Going digital is not as easy as it may seem. Industry players have to take a deep breath and dive into careful analysis and strategy development. It is exceptionally important for industries, such as healthcare, where the cost of failure is incredibly high.
For years I’ve been working with healthcare providers and have gained a good understanding of how much value digital solutions may bring to them. At the same time, it isn’t an easy task to implement a solution which will move services they provide to the next level. The ultimate key to success is the development and implementation of the appropriate digital strategy. My hope is that this article will help digital change executives and others involved in a digital transformation of healthcare businesses to consider five major elements of getting a successful digital strategy off the ground. Using my years of experience, I’ve developed a road-map for the development of the digital strategy.
Patients are your primary audience, therefore when developing the strategy think of them first with the following point in mind: today’s patients want more information.
They have acquired quite profound medical knowledge these days and want more information about the treatment. Continuously, they ask how they are being treated, what medications are used and why, how patients with similar diagnoses were treated and what the result was. Searching for this information, they create communities to discuss the issues, treatment methods, physicians and medications. Sometimes patients’ communities save lives, like what happened with e-Patient Dave, who managed to find the medical treatment by turning to a group of fellow patients.
In a world where patients demand more information, delivery of relevant content becomes one of the essential points in the development of digital strategy.
Access to medical services
Access to medical services goes hand in hand with the delivery of relevant information. Awareness triggers asking more questions and raising more patient cases, hence the lines at clinics get longer. However, physicians have about 15 – 20 minutes to examine a patient and write prescriptions, which is quite a limited time slot. Implementing medicine technologies would notably improve the situation. Medicine is not the panacea, but it provides physicians with multiple opportunities like remote monitoring of chronic patients, support systems, accelerated feedback and provides better experiences for patients in rural areas. All kinds of digital tools to speed up and automate scheduling a doctor appointment can be a great help for patients.
Medical adherence management
Digital technologies are also valuable in monitoring chronic patients. Quite often, these people require more doctors’ attention, but the limited time for an appointment is a real problem. Digital technologies can facilitate the process. With applications serving for control medical adherence, doctors can be sure their patients won’t forget to take a pill or miss an appointment. The same applications may help to exchange information between patients and doctors in real time. This exchange may include symptoms collected via a patient’s device, medical test data sent to the patient’s device and information about pills taken (or not) by a patient. This exchange can help doctors to take corrective steps when required, like giving a call to a patient or a caregiver when a problem with medical adherence has been detected.
Treatment process management
The adoption of digital technologies can help not only manage medical adherence but also the whole treatment process itself. Digital technologies provide physicians with opportunities to adjust the treatment on the basis of the received tests, and make the changes if there are improvements or if something goes wrong. Patients can see a treatment schedule in their devices as well as an associated medication schedule, and receive notifications in order to not miss an appointment or a pill. And again, the option to share symptoms history works well in this process as it allows quick changes based on a real patients’ feedback.
User experience optimisation
The quality of services at hospitals can be considerably improved by digital technologies. Simple things like registering appointments online, appointment reminders, to-do lists, mobile payments, QR codes, quick patient access to EHR (electronic health records) or sending the result analysis to smartphones can advance the level of healthcare services and optimise user experience.
Connecting patients and HCPs
For years, quick connection between patients and doctors was one of the most important and sometimes difficult things in healthcare. By implementing digital technologies, doctors and patients can have a close connection. Be it a smartphone or a web app, it would allow a patient to consult or call a doctor when it is really necessary. Digital technologies cut the distance; that is what hospitals really need. Connecting doctors, medical staff and patients better organises the whole process. Tools mentioned above, such as apps for real-time communication, sharing symptoms, sending medical test results to patients’ devices and medicine are excellent examples of how digital technologies can help doctors to provide a better outcome to patients.
Digital skills of your employees
As Accenture states in its report, the major barrier to digital transformation is the lack of digital skills; 44 percent of business leaders agree with that opinion. Therefore, staff training should not be omitted.
It is interesting that many doctors are already using smartphones and tablets to facilitate the process of communication and interaction with patients. Physicians are really interested in digital tools and services. According to the JournalMTM research, 94 percent of surveyed respondents had smartphones (95.2 percent students vs. 92.5 percent physicians). Of those with the technology, 82.9 percent stated they have used it at least once in a clinical setting. Respondents perceived fast access to information to be the greatest benefit to mobile medical technology (96.6 percent), as well as simplified access (75.5 percent) and easier medical calculations (70.8 percent).
As you can see, doctors are already trying to go digital. What you need is to perform thorough research, check the skills of the staff and teach them to use the digital technologies. They are ready to accept the digital challenge.
In hospitals all over, doctors need new processes and workflows that allow them to increase work efficiency, improve diagnostics and treatment, and what is more, advance their relationships with patients.
Therefore, optimisation of workload is an important benefit digital technologies provide. Thinking about your future digital strategy, you may want to consider a paperless data exchange – a mobile doctor’s dashboard where they can check their patients’ data and manage treatment plans, apps for nurses to help with task management and urgent requests processing, and many other tools to digitise and therefore optimise business processes efficiency. All of that quickens the pace, reduces workflow disruptions and increases productivity. Hence, hospitals and clinics can work with more patients without the negative impact on the quality of treatment.
How can your medical staff and doctors benefit from going digital
Implementation of digital tools brings tangible advantages, like reducing paperwork time and increasing patients’ face time. Moreover, with digital tools, physicians can receive symptoms and medical conditions data prior to meeting with a patient in-person, thus decreasing the time for recollecting a case history.
“Doctors today face two important issues,” says Todd Skrinar, a partner in the Life Sciences Advisory Practice at Ernst & Young. “They’re working in a more constrained cost environment, doing more with less. And they’re being forced to change the way they deliver services because of that. Digital technology will enable more mobility of the healthcare practitioner, and health records will be more readily available.”
Having “digital assistants” in their hands, doctors get more opportunities to deliver better treatment. Digital tools broaden the limits that have prevented the improvement of service delivery.
More and more, direct-to-consumer wearables companies are moving into business-to-business healthcare markets. It's not exactly a surprising move -- the potential for consumer technology to encourage healthier lifestyle choices is a core thesis of digital health, and one that could have big implications for healthcare as it faces a rise in chronic conditions. Nonetheless, over the course of the past year MobiHealthNews has noticed a creeping trend of the big names in consumer-facing digital health putting more resources behind their B2B programs.
Take Fitbit itself, for example. In the company's first quarter earnings call, CEO James Park wasn't shy about trumpeting the healthcare opportunity, stopping just shy of promising a regulated device.
The importance of talent has not gone unnoticed at Bayer, for instance, which embarked on its own digital transformation in 2014. Jessica Federer, Head Digital Development, highlights leadership from the top and a very dedicated implementation team as the two pre-requisites for a successful digital transformation, but sitting at the top of a list of the keys drivers in any successful transformation, is talent.
“The number one thing for us is always the talent – the people. We do have people in our organisation who are world leaders in digital marketing and multichannel marketing and integrated customer experience. We have brilliant people here and you’ve just got to have people that get it and understand it.”
But where do life sciences companies find such extraordinary talent – it can be elusive – and how do they build the necessary skills?
Federer’s colleague Gerhard Arnhofer leads the centre of excellence for integrated multichannel marketing for the pharma business at Bayer. Set up some nine months ago, the centre is one of a number of CoEs within the company, designed to inspire and transform the organisation.
Each deals with a different competency area such that the bundled competencies available within the centres enable the wider organisation to build up its skills, competencies and knowledge in specific areas of focus. This approach is seen as the quickest and most effective way of building digital capability within the organisation.
