Digital is not the answer, it is just the best car that carries your content

This chart below covers the increase in digital media spend for HCP's…(from Compass Inc.)




But while the blog makes the point about shifting media from print to digital, the increased use of digital by HCP's and a few other salient points, I think the real issue is missed. It is not just moving $$$ that matters but the idea companies moving closer to being forced to consider the HCP relevancy issue — content, timing and cross-channel coordination, ie,

"Don't bore me with the same message."

"Why are you bothering me now?"

"You sent me an email, a mailing, and a call…"

As a fact, most doctors and nurse's have no time. They are so time squeezed on so many fronts that the real issue is attention span + need has to be your formula for generating content of value. Real value.

Let's look at the time squeeze — I was reading a EHR Best Practices piece on using Lean Methodologies that assigned doctor's practices by attitudinal segmentation and it made the point that the gap between an efficient EHR office and an inefficient one was a mere few minutes per patient which equated to a rough gap of $7500 a month in revenue between them. (Meaniningful Use should be renamed Well-Meaning Desperation.)  

So, that is one of the many contexts of the attention issues that surround a doctor every day. Content, timing and coordination are where any manufacturer/marketer needs to focus. Are eDetails relevant and even self-directed, are they useful? Nearly everyone knows a GP or Specialist only has time for an eDetail when it is clinically relevant. And even that has the "And I only have ten minutes." So, to stay relevant means more than email blasts, eDetails, click-to-call and any of the dozen or so arrows in the pharma marketers quiver. 

The solution is never simple — in fact the complexity reaches as much into infrastructure as it does communications, the focus here. Just from a communications/relevance perspective, pharma marketers need to:

1. Bring your customer into the fold: bring your target doctor and nurse into the cross-functional marketing team; they need to have regular invites to help craft contact stratrgies and content that actually makes sense. 

2. Narrow your focus: doing intercepts surveys, quarterly longitudinal studies, are all well and good, but to base your communication content, cadence and KPI's off them is like trying to run over a flea with a truck. You need focus, a content generating group, and if possible, even crowd-source a panel of your customer's to review content before it gets sent into the ether. 

3. Create feedback loops: always seek your customer's feedback on the communication you sent. Even if it annoys them, or was timed badly, it is all helpful to know. Why? Because if you do not ask, your competitor down the road might. And besides, everyone like to be asked their opinion. 

Onward, and in the case of digital spend, upward. 



8 Things Missing from Healthcare Programs

The infographic below (from The Healthcare Marketing blog on WordPress) is like a primer on what Best Practices would be if healthcare marketing were ever organized for execution holistically for clients in pharma/biotech. When I saw it, I felt like it was a bug "DUH!" But after I got past my initial cynicism, I realized that it was so fundamental that it was worth sharing. And by sharing, I add a good dose of hope that these elements can be enabled for the betterment of all — patients, doctors, hospitals and manufacturers. The writer said it was a "future" view…but I disagree. This is the Now that only continues to rise like a never-ending incoming tide. 

For client-side marketing folks, it comes down to two elements to achieve what this infographic proposes:

1. Organized out of solos. Start using cross-functional teams. 

2. Pull down the castle-walls of your company and embrace transparency — however you can, and in whatever does you can tolerate.


Mobile Health and the eyes have it

I was just perusing the mobile health news…I have been researching mobile health apps. I was reading about the huge growth of wearable devices — predicted sales of which are $50 billion by late in this decade. (

Whether wearable device or smartphone, it is all mobile in nature. But that is irrelevant to the end-user, and in this case, the patient and caregiver who is enabled and helped by these devices. So while the main use of these wearable devices is still health and fitness, not diagnosis, tracking or adherence, the challenge is: ok, it's cool to count the miles I ran, my EKG, compare calories, but I have a real condition — diabetes, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, how can these devices help? 

Well, out of the cacophony of mobile HIT — the explosing of it actually — I found this particular application very engaging: the world's first 'pupilometer' at They acquire images of your pupil and runs it through a series of recognition images and a baseline, and then report back to what you might be suffering from, or if you are diagnosed,perhaps recognizing an oncoming episode that needs treatment. Connect this to a good EHR, and you could have the patient, at point-of-episode (depression, anxiety, epilepsy) record it into their master file and perhaps even get a tip or call from their doctor as an intervention, if needed. 

