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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May4

The Digital Health Revolution: Transforming the Patient Journey

The Digital Health Revolution Blog Image 2Around the world, one in every four people is using social media. Whether they are sharing a funny cat video, advice on dating, or their personal experiences living with a chronic illness, there are nearly two billion people connecting with one another through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social platforms, forever transforming the way humans communicate. This social media ecosystem also is ushering in a “digital health revolution.” Whether through their desktops, laptops, or mobile devices, people seeking medical and wellness information first check with their social networks.

Pharmaceutical companies have started entering the social media waters – — most with one toe in first. Given the increasing dependence on the digital world, social media is a natural touch point for companies to connect with the patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) they serve. Becoming truly social has not been an easy proposition for a conservative industry. But we have reached a tipping point, where social interaction is becoming critically important for the industry, and one that is blowing the lid off of the traditional way of communicating with stakeholders.

In the old paradigm, a pharmaceutical brand issues an advertisement that directs patients and HCPs to a website where they are provided one-sided information and an overall static experience. Patients are then directed to “talk to your doctor,” and that is where the interaction ends. Within the new social paradigm, patients, HCPs and pharmaceutical companies can have real conversations about the topics that are important to all of them. Patients also can access information and answers to their questions much faster, thereby making their path to help shorter.

Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to interact with patients and HCPs in a more meaningful way through social media. At Ogilvy, we are helping our pharmaceutical clients navigate this new paradigm and create unbranded social networks that offer patients who have similar life experiences – — whether that is quitting smoking or managing cancer – — a safe and comfortable environment to listen, learn, and share. We believe these networks offer unique value to the industry, allowing companies to provide patients with a support system where such a community may not otherwise exist.

Social networks resolve the limitations of both time and geography that are inherent with in-person support groups. They allow people to access information targeted to their concerns and conversations with global peers at any hour from the comfort and privacy of their own couch. Social networks also empower patients to initiate and direct conversations, interacting in a way that is meaningful to them. These networks are already forming, and we believe it is vital for industry to take the lead, to serve as the connector of those conversations, and to interact so that patients are assured they are receiving the best quality and most credible information.

The social media world has clearly shifted communication patterns and habits. Pharmaceutical companies can no longer afford to remain disconnected. Social interaction and sharing will continue whether or not the industry gets more involved. By taking a more active role within these patient communities, a pharmaceutical company allows its own voice and expertise to be heard, provides its stakeholders with real value, and, equally important, ensures that competitors aren’t the only ones creating meaningful interactions and relationships with consumers.

http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Social-Networking-Reaches-Nearly-One-Four-Around-World/1009976
http://www.businessinsider.com/social-media-engagement-statistics-2013-12

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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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Apr8

An Observer’s View of the Cancer Wars

Cancer Word Cloud BlogWith the National Cancer Act of 1971, President Nixon officially declared that the US was at war with cancer. The goal of this war is to defeat cancer as a major cause of death through a better understanding of cancer biology and the development of more effective treatments.

In the 40+ years since the act’s inception, how much progress have we actually made?

Cancers overall still remain a major cause of death, however significant progress has been made in early detection, prevention and treatment:

• In December 2014, the American Cancer Society reported a 22% drop in cancer mortality over the last two decades, with a corresponding increase in the survival rate of all cancers in both men and women
• The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 made it possible to test the value of genomic approaches and identify underlying genetic changes that lead to cancers
• Emerging data since 2003 have significantly changed the way cancers are researched and have led to the development of new diagnostics, therapies, preventive measures, and early detection
• Research direction is currently focused on combining new compounds and diagnostics to help increase efficacy and reduce toxicity through the use of agents that target specific tumor pathways most relevant to a patient’s own disease
• Scientific advances in treatment have also been born out of our growing ability to harness the immune system to fight cancer

These scientific discoveries have led to a shift from an organ-based to a molecular-based approach, and the results are already having a profound impact on the way cancer is being treated and treatments are being personalized to patients. Personalized medicine is an ideal that is driving much of the future of cancer research. The hope is that tailoring treatment to patients’ individual needs based on their genetic data will improve outcomes and reduce adverse side effects. With our increasing knowledge of the human genome, this is steadily becoming a real possibility, and the advent of immuno-oncology brings another layer of individualized therapy into the clinic.

While many battles against cancers have been hard fought and won on several fronts, the “cure” to cancers still seems elusive, largely because cancer is a cluster of many diseases. Looking to the future, one of our greatest challenges may be translating our recent discoveries into treatments that address patients’ individual mutation profiles and truly treat the patient instead of the disease.