After several years of impact, individual CoEs are dissolved once they have done their work, at the stage that the organisation as a whole understands more than the CoE can then deliver. Traditionally, this knowledge transfer takes three to five years. This is a technique that Bayer has applied for several years.
One solution is homegrown talent. Bayer runs a dual study programme for undergraduates who spend time at a university on technology and economics programmes and then half their time on the job within the corporation. Bayer is able to hire fresh talent out of that stream and can shape individuals early on in their careers.
Currently, there are a number of people within Arnhofer’s team writing their dissertations and the organisation is interested to see whether this approach will accelerate the digital transformation or not. Topics covered by the students include AI, evaluating concepts of remote detailing, and business decisions analysis, among others. Team members fresh from university have a very keen eye for evaluating problems but need considerable time spent on nurturing them.
Additionally, Berlin has a thriving start-up scene, with a large number of talented people from the digital community originating from all over Europe. This represents a significant talent pool for the company.
Competitive intelligence can offer huge benefits to pharma companies, especially in personalized medicine where market trends are continually shifting. In a world where available data grows by the second, Steve Vitale of Diaceutics AIS examines how it can be used to optimise expertise and understanding in order to gain an edge. (requires registration)
Social media was once scary territory for the heavily regulated pharma industry, but today it’s becoming old hat, according to Tamara Littleton, CEO and founder of London social media agency Emoderation. Big Pharma players have realized they can no longer ignore the space where many of their target audiences--patients, families, physicians and even payers--congregate.
“Social offers pharma brands a way to connect with their market over the longer-term. It is also where their customers are and whether they engage or not, or are able to on certain posts, they will be talked about," Littleton told FiercePharmaMarketing by email.
In a column for Econsultancy earlier this month, Littleton pointed out some good examples of pharma companies using social media. She highlighted GlaxoSmithKline’s Twitter account, which focuses on its company values of leadership and research, and Johnson & Johnson’s overall social media presence, which emphasizes its values around the importance of family.
Of course, just because drugmakers are more readily joining social media doesn’t mean using it has become any easier--or that it now requires less vigilance. The job of professional pharma social media managers is demanding, and it requires a particular skill.
So how, then, can pharma social media managers field a successful strategy? Read on for Littleton's thoughts.
Be engaging. Health products may not be as central to a person’s identity as his or her car or clothing brands, but pharma’s social media voice can still make a difference. “People may not build their identities around their chosen brand of painkiller in the same way that they do with their choice of gaming console or favorite clothes brand, but a friendly, engaging social media presence can go a long way to keeping the brand at the forefront of people’s minds,” she wrote in the column.
Share content around the values of the company. Like the J&J and GSK examples Littleton cites, pharma companies can connect with patients and families by highlighting their values and the efforts their people and corporate initiatives make to fulfill those values.
Monitor content to stay in line with advertising guidelines and FDA regulations. That means keeping current on regulations and ensuring pages are constantly monitored so that “any user-generated content posted that contravenes the regulations is removed as soon as possible,” she told FiercePharmaMarketing.
Create an adverse event reporting and escalation process. Pharma brands active on social media have a dedicated resource to manage their social media presence--whether it’s an internal person or team, or a specialist agency--but they should also have a process for reporting any problems. Littleton noted the need to report an adverse event to the FDA within 24 hours. If pharma companies don’t have a process in place to flag incidents, that one-day clock can pass quickly.
With the ability to reach billions of followers around the world each day, businesses are using social media to promote specials, attract followers, and expand the reach of their product. Right now, the up and coming new social media platform is Snapchat.
Created in 2011, Snapchat is a mobile messaging app where users send photos and videos to each other that self-destruct after a few seconds. Within the last year, Snapchat’s daily video views grew from 2 billion to 10 billion, according to Bloomberg Technology News.
Despite the growing popularity of this social media platform, it seems the healthcare industry is slow to utilize Snapchat as a marketing strategy. Of course HIPAA laws must be taken into consideration when using social media in regards to healthcare, but there are multiple, creative ways for the healthcare industry to use Snapchat.
