If you’re like me, there’s nothing you hate more than having a great marketing idea get squashed by regulatory and never see the light of day for fear of running afoul of the FDA. I get why it happ...
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The last 12-months have seen the pharma industry become increasingly comfortable with social media, or at least the idea of using it.
Social media channels were often used to support off-line campaigns and, where three years ago the launch of a new Twitter account would have been big news, this year it was pretty much expected that companies should use social media.
Noteworthy uses of social media by pharma in 2012 included Roche’s sponsorship in March of the Diabetes Nest platform, a Twitter-based social network that curates, filters and presents relevant, real-time conversations to the diabetes online community.
In June, Pfizer went all-out with a major US social media campaign to kick-start a conversation about ageing. The company’s long-term Get Old initiative includes Facebook and Twitter presences, which run alongside a bespoke online community that will allow users to share and view stories, photos and videos about getting old, and even vote on how they feel about ageing.
Then in November, GlaxoSmithKline allowed its vice president of global brand communications , Kerry O’Callaghan, to use the corporate @GSKTwitter account and participate in a tweet chat about internal communications strategies for major events. (Naturally the focus was on GSK’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic games.)
The rise of online pin board Pinterest during 2012 presented, and still presents, pharma with a rare opportunity to engage with an emerging social media channel.
It may not have grabbed as much press attention as Twitter, but it is the first new social media channel to have threatened to really go mainstream in the last couple of years and, in January 2012, it became the fastest social media site to break the 10 million unique visitor mark.
The first big pharma company to join Pinterest was Bayer in April, when it began using it to share images and information about its activities in the US.
By September, the number of companies exploring Pinterest was gradually gaining momentum, as Boehringer Ingelheim, GE Healthcare boards, Menarini and Novo Nordisk all started pinning.
A return to blogging
Blogs were one of the first social networks that pharma companies used as external-facing communications tools, but their long-form, long-term nature has seen them overtaken by tools that are quicker and easier to use, such as Twitter.
Nevertheless, blogs have remained a constant presence on the pharma social media scene, and each year has generally seen one or two new additions to the ranks.
This year, however, it felt like blogging had a resurgence. The numbers remain fairly low, but companies launched a variety of specialised and general blogs over the last 12 months.
In October, AstraZeneca launched a science-focused blog called Lab Talk that it hopes will eventually grow into an online scientific forum. The new site aims to be a place that scientists from within AZ and the wider industry can discuss “cutting-edge science and innovation” and – perhaps somewhat hopefully - share their ideas and approaches.
But while AZ was building on the experience of setting up its corporate blog (AZ Health Connections, which launched in 2009), Sanofi took the opposite path in December, going from the specialised Discuss Diabetes blog it launched in 2011 to debut in December its new corporate Speaking of Sanofi blog.
There were further blogs launches throughout the year from Bayer, which assembled a team of UK patient contributors for its diabetes blog; Lilly, which launched in Canada the first of a series of local versions of its LillyPad corporate blog; Shire with its Your Partner In Epilepsy blog; and Boehringer Ingelheim, with its More Health corporate social responsibility blog.
From blogs to Twitter to Pinterest, when taken as a whole pharma’s initiatives in 2012 show an industry making ever-greater use of social media channels. But, the still fragmented nature of companies’ use of the technology suggests that while they might be comfortable with the idea of digital channels, in practice there’s still some way to go.
The number of Americans with diabetes is set to skyrocket in the next 40 years. Social media has given patients an online support network and information repository for dealing with their disease.
When Kerri Sparling was 7 years old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Her family didn't know anyone with the disease, so they sent her to diabetes camp — "where every single camper had Type 1 diabetes," she says.
"That was my first sense of not only other people who had diabetes, but a true community," says Sparling.
Things are very different today. About 26 million Americans have diabetes — mostly Type 2 — and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that as many as one-third of adults could have diabetes by 2050.
People living with diabetes have created a vibrant online community. Big drug companies are certainly taking notice — and some advocacy groups feel that the Food and Drug Administration should as well.
Sparling chronicles her own journey with the disease on a blog she started in 2005. Other people in the DOC — that's the diabetes online community — share on YouTube. There are videos with advice on everything from removing an insulin pump to telling your date you have diabetes. There are also reviews of products to treat diabetes.
A few years ago, drug companies started paying attention to these video testimonials and to bloggers talking about their products. The companies even created their own social media sites.
"Our primary platform is our blog Discuss Diabetes," explains Dennis Urbaniak, the head of diabetes at drug giant Sanofi US. They also have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a diabetes dictionary, and they're looking into Pinterest and Instagram. "Getting involved in social media is a critical component of serving the diabetes community," says Urbaniak.
And it's not just serving the community; it's serving companies' bottom lines. Treating diabetes is extremely profitable. Every year Americans spend more than $100 billion on diabetes care. So, in addition to tweeting about new products, pharmaceuticals are sponsoring bloggers like Sparling.
"If we're talking about what we want from our devices, it is in their best interest to be hearing that and making the changes we're requesting so they can improve their sales," Sparling says.
Sparling has a disclosure on her website stating she receives free products from two drug companies, and that one pays her to speak at events and contribute at her site. But critics say that's not enough.
"People do not read disclosures. The FDA and [Federal Trade Commission] need to create a whole new system for disclosing when a blogger or group gets paid by pharmaceutical companies," says Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. He says pharmaceutical companies are using social media to promote their gadgets and drugs in a deceptive way.
"Because you might find on a pharmaceutical website a series of videos that have been tested, by the way, to make sure that they really deliver the message, and these messages, testimonials, appear to be people like you. Although sometimes they are, in fact, paid or allied with a drug company," says Chester.
Chester says pharmaceutical companies need to be very clear about their intentions and presence online. An FDA spokesperson says the agency is currently working on guidelines for drug companies and social media, but declined to make someone available for an interview.
Urbaniak, of Sanofi, hopes new guidelines won't interfere with his company's online dialogue. He says tweets and Facebook comments help Sanofi connect with people in the diabetes community — and come up with ideas for ads.
"In the past, the ads would always show the perfect blood sugar number, and the community says, 'You know, that's a bit insulting because it implies it is always easy to get this. Show a number that's high or show a number that's low. Make it real.' And so this is the kind of feedback that's been really helpful," he explains.
But what are patients getting out of social media? It's unclear whether connecting online is helpful for adults treating diabetes. "There's no proof in diabetes that social networking is helpful," says Jason Bronner, a doctor at the University of California San Diego Medical Center. He's leading a study that will help determine whether social networking can actually help patients manage diabetes.
"We know a lot of patients are on the Internet. Patients are more likely to get information from the Internet than they are from the doctor," says Bronner.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bronner refers patients to trusted websites and asks them what they're reading online.
"As a doctor, basically what you want is to make sure the patient is relying on an accurate source of information, and if you don't know that they're on these websites, you're not going to know they have a chance of getting misinformation," says Bronner.
Blogger Kerri Sparling isn't worried. She says the diabetes online community can tell when something's fishy. "If we see someone swooping in with their chocolate shake that cures Type 1 diabetes, there's going to be a voice raised saying, 'Wait, wait, wait, that's not true! Or, 'Don't come in and spam our community.' We protect ourselves in that way," she says.
She says most people in the diabetes community want big pharma to pay attention to them. Now that they are, the challenge is making sure the relationship benefits people with diabetes, and not just the drug companies.
The entire session was delivered directly from an iPhone 4S over WiFi, mirrored to an AppleTV, and included demonstrations of augmented reality (AR) as well as some of the latest health applications. This was all ‘live’ and included all the risks of ‘pushing the envelope’ of technology.
Yet the simple fact is that this was not really pushing the envelope of technology. It was merely utilizing the same capabilities which are available to all consumers in this modern age.
Our mobile devices have become so integral to society, that for many of us they are the core computing power for our daily lives.
So in preparation for the DIA Clinical Forum, Creation Healthcare sought to research and report on the impact of mobile computing and augmented reality in the context of medical information.
The somewhat unpleasant tagline ‘SoLoMo’, refers to the changing paradigm where information is:
SOcial – that is shared among other people, or used to bring people together through new and existing networks/communities
Daily calorie intake, using ‘myfitnesspal’
Such ‘gamification’ is also one of the trends impacting the health industry. I did not previously consider myself a ‘gamer’ or even that in this case I might be playing a game, albeit against myself. Yet I simply could not help becoming enthused by the ‘life-logging’ process, especially having seen the demonstrable changes in my own behavior – leading to positive health outcomes. It seems I am not alone, with a growing group of people dedicated to the process of collecting data about their lives.
During the DIA presentation we were also able to examine the current provision of health information services ranging from professional applications such as ‘ePocrates’ and ‘medscape’, through to diagnostic services from the NHS in the United Kingdom.
We even looked at an example scenario where a packet of Paracetamol was placed on the lectern, and filmed with an AurasmaLite, such that a virtual assistant stood on top of the packet – ready to provide patient information to the user. Such possibilities mean that real world products can be annotated and augmented with virtual data, or in this case health information.
The point of the session was to help the pharmaceutical and health industries understand that there are some basic considerations that we can be thinking about now, which may impact on how we deliver health information to both patients and healthcare professionals in the near future.
Some key take-aways, when approaching SoLoMo as a concept:
What information do you have, that might be useful to someone while ‘on the move’?
Where might they want to access such information, and how might the location provide relevant context?
From GSK's More Than Medicine blog:
'Not surprisingly, there was a lot of chatter about this announcement online today.
Katie Thomas (@katie_thomas) of the New York Times wrote "Glaxo Opens the Door to Data on Research." Matthew Herper (@matthewherper) of Forbes wrote about the announcement--"With Transparency Pledge, Glaxo Makes Promises No Other Drug Company Has"--and then tweeted it. This started a rich discussion about our motivation for doing this. Sally Church (@MaverickNY) wrote "@matthewherper it doesn't jive with the general ethos really. If it truly changes things then great but... leopards, spots etc." There were a number of tweeters who had similar skepticism.
And we get it. Trust me. The pharma industry, and GSK, are often criticized, no matter how genuine our intentions. This is something we know we need to overcome.
But I think [Sir Andrew Witty] outlined our motivations best:
"As a truly global healthcare company, I believe we have a responsibility to do all we can at GSK to use our resources, knowledge and expertise to help tackle serious global health challenges. However, the complexity of the science and the scale of the challenge mean that we cannot solve these problems alone. We need to take a different approach--one focused on partnership, collaboration and openness. By being more open with our clinical trial data, we also hope to help further scientific understanding. I am pleased with the progress we have made so far to evolve our business model but we recognise there is more we can do and the new initiatives outlined today will enable us to build on this work."
We expect to have our feet held to the fire on this, to ensure that we deliver on our promises. Let's keep the conversation going.'
[AS: I'm pleased to see the momentum kept up on this issue, and it's great to see Sally Church (@MaverickNY) getting mentioned here. Transparency, commitment and action are clearly going to be the best response to (understandable) skepticism.
A recap of my POV on this: http://bit.ly/QlAJdv]
Via Andrew Spong
Two years since the launch of Apple's iPad, the use of tablets and smartphones by business is growing at nearly 12 per cent a year, while the traditional PC business is shrinking two per cent, according to the UK's National Computing Centre.
The ease of use of the devices, with features such as rapid start-up, lightweight form factor and tactile interface, seem to be driving uptake, with four out of 10 UK firms across all industries already using tablets.
Many businesses seem to be opting for iPads, thanks to the availability of apps and a number of tweaks in 2011 to increase their usefulness for business applications, such as presentations and videoconferencing, although in terms of UK market share, Apple's iOS operating system actually ranks third after Google's Android and Reality in Motion's Blackberry.
The pharmaceutical industry is not generally considered an early adopter of new technologies, but there are signs that it, too, is embracing the mobile revolution, driven in part by the burgeoning rise of smartphone and tablet use among healthcare practitioners.
Recent data from ABI Research suggests that the market for mobile health apps – albeit dominated largely by sports, fitness and wellness products – will almost quadruple from $120m in 2010 to $400m by 2016. Meanwhile, almost 80 per cent of US doctors are already using smartphones and tablets for a wide array of medical technical and administrative tasks, according to healthcare recruitment firm Jackson & Coker.
Some pharma companies are already reacting to this changing environment, and the sales and marketing function seems to be driving the march towards mobile.
For example, Daiichi Sankyo recently revamped its UK corporate structure and culture and at the core of all that process is a new emphasis on the harnessing of mobile technologies, said Simon Clough, managing director of the drugmaker's UK operations, at Eyeforpharma's recent Mobile Pharma Strategy conference in London, UK.
The underlying aim is to reinvent relationships with customers, shifting away from a 'transactional', product-orientated selling role to one of partnerships and key account management (KAM) founded on an exploration of the underlying value of products to patients and healthcare systems.
"It's a question of changing systems, processes and patient outcomes for the better [and] getting better results from any resources that are being consumed," Clough said.
One element of this has been the creation of a smaller field salesforce that is highly targeted towards the needs of the local healthcare environment, and an accompanying investment in mobile technology to facilitate that process by speeding up communications internally and with customers and making working processes more efficient.
Daiichi Sankyo took an early decision to invest in iPhones and iPads for every single one of its UK employees to provide technological tools to help its restructuring and, while the process is still in its early stages, Clough said the iPad "has already become embedded in the way we work".
For example, the company has introduced a new customer-relations manager (CRM) platform for its salesforce that was specifically designed for the iPad, which automates many processes that were formerly manual.
"Our iPads have now become our mobile business hubs," he added, noting that they are used not only for email and videoconferencing, but also as repositories for information, policies and in-house product apps to engage customers.
Even dry information, such as standard operating procedures (SOPs), has been brought to life by the use of the mobile platform, with employees interacting with them in a more meaningful way. Meanwhile, Daiichi Sankyo recently launched its own iPad-optimised internal 'discovery channel' to encourage staff to upload videos, interviews and other materials and has also started its own internal social media platform – Chatter – to get workers to interact with each other at a much higher level.
"Our teams are now working together and collaborating in ways they have never done before," said Clough.
While Daiichi Sankyo may be embracing the mobile revolution, other companies in the industry are not moving ahead so quickly. A survey of pharma companies carried out by Creation Healthcare in September-October 2011 found that over 70 per cent of respondents believed that the mobile Internet offered great potential opportunities for pharmaceutical companies, and a further 24 per cent believed it had some potential.
However, only half of the respondents were already using the mobile Internet in a health or healthcare environment, and 70 per cent of respondents indicated that regulatory compliance was a significant or moderate challenge to their use of mobile solutions, according to Daniel Ghinn, Creation's CEO and director of digital engagement.