One of our biggest questions may be whether our healthcare system can afford the cost of “high-quality” cancer care. Most likely the answer will be no, but to address this challenge, the onus will be on the healthcare community (providers, payers, insurers) to determine how we will use our growing understanding of individualized cancer therapy to advance the quality and effectiveness of cancer care.

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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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Jan16

Lessons From a Wise Cat

Knowledge Sharing Image BlogTwo cats race up a flight of stairs and make a sharp turn, where a large open space sits beneath a single handrail. One plunges through the open space and falls to the ground floor underneath. The other, keen to avoid his brother’s fate, screeches to a halt in front of the opening, just in time to avoid a similar misfortune. Ever since, he navigates the open space with care…as does cat number one, who landed on his feet and was no worse for wear following his inglorious fall.

Learning from the experience of others takes place all around us, from silly things to those more serious, from the animal kingdom and our four-legged friends to our bipedal colleagues and companions.

Nine months ago, my Knowledge Management partner in crime Rhiannon Preston posted a blog on the role of the Global Knowledge Management team and our remit to take the information and experience residing in our collective Ogilvy minds and transfer this into portals that can be tapped into by our colleagues.

The role of knowledge management was introduced to the Asia Pacific region in late 2013, responsible for fostering a closer community within the Ogilvy CommonHealth Asia Pacific health practices. With its mix of developed and emerging healthcare markets, the Asia Pacific region prizes knowledge transfer, both for the opportunity to learn from global communities as well as for the ability to share our own stories.

Part of knowledge management involves the transfer of facts—brands worked on or pitched for, therapeutic areas of expertise, metrics from successful campaigns. This information is easily captured and stored in databases, ready to be of use to the next person in need. In our increasingly digital world, knowledge is actually more accessible than ever—or rather, data is.

But it is the ability to draw insights from data that gives knowledge its true power and meaning. What is less tangible but perhaps more valuable than the data are the lessons learnt from each experience: which pitfalls to avoid, which gaps to avoid plunging through headfirst. This will be one of my aims for the Global Knowledge Management team in 2015: to go beyond making information and experiences available, to turning them into meaningful lessons that guide our colleagues. For those of us less disposed to landing on our feet after a tumble, this could prove rather useful indeed.

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Jan7

Computational Lexical Analyses and the Modern Era of Wordsmithing

Writing Blog ImageIn a world fast becoming more interested in, impressed by, and capable of producing brilliant digital imagery, I’m the unfortunate one who gets to sit here and try to remind everyone that words still matter. Excited yet? Give me four minutes of your time, this is a brief post.

We work in what is first and foremost an advertising agency. There may be individual groups whose work is not entirely captured by that description (mine is one of them), but it’s the most condensed way of summarizing Ogilvy CommonHealth. Visually and creatively, the work that comes from many of our groups is stunning. It’s often best-in-class, and I’m not here to deter anyone from thinking so.

But this brings me back to what this post is about. Words, or language. Awe-inspiring as the visual work may be, our clients still often struggle with questions like, “What do we actually call this drug? How do we define and describe its therapeutic effect? How do we communicate that to clinicians? To patients?” Basic as these questions may seem, they are fundamental to the immediate and sustained success of the product. A drug needs a consistent, precise, ownable and differentiating lexicon in addition to a strong marketing campaign.

Easier said than done. Language is organic, a living, breathing document that evolves over time. Let’s look at the word good as an example. Once universally and unambiguously having meant desirable or of high quality, a recent article titled “The Art of the Amateur Online Review” in the New York Times describes why that’s no longer the case (the article is a good, quick read for anyone in advertising). Analyses of users’ product reviews show that good is starting to mean ambivalent. Reviewers say things like “it’s good, but….” In other words, good no longer means desirable, but simply good enough.

The same issues present themselves in a medical and scientific context. Clients wonder if they should say their drug is targeted or selective or honing. Perhaps others have created a drug with a new mechanism of action and they want to describe it in not just a differentiating way but also in a meaningful and exciting one. In medical language, the same words can have unique meanings across different categories.

Tools are available to help guide these decisions. In a computational lexical analysis, we can generate a database of language relevant to whatever subject area it is that we’re interested in. That can help us to know how the words in the category are used, and to see what opportunities there may be to create new language. It’s grounded in data, but this is a strategic exercise that seeks to provide guidance around what language is most appropriate for a given molecule/condition/category. Have a client with problems like this? Send them our way, we may be able to help.

 

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