Let the Sunshine (Act) In

5116469For many of us in the healthcare industry, the advent of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act has loomed large and ominous. The mere mention conjures up visions of significant changes in the way we work with healthcare providers (HCPs), in addition to endless data collection and reporting. On March 31, 2014, healthcare manufacturers are required to submit their first annual federal reports; these reports will include data captured from August 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013. By September 30, 2014, CMS will publically disclose the information on their website. This regulation is associated with the Affordable Care Act, and as we have come to learn, there may be changes, revisions, or postponements to current guidance on reporting and timing of data review and corrections. Nevertheless, the industry needs to be prepared and many of our clients have been adapting for some time.

So to date, do we really know how this regulation will transform our corner of the healthcare geography? Are we prepared to adapt and innovate?

From a medical education and scientific publication perspective, we have already seen substantial changes in the way our clients collaborate with HCPs.  For example, in December of 2013, GSK announced that the company will begin a process that will effectively stop direct payments to HCPs for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences. To fill this gap, it appears the company may expand its focus on developing multichannel capability to support the dissemination of information about its products and relevant disease states to healthcare professionals.

The effects of the Sunshine Act are also noticeable in the scientific publication realm. Due to the transparency requirements, academic research institutions are once again modifying their guidelines and tightening their restrictions on working with industry on clinical trials and subsequent data publication to avoid the perception of and potential for conflicts of interest. These restrictions also pertain to the development of disease-state articles that update standards of care and provide best practice approaches for HCPs and allied health professionals.

Clearly the Sunshine Act is meant to shine the light of transparency and public disclosure. But it also has the potential to hamper scientific exchange, which is the lifeblood of effective medical communications.

How do we as an industry respond? My vote is to adapt along with our clients and lead and encourage the innovation and continued delivery of robust scientific exchange. How will you respond?

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at Please allow 24 hours for response.



Also posted in Affordable Care Act, Clients, Ethics, Healthcare Communications, medical affairs, Research, Science, scientific publication, Sunshine Act | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Digital Trends Impacting US Healthcare – Infographic

In the past year, digital innovations have brought about new markets and channels for digital health interactions. This infographic is a visual mapping of the technologies and innovations which are already playing a key role in shaping the future of healthcare and the experiences and journeys which surround it.

Of course the ACA is affecting healthcare coverage, but it is also affecting our healthcare experiences by placing increased importance on and driving more frequent interactions with NPs, PAs, and Pharmacists. Additionally, more priority has shifted to consumers to educate themselves and take responsibility for their own health, especially when combined with our growing culture of social media and trust networks, and recent draft guidance from the FDA. Video remains hot, but the trending has shifted to the length of videos patients are consuming, increasing its relevance to pharmaceutical marketers. Mobile and tablets continue to grow rapidly, with and quantified self driving deeper engagement though apps, not just web. Last, but certainly not least, EHR is poised to enter the next phase of meaningful use, setting the stage for a platform shake-out as certification requirements evolve to provide more and deeper data sets to systems of connected health as providers continue to on-board.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Technology is evolving fast, and healthcare, believe it or not, is keeping pace and even leading the charge on many fronts. Spurred on by government mandates and initiatives, innovative organizations ranging from Google and Apple to Silicon Valley startups like Practice Fusion are quickly carrying the ball forward, sometimes struggling to keep pace with consumer expectations of today’s technology. It’s these digital healthcare innovations which have set the trends affecting us today, and will carry us forward to tomorrow.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in adherence, advertising, Data, Digital, Digital Advertising, Healthcare Communications, Infographics, Managed Care, Marketing, Media, Multi Channel Marketing, Patient Communications, Physician Communications, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Blended Learning in Medical Education: Five Top Tips

Leigh van Wyk thumbnailAs we move into an age where “digital by default” becomes the maxim we live and work by, how do we ensure that we continue to deliver successful medical education programmes that not only meet the business needs of our clients but also the learning needs of the end-user?