"We are in an era when the pharmaceutical industry has an optimistic view of the potential value of mobile, but has yet to step out boldly into this medium," he said.
For many apps, the situation is not so clear, particularly on the interface between wellness and health apps and, anecdotally, it appears that a number of pharma-developed apps have been withdrawn due to that regulatory uncertainty. The US Food and Drug Administration proposed draft guidance on this issue in August 2011.
The next big thing(s)?
A buzzword at the moment is location-based services (LBS), tipped by Juniper Research to become a $12.7bn market in its own right by 2014. Put simply, these allow brand owners to use the on-board GPS capabilities of many mobile devices to link customers to local services.
To give pharma examples: in Germany, Abbott has launched a diabetes app which uses LBS to identify a patient's nearest diabetologists, podiatrists, self-help groups and so on, while Pfizer has an app in Israel which locates nearby public toilets targeted at people with incontinence. The latter is also integrated into social media, allowing users to rate the facilities.
Creation's survey found that 16 per cent of respondents were already using LBS features, with nearly half saying they intended to make use of it in the coming 12 months.
Meanwhile, another hot trend is augmented reality, which couples the use of the mobile device's built-in camera with additional superimposed information. This is already starting to appear, albeit rarely at the moment, in some pharma-related apps. For instance, companies have started to experiment with information aids which overlay a representation of an organ system, such as the heart or gastrointestinal tract, over the torso of an individual, allowing them to look at a representation of a disease process and/or drug's mechanism of action.
While 30 per cent of healthcare professionals use a smartphone to run apps, a third of these are only used once and (like everyone else) doctors are still using only five per cent of them a month after download.
Pharma is not really getting the multichannel experience right at the moment, Walmsley believes. A basic, and all too common, error is failing to ensure that existing content – corporate and product websites, for example – are optimised for mobile browsing, leading to sluggish downloads, poor search optimisation and clunky presentation on a mobile device.
"We're so focused on developing apps that we've missed a fundamental step in engaging our audience, which is to make sure our current websites are accessible to everybody who is looking for them."
Search capability on mobile devices is growing rapidly, accounting for an additional 20 per cent of traffic on top of traditional PC searching. That means optimising websites for mobile and making apps search-friendly, for example by having a dedicated app website, is a must, she said. Paid search also exists for mobile and, for the moment at least, is much cheaper and less competitive than the desktop or laptop alternative.
Pharma is at an exploratory phase with mobile at the moment and while some of the mobile apps being developed clearly have a 'wow' factor, it is likely that most will have limited longevity and end up being an expensive exercise in developing 'shiny objects' without any attempt to understand the underlying behavioural trends driving the mobile revolution, according to Duncan Arbour of Blue Latitude.
"This is tick-box marketing with a bit of magpie mentality," he said during a panel session at the Mobile Pharma Strategy meeting, pointing out that pharma made similar mistakes in its handling of social media.
One interesting strategy that needs to be explored more fully is helping doctors communicate with patients, rather than focusing on communicating with healthcare professionals. One good example of this is pharma-sponsored anatomical atlases which can be shown to the patient and annotated in order to explain a condition or treatment.
Usefulness and an understanding of patient needs are the keys. For example, Merck Sharpe & Dohme achieved 72,000 downloads in two weeks for an app which provided pollen count information to hayfever sufferers, providing great marketing for its over-the-counter Clarityn antihistamine brand – thanks in part to an editorial in the Daily Mail newspaper.
The last word to Clough: "Technology alone isn't enough – we need to keep trying to understand what can meaningfully make a difference to patient health."
“An idea that can change the course of the company can come from anywhere.”
This is the advice Jack Dorsey gave at TechCrunch Disrupt. @Jack is the co-founder of Twitter and the mobile payment startup, Square, that allows anyone, anywhere, to accept credit cards via a small reader that attaches to a smartphone or iPad.
I encourage you to watch the 12-minute video of Jack’s keynote that puts a twist on the notion of a “founder” and the pivotal idea. The key to innovation, he says, is to be open to new ideas no matter where they come from.
Medical Leaders in an Idea Economy
Dr. Ronan Kavanagh expresses his disappointment with colleagues who ask, “Are you still wasting your time on Twitter?” According to Dr. Kavanagh:
“Engaging in health-related activities on social media channels is the most important thing I have done for my medical life since completing my specialist training. It has renewed my fascination for healthcare in a way I haven’t felt since I was a medical student and doing so, has undoubtedly quelled a mid-life ennui with my career. It has transformed the way I learn (where I had all but stopped learning) and introduced me to new and interesting friends.”
Dr. Kavanagh reminded me of my presentation for the Ideagoras healthcare innovation conference in Madrid two years ago. Innovators are learners, not experts.
“Success no longer comes from possessing knowledge; instead, you have to participate in creating a flow of knowledge.” -Walter Isaacson, The Aspen Institute...
MSD has teamed up with the online patient community site ‘PatientsLikeMe’ to gauge the impact of psoriasis on patients, whilst also looking to improve outcomes.
Under the agreement, PatientsLikeMe will work directly with Merck’s clinical researchers and epidemiologists to analyse psoriasis patient-reported data.
The site has an active community of psoriasis patients, where nearly 2,000 people share data and stories to reveal what it’s like to have the disease and what they do to treat it. Health profiles, forum postings and journal entries highlight their experiences.
While patients interact to help improve their outcomes, the data they provide helps researchers learn how these diseases act in the real world and accelerate the discovery of new, more effective treatments.
Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin and is associated with other serious health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and depression.
Many big pharma firms have already signed up to use the site, including Novartis and UCB. The Swiss company uses PatientsLikeMe as an online forum for post-transplant patients, whilst UCB uses it for bettering outcomes for people with epilepsy.
Both firms develop drugs for the disease and conditions they are discussing on PatientsLikeMe, and it is becoming both a new marketing tool for big pharma firms, and a unique way of harnessing real world data.
MSD owns the rights to psoriatic arthritis drug Simponi in Europe, Russia and Turkey and shares 50-50 rights with Janssen in the US.
The firm is also currently developing MK-3222, an anti-interleukin-23 monoclonal antibody candidate, for the treatment of psoriasis. The drug begun Phase III trials this year and is seen as a future blockbuster.
It is for this drug that MSD will be hoping to utilise the site for, and use the real world data coming from the online forums to help it further develop the treatment, whilst also allowing its name to be associated with a psoriasis drug.
This type of website interface can develop into a goldmine for pharma firms, as it affords them an in-depth look into the patient population of a treatment, something it cannot easily attain anywhere else.
Dr Sachin Jain, chief medical information and innovation officer at Merck, said: “Effective use of health information provides the path forward to patient-centered care and personalised medicine.
“Our collaboration with PatientsLikeMe is an important part of Merck’s strategy to establish and apply innovative solutions that improve disease management and enhance the patient experience,” Jain added.
Sanofi's social media use is certainly at the high end of what would be expected from a major pharmaceutical company, but what makes the company's use of these channels particularly interesting is its focus.
The company has corporate presences on Facebook and Twitter, but across these, and other social media channels, Sanofi US concentrates heavily on diabetes.
The company uses Twitter as a customer service tool for its GoMeals iPhone and iPad apps, when it started blogging last year it was with the Discuss Diabetes blog and, of course, there are diabetes-themed Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Sanofi is the only pharma company to focus its social media efforts so firmly on one therapy area give a real sense of a company looking to own pharma social media in diabetes.
