Reflections from Digital Pharma West

Reflections from Digital Pharma West

By Zoe Dunn

What a great conference – some of the most consistently thoughtful content I have seen in one place in a long time. There was so much great content that it made for very long days (I believe our brains shut down after a while, which is a shame).

So my only input for the organizers – schedule fewer sessions and allow more time for engaging with the speakers. But engage we did anyway – the discussions were excellent, especially around the case studies. Special thanks to conference producers for allowing me to co-chair with John Vieira (Daiichi Sankyo). It was a blast!

Some highlights for me:

Several speakers, including Scott Tyson (Janssen), referenced the critical necessity for content strategy. Also loved his term “digital identity trail.”

Two references to The New York Times’ “Snowfall” piece, a highly interactive way of delivering content to be more engaging with video, imagery, and storytelling.

Greg Rice (Klick Health) recommended reinventing clinical data communications into infographics for better health literacy and accessibility.

Everything futurist Ian Morrison said, including, “Consumers would trade quality for cost/choice,” when the new health exchanges get implemented. And, “Pharma’s new customer is large, science-based healthcare systems, like Kaiser Permanente who will put pressure on pricing and outcomes.”

Jeanette Gibson (Cisco Systems) stressed the importance of listening and hearing what your customers are saying about you, then using that information to find fans and advocates, discover product issues, manage risk, and gain competitive insights. She stressed the future of social media in customer support and outlined a clear evaluation and action plan for response that should calm even the most nervous MLR team. “The last thing you want for your brand is to become a trending topic around #WTF #Fail. All you have to do is say you’re sorry or thank them.” And I loved her method of getting executives excited about the technology to drive organizational, top-down buy-in: put a “listening station” outside their offices.

Bill Drummy (Heartbeat) reiterated that doctors are becoming employees and formularies are being controlled, so we have to change who we are communicating to and how. An irksome fact: HCPs are outside the examination room only 10% of their day, yet Pharma spends 90% of their digital budget targeting HCPs during this short window. Sounds like that strategy has to change. Also, like Morrison, he recommends we target the financial buyers: the 500 existing accountable care organizations (ACOs) projected to reach 650 by 2014. ACOs want to see better products with improved health outcomes coupled with reduced cost and plenty of supporting materials like patient education.

Glenn Byrd (Medtronic) and Sheetal Patel (J&J) demystified regulatory feedback for concept reviews as they reviewed what information regulators need to efficiently evaluate innovative digital programs. Since ‘prominence and readability’ are key concerns, Glenn and Sheetal recommended evaluating content for every platform/channel it will be viewed on/in. There was also lively discussion around control of digital content as many companies still have a false view of being able to manage sharing. After all, anyone can easily take a screenshot of digital materials and share (from devices as well as desktops) and everything online is discoverable. It’s really shaking up the regulatory world. We are also expecting draft guidance from OPDP on “Correcting Misinformation Online” at some point in the ‘near’ future.

Brad Graner (InHealth) says Pharma has to think like hospitals when we market.  Hospitals are easily spending as much on DTC as Pharma is. He said 50% of all doctors and 75% of med students are currently employed by a hospital health system. Hospital marketing messages are around care, support, understanding their unique patient needs, and customer service. There is something to be learned here for Pharma.

Andrew “AJ” Moore (Sanofi) shared an exciting international launch case study with Australian flair. See our earlier interview with AJ for more on that!

And the award for creating the most unusual job in Pharma, while betting your career on its success and then leveraging that role to push the envelope every day, goes to Amy O’Connor (Eli Lilly). She is using LillyPad, the innovation site that Lilly developed to effect change in Washington, D.C. for patients, Pharma, and ultimately the whole healthcare industry. She tells her team, “Don’t tell me it can’t be done ‘because’. Find a way to make it possible. I’ve had it with ‘can’t’.”

Dev Dutta (Merck) went “old school” with an excellent talk on the qualities and impact of an effective email campaign. I’m amazed that the audience was more engaged and asked more questions than they did around any emerging media presentation. That made my heart happy. After all, if you’re not going to engage in social media, how are you going to create an ongoing dialogue with your customers for better adherence, loyalty, and influence? Email gives better bang for your buck than direct mail, more control than consumer-generated content in social media, and the opportunity for closed-loop marketing.

I’m bummed that I missed the Health Activist and ePatient Summit on the post-conference day, but at least we got a taste from Bob Brooks (Wego Health), who brought three health activists for the conference finale. Their enthusiasm was infectious and feedback was valuable. For example, we learned: patients don’t mind a three-day delay for posting comments and responses, because having a forum to communicate is more important. Diet helps so many medications work more effectively, so a more holistic focus on education would help achieve better outcomes. And patients love to see testimonials and what’s on the HCP website to feel more connected and informed.