The digital age is bringing about a shift in learning theory and practices. Learning is becoming more flexible, less formal and available on demand. At the same time, technology is driving change in the Medical Education industry. The expectations of both our clients and end-users are changing. Pharma clients want far-reaching educational programmes delivered on slimmer budgets. End-users want personalised learning delivered in the moment.

At Ogilvy Healthworld Med Ed, we are utilising the latest blended learning principles to design outcomes-based educational programmes that offer a mix of online digital and mobile self-paced learning and social learning to suit learning requirements.

Five tips to deliver simple, focused and blended learning:

1. Mind the gap

Do your homework and ensure both the client’s business needs and the end-user’s knowledge gap are fully understood (remember they might not be the same!). Ask yourself, what do end-users already know and what do they need to know?

2. Determine your metrics

Think about what a successful blended learning programme will look like and decide what metrics you would like to measure when the project is initiated. Data starts the conversation about effectiveness, so the more information captured regarding uptake, usability, content and functionality the more we can understand how the programme can be improved upon and how it should evolve

3. The evolving end-user experience

By focusing on the evolving learning needs of the end-user, we move away from a product-focused approach to a user-centric approach. Understand your end-user—how they learn, how they behave, what they want from a learning programme.

4. Personalise the learning experience

Blended learning is flexible and recognises that as individuals we all like to learn in different ways. Programmes should be designed to include audio, text and visual content to ensure that all learning styles are addressed and the user remains engaged.

5. When it comes to learning, less is more

When it comes to developing content for online learning, less is more. Unnecessary text and fancy interactivity for the sake of it overloads memory, detracting from comprehension. In traditional self-directed eLearning courses, simple techniques such as chunking information, bullet points and key messages can aid retention. Visually rich and engaging eLearning courses can be supplemented by resources such as slide compendiums or clinical papers to ensure the end-user can access all the information they need to support their learning.

As the digital age closes in, isn’t it time to move beyond traditional educational programmes and embrace the learning theory and technology that will allow us to deliver effective blended learning? Isn’t it time to evolve?

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Clients, Digital, Healthcare Communications, Learning | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Shift in Medical Meeting Promotion

kristine thumbnailThe 2008 conversation:

“I want all the billboards along the highway, 150 taxi tops, and 10 dioramas at the airport. Also, see if you can advertise in the bins where you place your shoes to be screened. I want my brand to be everywhere! Let’s also give out tissue boxes, pens and ice cream to everyone who visits the booth!”

The 2013 conversation:

“Let’s place an ad in the daily newspaper…and we will allow U.S. physicians to speak to a rep at our booth.”

The shift in medical meeting promotion has become evident over the past few years. In addition to extensive internal MLR reviews, many medical societies now require prescreening of media tactics, creative, messaging, location/distance from the exhibit hall, etc. Clients are unsure of what is acceptable and wary of pushing the promotional limits. With a large portion of U.S. meetings attracting international physicians, how do marketers target their U.S. physician base? Gone are the days of the big branded blitz.

If these hurdles weren’t enough, on August 1st, the long-delayed regulations of the Sunshine Act will go into effect. The Sunshine Act requires manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, biologicals, and medical suppliers covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Medicaid to report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) all payments or transfers of value to physicians, teaching hospitals, and other healthcare providers. This includes expenses related to the meetings industry, including travel, lodging, and food and beverage. Medical meetings will encounter the largest scrutiny under the Sunshine Act.

Although drug makers already follow PhRMA guidelines (est. 2009), the Sunshine Act will impose fines for failing to properly track and report on all meeting spending. The CMS will begin posting the information in a public database on its website in the fall of 2014. Physicians will be part of the public database, easily searchable for any “transfer of value” from a pharmaceutical company. This concerns many physicians, as it might give the perception that they have been “bought.”

There are 98,000 meetings in the U.S. each year that are for the continuing education of physicians. In addition to manufacturers and their agencies, outside industries such as hotels, restaurants, medical societies and publishers may feel the impact. Final rules for the Sunshine Act provisions of the Affordable Care Act are going to be complicated and interpretive for drug companies and agencies.

The future will tell—but could the Sunshine Act shift the paradigm in physician engagement toward further digital promotion, and not live events? Will there be more involvement with the localized meetings, decreasing the need for large-scale venues?