For instance, healthcare professionals can create Snapchat stories, a feature which allows the user to string together multiple snaps and create a video narrative that is available for users to view for 24 hours. This feature could be used to highlight a “Day in the Life of [insert medical professional here].”
The reason Snapchat works so well in marketing is its simplicity and ability to create a sense of intimacy in a short amount of time. In a world where understanding healthcare is becoming more complicated and the digital world is making us feel more connected yet disconnected at the same time, Snapchat offers the ability to send quick, simple messages that still feel heartfelt.
Given that healthcare is now looked at by the general population as a consumer market, Snapchat may be underestimated as one of the best tools available for healthcare providers to create trust and comfort in patients and convey health information to the public.
[Instagram may be better for pharma. For more on that read: “Now May Be the Time for Pharma to Get Serious About Instagram”; http://sco.lt/79K5JZ]
according to Thoryn Stephens, the chief digital officer at American Apparel, measurements like these can constitute what he calls “fake or false metrics.” They may be distracting you from underlying problems, or untapped potential. Instead, businesses need to focus on “the true metrics that drive value,” he said at the recent Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative Conference.
The global patient engagement solutions market was valued at USD 7.4 billion in 2015. The growing frequency of medical tourism coupled with the rising use of cloud-based networking models and the increasing number of investments in the healthcare IT, in the developing nations, are anticipated to propel the industry growth over the forecast period.
Favorable government legislations and awareness initiatives are anticipated to be crucial drivers for the market growth. For instance, the Readmission Reduction Program initiated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) inspire the providers to be actively involved in patient engagement solutions with the objective of containing the readmission rates while providing better inpatient services.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) further promotes the growth of this sector by introducing programs, such as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), at hospitals to conduct surveys thatgather information with respect to patient satisfaction associated with hospital care and services. This serves as a tool for the standardized measurement of the quality of care administered at hospitals. The increased patient participation achieved through such patient engagement efforts would impact health outcomes and subsequently enhance the healthcare delivery of the present medical systems.
iDespite the fact that FDA recently cited Duchesnay for a violative Instagram Diclegis ad that featured celebrity Kim Kardashian, Instagram may be the social medium of choice of pharma marketers now that it has added a new feature.
Until now, I didn't think Instagram was good for pharma. While its demographics may skew too young for marketing most of the products pharma has to sell, it is a growing population. Plus, now that it is owned by Facebook, the demographics -- especially among women (the best target for drug marketing) -- will likely shift to resemble FB's demographics.
According to eMarketer, now that Instagram is open to all advertisers, by the end of 2016, 48.8% of marketers are expected to the platform.
Of course, due to FDA regulations, the necessity to expend resources to monitor comments for adverse reactions (read "One (BIG) Reason Pharma Shouldn't Reconsider Instagram"), lack of expertise in measuring social media ROI, etc., pharma marketers have not given social media a warm reception no matter what the platform.
Continue reading to see why I feel a new Instagram feature will make it more appealing to pharma marketers.
When it comes to incorporating digital and social media in their marketing strategies, drugmakers' efforts are still overshadowed by fear.
That's according to Mary Ann Belliveau, Twitter's national health and wellness director. There's a misperception that drugmakers can't use the platform because of regulatory limitations but in fact many firms are doing it and doing it well, she noted.
The tech giant's health team works with clients that include Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Aetna, Cigna, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. While the team's primary health focus is on pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and health insurance companies, wellness companies like fitness centers are also going to Twitter for strategy advice, added Katie Collins, lead healthcare strategist at Twitter.
“The most growth we've seen has been from pharmaceutical companies — both on the pharma side and the consumer product side — and also from hospitals,” said Belliveau.
Overall, the company reported its slowest revenue growth since it went public in 2013. But one reason Twitter may be seeing growth among healthcare companies is that it can help them reach active patient communities, said Belliveau. Because Twitter is an open platform, patients are quickly able to connect with each other using hashtags, share stories, and seek out information about their conditions.
Twitter's demographic profile is broader than some might think, with 23% of U.S. users aged 45 years old and older, and an almost equal ratio of men (49%) and women (51%) represented. Likewise, patient groups on the platform range from those with rare disease to more common diseases like diabetes, noted Collins.
“Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals have realized that these conversations and this social care is the area they would like to communicate with, and advertise to,” said Belliveau.
“Where the conversations are happening has started to shift from traditional places to social media like Twitter,” added Collins. “So they're trying to figure out how to be a part of that.”
Here are eight tips for drugmakers and other healthcare companies to better utilize Twitter:
1. PLAN AHEAD
Plan around healthcare events and awareness days. Photo credit: Jenn Vargas/Creative Commons
Develop a content calendar focused on healthcare conferences and events as well as disease awareness days so there's time to develop quality content in advance, while also allowing flexibility for relevant in-the-moment content.
Having a content calendar is particularly helpful for companies that require a long approval process.
“The best companies have good processes in place,” said Collins. “For social, because it's real-time, they have processes in place to get things approved more quickly.”
2. DON'T SOUND LIKE A ROBOT
Successful brands deliver an authentic voice. Photo credit: Amber Case/Creative Commons
In other words, don't sound cold and sterile. Create a voice that humanizes your brand. Belliveau points to branded and unbranded handles such as @GilenyagoUSOnly, @Eloctate,@CosentyxUSOnly, @ActuallySheCan, and @WhySoAwake that are doing it well.
There's “an example of Gilenya replying directly to someone: ‘So glad you made it out. Thanks for coming,'” said Collins. “It's very casual conversational language. It's not clinical or scientific.”Handle Branded vs. Unbranded Company @GilenyagoUSOnly Branded Novartis @Eloctate Branded Biogen @CosentyxUSOnly Branded Novartis @ActuallySheCan Unbranded Allergan @WhySoAwake Unbranded Merck
“I think what makes [these handles] successful is that they're authentic,” said Belliveau. “When they're branded, they talk a lot about their brand and about health but not about the disease state. When they have video that has important safety information, then they do talk about the disease state and have patient testimonials.”
The executives recommend developing some pre-approved responses that are genuine, authentic, and ready to use when followers expect a reply.
3. LEVERAGE VIDEO
Mayo Clinic is using Periscope to live-stream procedures.
Video is the fastest growing creative component being used on Twitter, and such content tends to be driven by patient testimonials rather than by using a TV commercial format, said the executives.
“It's just more engaging, with sight, sound, and motion,” said Collins. “The brands that have done it well have excelled at creating relatable content and using good patient testimonials.”
When it comes to health, people are also apt to watch videos that last up to seven minutes, said Belliveau. She added that it's likely because they want to learn as much as they can about their condition or disease. Using video is a digestible way for people to consume information and for pharma to get around important safety information often seen at the end of a TV commercial, without a 140-character limit.
Additionally, some healthcare organizations are using Twitter's live video-streaming app Periscope. Periscope is being used at conferences, hospital systems such as the Mayo Clinic are using it to live-stream procedures, and insurance companies like Humana are using it to promote events they sponsor.
4. USE HASHTAGS TO DRIVE CONVERSATION
Hashtags have the ability to collect online conversations and house those conversations in a searchable way. Understanding the intentional use of a hashtag is key, and the executives say to use existing hashtags to be part of a larger conversation or create a new hashtag to initiate a brand's own conversation.
“Some companies want to be involved in hashtags that are already trending, like #DiabetesDay,” said Collins. “But then other companies want to start their own hashtag to be known for their own consistent message that they incorporate throughout all of their marketing.”
If you decide to create your own hashtag, incorporate it in your TV and print advertising as well, said Belliveau.
For example, Flonase's #BeGreater is used in different parts of the media strategy. GlaxoSmithKline makes the allergy medication.