Or, if pharma/biotech really wanted to service their customers and provide value, then a reading on the patent's phone could be a part of an adherence program and provide real value in the "beyond the pill" approach to patient loyalty and adherence. 

Mobile health apps feel like the wind rushing past you in a convertible car — it seems to be going faster and faster, but at the same time the landscape is becoming blurry from so many things to look at. 




Adherence studies and the marketing gap, Part 1

There was a big hullabaloo about CVS stopping the reminder calls (sponsored by pharma) because of the stricter interpretation of HIPAA.

But what amazed me about the article was that it spoke of only policy and skirted the anemic attempts of the entire industry to tackle this amazingly complex and very human issue of "I don't want/need to take this drug anymore." The article took a typcially one-dimensional view of a four dimensional challenge. 

I ran an adherence conference for a Big Pharma a few years ago and of the 23 patient advocacy groups that attended, none really could afford to spend their tight budgets on adherence and what was worse, they all were woefully ill-equipped to do so, on many fronts. Not for ill intent, but they, like so many well-versed pharma/biotech marketers, are just not able to handle the ongoing complexity and the agility needed to craft, launch and optimize such adherence programs. 

It seemed like one piece of good news was the rise of pharma companies budgets for patient adherence, moving over the $1 million mark. Yet, no other industry spends more acquiring customers, only to see them mysteriously fall off the 120-day cliff for reasons unknown — even for horribly chronic or life threatening diseases. (To show how small wins can loom large, I know of one email-based adherence program for diabetes where the results were considered hugely successful — because they increased the refill of the drug one extra month…given the fact that a small % of patients signed up for it, this was truly a minor league win.)

In a recent NIH literature review of 160 papers on adherence, they investigated just one of the plethora of variables, cost…did increased cost being put on patients negatively impact outcomes? Those of us who have studied this problem know it ranges from cost to attitude to family history to sometimes inconvenience to the last great barrier of "Taking this drug makes me feel like I am sick, I don't like that."

The bottom line is that the the pharma and biotech companies are probably not going to be the ones that break the code on patient adherence — I believe it is likely to be the hospital and digital doctor who will have the best success because of technology adoption and patients being being forced to engage more aggressively in their healthcare. Between EHR, remote monitoring, smart devices, and a human team surrounding and finally having a single view of the patient, you have the greatest likelihood of applying those technologies with good old behavioral segmentation to define best what patients need what kind of "reminders" — really personal motivation — to adhere to the treatments they need. 

Part 2 of this Adherence rant will be about how pharma/biotech companies can re-structure themselves to meet the needs of patients and staying on the medications. 


Related articles

Primary Medication Non-Adherence after Discharge from a General Internal Medicine Service
Why Do People Think Adherence Is So Easy?

When you’re not controlling the car, does that always make an accident?

The healthcare engine is running hot — Technology, marketing, Social, regulations, customer empowerment, innovation, public policy — you get the feeling that all of these, which used to run in their own silos for the most part, are now colliding, weaving in and out of their traditional lanes. This makes all us either feel a desperate "What did I miss today" due to information overload and the uncertainty it creates to that sense of things speeding up beyond your control and what you did today may be irrelevant tomorrow…and both feelings are true. 

But information overload is not what is on my mind. The infographic below is an amazing road map of what is possible for technology across many sectors and types. Here is the link:

What is both perplexing and inspiring and scary for those us in health care marketing is how what seems like seperate silos, when put under the health lens, start to cross over and impact each other…personalized medicine seems obvious, but printing organs? Domestic robots by 2020? Just play that out. What does that do to EHR's? Do you have a personal EHR robot? Is is a nurse? It boggles the mind and was worth sharing.

This is not a "Chicken Little" moment where the sky is falling, though it is raining in a way — raining ideas, raining possibilities that look like formidable challenges to large organizations. But our ability to adapt is huge. It is how we knit these potential discoveries together which is the key to not just producing better medicines, and better care, but also staying in business. 

The future Chief Customer Officer (patient and HCP) in biotech and pharma companies will have to have the CTO and the CMO report to him/her. Otherwise, we will be stuck in our lanes, when we should be colliding.