What will the 2014 conversation be?

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Branding, Digital, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to Sip From an Information Fire Hose: Taking Stock of the Therapeutic Marketplace

Fire Hose ThumbnailIn an effort to describe the intellectual environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), former MIT President Jerome Wiesner once remarked that “getting an education at MIT is like taking a sip from a fire hose.”

For those of us working in the field of medicine, this perspective is far from a pithy witticism. The scope of the informational fire hose in science is truly staggering. For example, according to summaries posted by the National Library of Medicine, new “In Progress” records expand daily by 3,000 to 12,000 citations. While not broken down by scientific discipline, these data underscore the scope of the challenge to understand a rapidly changing clinical marketplace. Additionally, these data don’t begin to address the broad expanse of observations by the media, blogosphere, and social media.

So how do we at Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Education (OCHME) sip from an informational fire hose? Our scientific team takes a multidisciplinary approach:

  • Manage the scientific literature – The National Library of Medicine’s search engine allows a user to program keywords into daily automated searches that are emailed to us each morning
  • Leverage capabilities of Internet search engines – Many search engines will alert a user to a particular word string “as it happens.” So the moment a keyword is used on the Internet, we are made aware and can act on it
  • Build close intellectual relationships with clients and clinicians – At every opportunity, OCHME shares our perspectives on recent developments in a therapeutic area with our clients and clinicians. As the relationship matures, the exchange of information becomes a two-way street. Before long, this becomes a key source of new information for us
  • Embrace nontraditional sources – We routinely monitor blogs and conduct Twitter searches for perspectives that support our projects
  • Continue to rely on traditional information channels: Sources such as eMarketer, Forrester, or Kantar Sources & Interactions continue to offer high intrinsic value, allowing OCHME to construct insightful snapshots of a therapeutic marketplace

Using the above techniques, OCHME is frequently the first source of timely strategic information that is shared with our clients. In addition, this comprehensive approach allows OCHME to identify novel data and cutting-edge perspectives that keep our medical content topical, insightful, and exciting.

Still thirsty? The next round is on OCHME. Cheers!

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.


Also posted in Clients, Content Strategy, Data, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Expanding Universe: Centers of Excellence

Expanding UniverseThe success of most pharmaceutical products and medical devices is in part based on the expertise of learned physicians in designing and conducting clinical trials, interpretation of data from these trials, and eventually in educating healthcare providers. Historically, these esteemed physicians are the most recognized names at the highest-ranked medical schools and affiliated teaching hospitals. More recently, a new trend has begun to emerge: the rise and expansion of private research centers that are quickly rivaling their traditional academic counterparts. This phenomenon is a consequence of two significant developments over the past few decades.

Since the 1980s, industry funding for biomedical research by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers has surpassed the investment by the federal government. PhRMA estimates that member companies in 2011 invested $50 billion in the discovery and development of drugs. This amount, even without counting the investment by medical device manufacturers, is significantly higher than the $31 billion spent by the National Institutes of Health.

A second development is an increase in media and legislative scrutiny of relationships between industry and physicians. Many media stories brought questionable interactions into the spotlight, and legislators at state and federal levels began to put rules in place to increase transparency and minimize perceived undue influence of industry on healthcare providers. As the industry developed guidelines for interactions with healthcare providers, academic institutions began implementing their own rules limiting interactions.

The dwindling federal research dollars and ever stricter institutional rules are beginning to drive some investigators to switch their affiliations to private health organizations or start their own research centers. Early indications are that the quality of research at these nontraditional research centers is likely to be as good as that performed at major medical centers. In fact, a 2012 article by researchers from Harvard Medical School reported that “academic and nonacademic sites are equally effective in their ability to identify and retain appropriate study participants.” If the current trends continue, we can expect more industry-funded clinical research to be conducted at these private research facilities.

Many of the physicians at these centers are already well-known in their respective therapeutic areas due to their prior research and publications. Their personal reputations may translate into their new centers’ prestige, as they continue their contributions through congress presentations and peer-reviewed publications. In time, younger researchers from these centers may indeed grow into future thought leaders, just as those from academic research centers have done historically.