“They did a trend on Twitter in spring that was “#BeGreater than your allergies,” where they asked users to submit photos of themselves being greater than than allergies, so they had all these submissions of people in a garden,” said Belliveau. “And then they followed it up in the fall with one around pets; hence, people sent in submissions of them with their pets.”
5. SET EXPECTATIONS
Place community guidelines in pinned tweets so users can understand what the expectations are from the get-go.
The team at Gilenya, Novartis's multiple-sclerosis drug, for example, pins these kinds of tweets to make clear that patients understand the company operates in a regulated industry and won't be able to respond to every tweet.
Drugmakers and other healthcare companies can also set expectations for response times. If the handle is monitored Monday through Friday, companies can use a pinned tweet to address delayed responses for weekend tweets to prevent frustrated customers.
“If I were to tweet at you on Saturday night at 11 pm, I have an understanding of what the timing is, the expectations,” said Collins.
6. DON'T IGNORE TWEETS, EVEN WHEN THEY'RE NEGATIVE
“When people tweet at you, they don't care if you're American Airlines, Spotify, or Novartis; they expect an answer,” explained Belliveau. “When you don't respond to to your patients, it's like having an empty call center.”
Being proactive, even when comments are negative, helps build brand confidence, Belliveau and Collins say.
They both recommend responding to negative comments publicly with a short message of acknowledgement and then resolving the issue privately.
“You'll see something like, ‘I'm sorry to hear that' or ‘We're disappointed you had a bad experience. Why don't you give us a call and we'll talk about it?'” said Belliveau.
That allows other followers of the handle to see the dialogue publicly and feel that the company cares about them.
At the end of the day, people want to be heard and the perception of negative comments is usually far worse than the reality, said Collins. “I've never had any companies stop the promotion of their handle because they say, ‘Oh my god. We're getting all this negative feedback and we didn't anticipate it.'”
7. INCLUDE TWITTER IN THE OVERALL MARKETING STRATEGY
Digital, TV, and print should all be part of a cohesive marketing strategy. Photo credit: Eigenberg Fotografie/Creative Commons
Companies and brands should have a cohesive approach to marketing that includes digital. TV and print is often siloed from digital, but it should be one strategy, said Belliveau.
“You're sometimes watching TV or reading a magazine, and you're often on your computer and phone, too,” said Belliveau. “It should all be integrated.”
“It's just another extension of the marketing mix that should be a part of everything,” added Collins.
8. SHARE BEST PRACTICES ABOUT HOW FDA-REGULATED COMPANIES CAN USE TWITTER
At this year's ePharma conference, Belliveau discussed how the pharma industry can navigate Twitter with attendees .
Even though the FDA lacks clear guidelines for how drugmakers can use digital platforms like Twitter or Facebook, there are ways to make it work, insisted the Twitter executives.
“Sharing best practices of what other companies are doing, being at conferences to meet people, and share what we're seeing really opens a lot of eyes, because there's so much internal confusion and lack of understanding of what's happening out there,” said Collins.
Twitter, Facebook, and Google have been involved in conversations with the FDA to better understand how the companies and brands regulated by the agency can best use social platforms, said Belliveau.
“We think that digital in general has really improved the way patients understand the side effects of their medication, because it's in a much more digestible fashion than when you open a box at a pharmacy, and the print is this small,” said Belliveau.
“Right or wrong, it's a much more informed and influenced consumer,” said Collins.
With investments in the digital health marketplace accelerating at a rapid pace, Astellas Pharma Inc. and DigiTx Partners LLC have announced that Astellas has launched DigiTx Partners, a digital health investment company in partnership with MPM Capital, Inc.
DigiTx Partners will invest in the digital health space broadly, with a special focus on companies which create solutions that improve patient outcomes and provide substantial synergy with a broader pharma business. Although the emphasis will be on earlier stage companies, investments will be made in both start-ups and growth stage companies.