This makes sense, with one in three Americans expected to have diabetes by 2050 the condition is a major focus for the industry. Product-wise it is an important time for Sanofi, which in June released a major safety study on its flagship insulin brand Lantus (insulin glargine) and submitted its GLP-1 agonist Lyxumia (lixisenatide) to regulators in the US, Europe and Japan for approval.
But another key factor is Dennis Urbaniak, who is the head of Sanofi's US diabetes business unit and a long-time advocate of social media in pharma.
I caught up with him recently to find out more about how Sanofi uses social media in diabetes, the 'real time point of view' it can offer and why social media should never be thought of as an advertising channel.
What benefits has Sanofi seen from its use of social media channels, such as the diabetes blog and Twitter?
"Our main benefit has been just how much we have learned by engaging directly with the diabetes community. The social nature of these platforms has allowed us to meet a lot of new people, listen to what they have to say, and start a conversation with them on living with diabetes, which has brought so much valuable perspective for our entire team."
How does the time the company invests in these channels compare with what goes into traditional channels?
"In the US, we have a dedicated team overlooking this effort with a dedicated community manager, Laura Kolodjeski, who manages the communication and writes our Discuss Diabetes blog.
"We also encourage the rest of our team members to participate directly in the conversation or at least indirectly by listening.
"As we gain more experience with the diabetes community, the level of time, interest, and resource to this approach continues to grow because we are seeing so much value in the approach in terms of our own education."
You mentioned Laura's involvement, is social media the responsibility of just one person at Sanofi or are more people involved?
"We have several people engaged in social activity in the US, which includes a core formal team with Laura Kolodjeski and Michele Polz, who also coordinate closely with Susan Brooks, Lindsey Schedler, and Jack Cox from US Communications.
"I personally like to spend as much time as I can using social media because I have seen tremendous value in doing this and I strongly encourage all my team members to find a way to engage in a way that they are comfortable.
"We have also established a corporate social media policy and now provide access to social sites for all employees in the company to encourage them to get a direct view of the conversations that are taking place every day in the communities we serve."
Would you like to see more Sanofi employees use social media as part of their jobs, and would your company benefit from this?
"I definitely would. We have a strong passion and commitment at our company for gaining a deep understanding of the healthcare consumer’s point of view and I have found social media to be a highly effective way to help to gain this understanding.
"When used properly, the benefit to our company comes in three main ways, first you get a real time direct point of view that you would never get in traditional research approaches, second you meet very interesting people with great ideas on things that can be done better to satisfy healthcare consumers with something they really need, and third you teach employees the benefit of transparent customer feedback, which greatly enhances the quality of what we are delivering to the market."
Where do these channels fit within the communications mix for Sanofi and how do you integrate them with traditional communications activities?
"In my opinion, these channels are listening and dialogue channels that give us a unique opportunity to contribute to a community.
"The integration internally should come through sharing the learning from this experience with our other programmes to help strengthen the quality of the content and programmes we are developing.
"I also feel very strong that we always need to respect the community first, meaning we always need to be transparent about our presence and our intent, which is to learn from, and where appropriate, contribute to the communities we are interested in serving.
"We should never look at these channels as advertising or promotion channels and should only provide this information when it is requested and in a format that satisfies our regulatory obligations.
"For me, this is very easy to support because we are not engaging to promote but to learn and hopefully take away approaches that could help improve our other communications."
What potential do new communications channels have in diabetes when it comes to reaching patients and prescribers, and to what extent do you think Sanofi has fulfilled that potential?
"I think the potential is significant in the context of learning the true needs of the healthcare consumers we serve, identifying new approaches to add more value to them and involving them in developing new solutions, everything from treatment research and development to new commercial platforms that can actually improve the customer experience.
"We have not even come close to fulfilling this potential and I don’t see it as a point where we will claim that we have, I see it as a commitment to ongoing engagement and contribution to the communities we care about, which is a responsibility we all have in healthcare."
The Wild West of mobile health (mHealth) is taking the health care industry by storm, but "there are no rules to the game," said Joseph C. Kvedar, M.D., founder and director at the Center for Connected Health in a recent interview. Mobile health is a "game changer," he added, but there is a lot of hype because there are a lot of people developing health apps just to "get rich quick."
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mHealth is "the use of mobile and wireless devices to improve health outcomes, healthcare services, and health research." mHealth includes gamification, text messaging, telemedicine/telehealth (remote patient monitoring), electronic health records, and health apps, to name a few.
There's a lot of enthusiasm surrounding mHealth -- from mainstream media tapping into the mHealth rage to social networking sites exploding with discussions about mobility in health care. Take a look at the conversations happening on Twitter and you'll observe how popular mHealth really is. Follow the hashtags #mHealth, #HealthIT, #HIT100, #apps, #healthapps, #digitalhealth, #hitsm, and #hcsm; and observe the 140 characters of tweets that soar at an accelerated rate through cyberspace offer fiery information. Paul Sonnier's Linkedin group Digital Health has over 11,000 members to date.
Not only is mHealth soaring through the social networking sites, U.S. revenue in the mHealth market earned $230 million is 2010 and it's estimated to reach $392 million in 2015, according to a news release by Frost and Sullivan. Globally, Reseach2Guidance reports that the mHealth market will reach $ 1.3 billion this year. Despite mHealth being in its infancy, the revenue projections are significant.
According to a 2011 press release statement from Juniper Research, the number of mobile healthcare and medical app downloads will reach 44 million this year and will reach 142 million globally by 2016.
Consumers are downloading apps to help them stay fit, track their pregnancies, monitor their moods, eat healthier, and sleep better. They are also downloading apps for chronic disease management. They can manage their prescriptions, have medication reminders, and monitor blood pressure and sugar levels. Consumers can be empowered to take charge of their health, but right now navigating the array of health apps can be confusing. Consumers lack guidance on choosing a safe, secure, medically sound health app. Trying to navigate the health app craze without direction can be painstakingly difficult.
Cleveland Clinic, Nike Fuel Band, American Red Cross, and Walgreens are known in the space, and consumers may find it easy to trust them and download apps associated with them. However, consumers may find it confusing to navigate the mHealth app world from companies that are off the radar. How do consumers know if the apps are safe and reliable?
Consumer Safety Is a Priority
The FDA is prudent on drafting guidelines for developers, but will it stifle innovation? "It may slow innovation, but I don't know that it stifles it. Regulations do create barriers to entry as they set a high bar. But in so doing, they also create significant economic opportunities for those who follow the appropriate processes and win regulatory approval," said Bill Crounse, M.D., Senior Director of Worldwide Health at Microsoft Corporation, in an email. "I do think thoughtful regulation is required in the health industry to protect consumers. This is certainly true related to pharmaceuticals and medical devices to protect consumers from harm."
"The primary role of the FDA is to insure consumer safety," notes Kvedar. "Mobile health has the potential to get out of hand if not regulated. For example, there is an app that based on self input of one's carbohydrate count; it will generate insulin dosing suggestions. Clearly this could be dangerous," he added. "While I don't think the FDA process will ever eventuate in a 'consumer report-like' or 'D Powers-like' rating, it will be a filter. If apps get through the filter, we should at least be comfortable that they are safe."