Emergence of these potential new “centers of excellence” presents opportunities and challenges for the manufacturers and for communication agencies. As the nonacademic research centers are managed by investigators who have expertise and interest in working with industry in various capacities as investigators, advisors, and educators, they may be more open to collaboration than the experts at academic institutions. They will also continue to maintain high ethical standards to protect their own reputations among their peers. However, there may be a need for the industry to educate them regarding the latest guidelines issued by PhRMA or AdvaMed, and the constantly evolving regulations at the federal and state levels, since these centers may lack the compliance infrastructure of the major academic centers. As communicators who facilitate interactions among industry, researchers, practitioners, and patients, it behooves us to keep an eye on this trend to better serve our clients.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in clinical trials, Healthcare Communications, Research | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Escalating Scientific Credibility of OTC Products

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have long been the mainstay of consumers seeking immediate relief from what ails them. Go to the corner pharmacy, pick up some medication along with some staples like tissues, go home and take as directed. These drugs are readily available to us because the FDA deemed them safe enough for consumers to judge on their own what to take and when. Somehow, ready availability, safety, and lack of physician oversight has translated to a perception of being less effective, lacking in clinical studies, and/or being beneath a doctor’s notice. After all, by the time we go to the doctor, we want something really powerful, right?

The fact is these products often have a great deal of scientific distinction. And there has been precedent for targeting physicians as advocates. Cough/cold products, dental care, and analgesics are three categories where this has particularly been the case. Tylenol, for example, built its reputation—and its brand—on the value of hospital endorsement. Listerine became the No. 1 mouth rinse by gaining the ADA Seal for plaque and gingivitis and promoting this to dentists. Heck, even Trident gum managed to build sales on the basis of dental recommendations for helping to avoid cavities by mere omission of sugar as an ingredient.

While these examples are 30 years old, we are seeing a resurgence in this type of marketing approach as more manufacturers of OTC products seek out medical education support to bolster their standing.  Typically this involves development of sophisticated mechanism-of-action (MOA) stories, often accompanied by MOA animations; undertaking clinical trials to demonstrate significant effectiveness (since safety is a given), speed of onset, longer duration, etc; data publication both at congresses and in peer-reviewed journals to join the ranks of “more serious” Rx drugs; scientific platform development to establish competitive differentiation from other OTCs and often parity with therapeutic modalities; and thought leader engagement to build advocacy and recommendations.

The fact is we are having no difficulty recruiting thought leaders into these activities. Even specialists have taken an interest and participated with the energy and enthusiasm typically devoted to Rx products. Physicians take greater comfort in adding OTCs to their consideration set with patients because it’s been proven to them that these products hold their own scientifically and clinically.

So the next time you feel your OTC product growth is stagnating, consider following the proven path of elevating credibility and distinction through science and advocacy.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, Advocacy, Branding, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does the Bell Toll for Traditional Siloed Promotional Activities in a Leaner Compliance-Driven Pharma World?

Our clients are saying that the role of Medical Education will grow in years to come…potentially biting into other traditional areas of the marketing mix. Does this spell disaster for advertising or PR?

Ogilvy Healthworld Medical Education recently surveyed its clients to assess what the future would hold for Med Ed, and the results were both thought-provoking and intriguing. The clients we involved spanned marketing and medical affairs disciplines, in global, national and EMEA roles across a range of small, medium and large pharma companies.

Looking at how agencies would need to respond to changes and turbulence in the pharma environment, five key trends emerged:

