Increased competition, health care reform, difficulty bringing new drugs to market and many other challenges face pharmaceutical companies. Technology is a fundamental component of meeting those challenges.
Consumer health IT can dramatically impact patient care by facilitating such vital functions as medication management, remote patient monitoring, and tighter communication between patients and their care providers. The guide is particularly timely because in the next few years, health care providers will focus as never before on electronic linkages with their patients. Many hospitals and health systems have patient portals on the Internet, with access to rudimentary health record information, and perhaps the ability to e-mail physicians. Some offer mobile versions of those portals. But providers have so far been under no outside pressure to get patients to use those resources.
Patient-oriented health IT is officially on the national agenda through the federal “meaningful use” program, which gives billions in cash incentives to providers for using IT to improve care (and in 2015 is scheduled to start penalizing holdouts by reducing their Medicare payments). The most recent set of criteria for meaningful use, to be phased in starting in 2014, requires an active effort to link patients into the information loop. Not only do providers have to make patients’ information available to them online, they also have to show that at least 5% of the patients have accessed that information in a given year. That percentage is likely to increase with the next round of meaningful use requirements.
In the privacy of their own bathrooms, people can find out whether they’re pregnant or have HIV. They can even swab for DNA to unravel their ancestry. Yet it’s difficult to answer simpler questions, like “Do I have the flu?” That’s because the most advanced diagnostic device in most medicine cabinets is a thermometer. Regularly measuring and understanding anything more complex than body temperature, such as respiratory rates and heart rhythms, is a physician’s job. So patients often go to the doctor when they don’t need to or don’t go when they should. By providing doctors with better data and patients with better decision-making tools, personal health monitors and diagnostics could break that cycle.
In the last few years, medical-device manufacturers have begun using miniaturized sensors and mobile phones to gather clinical information. The AliveCor and iBGStar iPhone attachments, for example, monitor heart rhythm and blood glucose, respectively. The Tinké converts heart and respiratory rates into a stress rating. And devices that gather a broader range of metrics are on the way. The Scanadu Scout, a pocket-sized Bluetooth-enabled dongle that will be available later this year, uses several kinds of sensors, including infrared, to measure blood flow, blood oxygen, electrical heart activity, temperature, and heart rate. (The company is competing for the Tricorder X PRIZE, a competition to create the first no-contact mobile diagnostic tool.)
The sheer volume of data produced by a network of devices like the Scanadu could be a boon for public-health workers. A person who tracks one health metric every hour will generate nearly four times the amount of data in the Library of Congress in his lifetime. Spread over several metrics and many people, the data could provide a snapshot of national or local health at any given time. Epidemiologists could use that information to spot early indicators of disease and issue alerts before the infection has a chance to spread.
For individuals, personal data could be paired with software-based diagnostic tools. Patients with hypertension, for example, would be alerted to pressure spikes, which could enable them to better manage their condition with diet and exercise. Scanadu is developing apps that can analyze smartphone images of user-collected blood or urine samples and detect respiratory infections. The company plans to refine its software to synthesize a data sample, diagnose common ailments, and let patients know when they’re sick enough to need a doctor. For the first time, emergencies will be emergencies, and colds will be colds—and doctors won’t be the only people who can see the difference.
Traditional social media monitoring approaches are now familiar to many pharmaceutical marketers and communicators. A set of keywords related to a particular topic is chosen, and used to program proprietary software to search for conversations including these keywords over a given time period. Results tend to include a large amount of noise or irrelevant mentions, as well as those by patients, HCPs and other groups of interest. For example, when searching around diabetes keywords, results such as the tweet below are often found in greater numbers than those referring to real clinical situations; the software is not capable of distinguishing between members of the public making a joke and the discussions of doctors or patients. Human analysis is then required to filter out the useful results, but the process can be imperfect, meaning that insights can be clouded or that key points and individuals can be missed.
Figure 1: A popular tweet mentioning diabetes. Does your social media monitoring tool return large volumes of similarly irrelevant results?
Creation Pinpoint is a new social media monitoring tool that cuts out the noise and allows those interested in the activity of HCPs to focus on the most important conversations taking place between doctors, pharmacists and nurses. Not only does this provide a more reliable picture of how a particular brand or therapy area is being discussed by those who are active in the area, but it also allows the identification of HCPs who are particularly influential online – the DOLs. These individuals are crucial when considering how a brand or therapy area is discussed online, as their posts and other activities influence others in the online – and offline – spaces.
The following graphic shows the top 10 HCPs tweeting on a subset of topics related to prostate cancer. Through Creation Pinpoint, it is possible to identify specific conversations and to discover more about an individual, such as their location, Twitter profile and online influence scores. In this way, DOLs can be quickly and easily identified, and steps can be taken towards engaging with them in an appropriate and effective manner.
Figure 2: Extract from Creation Pinpoint demo dashboard – the top 10 HCPs tweeting on a subset of prostate cancer topics in the past 6 months
Figure 3: Detailed information about key HCPs is just a click away in Creation Pinpoint, enabling engagement and allowing you to improve the control you have over your brands online.
Three groups of HCPs you need to be aware of
Studies using Creation Pinpoint have so far identified three broad groups of HCPs active online, whose activities may be of interest to pharmaceutical companies.
Social media big hitters – these are HCPs who have embraced online media, and may have several social media accounts. They are more likely to be generalists, or involved in medical education or leadership. Any posts they make online have impact within their large sphere of influence, with potential to spread further. These individuals may not have a specialist network, however, and are therefore less likely to post online extensively on a single topicSpecialists – this group may not have such sophisticated online profiles, and may only be active on a narrow range of topics. However, their activities in that area are credible, since this is where their professional focus lies. They are more likely to have a highly relevant discussion on a particular topic areaOne-hit wonders – these individuals fall into neither group, but they are shown to have had at least one, seemingly isolated, relevant conversation. Further monitoring may show that these users go on to have further conversations on the relevant topics
To many businesses and professionals, social media can seem frivolous–a place to upload photos of your dinner and your cat. But in reality, it is a powerful medium that simplifies the connection of people from all different locations. One industry that benefits greatly from this knowledge transfer is healthcare. All components–patients, doctors, healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical companies, etc.–can interact with one another and receive (hopefully) helpful information about health conditions.
Currently, pharmaceutical marketers implement a few social tactics, mainly with the use of forums. There are three kinds of forums: branded (sponsored and monitored by a specific brand), non-branded (usually support groups, fundraisers or information-based platforms like WebMD), and healthcare professional communities. These forums are perfect for monitoring social conversation since they are all public updates. Large amounts of information can be aggregated about people’s health conditions, viable medications for cures and the demographics of certain ailments.
As for social networks themselves, pharmaceutical companies can be found on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as blogs (sponsored and non-sponsored). These platforms are generally used for dispensing information about their companies, products and developing a positive brand image by promoting various philanthropy projects. In other words, there is a lot of opportunity for more engagement and creating educational communities online that benefit both the user and the company, similar to what the Mayo Clinic did with live tweet chats.
There is no doubt that pharma marketers are diligent about putting information out about their various medications. But just as there is a potential for doctors to utilize social media to expand upon their craft, there is potential for pharmaceutical companies to improve business efficiency while still keeping the consumer in mind. Instead of waiting for the annual conference, doctors are able to access other professionals that are innovating new ways to cure, to operate and vaccinate in real-time. Imagine pharmaceutical companies joining in this transfer of knowledge by assessing what medicines are the most popular (and those on the decline), what symptoms are cropping up in certain areas and what doctors like prescribing most.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might be changing to become “more business-friendly” in how it regulates mobile health, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.
The article features interviews with participants at the Personalized Medicine World Conference.
The FDA is one of three bodies with a hand in regulating wireless health in the US, along with the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.
Some executives in wireless health gripe about the level of regulation they face and claim it will inhibit the market’s growth. The FDA issued draft guidelines about regulating mobile apps back in July 2011, one of the proposals that have attracted criticism.
However, Mavis Yee, a partner at a Silicon Valley law firm called Nixon Peabody, says the agency “has little to no interest in regulating the vast majority of the 40,000 or more mobile-health applications” that are available today.
The agency only wants to regulate companies “building wireless accessories for existing medical devices, as well as those that turn a phone or tablet into a clinical medical device”, said Yee.
The vast majority of apps do not fall into this category. They relate to diet, exercise trackers, reference tools for doctors and consumers, or means for mobile access to patient records, for instance.
However, it should be noted that the FDA has yet to publish its final proposals in this area, despite the long lag since the publication of the earlier draft guidelines.
Yee also mentions a bill put before Congress by Mike Honda, the Congressman who represents Silicon Valley. The Honda bill would create a new division within the FDA called the Office of Wireless Health.
This is the kind of intervention that some in the industry do not like but Yee says the bill would also include support for entrepreneurs and investors in the form of loans and prizes that might be more to their taste.
Maybe the gap between consumer packaged good marketers and pharma marketers is finally closing. According to a new Accenture Report ”the sales and marketing models of today need to be reshaped in order to be successful in today’s “new normal. Reducing costs, mastering multichannel marketing and improving digital effectiveness are the top strategic priorities for pharmaceutical sales and marketing executives.”
Accenture says, There is a customer engagement revolution in motion in the Life Sciences industry as it faces life in the “new normal” after the peak of the patent cliff1. The industry is in an era where targeting specific populations and improving patient outcomes is critical for specialty products and where reaching more customers in rapidly developing markets is paramount for growth. This revolution is requiring companies to rethink how they can reach patients, payers, providers and governments in both mature and emerging markets—at speed, at the right price and with the right information for each target audience. This is a significant change from the “feet on the street,” single message selling model that worked well for blockbuster drugs in mature healthcare markets.
And I think I finally found out why agency people are reporting that pharma is spending more in digital marketing. According to the report
The use of third-party service providers is a relatively common practice in the industry that will continue to increase.
The real challenge is can third parties really provide the best analytics and digital marketing strategy as someone who actually works within the brand team/company? It has been my experience that too many pharma companies treat third parties as vendors and don’t always share every bit of important information. Even more important outside agencies need to understand the dynamics, including the corporate politics, within the organization. Employees who don’t understand digital marketing and want to hold onto more “glamorous” channels like TV may fight the shift in dollars to analytics and digital marketing. Still this is great news for pharma which has a reputation of coming late to the party.
The picture-driven social media tool Pinterest made Internet history by rocketing to 10 million subscribers in just under two years, and already surpasses YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn for referral traffic.
Home healthcare is the fastest growing sector in the health care industry, and it is estimated that it will increase significantly in the coming years.1
Advantages to homecare include improved quality of life for the patients, reduced costs due to reduced stays in hospital and increased medication compliance.
Graeme Duncan is the Group Director of Strategy & Marketing at Healthcare at Home, a leading patient support organisation. They provide homecare and patient level distribution to almost 200,000 patients across Europe on a daily basis. He speaks with us on the benefits to patients of home healthcare and the benefits to the wider healthcare system.
RA: In what disease areas can homecare be applied?
GD: We currently operate across approximately 30 different disease areas, including Rheumatology, Gastroenterology, Oncology, Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, Multiple Sclerosis, ERT, Transplant and Nutrition. This is growing all the time, particularly with the emergence of more rare and orphan conditions. These often specialised areas lend themselves very well to using homecare. Ensuring patients are able to access treatment and are supported are key benefits of homecare services. Many pharmaceutical companies looking to launch new treatments for rare and orphan conditions realise that homecare can enable them to rapidly develop robust banks of information and data on the value of their offering as well as ease market access issues.
RA: How can homecare services impact on the quality of life of Oncology patients, for example?
GD: In one word – SIGNIFICANTLY! There is a lot of published evidence demonstrating that patients “prefer” such services compared with traditional hospital care.
This is for a variety of reasons linked to convenience, avoiding travel and other costs, not being exposed to hospital infections and privacy benefits. However beyond patient preference there is evidence that shows patients experience less side effects and have improved quality of life as a result of homecare services. For example a study in 2009 published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, showed significant improvements in side effects in a cohort of homecare patients when compared with a cohort treated under normal hospital pathways.2
In addition, the homecare cohort had less unplanned admissions and inpatient days.
Another example was published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2005 where a study looking at breast cancer patients on Zoledronic acid and homecare had significant QOL improvements...