Aside from safety concerns, there are "two problems with health apps," said Kvedar. First, after downloading the app, it may be used once or twice and then it's forgotten, he said. "There's no engagement." Secondly, health apps can be prone to error because the data that is self-entered by consumers may not be true. It's a "social diversity bias problem," he said, because the data entered isn't honest and there is no meaningful engagement to help change consumers behavior. After downloading health apps with enthusiasm, the "shiny new toy isn't so shiny anymore," because there's "lack of interest and lack of engagement," said Kvedar.
Health apps need to be engaging and motivating and offer a coaching component.
"There's a short shelf life, don't expect it to change your life," he said.
Happtique, a mobile health application store and total app management solution released a draft of the standards that it will be using to certify medical, health, and fitness apps under Happtique's App Certification Program. The purpose of the program is to help users identify apps that meet high operability, privacy, and security standards and are based on reliable content.
David Lee Scher, M.D., a former cardiac electrophysiologist who is presently director at DLS Healthcare Consultants and senior medical advisor to Happtique, said in an email interview:
Happtique App Certification Program represents a major step in setting standards for safe and reliable health, fitness, and medical apps. Certification will assure users that the app meets security, usability, privacy, and content standards. Happtique has curated and categorized over 12,000 apps to date in over 300 categories.
Consumers need safe, reliable, trustworthy apps to help guide their health and wellness and help them manage their chronic diseases.
The health app world needs guidance. The vast assortment of apps to choose from makes it difficult for consumers to navigate. Which apps are reliable, trustworthy, and medically sound?
Joseph Kvedar, M.D., Justin Major and Carol Colman are actively involved in writing a series of books for consumers titled Wellocracy; it's the first in a series of books to help consumers navigate the ever-growing and dizzying array of health apps.
So, how do consumers navigate the crowded world of health apps? "Common sense rules," he said. If consumers think it's a "magic app," it probably isn't.
In this exciting world of health care where technology rules, one thing is for sure, technology will never replace the doctor/patient relationship (or health provider/patient relationship). Face-to-face communication with health care providers will always be paramount.
It doesn't seem as if there is too much hype -- just little guidance. The push to move the mHealth app world forward may be in the power of consumers to clamor for health and wellness apps that are safe, reliable and trustworthy, developed by companies who are not just those looking to "get rich quick," as Kvedar said.
We would love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section below. Do you download health apps? Do you feel guidance is needed to help navigate the enormous amount of health apps? What health apps do you use? As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your valuable time.
hree out of five doctors are now using technology to better communicate with patients, a MedPage Today survey has found, and two-fifths say patients are generally more informed than they were five years ago.
The physician portal's Today's Physician: Managing Change survey of 214 physicians found surprisingly little variance by age in physician usage of technology – those 56 and up were somewhat more likely to use a computer in their medical practice (90%, versus 86% of those under 56), and less likely to use a smartphone (three in five of the over 56 doctors did, where four out of five younger physicians did. Usage of handheld devices was about even (45% for 56+, 46% for younger docs). The top reason for docs using the Internet and mobile devices is for medical news, the survey found, and 80% feel that technology has improved their communication with patients.
Physicians surveyed expressed anxiety about the sea changes sweeping the health industry in the wake of the Affordable Care Act's passage and validation by the Supreme Court. Nearly half (48%) said they expect to see a change in governance of their practice over the next five years, and 9% said they think their practice will go out of business. It won't come as any surprise to drug company execs that they find they have less time to spend with patients, to say nothing of continuing education, attending conferences, reading journals and meeting with reps.
Anthony Mason, VP sales development at MedPage Today parent Everyday Health, said: “From a pharma marketing standpoint, the question is: Have we adjusted our marketing plans to reflect the new environment? Have we adjusted our media mix? Are we thinking about how to provide more value and more support to the physicians as they go through these difficult times? And is pharma really leveraging all the new contact channels? A lot of brand.coms are still not mobile-enabled.”
It seems that the stars are aligned. These glimmers of facts, figures, innovation and needs are converging on the year 2013. And the result promises to be an inflection point for digital health. The curve of innovation will shift and place us all on a new course for managing disease and wellness.
#1. Explosive new technology
Think about the smart phone and how far its come in just a few short years. Today, technology is the new intellectual playground that connects vision with application. The “computer” is yesterday’s news and now the advancement of innovation across a wide variety of areas (gaming, manufacturing, communications, etc.) is being applied to health with striking speed and expertise. And the players are both big, well-funded companies as well as smart, adroit and nimble start ups.
#2. The pressing need to advance healthcare and the Affordable Care Act
There’s almost no scientific, political or sociological discussion that doesn’t find its way to health and healthcare. The costs, access and resources are a key driver to seeking solutions to the health dilemma that exists right now and is projected to only get worse. Technology has always been part of the answer in other areas. Today, innovation and technology are poised to advance care in new directions that can drive new efficiencies and lead a course to self-care and wellness.
#3. The caldron of connectivity
Ideas are promiscuous. The profound interconnectedness of thinkers and ideas create a “neural-network” that powers our imaginations. And while exclusivity and the reality of business may obstruct this free-form engagement, the cross-pollination still flourishes. Unlike other social and technological movement of the past, our path and mechanism of innovation is driven by a new nature of collaboration, still driven by a competitive spark!
Another important driver to the digital health revolution is the increasing level of patient / caregiver connectivity. The role of tele-medicine will foster new connections for care and become an essential proving ground for new “tricorder-type” technology that makes the interaction more clinically robust.
#4. The power of cool
Change is a funny thing. And for many people, that advancement of technology often diffuses slowly into a system. The advantage of the digital health movement is that carries “the stamp of cool” and takes clinical / social utility to a place beyond the practical–the emotional. It’s not about taking a pill, but living the life of innovation that is validated by science and medicine.
#5. The empowerment of the “quantified self” in health
Our lives are quantified in many ways. From banking to shopping habits, we exist as a complex set of numbers and actions. Ask American Express or Amazon. Their ability to quantify our lives provides a powerful engine of commerce and engagement. The same will come to be with our health and wellness. Today, tools to measure key clinical parameters (serum glucose, blood oxygen, etc.) will combine with mainstream devices used by joggers and athletes. The result will become “full circle” data that will proactively inform us of issues and concerns.
It’s really nothing new at all. Think about your check engine light or tire pressure indicator in your car. Simple diagnostic tools that allow you to get ahead of an automotive problem. The same will apply to health as sensors and devices track, analyses and alert us to our own physiology. From tracking your body temperature to monitoring the effectiveness of an antibiotic to proactively tracking blood pressure, you will know more about yourself than ever before. And all this data and knowledge will become less of burden and more of reassurance that all systems are go!
#6. Pharma’s search for new meaning
Unless you’re swallowing a micro-camera that visualizes your colon, the notion of a traditional pill is changing. And the pharmaceutical industry knows it. The evolution of pharmaceutical science will move therapy to include preventative care, gene therapy and other innovations. The pill, as it conventionally exists today, will have a role, but innovation (and digital health) will make conventional therapies a bit harder to swallow.
#7. Big Data and the electronic medical record
New technology and the vast amounts of generated data come a rich source of information. Research protocols, family history, medical records and large-scale epidemiological studies are a significant aspect of digital health. These data may become the single biggest aspect of this new area.
One look at the market potential and another look at the multiple and varied companies entering this area and the conclusion is clear. Money is a key driver to innovation. The increasing role of venture capitol in digital health sends a clarion call of validation that this initiative is here to stay. There’s also a $10 million prize that’s attached to bring the digital health to life. The the Tricorder X Prize and $10 million prize also add to the rewards.
#9. The voices of brilliance
Science, medicine, genenomics, electronics, analytics, etc. The list of contributors to digital health is vast and smart as heck. And the very nature of the mixed and varied voices coming together will result in a “critical mass” of brilliance rarely seen in the conventional business model.
Pfizer has the strongest social media presence of any pharma, a WEGO Health/Digital Health Coalition poll suggests.
WEGO surveyed 356 of its Health Activists on health social media, and when asked to name a drug company they were aware of that used social media to engage patients, Pfizer got 32 mentions. It was followed by J&J (14 mentions), Novartis (13) and Sanofi (10).
Sanofi drew lavish praise for its efforts in diabetes through social media. One Health Activist commented that the company “is actively trying to involve the diabetes community through a fantastic social media manager.” WEGO CEO Jack Barrette said the company's Twitter efforts were a model for the industry which is lagging on that front.
“With a company like Bank of America, all you have to do is hashtag something and you'll get a response,” says Barrette. “We all know there's reasons pharmas don't respond, but then there's companies like Sanofi that are doing a great job of it. For two years now, Sanofi has been having an active conversation with the community and the community is pointing at that, saying ‘Sanofi is doing what we're asking you to do.'”
Another Health Activist commented that “You see Novartis pretty much everywhere – particularly in cancer-related discussions.” A third cited Endo's painaction.com as “a fantastic online community” with “articles, lessons, personal stories, self checks, tools, pain library of communication skills, knowledgeable base, self management skills, emotional coping, med safety.”
But in general, WEGO's Health Activists, patients who are highly active online, said pharmas are falling down on patient engagement. The survey found concern about bad medical info online, with 61% agreeing that “there are many misconceptions, and a great deal of misinformation, about healthcare companies' products” on general social media sites, and 47% agreeing with that statement for dedicated health social media sites. Eighty-two percent agreed that companies have a responsibility to correct misinformation in social media if they become aware of it, though 80% said that while companies should be held responsible for comments they make in social media, they shouldn't be held responsible for others' comments. Majorities agreed that healthcare company participation in social media should be regulated when firms leave comments on third-party sites (57%), sponsor social networking sites for a condition (58%), have editorial authority to change, alter and edit health and medical content (62%), pay bloggers to create content (64%) and pay for the creation of health and medical content to place in social media (66%).
Negative impressions of pharmas in online health communities outweighed positives 47% to 30%, but 23% said they were neutral on the question.
“It's a little like a presidential race where there's a substantial undecided vote,” said Barrette. In this contest, the drug industry is well behind, but could still close the gap.
The Monday relaunch of the site advancedbreastcancercommunity.org was not the type of pink-ribbon event that is usually associated with October. Instead of touting the typical prevention and detection messages, the site focuses on an often sidelined patient population – the breast cancer patients who have to live as cancer patients, not necessarily as survivors.
Patient advocate Musa Mayer of advancedbc.org told MM&M the site is a unique place that focuses on patients who are unintentionally made “to feel like failures” amid October's “relentless focus on celebration of survivorship.”
Metastic breast cancer is cancer that typically spreads to the lung, liver and bones. In 2011, the American Cancer Society estimated that just over 39,000 women would die of breast cancer and that 97% of breast cancer deaths are among women who are at least 40. ACS also noted that the five-year survival rate among women diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40 is lower than that among women diagnosed later. The organization said the difference may be because the tumors are more aggressive or less responsive to treatment.
Ginny Knackmuhs, a board member of the all-volunteer Metastic Breast Cancer Network said the site, which includes videos, resources and an online community, puts information about living with advanced breast cancer in one place, where patients with the disease can find it, and provides an opportunity to “get people thinking that metastic patients are part of the larger story of breast cancer.” At the same time, she said that although the site diverges from triumphant cancer-free stories that are normally associated with awareness, that it does have a positive component that often has to be teased out, even for members of the intended audience. As an example, she said she was recently talking with someone about cancer and asked “What is more inspiring but a young mother who knows she has a disease and knows her lifespan is going to be shortened, but she finds a way to go on?” This site's community element has the potential to bring this out. Knackmuhs, a stage-IV cancer patient, added “somehow those stories don't always get out.”
The website, which includes links to patient videos, news and resources, initially launched with financial support from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The latest iteration includes links to news, resources, tools and an online community. It also includes a link Novartis' “Count Us, Know Us, Join Us” initiative that tries to show how many people are affected by advanced breast cancer – visitors help create a name mosaic if they are, or know, a person with advanced breast cancer.
Mayer, who will provide a link to the site, said it also provides a vital connection among patients whose condition and treatment can make them physically isolated, and a 24/7 resource can provide the information they need in an accessible format. “It means a great deal, and for the first time we are really seeing advocacy for women with metastic breast cancer,” she said.
Knackmuhs added that the site is not just a chance to connect with people who understand what it means to have and live with advanced breast cancer. “I think the other part of this site is to let people see the stories of people [saying] ‘this is who I got it. I was stage II and I was told I was fine' . . .the reality is that cancer recurs and it's not that person's fault.”
Boehringer Ingelheim has announced the beta launch of its first social game on Facebook, called Syrum. Syrum will be a new and evolving platform for the research-driven pharmaceutical company to inspire and educate in a changing digital world. In development for more than two years, Syrum has been specifically designed to demonstrate the complex processes around medicine research and development through gaming mechanics. It aims at promoting science and innovation to the digital community in a fun and engaging way.
Syrum allows players to create and run their own pharmaceutical company, using a virtual laboratory to discover and develop imaginary medicines to improve the health of the world. Molecular compounds can be developed and then traded with other players. In each ‘chapter’, the player has to solve a particular problem, whether a disease or a pandemic. The goal is to discover cures by first creating a stable medicine, conducting a clinical trial and finally bringing the medicine to the market.
"The research driven pharmaceutical industry is immersed in education - whether aimed at medical or pharmaceutical professionals or providing information directly to the public," says John Pugh, Director of Digital at Boehringer Ingelheim. "Gaming is an experimental way for Boehringer Ingelheim to do this. The challenge is to do this in a truly engaging, educational and entertaining way that immerses the player."
Syrum is built on Facebook, and has already generated a high level of interest, both within the pharmaceutical industry and amongst gamers. More than 1,000 people have already signed up to play in advance of the launch via the website www.syrum-game.com.
The game is launched first in a beta format outside the US and Canada to actively encourage feedback from the players and will be constantly developed based on the players’ ideas and thoughts.
The official global launch of Syrum is planned for 2013.
Pharmaceutical companies have been increasing their investment in digital marketing strategies including websites, e-marketing and social media, despite the potential risks that lurk just below the surface like so many stinging jellyfish that tend to hug the mid-Atlantic Coast this time of year.
Here are five factors that have influenced that growth, including a couple that have the potential to at least flatten it for an industry that’s just beginning to get a sense of the possibilities digital marketing offers.
The recession: The need to scale back advertising spend was the obligatory pebble in the water that prompted pharmaceutical companies to take a hard look at their TV and print advertising spend and turn their heads to the relatively lower costs of digital channels. One element some companies have appreciated is that they can make use of YouTube as a stand-in for television.
Mobile: More than any other digital channel, mobile surged in 2011 as more companies allocated resources to the channel. About 69 percent of companies with a brand said they used mobile technology for marketing or medical affairs initiatives, a figure expected to rise to 100 percent in the next year, according to the report. For those with mobile apps, 95 percent say the majority of them are directed to physicians such as QR codes, with 45 percent directed at patients and the rest among healthcare professionals like pharmacists. “Pharma is in the process of deciding which part of the mobile app fray it wants to join,” the report said, although it seems to be leaning toward developing apps for clinicians and patients. Beyond apps, one example of how pharmaceutical companies are looking at this space is Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)’s launch of 10 consumer-facing websites optimized for mobile devices for drug brands such as Celebrex,Viagra, Premarin, Chantix, DetrolLA and Lyrica.
Social media: Research reports indicating that one-third of people use social media to discuss medical issues is reason enough for pharmaceutical companies to be there. Pharmaceutical companies have found they can forge more effective marketing strategies by observing how consumers interact with and talk about brands, whether it is theirs or their competitors’. AstraZeneca’s live tweetchat on Twitter and Facebook audiences provide a certain amount of information about likes and dislikes, and feedback for a targeted audience. Most recently, patient community PatientsLikeMe forged a partnership with Merck. Treato tracks drug side effects as reported by patients and compiles it into a file that includes comments, ratings by other users and recommendations of alternative drugs based on feedback. You can also look up symptoms and get a list of drugs recommended to you.
Regulatory concerns: There’s no denying that the looming shadow of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration exerts an influence on the pharmaceutical and device companies, summed up by the 57 percent of respondents reporting that little FDA guidance on direct-to-consumer social media strategy had a significant effect on their company’s strategy. Only 21 percent said it had little effect. There is also recent history to consider. Three years ago, there was a red letter day in the world of pharmaceutical marketing that has had a constipating effect on companies’ digital marketing ambitions. About 14 Notice of Violation letters were sent in April 2009 over pharmaceutical marketers misunderstanding that they could not place required risk information one click away from a sponsored online link promoting a specific drug and its indication. The report notes the one-click rule had a chilling effect on the industry’s attitude toward digital marketing. One interesting response to regulatory concerns is the development of niche marketing companies claiming they are specially equipped to work with companies on regulatory matters, the report said. Time will tell whether this emerging niche proves worth its salt or if it’s just another add-on to attract clients.
Statistics show medical professionals are migrating toward iPads. Now, one medical journal publisher says, advertisers have followed.
Wolters Kluwer, publisher of medical journals and texts, says 50 companies, including five out of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies and six out of the top 20 device companies, have committed to advertise in 12 medical journals apps offered by the company.
“We're saying to advertisers, ‘We have a new way to reach physicians,'” said Karen Abramson, president and CEO of Wolters Kluwer Health Medical Research, which includes Lippincott Williams and Wilkins journals as well as the Ovid print titles.
To be sure, adapting ads for any new medium needs to be carefully considered in light of FDA regulations, and many advertisers have been hesitant to enter the new space, says Wolters Kluwer.
To encourage them to make the jump to advertise on its apps, the publisher launched a new ad model. In January it stopped offering advertisers the option of purchasing print-only ads. Print and digital apps are bundled together at one price. The decision “is aimed at helping advertisers innovate their marketing strategies and benefit from the opportunity to offer ads in multimedia format (videos, tutorials on products, etc.),” said a spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the firm has migrated 52 of its journals, which cover new surgical techniques and medical advances, onto the iPad. Preliminary data across six specialties show the average amount of time an iPad reader spends interacting with an ad is on average between 10 and 40 seconds. Also, the addition of the iPad increased digital (web and app) page views between 30% and 70%. (The company said it doesn't have metrics on the subsequent digital ad engagement rate, or on how many seconds readers typically spend viewing print ads for its journals.)
“When someone is reading a print page, they're very unlikely to spend 10-30 seconds viewing an ad,” Abramson said. “The apps are able to engage their readers in a way that, quite frankly, journals in the print world cannot.”
Several of its journals now feature ads running on their iPad apps that allow readers to access video content. The videos display, in some cases, manufacturer presentation slides and live patient demonstrations.
An ad for Acorda Therapeutics drug Ampyra (dalfampridine), appearing in the July 10 issue of Neurology, offers a video demonstrating the increased motor skills of a patient with multiple sclerosis (the drug is approved to improve walking in patients with MS). The ad is part of a campaign the drugmaker has been running since January. An earlier ad had offered users an animation of Ampyra's mode of action.
On the device side, the June issue of Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons features on its iPad app a full-page ad from device firm LifeCell with a play button taking users to a video showing LifeCell's SPY Elite System during an actual surgery.
Because the app drives a different customer experience than print, getting more pharma and device advertisers to take advantage of the medium will require education. “We are teaching advertisers about the notion of audience and not just print circulation, and that's been very appealing,” Abramson continued. “The typical behavior around print is you read it, put it on the shelf and don't come back. The behavior around digital is you repeat and repeat and repeat your view of the journal.”
On average, Wolters Kluwer has found, readers are coming back to a digitally published journal issue nine times, and peak use for an issue happens three to four weeks after the issue is published. There is a “long tail and a lot of repeat use, so you get considerably more exposure when you deal with a digital audience…than when dealing with a static print circulation.”
The minute we’re born, we begin to age. This was apparently the number one concern occupying respondents of a 2011 Gallup survey commissioned by pharma giant Pfizer and the finding upon which the company has based its Get Old social media campaign.
In a press release announcing the multi-year initiative that began last month, Pfizer tied it to the company’s larger mission of improving the health of all people at every stage of life.
PR platitudes aside, the initiative also marks Pfizer’s lengthening social media shadow, cast, in part, by CEO Ian Read, who has criticized the industry for being “slow to adapt” to today’s more open society. Pharma’s hesitation no doubt informs Edelman’s 2011 Trust Barometer, which found public confidence in businesses, governments, and, in a new development, NGOs slipping at a noticeable rate.
When that focus was narrowed to Pfizer alone, the results were no better: About 45 percent of respondents described the drugmaker as unethical and not credible. Not acceptable, according to Read.
Last week at the Business Development Institute’s (BDI) annual conference on social communications and healthcare, Caroline Roan, Pfizer vice president of corporate responsibility and reputation commented on this:
Having our chairman and CEO recognize the importance of trust for the company has given us permission to take more risks
“Risk,” in Roan’s characterization, defines the social media space, long a jittery landscape for pharma because, although the FDA regulates the industry’s communications around product benefits and safety, it has yet to release official social media guidelines (Draft guidelines became available in January).
As a result, pharma companies that have ventured forth in social media instead attempt to raise awareness around various diseases, advocate for patients, or blare corporate communications.
Is Pfizer really taking a risk?
Strategically-speaking, referencing Pfizer products on the site would likely turn users off and open the drugmaker up to questions about their products’ benefits and safety—exactly the kind of discussion that makes legal teams nervous.
Turns out Roan was referring to the campaign’s “positioning,” meaning both its subject matter (aging) and its nomenclature (Get Old). The former was, as Pfizer reports, determined by their 2011 survey and supported by the staggering number of Americans turning sixty-five daily: 10,000 per day, according to the company’s press release. Also, it's probably no coincidence that Pfizer is furiously at work on drugs that mitigate or cure Alzheimer’s. The campaign name, however, caused “a fair amount of disagreement within the company,” admitted Roan.
A lot of people don’t like it. Our perspective is that’s okay. We chose something in a very crowded communications space. We wanted people to pause and think about the fact that there actually is something to getting older. The alternative is not great.
Drawing chuckles from the crowd with her last comment, Roan concluded by stressing that Pfizer “wanted to demonstrate that we really are serious about this. We really do want to have a two-way dialogue.”
Unfortunately, Pfizer is not a great conversationalist
Finally, no one suddenly “gets old,” though it may feel that way. Instead it should read “getting older” because it accurately captures the evolving, dynamic state of aging. The end result is the same: it’s an awkward, confusing name, and it’s easy to see why there was in-fighting about it.
On a macro-level, though, is aging a good rallying point? On the face of it, sure. As Pfizer’s chief medical officer, Dr. Freda-Lewis Hall, observed, “Each day we get older.” Each day—nay, second—we breathe. Each morning we wake—reluctantly, happily, gratefully, but still we wake. These are not choices, but molecular inevitabilities. Neither are they subjects that compel me to visit a website, type my age and gender, and then tell others how I feel about things.
What about the Get Old UX?
Once this bit of data-gathering concludes, users are then shown in jumble view stuff about aging. You can choose the grid view later, but the default is lots of color-coded, post-it style notes arranged haphazardly. Why? It’s like visiting a coworker’s messy desk and trying to find, among a bunch of stuff, the thing you were looking for.
Get Old’s content consists of 200 videos, 100 images, and 500 miscellaneous pieces from approximately 350 sources, according to Libbey. As promised, all of it centers around getting old. There’s a link to a New York Times article about grown women who get acne, a video of Aubrey de Grey defining ageism, a plug for Pfizer partner VNAA (Visiting Nurse Association of America), and another New York Times article about keeping Parkinson’s disease a secret.
And users can add their own stuff. Gary M., 43, shared his thoughts: “I feel great and I pursue life like an undergrad.” No one has responded. Is it because there’s nothing to say? “Gary, that’s awesome! I wish I had your energy,” or “Gary, why are you still at keggers and dating teenagers?”
Despite the 800 pieces of content at Get Old, there’s not a lot to motor a conversation forward that you couldn’t find on your own elsewhere at sites that have preexisting, robust communities. Those New York Times articles? If you decide to leave the Get Old site and read it at the original source (Pfizer gives you this choice), then why wouldn’t you comment there?
Pfizer is setting the bar low
Now that’s what Pfizer should be complimented on: admitting its flaws and trying to correct them. Craving recognition for taking on the “risky” topic of growing old or for wading into the social media waters is like wanting a gold star for fixing your bed when you’re forty.
People can’t help aging, and 955 million users compose the Facebook social network. It’s time Pfizer stopped fearing the social media bogeyman and joined other industries and the public and the online conversations happening at all times.
We are witnessing a shift in the health sector to the seamless provision of healthcare. Many elements are coming together, such as more cost-efficient care delivery, intelligent analysis of patient information, more price-conscious and scalable software delivery models, and new methods of interaction between individuals and caregivers using mobile devices and social media in a way that has not been known before.
This is changing the fabric of healthcare and leading to a paradigm shift – it is no longer just about healing the sick. With more information becoming available, it is now also about prevention. More fundamentally, healthcare is moving from episodic, isolated patient care towards electronic health record-centric or patient-centred care, where the entire continuum of care is not just involved but also accountable for the patient outcome. To this end, healthcare is increasingly using intelligent tools to obtain smarter clinical information to improve patient outcomes.
Ovum noted a number of key trends at the 51st Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference in Las Vegas earlier this year.
In particular, electronic health records (EHRs), mobility, and business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools are key issues in healthcare.
The better EHR implementations are embedded into caregivers’ daily workflows, the higher the chance that patient data will be recorded in a timely and accurate manner. Therefore, care providers are eager to make use of solutions which help integrate EHRs into the clinical workflow, especially when required under the meaningful use criteria.
Nuance Communications, for example, launched two clinical language understanding (CLU) powered solutions at HIMSS 2012 – Dragon Medical 360, M.D.Assist and Dragon Medical QualityAnalytics – to help healthcare providers improve care and tackle the challenge of collecting, processing, interpreting and utilising information to support regulatory compliance.
Often, physicians prefer speech recognition programs to transcribe their dictation into EHRs to using point-and-click templates to document patient visits. Allscripts, eClinicalWorks and Greenway have been tying voice recognition to natural language processing (NLP) in their ambulatory care EHRs and demonstrated solutions at the show.
Allscripts has tied NLP and voice recognition not only to ambulatory EHRs but also in its hospital/acute care EHR solution, Sunrise, including the creation of discrete data elements that can be keyed into EHR templates. In this way, the application can, for example, place procedures and medications into the correct EHR fields.
eClinicalWorks is simplifying technology by taking dictation, as well as free text, and transforming it into structured data to further streamline physicians’ use of EHRs. At HIMSS the supplier demonstrated a new EHR feature called Scribe, which combines NLP with Nuance’s Dragon product to extract data from transcribed dictation to help doctors codify their documentation. The vendor had a representative of eClinicalWorks speak into a microphone at the show and demonstrated how the application placed the transcribed dictation into categories such as “chief complaint” and “family history”.
For Greenway, the integration of NLP into EHR is nothing new. Until now this application has been used to extract coded data for billing purposes, enhancing decision support.
In contrast to other healthcare IT solutions, mobility solutions and applications stand out due to the fact that they are consumer-centric rather than organisation-centric. For example, using a tablet PC instead of a paper clipboard when registering at a doctor’s office, or sending a text reminder to alert a patient to take medication, creates a more immediate level of patient experience and engagement than an EHR or a health information exchange (HIE) would do.
Many mobile health start-ups that created applications, services and wireless health devices demonstrated their solutions at the conference. Some showcased easy-to-use, engaging, consumer health tools that collect and transmit a person’s vital signs.
BI and analytics
Analytics and BI were on everyone’s mind at this year’s HIMSS. There were more discussions around these topics, and more displays of solutions incorporating them, than in previous shows. Many conversations focused on the special challenges BI faces in healthcare, compared with other verticals such as retail or banking. This is mainly due to complex regulation, and the nature of the data which often comes into the clinical space as non-standard data sets.
An important application of analytics will be in the field of population management. Siemens demonstrated how BI worked within its flagship Soarian product suite. Soarian Business Intelligence collects and analyses both clinical and financial data, as well as structured and unstructured data, from virtually any system. The embedded BI in Soarian pushes critical performance indicators to the desktop and helps healthcare administrators manage service lines to ensure greater profitability.
IBM’s supercomputer Watson – a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed and accuracy – could not be missed at the show. During its first year of operation in a healthcare environment, it has mainly been used for utilisation management purposes, and in the diagnosis of cancer patients and those with rare diseases.
Watson’s immediate impact on healthcare during 2012 will not be as palpable as other solutions showcased at HIMSS, but its impact is already more tangible than when it was introduced in 2011.
IBM announced its collaboration with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on the data analytics, natural language processing, and retrieval technologies of Watson, for research and treatment purposes. Both parties will jointly develop an oncology clinical decision support system taking advantage of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s molecular and genomic databases and its repository of cancer case histories.
The first applications, with piloting scheduled for late 2012 and wider distribution by late 2013, will include lung, breast and prostate cancers.