  1. We are part of a shifting landscape: attitudes, budgets and people are moving away from Sales and Marketing to Medical Affairs and Market Access. This parallels an increase in educational activities and the slow erosion of PR and promotional activities or their metamorphosis into more educational content. Our clients are telling us: “Clinical data will increasingly be at the heart of educational tools and messages ….medical education will drive a more clinically focused brand strategy and what promotional work that remains will be subject to stricter and stricter regulations.”
  2. Our pharma clients are increasingly concerned about the risk of non-compliance and, in particular, inadvertent off- license promotion. As well as a sharper delineation between promotional versus non-promotional activities, there will be a drive to improve transparency between pharma companies, healthcare practitioners, payers and patients.
  3. The hands-off approach to pharma-sponsored Continuing Medical Education (CME) is becoming a double-edged sword: although companies have reduced regulatory control, they are under increased pressure—and face stiff penalties—if content is non-compliant.
  4. As healthcare professionals communicate increasingly in the virtual space, there will be less reliance solely on face-to-face communication. Digital communications will rise to deliver more cost-effective, innovative  solutions to more targeted audiences and enhance the value of face-to-face communications.
  5. As client teams continue to downsize, there will be a growing need for strategic communications planning expertise within agencies. Potentially, those with the greatest capability to become long-term strategic partners will increasingly be seconded in as interim managers: “As pharma becomes more risk averse and cost conscious, clients will need agencies who can lighten their load, in the new leaner, compliance-driven pharma world.”

In the relentless drive to rationalize healthcare spend and tailor therapies to meet unmet needs in increasingly segmented patient groups, new drugs will hit increasing scrutiny.   In this new world, data will be king—and Med Ed is ideally and uniquely equipped to use this information to justify premium pricing over cheaper, established medicines. Ultimately, pharma’s quest for improved transparency, trust and reputation must be underpinned by programs that lead to enduring change, but which are compliant in the stringent regulatory environment in which we operate. Medical education is not just about knowledge acquisition anymore. It must facilitate and drive behavioral change, among a range a stakeholder groups operating under strict regulatory compliance. While behavioral change is most effectively achieved when all communications disciplines are harnessed, including PR, advertising and market access, it will increasingly be underpinned by robust Med Ed.

Does the bell toll for traditional siloed promotional activities in a leaner compliance-driven pharma world?


Also posted in Access, Analytics, behavior change, Marketing, medical affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HCPs Who Access Data: Just Like the Rest of Us!

Guess what! Scientists, clinicians and other healthcare professionals own and use smartphones, iPads and an array of desktop and personal computers. These same people are fundamentally interested in the clinical studies and scientific evidence that result from research studies. They read specialty and  peer-reviewed journals and are asking, “When will I be able to read more via my personal devices?” As lay consumers, they can access everything from instructions on how to build a nuclear bomb to the recipe for Uzbeki-style lamb via their digital devices, yet the journal articles that satisfy their professional needs and passions are not yet uniformly available. Go figure!

SCI Scientific Communications & Information recently utilized a three-wave electronic survey to understand just how eager clinicians, journal authors and industry stakeholders are to receive data in a digital format. The results are in line with society at large. They want more!

Data collected from 50 internal medicine and primary care practitioners showed 86% accessed peer-reviewed literature from 2010 to 2011, and the overall proportion of information accessed with these modalities increased from 52.2% to 64.6%. Mobile tablets showed the highest percentage increases.  Preliminary results from 15 authors who published more than four articles over the last three years show that they decreased their print-only submissions to 15.3%, from 25% of the submissions two years ago.

While computers and laptops remain the primary devices for accessing online peer-reviewed content, HCPs say they will want and expect that journal articles become available for e-readers and smartphone applications. These devices are likely to outpace PCs/laptops based on portability and convenience.  Industry stakeholders anticipate a rise in open access and non-print options. They aim to please as long as regulatory and compliance agents within their organizations get on board and clarify the rules around more novel dissemination approaches, such as podcasts. In the meantime, they support open access publications and utilize QR coding at congresses to disseminate posters and presentations.

Like all other consumers, HCP readers perceive that technology will make their access to information more timely, cost-effective and convenient. They want to see e-mail notifications of new articles, smartphone applications that work for middle-aged sets of eyes and tablet applications.

Summary excerpted:

Hudson C,  Cecere E, Yalamanchili R, Anderson M, Pucci M, Aloia D, Scheckner B. Utilization and attitudes on technological advances in medical publications. Podium presentation, ISMPP, 2012.  





Also posted in Education, Great Ideas, Healthcare Communications, medical affairs, Physician Communications, Research, Statistics, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment