networks, and seemingly limitless numbers of shows. Reality television has made stars of “ordinary” people. And the digital age has made scheduled programming obsolete—the content follows you and adjusts to your life and device of choice, not the other way around.

Why wax nostalgic about the evolution of broadcast television? Because I believe a similarly dramatic transformation is under way in our field. The old channels and choices are fading to fuzz. A new era is dawning.

For years, healthcare PR relied on a few channels and reliable choices to reach, inform, and market to patients. On behalf of our clients, we used traditional media (earned and paid), events, celebrities and big disease education programs to build awareness and get patients to “talk to their doctors about…”

Today—as more of the burden of choice, comparison, and cost gets shifted to patients, as diseases become more and more categorized via genomic analysis and molecular diagnostics, as medical practice and health become more universally digitized, and physicians and pharma become more responsible for outcomes vs. treatments—the traditional big, broad-channel approaches are becoming less relevant and effective as a means of reaching more and more narrowly defined populations of patients.

These trends are leading to the establishment of entirely new channels and networks, made of up patients identified and aggregated virtually through the sharing of personal medical information and data. In other words, the audience is creating the network, and continually informing the programming through the data they share. Now, rather than casting a wide net via mass media and hoping a narrow audience will be watching, we will have ready-made networks, open 24/7, waiting if not demanding to be engaged. This opens up new frontiers for micro-targeted, real-time communication and measurable engagement, based almost exclusively on digital content and social influence.

Not long before the holidays we learned that Feinstein Kean Healthcare (FKH) and a select group of partners won a million-dollar government grant to develop a “patient-powered research network” for the multiple sclerosis community. This is an exciting development, but not because of the money. This new kind of network represents the leading edge of the transformation I’ve described, and we’re now right at the forefront as well.

In the days and months ahead, we’ll continue to evaluate the pace and progress of change, and work to assure that our thinking and services are aligned with where the world is headed. Naturally, we don’t want to get too far out ahead of the trend, but we must be informed and equipped to lead when the market is ready.

I believe, as this new era unfolds, we will find there are many exciting opportunities ahead for us to engage differently and far more meaningfully with patients.

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Feb7

The Age of Wearable Health Technology Is Upon Us

5240666It used to be that technology that conforms to the human body and seamlessly integrates into your environment was stuff of science fiction movies. But if we’ve learned anything over the past 10 years, we know that science fiction is rapidly become science-fact. If you wanted to see what the near future held, all you had to do was tune in to the numerous news feeds covering the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 7–10. If there was one trend that seemed to be on every manufacturer’s mind, it was wearable health technology. In fact, CES expanded exhibitor floor space by 40% just for digital health and fitness exhibitors, many of whom were showcasing wearable personal devices.

CES is known as an event where electronics manufacturers like Samsung preview the mainstream consumer electronics that will drive the holiday shopping season. It’s the place where the industry goes to see everything from the latest web-connected refrigerators to the latest mobile chips. And the news from this past CES convention was no different. In the past, consumer electronics companies have been focused on portable, mobile technologies. With the mainstream adoption of smartphones and tablets, consumer electronics companies have continuously tried to innovate by going smaller. It was this evolution from compact, mobile personal technology to wearable technology that was on full display this year at CES. There were smart watches, smart jewelry, and smart glasses, and even mention of integrating technology into fabrics. There was a visible trend toward fashionable, smart, wearable health devices. The core technologies and functionality in many of the wearable gadgets on display were fairly similar, mostly informational apps and health and fitness monitoring, but it was the emphasis on style and technology as an accessory which spoke to how health technology will be more seamlessly integrated into everyone’s everyday life.

After years as a novelty, in 2013 wearable health tech began gaining wider adoption. From primetime TV commercials for the Samsung Galaxy Gear—a watch reminiscent of Dick Tracy’s clunky walkie-talkie wristwatch—to coverage of the debut of Google Glass on local news channels, wearable technology was noticeably all over news and pop culture. You couldn’t take a ride on the New York City subway without seeing at least 5 people with some kind of fitness tracker on their wrist or hip. And those who didn’t have a dedicated tracker likely had some kind of fitness or health-focused app installed on their smartphone. In fact, wearable tech adoption grew from 3% in 2012 to 13% 2013, and that growth has been fueled by growing consumer interest in fitness and personal health monitoring and tracking. As consumers have increasingly begun to take control of their own health, adoption of wearable devices to help them do so has grown. Gartner predicts that the fitness and personal health monitoring trend will grow to a $1.6-billion industry in 2014 and to $5 billion by 2016. As we saw at CES, consumer electronics manufacturers are doing their part to give the trend momentum by making the wearable devices easy to use, fashionable, and less pricey, hoping to appeal to a much wider consumer base. And it’s not just the consumers who will see the benefits of devices that are easier to have and use. New opportunities will continue to arise for healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies to play a direct role in wellness and health behaviors through these wearables. As open software standards become more prevalent across devices, it’ll be easier for healthcare marketers to customize programming to suit clients’ needs and integrate wearables into a more personalized patient experience. Here at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, we’ve already begun to explore how this new channel for engagement can be used toward patient education and adherence. Next Christmas, don’t be surprised if your grandparents or teens ask Santa for a fashionable wearable health device.

What about you? Do you currently own a wearable personal health or fitness device? How has this affected how you manage your and your family’s health?

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Also posted in adherence, Apps, behavior change, Consumer Electronics Show, Technology, Uncategorized, Wearable Health Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment