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Social solutions best high tech in Sanofi contest

Social solutions best high tech in Sanofi contest | Digital Pharma |
Sanofi announced Monday that the candidate to pocket $100,000 for winning its second Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge was not one of the entrants that offered tech-centric solutions to diabetes management, but a community-focused proposition that focuses on face-to-face interactions.


“I think we were definitely outliers. Most folks who tend to go into these types of innovation challenges tend to be entrepreneurial in nature and we're kind of an outlier in that we're a nonprofit organization partnering with another entity,” winner n4a's Courtney Baldridge told MM&M.

The winning proposal is to create n4a Diabetes Care Centers, which the nonprofit and its partners, the National Minority Quality Forum and the National Health Index, entered into the competition (n4a stands for National Association of Area Agencies).


On the surface, the idea is simple: staff local centers with diabetes counselors and specialists so patients can walk in and get information about how to manage their diabetes. These centers will help identify what's coming between patients and their medical regimens, and then come up with solutions. “Each person has their own unique barriers. It's not one size fits all,” Baldridge said, noting that patients may not be addressing their medical needs for very basic reasons, like the inability to get to their doctor's offices, or because they lack access to diabetes-friendly foods. Baldridge said the adherence issue really comes down to “what do we need to do to help them manage their disease,” and coming up with a solution. She also noted that n4a has 40 years of community experience, and knows how to scale efforts to address cultural sensitivities and needs.


The innovation comes from a personal approach underpinned by data-driven targeting. N4a's goal is to help link diabetes patients to care strategies, but Big Data is helping the non-profit choose where these centers should be located. Baldridge said the majority of diabetes patients who aren't filling their prescriptions, visiting doctors or following diabetes regimens are located in eight zip codes. It is here where n4a intends to set up shop and cultivate relationships with the community and healthcare providers. The idea is to have healthcare providers send patients to the centers so they can learn to manage life in addition to their medical condition.

Spokesperson Baldridge said a 2011 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study provided some of the inspiration for the project. The report found that 80% of surveyed physicians aid they didn't feel they could meet their patients' social needs, while 85% of these same doctors said it's as important to address social needs as medical conditions, particularly patients in low-income communities.


N4a and the National Minority Quality Forum beat out finalist Enduring FX, which proposed making exercise a community event by outfitting public parks with interactive features, like weather forecasts, foursquare-like check-ins and milestone celebrations that include a photo finish posted to a community board when reaching a new personal fitness best. The project was the pooled efforts of a software entrepreneur, software architect and athlete. “We think there's no way to halt the ramp-up in diabetes without targeting obesity – a primary driver to the increase of type 2 diabetes,” the company said an Innovation Challenge blog entry.

The two projects were the last ones standing after a six-month process that began with a crowdsourcing period that determined the contest's focus and ended with a crowdsourced vote on which projects should make it to the final round.


The January votes said Sanofi's winning solution had to improve patient outcomes, improve the quality and effectiveness of diabetes care, reduce the cost of care without diluting its quality and cultivate “a state of overall wellness, and not just symptom mitigation.” Sanofi also specified that the proposals had to be scalable and show “empathy for the specific needs and circumstances of people living with diabetes.”


Five proposals made it to the semi-finals, and included projects that would aggregate and analyze diabetes-related data, video consultations with diabetes educators and a mobile monitoring and collaboration system that would help patients implement treatment plans.


Baldridge said her group is still raising money for its centers but hopes that within 6 to 9 months of opening the first center that they will be able to have “some very good numbers and results.

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Pfizer vows to learn from virtual trial failure

Pfizer vows to learn from virtual trial failure | Digital Pharma |
Several months after Pfizer failed to recruit patients to its first ever virtual trial, the firm said it was looking to learn from the setback.


The pilot REMOTE trial was looking to recruit 600 patients suffering from overactive bladder disorder, and was asking them to use electronic diaries to record their experiences.


It was designed so that patients could avoid having to travel to clinics during the trial.


It was a first for pharma - as reported by InPharm last year - but the hype succumbed to practical difficulties when no one signed up for the trial.

Writing on Pfizer’s ‘Think Science Now’ blog, Craig Lipset, head of clinical innovation at Pfizer, said: “This pilot was testing a series of modules needed to enable patients to participate in a […] clinical trial entirely from home.


“Patient recruitment was one of many modules being tested, and the other modules worked very well. In the near-term we are focused on applying these successful modules to studies being planned and executed at Pfizer today.”


He added that the firm would not shy away from using social media and online tools to recruit patients, despite the problems it has had, and would re-launch REMOTE in 2013.


Lipset said: “I also want to clarify that this project does not represent a failure for, or withdrawal from the use of the internet or social media for patient recruitment.


“We routinely use the internet as a channel for recruitment in our studies and will continue to do so wherever it is appropriate. Recruitment strategies tend to be very study-specific, and we will be working to refine such strategies specific to a virtual trial approach.”




But a major problem with this trial, given the condition it targets, is that many patients affected by overactive bladder disorder are elderly, and may not use the internet as regularly as younger patients.


This could have been one reason as to why the REMOTE pilot failed to recruit and will prove to be a systemic problem for all trials targeting diseases that afflict the elderly.

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Allergan uses augmented reality to promote OTC eye drug

Allergan uses augmented reality to promote OTC eye drug | Digital Pharma |
Allergan is using image-recognition smartphone app Blippar to bring print adverts for its OTC dry eye treatment Optive Plus to life.


Advertisements run this month in Ophthalmology Times Europe and in Ocular Surgery News will offer an augmented reality experience to readers who have downloaded the Blippar app.


Mark Wilson, marketing director, ocular surface disease, ophthalmology, Allergan, said: “Allergan’s ads reach ophthalmologists in a new and more engaging way, demonstrating how our product actually works, all by hovering a smart phone or tablet over a still image in a journal.


“In this case when the doctor points his phone at the Blippar enabled ad, three buttons appear allowing you to make the choice of immediately watching the mode of action animation, viewing the molecular structure or going straight to the website and of course reviewing any of the relevant references for our product Optive Plus.”


Allergan was assisted on the campaign by Publicis Life Brands Resolute, who said the technology has “massive and enriching potential in healthcare communications” with potential applications in product packaging and patient information leaflets.

Blippar, which launched in the UK last summer, is the first image-recognition smartphone app to bring augmented reality and instantaneous content to real-world newspapers, magazines, products and posters.


Augmented reality provides a view of a physical environment, augmenting it with computer generated input based on sounds, video, graphics or GPS information.

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Pfizer launches ‘Campaign Against Migraine’ website

Pfizer launches ‘Campaign Against Migraine’ website | Digital Pharma |
Pfizer has launched a new website called ‘Campaign Against Migraine’ to help migraine sufferers in the US learn more about their condition.


Campaign Against Migraine offers patients new tools to help them better understand the types of headaches they may experience. It also offers an interactive quiz to help them determine how well their current treatment is working.

Among the website’s other features is the ‘ID Migraine’ quiz, a migraine diary to help sufferers record their symptoms and migraine triggers, and a doctor discussion guide.


Pfizer is hoping this disease awareness campaign will help increase sales of its migraine treatment Relpax (eletriptan HBr), which is licensed to treat acute migraine.


The drug made $341 million last year, around half of which came from sales in the US. The firm currently competes for market space with GSK’s Imitrex, which made around $100 million less than Relpax last year.


But both companies will start coming under pressure from Allergan’s Botox, which recently gained a new license for migraines in the US and Europe.


Campaigns such as these are often used to boost sales of migraine drugs, and to shore up awareness of established medicines for the condition, ahead of a new drug coming onto the market.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, more than 30 million Americans suffer from migraines.


But Pfizer says that migraine continues to be a poorly understood condition that is frequently undiagnosed and undertreated.

Pfizer points to a recent survey of more than 9,000 migraine sufferers, which shows that 8 out of 10 may not be on the right medication to treat their condition.


“With the availability of effective treatments today, the fact that so many sufferers are potentially not getting the relief they should is disturbing,” said Elodie Ramos, migraine portfolio medical lead for US brands.


“We’re giving patients information that can make a positive change in their lives.”


Pfizer has spent much time and money on digital disease awareness campaigns, such as its interactive online football game for ankylosing spondylitis and its more recent site for Dupuytren’s disease.

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Boehringer Ingelheim wants to make cancer care social

Boehringer Ingelheim wants to make cancer care social | Digital Pharma |

Boehringer Ingelheim and nonprofit group Cancer Care launched a tool Thursday designed to make cancer care social.


The effort, called, creates free, private networks that let families and friends sign up to help caregivers with tasks like doing the shopping for patients, delivering meals or signing up to visit. Once the community leader sets up an activity that includes a description and the needed dates, they can send out an email blast. A calendar shows members what's been claimed and what's still needed. also links members to a list of Cancer Care's services, including events like a dial-in stress-management workshop.


The effort comes amid growing evidence that consumers are becoming more comfortable with using social media as a health resource. A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that a third of adults have read about a loved one's health experiences via outlets like Facebook or Twitter.


Yet, “this is really the first of its kind for oncology patients. We were really looking for a service that we felt was needed in this community and among these patients,” a spokesperson for Boehringer Ingelheim told MM&M.


The website is supported by Lotsa Helping Hands, which has created similar communities for partners such as the Wounded Warrior Project, the Alzheimer's Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


Lotsa Helping Hands' chief marketing officer, Brooks Kenny, told MM&M the average community size hits at least 50 members, but can be far larger. Kenny said that the National Family Caregiver Association, which is a Lotsa Helping Hand partner, alone brings close to 20,000 volunteers across its sub communities.


Although caregivers can easily be bombarded with advice and books that talk about the importance of setting aside time for personal matters and exercise, Kenny said that it's not enough. Caregivers “need help,” she said. Specifically, Kenny said that family and friends often want to help but lack structure. The result: caregivers and patients “end up with a lot of meals at their doorstep.” She also said that the community leaders are often friends or family members, because caregivers are already overwhelmed.


“When we see someone who has a cancer diagnosis, what do we always say? ‘What can I do to help?'” she said. Stats show the communities have taken off: Kenny said 2.1 million tasks have been claimed since Lotsa Helping Hand launched its communities in 2005.

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Why Medical Practice Marketing Begins with a “People Strategy”

Why Medical Practice Marketing Begins with a “People Strategy” | Digital Pharma |
Most of Seth Godin’s business books are little. He’s written more than a dozen best sellers that are tight and tiny, easy-to-read packages of advice for entrepreneurs and business.

Although his observations are not particularly about medical practice marketing, sometimes he hits a homerun in our ballpark. Incidentally, we have no business connection with Seth Godin to disclose, except for a measure of admiration for his ability to express a vital marketing idea in just a few words.


One such precisely presented idea can be found in his recent blog post—a mere 150 words—titled: Do you have a people strategy? In summary, Godin makes the point that a small business—picture an insurance agency—does not need a “telephone strategy.”


Even for a company that is heavily telephone reliant, “The telephone is a tool,” he observes, “a simple medium, and its only purpose is to connect us to interested human beings.” He could be talking about doctor marketing for an individual practitioner, a hospital or a multi-disciplinary healthcare delivery system.


Godin also mentions email, Internet and social media and concludes: “All of these media are conduits, [and] behind each of the tools is a person. Do you have a story to tell that person? An engagement or a benefit to offer them? Figure out the people part and the technology gets a whole lot simpler.”


He’s saying that these are not isolated channels. If you overlay the concepts of “patient experience” and “patient satisfaction” while reading his insightful post [here] the medical practice marketing implications are apparent. A takeaway that we recognize is that your medical practice branding message needs to be determined first, and consistently delivered across the board via your marketing plan, doctor advertising and in-office patient interaction.


What comes from first having a “People Strategy” in place is that implementation tools flow naturally when the overall objectives are clearly stated and understood throughout the office. This perspective brings the patient to center stage. The media or process steps are only the means—a conduit and not an isolated end game.


The results can also include better alignment of the “brand promise” with the actual patient experience, including an actively engaged patient relationship, improved telephone (and other media) rapport, better physician-patient communications, greater retention and increased patient referrals.

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Best Practices for Twitter for Healthcare and Pharma Professionals

Via Andrew Spong
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Pharma marketing to physicians [infographic]

Pharma marketing to physicians [infographic] | Digital Pharma |
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Huge List (100 ) of Web, Social Media and Content Tools

Huge List (100 ) of Web, Social Media and Content Tools | Digital Pharma |

A great compilation of familiar (and not-so-familiar) tools that will hopefully help you with your web content, social media, analytical and curation needs.


Click on the title to see the list. Enjoy!

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2Million2Many campaign flags bone fracture, osteoporosis link

2Million2Many campaign flags bone fracture, osteoporosis link | Digital Pharma |

The National Bone Health Alliance and inVentiv shop GSW Worldwide are launching 2Million2Many, a national education campaign designed to raise awareness of the connection between osteoporosis and broken bones.


The campaign, including print ads, a microsite (, PSA and documentary, will urge Americans 50 and up to get follow-up testing when they break a bone.


“Every year, there are two million broken bones caused by osteoporosis, and yet only two in ten get a follow-up test or treatment for osteoporosis,” said GSW Worldwide's Marcee Nelson. “We need to help people visualize this impact, and to make it relevant to them now, while they can still do something to prevent it.”


As a visual aid, the effort features Cast Mountain, a 2,500-pound assemblage of fiberglass casts and resin representing the 5,500 broken bones that happen each day, the agency said. The sculpture will go on tour starting at this week's International Symposium on Osteoporosis in Orlando, FL.

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Social media an outcomes listening post for pharma

FDA issues may deter drugmakers from engaging in social media, but that's no excuse to ignore what audiences are saying on these platforms, say pharma and device firms.


“You cannot put your head in the ground like an ostrich and pretend dialogue is not happening, because it is,” said Pat Choumitsky, senior manager, consumer marketing, UCB Pharma.


Speaking Monday at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group (PMRG) 2012 Annual National Conference in Orlando, Choumitsky said UCB listens to patient-reported outcomes on Being involved in the online patient community has helped the firm, which focuses on epilepsy and immunology, to shape its clinical trials and messaging. “It's important that we're listening and not afraid of adverse events.”

UCB is one of several healthcare manufacturers beginning to tap into social media as a form of research, to find out how communities feel about brands and the conditions they treat, even to provide appropriate information. This form of engagement often takes the form of listening, rather than talking.


Respondents to the State of the Industry (SOI) survey, developed in collaboration with TGaS Advisors and an advisory committee of the PMRG representing all its constituencies (drug and device firms as well as suppliers/consultants), predicted that use of social media for research by companies would increase this year.


This trend was a major topic of conversation at the conference. In general, new methods of collecting input are in their “ascendance,” as one speaker put it, while traditional ones are under threat. Researchers are integrating these new modalities into their tool kits as a way to satisfy customer demand for insight, wherever that insight resides.

Benefits extend beyond conventional research. “Unlike traditional MR, which offers a one-shot opportunity to find out what patients are thinking about a marketing program, [social media] allowed us to ask deeper and deeper questions to understand what the motivators are,” said Choumitsky, whose firm not only listens to patient discussions passively but has actively engaged patients in two to three market research activities per week in an iterative fashion.


She added: “We did a DR [direct response] television commercial a way back. Had we gone out with what our original marketing was for patients, we would have been off the mark…Rather, we listened to patients passively. And we heard something, a nugget of information, that…helped us narrow the field.”


Another company, Medtronic, found that patients were more interested in the opinions of others who had undergone treatment with neuromodulation therapy (an area where the device firm has a commercial stake), in addition to whatever had been discussed with their physicians. The insight came out of monitoring blogs, message boards and YouTube. The firm did nothing to propagate discussions, said Jill Glathar, a VP at National Analysts Worldwide, who helped conduct the research.


Sanofi is another firm harnessing social media in this capacity. “We had an instance where a patient double-dosed on [diabetes drug] Lantus,” said Todd Francis, VP and head of commercial support and enterprise marketing, Sanofi US. “Our passive listening and ability to form a partnership allowed us to engage that patient so she could seek immediate treatment.”


The “positive customer sentiment” from the episode provided the company with a platform to engage on a broader scale, said Francis. “So we're participating in the dialogue. This isn't promotion. We do a fair amount of promotion. We don't want to do this to be the Trojan horse of this space.”


Indeed, social media values authentic two-way communication, but this is often incongruous to FDA-regulated companies. Case in point: Last week Janssen shut down its “Psoriasis 360” Facebook page. The firm was the latest among several drugmakers to do so following the social network's decision to enforce rules requiring corporate-run pages to allow comments. (Some have kept pages open, despite the network's open walls.)


Janssen's move was “like setting up a Twitter account and shutting it down because people are sending [in] comments. There's a disconnect,” said another speaker at the conference, Mark Bard, co-founder of the Digital Health Coalition, a non-profit think tank that's trying to forge a path for the pharma industry to engage with customers on these platforms, despite a lack of clear regulatory guidance from the FDA.


Pharma is hesitant to embrace the interactivity of Facebook and Twitter for fear of being seen as fostering off-label discussion of products or of being exposed to adverse-event (AE) reporting requirements—two enforcement areas for the FDA , said Arnie Friede, a former lawyer for the agency who specializes in healthcare marketing regulations.

Industry needs to differentiate as to when a company becomes responsible for certain activities, said Friede: “[Is] providing a platform enough to convert something into advertising? Is listening into someone else's platform different? How do we differentiate those circumstances?”


Listening and speaking confer different obligations, but just listening does not necessarily absolve the firm of the responsibility to report AEs. UCB's Choumitsky said the firm works with a number of firms that “scrape” conversations patients are having online and identifies keywords that could raise issues. “We pull those down and review them” for anything considered risky or an AE, she said. “We do that on our properties.”


Studies show that the rate of AEs is about 2-3% of all comments.


In listening, she even sees an opportunity for pharma to win back trust from patients. “If we're really going to have an authentic voice—and pharma has a lot to overcome where patients are concerned; there's this perception of ‘the big bad pharma company.' In actuality, we have the ability to listen and enable better healthcare and empower patients. If we're not listening authentically, and if we're not being open, we're sending a message that ‘we really don't want to hear from you.' We're reinforcing something that's not really true.”


Then again, marketers are still trying to understand the role that market research can play in the social media space. “We continue to struggle at Sanofi with, what is digital?” acknowledged Francis. Social media, he said, is “forcing us to rethink how we approach research and what role does active social listening play in…[taking the place of] traditional market research.”

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The pharma revolution will be digital, with new targets study

The pharma revolution will be digital, with new targets study | Digital Pharma |

There have been multiple promises by pharma to change its sales and marketing approach. Booz & Co. partner Danielle Rollmann says the time for promises is over, and action needs to happen, particularly in the digital space. Now.


“We are beyond the point of hand-wringing over the issue,” she told MM&M, as part of a discussion of a survey her company conducted with National Analysts Worldwide of 156 US and EU-based executives. For those who read the survey's initial results MM&M reported in February, the latest news is how execs say they will put money behind their promises to change.


Among the 69% of execs who said the current marketing model needs to change:

• 58% said they were increasing their budgets for social media that targets doctors over the next two years
• 55% said they were increasing their investments in mobile tech
• 52% said they were increasing their use of e-details, and
• 51% said they were going to amp up their budgets for physician media channels.


Less enthusiastically embraced: journal ads, which only 19% said they were planning to put more dollars behind over the next two years.


Although these changes may not feel radical – non-personal selling and alternative media channels have been part of the pharma marketing lexicon for quite a while – Rollmann says the digital shift is part of a greater transformation, which is that the industry is changing not just the way it speaks to the healthcare sector but with whom it chooses to communicate, an approach that is highlighted by the following messaging priorities:


• 47% said they would focus more on key accounts,
• 47% said they were increasing their outreach to accountable care organizations, and
• 36% said they were going to talk to more hospitals/group purchasing organizations.


In contrast, just 19% said they were going to try to reach more community doctors.


Rollmann said that as doctors become part of larger networks like ACOs, and as payors have increasing input on treatments, decision making is becoming more consolidated and pharma is increasingly dealing with individuals who have a direct responsibility for their practices' balance sheets.


Translation: when it comes to seeking out info on how to treat patients, healthcare providers are “looking for a broader discussion for how your product fits into the disease state are looking for how your product is going to impact the bottom line in financial and clinical outcomes.”

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GSK seeks to span digital divide with social/digital dragnet

GlaxoSmithKline is souping up its social media monitoring with a digital strategy it says will create processes that are standard enough to streamline communications, but flexible enough to meet local requirements.


The company has hired digital agency Fabric Worldwide and IT and consulting firm Infosys to implement their Global Digital Platform. According to the partners, the strategy is one of agility: Infosys says the Global Digital Platform will “allow GSK to quickly build digital assets and listen to consumers across an array of digital platforms.” GSK noted that efficiency is part of the core business strategies the company identified in its 2011 annual report. Meanwhile, WPP techie shop Fabric Worldwide says the partnership will help GSK “consistently understand consumer signals from digital channels, across all brands and all markets.”


However, marketers say it is an attempt at something else: to break out of the industry's traditional isolation.


“GSK's decision of taking a more holistic, global, and strategic view of digital is extremely smart and, in my opinion, will yield them a terrific edge in the marketplace,” Fabio Gratton, founder and chief experience officer of Ignite Health told MM&M.

Jim Dayton, senior director of emerging media at the digital marketing agency Intouch Solutions, said he applauds GSK for having the “foresight to have integrated marketing systems that include social monitoring and engagement tools.”


The industry has struggled with balancing the desire to engage consumers without tripping over sketchily-defined regulatory boundaries, but companies can scarcely afford to shun social media altogether.


Gratton added that the move reinforces that digital isn't about marketing, but about business as a whole, and that the GSK venture deserves credit, regardless of the results.


“Even if they fail, they will be failing forward sooner and faster than anyone else, and that itself is a competitive advantage,” he added.

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Device maker tries hand at Facebook apps

Device maker tries hand at Facebook apps | Digital Pharma |

Diabetes tech firm Medtronic rolled out a new Facebook strategy that helps diabetes patients share milestone moments.


The effort is called Let's Build Our Timeline Together and builds on the Facebook presence the company established in April. The page has almost 35,000 likes as of July 3, and the new timeline The page draws from photos visitors upload, and includes mini-bios that tell readers how long the patients have been living with diabetes. The result is a page that weaves specific moments – like a six-year-old's day at the zoo -- with practical information like “Avoid potential exposure to strong magnetic fields on roller coasters, remove your insulin pump and put it in a safe place.”


Amanda Sheldon, director of PR and social communication at the diabetes business unit of Medtronic, told MM&M that the "patient stories" part evolved because patients pounced at the chance to connect.


“Our community really loves to share their stories and their photos and what is going on in their lives, and they started this from the day we launched our page,” she said.


Medtronic posts about 1-2 items per day, and the page blends the other elements of its social outreach – which includes YouTube, Twitter and a blog into once space, but with that added personal touch. Whereas patients may visit the Twitter feed for more customer service and support information or YouTube for helpful videos, the Facebook touchpoint embraces a greater variety of tonality and information.


Sheldon noted that the page also makes the company's history about more than insulin pumps, and more about “their ability to do live full lives, healthy lives,” she said.

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CSL Behring launches new dosing app

CSL Behring launches new dosing app | Digital Pharma |
Biotherapy firm CSL Behring UK has launched an app for doctors to aid the management of its anaesthetic treatment Beriplex P/N.


The ‘Dosing Calculator App’ was launched at The General Anaesthetists in Training Annual Scientific Meeting in Glasgow.


Available on both iPhone and Android handsets, it will calculate the correct dose and volume of Beriplex P/N to be infused based upon entry of only two key pieces of information: the patient’s weight and their initial international normalised ratio (INR).


Users then simply tap ‘calculate’ to obtain the dose required. CSL Behring says this is important for healthcare professionals in cases where quicker information is needed to make effective, timely decisions such as in an emergency setting.

New research indicates a high level of smartphone usage amongst healthcare professionals in the UK, with around 80% owning a device according to a recent survey. Behring is hoping to capitalise on this high use by launching its app to increase awareness of its drug among its key audience.

Eddie Owens, general manager of CSL Behring UK, said: “We see that healthcare professionals are clearly using mobile technology to access health information and for us to engage with this growing target audience, we need to be present in this medium.


“The new Beriplex P/N Dosing Calculator App aims to meet the demand that healthcare professionals have to access sound medical data from anywhere and at anytime.”
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Roche and Novartis have best websites

Roche and Novartis have best websites | Digital Pharma |
A new survey of leading international companies has found Roche and Novartis have the best websites in the pharma sector.


The report by consultancy group Bowen Craggs & Co and the Financial Times, ranked 81 websites belonging to the some of the world’s biggest firms.

The report authors say they were looking for three things: ease of navigation; consistency of service (i.e., how well they serve different audiences); good use of new web technology such as video, apps and integration with social networking.


Oil giant Shell came top of the survey, with the report complementing the company for its understanding of new web new technologies (including apps and video) and catering for its many diverse stakeholders groups, from investors to environmental campaigners.


Eight pharma firms ranked in the list, with Roche ranked fifth and Novartis in 8th place.


The full list of pharma companies from the 81 surveyed:


5) Roche

8) Novartis

13) AstraZeneca

17) Sanofi

25) GSK

36) Johnson & Johnson

38) Pfizer

44) Merck


Two pharma firms also topped specific rankings, with Novartis being judged the best site for navigation, and joint top for having the best contact information available.


Roche was judged to be the best for projecting the firm’s message, which includes its overall visual design and its ability to engage with consumers.

Not so good


But the report was critical of Pfizer’s site, which it said featured content which has not been regularly updated. The world’s biggest pharma firm was ranked thirty-eighth.


The report also said the fact that Pfizer’s new careers website was entirely separate from the main corporate website was a major downside. “This is moving in the wrong direction,” said David Bowen, senior consultant at Bowen Craggs & Co, adding that jobseekers need to move around the whole site.

He added that this was a sign that Pfizer’s human resources and its online team were ‘not working well together’.


What makes an effective website?


According to the report a top-class corporate website should have three things above all: ease of navigation, consistency of service and command of technology.


It also said that when the firm made mistakes online - such as last year when it reconstructed its site - it was quick to learn lessons from the experience.

It was also one of the first to develop rich video content, and this year has shown an aptitude for apps to add to its stable of social media properties, the report noted.


BP came second, indicating that oil firms have both the money and the need to engage with customers as effectively as possible.


These firms also have few restrictions on how they can communicate online, whereas pharma must comply with many laws and regional codes of conduct when talking about prescription medicines.

But many firms still are not using the web as effectively as they should, and Bowen concluded the report with this warning: “While there are some stories of real progress there are too many where it has stalled, and is even going into reverse.”

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Groundbreaking Facebook app aims to track rare diseases impact on families

Groundbreaking Facebook app aims to track rare diseases impact on families | Digital Pharma |
A new app from ViroPharma seeks to leverage a social forum to both raise awareness of a rare disease and provide access to important disease and treatment information.


The HAE Family Tree Facebook App taps into Facebook's 900 million active users to aid in the in the education and awareness of a small specialty audience of hereditary angioedema (HAE) sufferers.

The result of a partnership between ViroPharma and Cadient Group, the new app has features in common with other Facebook apps, but with an added twist.


As is the case with most apps, users who sign up for it can invite fellow Facebook members to join. But HAE patients can also manually enter in the names of family members who don't have Facebook accounts. That's an important note, because this is more than just another family network.

Other interactive tools aim to help patients understand how HAE presents in families, but the HAE Family Tree Facebook App looks to go a step further. By helping families trace the familial progress of the disease—which is marked by uncontrolled and potentially dangerous swelling—the app is designed to encourage relatives to get tested and get treated.


“Response from the HAE community has been great,” said Bianca Jay, senior product manager for HAE at ViroPharma. “We are pleased with the number of family members using the application and are hopeful that they lead to productive conversations with their healthcare professionals.”

HAE affects approximately 6,000 to 6,500 adults in the US, and patient advocates estimate that it takes about 10 years for patients to get the right diagnosis. HAE is caused by deficient or ineffective levels of a C1 inhibitor protein, which triggers swelling in the abdomen, face, arms and legs, and can interfere with a patient's breathing. It also has a high probability of transmission—the US Hereditary Angioedema Association says parents have a 50% chance of passing the disease onto their children.
“In view of the thousands of rare disorders today—most of them undiagnosed—we're excited at the potential opportunities this represents to reach families with rare disorders,” said Stephen Wray, CEO of Cadient.


This is not the first time ViroPharma has worked to connect HAE patients. The company's Ryze Above patient support program, launched in 2010, provides emotional and other kinds of support for patients taking ViroPharma's HAE drug Cinryze. The program had lacked a social media component. The new app links to the older program's treatment trackers and resources, including patient stories and information about Cinryze.


The app also allows for a bit of customization—users can choose from three designs that range from island-inspired with coconuts, tropical with a floral motif and woodland with pinecone decorations.

Patients helped the company choose this platform. “Many people in the HAE community are already gathering and connecting on Facebook, and together, ViroPharma and Cadient developed the Family Tree app to provide our patients and their families with a tool that supports their desire to build connections with others in the HAE community,” said Jay.

“Many companies talk about using social media, but few are actually doing it," added Wray. "ViroPharma had the courage to make the leap and leverage the benefits of social media as their mission. Now they're reaping the rewards."

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Mobile Adoption By Physicians & Patients

Mobile Adoption By Physicians & Patients | Digital Pharma |

We’re kicking off an entire month dedicated toward exploring the mobile health industry, the best tools on the market, and strategies that we are incorporating across our business. To be able to really go deep on mHealth, we’d thought we start our focus with a breakdown of mobile adoption across the healthcare field.


The most publicized finding so far in 2012 came from a recent Manhattan Research survey that found that 62% of physicians now own some kind of tablet (compared to 35% in 2011). More importantly, nearly half of those physicians have used that tablet at the point of care.

Interestingly, research is also showing that those tablets are being used as supplements to a physician’s smartphone and desktop device – not a competitor. The same research from Manhattan tells us that when physicians have all 3 devices, they actually spend more time online with each device and go online more during the workday than physicians with fewer devices. Physicians are turning to their mobile devices for an array of reasons:

Accessing medical reference materials
New clinical research
Diagnostic, imaging and decision support
Access electronic health records
Ordering lab test

In the Mobihealthnews’ article, Physicians still use mobile for support, not so much with patients yet, Monique Levy of Manhattan Research said “Physicians are evolving in ways we expected – only faster. The skyrocketing adoption rates of tablets alone, especially iPads, means healthcare stakeholders should revisit many of their assumptions about reaching and engaging with this audience.”


There is no doubt that mobile devices and applications are beginning to transform the way physicians administer healthcare, but it’s also having an effect on the way patients are managing their own health.

While 46% of American adults own a smartphone, it’s the 41% of the smartphone owners who say they’d like to have more of their healthcare delivered via their mobile devices that is really intriguing.

One of the most telling areas of mobile adoption by patients is the number of health apps downloads by consumers. It is projected that by the end of 2012 that health apps will be downloaded more than 44 million times. While many of those apps will be downloaded for free, these downloads do show us that consumers are willing to spend time and some occasional out of pocket money to have better access to health content and ways to manage their health. In fact, 40% of consumers are willing to pay a monthly subscription fee for a mobile phone application that would send text and e-mail reminders to take their medications, refill prescriptions, or to access their medical records and track their health.


It’s still early in the game. As mobile technology adoption continues to soar and we all get better at building better mobile experiences, the impact that mobile can have on health outcomes will become significant.

Focus should be placed on how to best integrate the various mobile technologies and applications with current systems while regulators continue to develop proper standards that protect the safety and privacy of patients.

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Health Marketing: How Doctors Are Using Social Media

Health Marketing: How Doctors Are Using Social Media | Digital Pharma |
There has been a lot of news coverage about how hospitals are expanding health marketing budgets to include more digital media in an effort to attract new patients and recruit physicians. However, many private practice doctors are getting into the social media game as a way to market themselves, establish an authoritative voice and attract new patients. Doctors are incorporating social media into their health marketing strategies in three important ways.


1. To bring accurate and relevant medical news and information to the masses


There are plenty of sites offering health advice online, but that advice could be incorrect. Many doctors are trying to supply their patients (and others) with helpful information about, say, when a condition requires medical attention.


2. To connect and engage with current patients


Many doctors are turning to social media to help connect with their patients outside of the office. They send reminders about appointments or alerts about flu & allergy shots/season. According to US News, Dr. Thomas Lee even rallied his patients, staff and social media communities to participate in his annual fitness challenge. He found the community was able to encourage and challenge each other, breeding more healthy competition and success.


3. To establish themselves as medical authorities


Connecting through social media and blogs can be a great linking project for any professional’s website. And SEO best practices tell us that refreshed, new content and links can help your rank and traffic. Providing relevant information, recruiting new patients, engaging with current patients and reaping Google benefits–what’s not to love?

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Case studies: two tactical examples from pharma facebook pages

Case studies: two tactical examples from pharma facebook pages | Digital Pharma |

In February 2012, Facebook unveiled Facebook Timeline that threw social media marketers for a loop. The new layout practically took away the capability to have a great landing page in order to have individuals to “Like” a brand page.


Instead, Facebook provides a framework in which companies are given the opportunity to boost engagement with fans. In order to properly take advantage of the timeline function, a content strategy is required.


[AS: This article somewhat misleadingly bills itself as 'Content strategy: the backbone of a facebook timeline for pharma', but actually offers two tactical examples of individual facebook posts from Pharma accounts. Even the most generous gloss couldn't really call that a 'content strategy' per se, but no matter :)]

Via Andrew Spong
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Gamification and online communities - what can pharma do?

Gamification and online communities - what can pharma do? | Digital Pharma |

Gamification is the new buzzword in digital marketing and has the potential to engage consumers more than traditional strategies.


This new idea uses gaming as a vehicle to encourage people to adopt new habits or influence their behaviour. Companies are now using it to deliver their marketing messages and advertising to the wider public.


By far the biggest and well-known use of gamification comes from the Facebook game Farmville. The game’s developers Zynga use the popularity of Facebook as a platform for the game.

In Farmville players grow crops and can then sell them to their friends, or form a co-operative with other players to build a bigger and more productive farm.


The aim is to level up and users get more rewards the further into the game they go. It has nearly 100 million users and makes money by having players purchase certain items for their farms from the game’s developer. It is also a goldmine for Facebook, as advertisers will be lining up to be seen next to the game.


Farmville is successful because it keeps to the basic tenants of gamification: it’s simple, competitive, social and above all it offers rewards, which make players return to the game time and time again. This creates a community and a loyalty around the game, and ensures that it remains successful in the long-term.


Pharma joins the game


Pharma has now jumped on the gamification bandwagon and is starting to use it to promote disease awareness campaigns, but it begs the question: can gamification work for pharma?

Boehringer Ingelheim is betting that it can, and is the pioneer of this idea in pharma. The firm is currently developing a new game called Syrum to promote the industry as a whole, whilst also using it for its own marketing purposes.


Syrum is currently undergoing beta testing and is the brainchild of John Pugh, Boehringer’s director of digital communications. Pugh is a well-known trailblazer in pharma’s digital world, launching Boehringer’s Twitter feed in 2007, and making it a true online conversation with followers.


In January this year, Pugh won the PM Society’s Digital Pioneer Award for pushing the digital boundaries within the industry. His new project works much the same way as Farmville does, but just swaps farms and crops for laboratories and molecules.


Syrum will be available on Facebook where gamers play as an R&D pharma company that has to develop drugs and put them into clinical trials, mimicking the real industry process.


And there are social media aspects to it, as players can link up with their Facebook friends and give them gifts - these can then be used to customise their offices and laboratories. Players can also trade and collaborate to help create better compounds, but on the flipside they also have the option to steal their competitors’ staff and compounds to get ahead.

COPD and atrial fibrillation awareness campaigns

Boehringer has already established itself on the web with interactive campaigns to raise awareness. One of these is ‘Drive for COPD’, which aims to increase the diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Its most recent campaign is ‘1 mission 1 million’. The campaign - to be found at heartofstroke - is aimed at raising awareness about stroke prevention and atrial fibrillation, which is what its new blood thinner Pradaxa has just gained new licences for around the world.


This campaign draws on a similar idea to gamification - that of ‘crowdsourcing’ - opening up a problem to an online community and asking their help to solve it.


However in this case, Boehringer is simply donating money - €1 million to be precise - but draws in users by asking them to apply for the funding.


The donations are only campaigns to raise awareness about atrial fibrillation and stroke, not for treatment. One of the most notable winners was a proposal for an online project, StrokeStrike, which was awarded €100,000.


The project, now under construction, is a mobile and online social platform that promotes the idea of playing sports and leading a healthier lifestyle to minimise the risk of stroke. It helps promote a healthy lifestyle by offering personalised monitoring of calories, exercise and so on, and allows your doctor to access this information.




For Boehringer, Syrum promotes disease education for people playing it, whilst also helping them filter their marketing messages for its ongoing disease awareness campaigns.


At the e-Patient Connections conference in September, Pugh explained that players of Syrum would be regularly asked to fill in questionnaires, or watch videos relating to its recent disease awareness campaigns.


In return Boehringer, would then offer players new equipment or drug compounds for Syrum as a reward. On the face of it, Syrum is about explaining the pharma industry to the public, and the stresses and strains of getting drugs to market.


But more specifically for Boehringer, is its use as a vehicle to communicate messages about its new disease awareness campaigns to bigger audiences.

Pharma must tread carefully in these areas in Europe, however, as the industry is not allowed to advertise prescription medicines to the public. This is the whole reason for disease awareness campaigns, which encourage patients to think about their condition, get diagnosed and potentially be prescribed medication.


The drive to promote COPD awareness is of course rooted in Boehringer’s aim to promote its products for the disease, most notably Spiriva (co-marketed with Pfizer). But these games can in no way plug its products, and all of pharma’s campaigns include lengthy and prominent disclaimers that they are for providing information, and not for promotion of medicines or services - but their raison d’être remains clear.


Promoting health


Some are looking at designing new games to promote health without any commercial agenda - and there are already several established apps and games out there to promote healthy living via gaming.


The ‘Lit2Quit’ mobile game has been developed by an academic team at the University of Columbia, and aims to help people stop smoking by having them do battle with swirling clouds of gas, amongst other things.


The Department of Health in the UK is also looking to use these types of apps to help patients and doctors understand certain medical conditions, and help with healthier living.


Analysts at Ernst & Young said in its recent report that games are becoming a new way to promote healthy living.


“Electronic and online games, long viewed as deterrents to healthy behaviour, are increasingly being used to promote healthier behaviours such as better diet and weight control and medication adherence,” the report states.


Innovative start-ups such as Keas and HealthPrize have developed programmes combining the use of games, social media and technology to serve the growing ranks of employers seeking to motivate their workers to adopt healthier behaviours.


In another approach to health gamification, Kaiser Permanente’s Garfield Health Care Innovation Centre is researching games to help doctors and other medical personnel improve their skills, and reduce errors.


Charities are also using gamification: Tearfund, the UK-based Christian international aid charity, is looking to drive engagement with young supporters with the launch of a mobile gaming platform.


Tearfund has built a mobile app that incorporates social media channels and gaming strategies, in a bid to encourage more young people to become involved in its work and make volunteering efforts. The Pedestrians’ charity Living Streets has also used gamification as part of an online campaign during its recent ‘Walk to Work Week’.


But the potential for commercial gain is the main driver for gamification, as pharma has the most money to throw behind it.


Are games able to change behaviour?


But the big question is: can games change entrenched human behaviour? There is little available long-term research to answer this question, but it does not seem that shooting cigarette-shaped enemies will make a player change a 30-year smoking habit, for instance.


In terms of marketing - and what Pugh is looking to do with Syrum - it certainly seems to grab people’s attention. But ultimately it is simply a new method of marketing for these firms, and has the added bonus of attracting a large interest from many sectors, given its novelty.


So it is the future? Possibly - but creating a loyal online community takes time and money, and skill in identifying the right audience, and what will inspire them to keep coming back.


For Boehringer, the process has indeed been a complicated one - the game was pencilled in for launch in late 2011, but its launch is now not expected until the end of 2012.


Being a pioneer in a new area will always throw up problems, but the game will need to do more than merely be novel to prove its value.

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EU e-Privacy: Can Cookies be bad for health?

EU e-Privacy: Can Cookies be bad for health? | Digital Pharma |

For quite a long time, the majority of people have used websites blissfully unaware of the level to which their online habits could be used to develop a profile by advertisers, companies and governments; information which might be the basis of targeting with customised messages or observation.


No pun intended, but ‘Target’ (a discount store chain) recently made waves in the media when it became clear that their ability to mine customer information from multiple channels had helped them to identify that a father’s daughter was pregnant before he himself knew about it.


While this instance was not necessarily about online shopping, the concept of gleaning customer relationship management data is familiar – even more so when using website technology. This may not particularly bother someone who is using Amazon to buy some books, however when it comes to health information, many people consider this to be one of the most important, personal and sensitive areas of our lives. Individuals will often choose carefully how and when they reveal detail about conditions or illnesses that they may be experiencing. The idea that a company might send an email to congratulate you on your pregnancy – even potentially before you yourself became aware of it – is either disturbing, or exciting, depending on your attitude to technology and privacy.


So with that in mind, let’s now take a closer look at ‘Cookies’ and the importance of understanding their use in relation to health information websites in Europe.


What is a ‘cookie’ and why does it matter?


I suppose a good question to start with is: Do you really know what a ‘cookie’ is and how it works?

Cookies are arguably indispensable in the operation of most modern websites. They may for instance be necessary to store personal preference information or potentially to track behavioural activity so as to build a comprehensive customer profile. From a website operation point of view, they are a fantastic solution for providing a user-friendly customer experience.


Over the past few years the variety of functions that cookies can perform has become an aspect of online data storage in general that European legislators felt needed attention, culminating in amendments to Directive 2002/58/EC. These amendments require website owners to be very clear about if and how data is being stored, even if it may be in a cookie. Here is the key extract from Article (5)3 (underline and highlight added for emphasis):


“Member States shall ensure that the use of electronic communications networks to store information or to gain access to information stored in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user is only allowed on condition that the subscriber or user concerned is provided with clear and comprehensive information in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC, inter alia about the purposes of the processing, and is offered the right to refuse such processing by the data controller. This shall not prevent any technical storage or access for the sole purpose of carrying out or facilitating the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network, or as strictly necessary in order to provide an information society service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user.”


Cookies and multi-channel marketing


Pharmaceutical companies are, like most digitally-enabled information providers, increasingly looking to integrate touch-points and measurement across multiple channels and campaigns. One way of achieving this is through the use of tracking cookies. It is not always an easy thing to do in practice, yet even when successful in an approach for implementation, a brand can then still face new hurdles around a person’s individual privacy preference.


Cookies in a local country implementation

As with all European Directives, member states consider the adaptation for their own legislation.

Using the United Kingdom as an example, amendments to Article (5)3 are further clarified in the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011. In particular, the impact for online communication is seen here:


6 (1) Subject to paragraph (4), a person shall not store or gain access to information stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user unless the requirements of paragraph (2) are met.

(2) The requirements are that the subscriber or user of that terminal equipment—

(a) is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information; and

(b) has given his or her consent.

(3) Where an electronic communications network is used by the same person to store or access information in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user on more than one occasion, it is sufficient for the purposes of this regulation that the requirements of paragraph (2) are met in respect of the initial use.


(3A) For the purposes of paragraph (2), consent may be signified by a subscriber who amends or sets controls on the internet browser which the subscriber uses or by using another application or programme to signify consent.

(4) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the technical storage of, or access to, information–

(a) for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network; or

(b) where such storage or access is strictly necessary for the provision of an information society service requested by the subscriber or user.

So in this implementation of legislation, it is a requirement that no storage of information takes place without the person’s express consent – unless it is a technical transmission need, or has been specifically requested by the user. This is important; if a person requests information or a service that can only be achieved through the storing of personal information, then they have given implicit consent.


Additionally, it can be argued from (3A) that if they have amended settings in their browser to accept or reject cookies, they have also given implicit consent.

That said; you will in every case want to speak with your own legal and medical colleagues to be sure that you have carefully understood the implications and definitions in respect to a particular initiative. It will largely depend on the sensitivity of the information that is being stored. The key insight is that as a Brand Manager or Project Owner it is your responsibility to ensure that the right questions are being asked of your creative agency or website developer on this matter.


The requirements and penalties of non-compliance

If we continue with the example of the United Kingdom, the officially amended legislation came into effect from the 26th May 2011. However, businesses and organisations were given a 12 month grace period to update privacy policies and technical functionality.

It is now one year later, and from the 26th May 2012, the UK law is in force and has penalties should a company be found in breach. The maximum penalty is £500,000 per instance – which could well be costly if the proverbial ‘house is not in order’. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to take stock of existing and planned digital assets to ensure they remain compliant. Given the care that the pharmaceutical industry takes in developing appropriate initiatives, for the most part the so-called ‘cookie-law’ may have little impact at all!

Next steps for compliance

If your organisation does not already have one, commission an audit and develop a ‘living’ digital asset inventory (DAI) of all online or digital properties which have been sponsored, funded, or are managed by your company. This is the best way to keep account of what is online, whether it is compliant, and has the added benefit of enabling very quick identification of say ‘all facebook pages’ or ‘all Twitter accounts’ should a 3rd party technology change mean that you need to amend the functional or legal aspects of your digital assets.

Review all privacy policies and functional specifications together with your external agencies or internal technology experts, and of course your legal team, to ensure that you have addressed the amendments as implemented in your member state, based on how intrusive the usage is.
Continue to use Cookies in a thoughtful and compliant way to help integrate you visitor’s experience across multiple channels.

If you would like assistance in the area of implementing measurement and conversion tracking across multiple channels, talk to one of our strategic consultant team.

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Consumers getting comfortable with social media as a health resource

Consumers getting comfortable with social media as a health resource | Digital Pharma |
Around a third of US adults use social media as a health resource, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers – whether seeking out medical info, sharing symptoms and experiences or rating drugs, devices, doctors, hospitals and health plans.


The consulting giant surveyed 1,060 US adults and found that 42% have viewed health-related consumer reviews (more or less evenly split between reviews of treatments, doctors, hospitals and health insurers) through social networks like Twitter and Facebook. A third have read of friends' or family members' health experiences through social media, while 29% have read of other patients' experience with a disease they have and 24% have viewed health-related videos and images posted by other patients.


Not surprisingly, perhaps, those users skew young. Where more than four-fifths of 18-24-year olds said they'd share health information through social media, fewer than half (45%) of those 45-64 said the same. And across the board, users choose community sites over company-sponsored ones, which see hundreds of posts and comments per day where community sites see thousands.

“In fact, community sites had 24 times more social media activity on average than any of the health industry companies” over the one-week timeframe studied, said the PwC report. Part of the problem, for pharmas, is that many have disallowed comments for fear of tripping over ill-defined regulatory lines. Fewer than one in three drug companies have Facebook walls for people to post on, where two-thirds of companies on the provider and insurer side of the business do so.


“Consumers are using social media in all parts of their daily life,” said Karla Anderson, a partner with the pharma and life sciences practice at PwC. “Healthcare is just another part of that, and as companies give consumers access, that's being adopted.”


Those consumers expect healthcare companies to be lightning-quick in responding to requests for information via social media, with four in ten saying they'd expect a response within a few hours. That's a pretty high bar for companies that often don't even have much of a social media presence to speak of, but Anderson says that's changing.


“We're seeing people using social media in much more broad ways, particularly around customer service, from collecting information on customer satisfaction to support services,” said Anderson. “Companies are using it very powerfully internally as well now.”

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IBM's Reinvention Should Inspire Flat Pharma Businesses

IBM's Reinvention Should Inspire Flat Pharma Businesses | Digital Pharma |
The pharmaceutical giants look remarkably similar to the IBM of the late 80′s and early 90′s. For those of us who remember the IBM of that era, this is bad news. They can continue the path of the railroad industry early in the 20th century. Alternatively, they can look to the path IBM took when its future prospects were grim. Remarkably, IBM demonstrated how it’s possible for a large company to shift from a product-centric culture to a customer and service centered company. The handwriting is on the wall for pharma companies: They will succeed or fail based not on how many drugs they sell, but on how well their offerings improve health outcomes.


The marketing myopia of the railroad industry is well documented in the world of business yet most organizations makes the same mistake. Railroad businesses assumed they were in the “railroad” business, rather than the “transportation” business. Consequently, they missed out on countless opportunities to pursue growth in the auto industry. In contrast, IBM was able to use their near extinction to reinvent themselves over a 10 year period. The result has put Lou Gerstner in the pantheon of turnaround CEOs: A 10x increase in IBM’s stock value. In contrast, most pharmaceutical companies aren’t spending enough time thinking like IBM. Looking at the 10-year stock charts of these organizations you see flat or declining stock prices. It’s quite clear that reinvention has yet to happen for virtually all of the Life Science companies.


Pharma’s Thrive or Survive Questions


Do pharmaceutical companies see themselves in the drug business or the disease management business? Or, where possible, in the disease prevention business? These are the key questions that will determine whether they will survive and thrive. Many of these diseases lend themselves to the use applications (mobile & web) or biometric devices. This is going to drive a greatly expanded focus on non-traditional partnerships.


An example of how a pharmaceutical company could transition from being product centric to being customer centric is doing something like the company, Ambucor. Ambucor provides Ambulatory Electrocardiographic and Remote Device Monitoring services for cardiologists. Pharma companies already have deep relationships with cardiologists. Imagine them buying or partnering with a company like Ambucor to sell that service. This would provide a more complete offering where their heart-related drugs may or may not play a role, just as IBM products may or may not play a role in their services.


IBM Lessons

Most pharma companies are where computer makers were in the late 80′s: the handwriting on the wall is clear but pharma is still mainly focused on milking the cash cows just as DEC, Data General, Wang were in the 80′s. We know how that turned out. It was only when IBM brought in Lou Gerstner having recognized the threat, were they able to drive wrenching changes. During the subsequent 10 years, the stock price of this mature company grew nearly 10x — a stark contrast to the flat or declining stock prices of most pharma companies over the last 10 years.


While IBM’s transition looks smart, and without pain in hindsight, that was far from the case. At the time it was extremely controversial. Most business magazines characterized IBM as a soon-to-be-extinct dinosaur. At the same time, conventional wisdom was that Gerstner needed to break up IBM to drive shareholder value, not a massive transformation. Turning over half of their workforce added additional pressure on Gerstner. However, in the end, IBM came away much stronger in contrast to their competitors such as DEC.


Once pharma companies redefine themselves in the disease management/prevention business, they will recognize that they are way behind the market leaders. While they wait for the future to be defined by others, non-traditional competitors are taking action. Just look at Aetna. They have aggressively bought an array of companies including mobile startups such as iTriage. Pharma may wake up and realize they are late to the party and the most interesting companies already have found their dance partner.


Pharma Strengths Can Create Complete Solution

As IBM had a number of strengths it could leverage into its reinvention process, Pharma too has strengths such as:


Provider Relationships: Through its Sales and Medical Affairs organizations, Pharma has many relationships and a keen understanding of the healthcare landscape (though provider access has been dramatically curtailed). They know proper ways to work with healthcare professionals for research as well as the reimbursement environment for particular conditions.

Clinical Trials Management: Pharma has a critical competence in managing clinical trials with an array of patients and the necessary requirements to have research findings that can pass muster with the FDA and/or health plans. These skills could be scaled down to simpler studies on mobile apps, for example.

Long-term view: Pharma hasn’t been afraid to make long-term bets utilizing its deep pockets. Fortunately, most technology bets require dramatically less resource than what they are used to.

With ever-increasing requirements to run healthcare more efficiently and providers who often don’t possess the skills to address new reimbursement outcomes requirements, technology-enabled services are going to become more common. Purveyors of technology-enabled services don’t sell technology. Instead, they are selling an outcome. A straightforward example is ZocDoc — they sell a fuller docket of patient appointments for doctors (not technology). An example from the clinical side (Ambucor) was mentioned above. The cardiologist maintains their patient relationship while expanding the services they can offer through this turnkey service. There are other out-of-the-box ideas that can reap rewards, but I expect most will be services provided directly to healthcare providers.


The list below contains examples of technology-enabled services pharma can provide if they were to focus on disease management or prevention. One of the non-obvious benefits of operating a multi-tenant SaaS business is the insights that can be gleaned through the broad dataset from many customers hosted in one place. For example, ZocDoc will have supply and demand insights no one else has for healthcare services by helping consumers find open appointment slots. It’s not hard to imagine the insights that could be learned from the examples below.


Population Management: Patient-centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations place demands on providers that many are ill-prepared to address. Keeping track of the portion of their patient population that is up-to-date on vaccines, health checks, etc. and scheduling them for appropriate services is a big challenge. Already pharma pay doctors a significant amount of money to get patients to complete registries. Massively expanding this can not only provide a service to providers but also provide necessary data input for pharma’s research needs.

Family Medical History: Related to the previous item, Medicare announced its first wellness oriented reimbursement for an annual wellness visit. Relatively few healthcare providers have taken advantage of this. Not only could pharma help them with this proactive new revenue stream, the insights that could be gained would be phenomenal for pharma.

Rx for apps: Before long, rather than being prescribed a pill, people will be prescribed apps that have established an evidence-base that proves they are effective. Vendors such as Happtique will provide what amounts to an “app formulary” for providers. Not only enabling the prescription of an app but the accompanying app adherence could be a valuable service.

Telehealth: Related to the previous example, more and more services can be provided remotely. Providing the tools and services to manage conditions remotely that aren’t device related is very possible. One of the first areas this is being done in is behavioral health. It will expand.
Remote monitoring: Ambucor is one example. There is a wide range of remote monitoring devices. These span devices, disease and health management. While it can be used for serious diseases, it’s not hard to imagine that health coaches could provide a service to manage wellness programs as personal biometric devices become more pervasive.

Some of the skills necessary to succeed on the above items can be gained by focusing on items that are also near-term issues. Patient engagement is a big focus for most Life Sciences companies. For example, there is an overlap of the need that providers have for patient education materials with Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements that pharma could be pivotal in helping them address. In addition, pharma has long had various scales given to patients such as those focused on pain or depression. A key step on the path to a broader disease management program would be to have scales that are highly interactive between the patient and their providers. The insights gleaned from enabling are critical to enabling that future scenario.

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Sermo looks for new leaders—and profitability

Sermo looks for new leaders—and profitability | Digital Pharma |
Sermo is searching for a CEO and a medical advisory board since the physician online community's founder, Dr. Daniel Palestrant, and chief medical officer, Dr. Adam Sharp, left in November to launch a new startup called Par8o.
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