Thursday, February 26, 2015

Patient Engagement and Improving the Lines of Communication

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Today, representatives from WEGO Health, Janssen US, HealthPrize, and The Great BowelMovement participated in a panel discussion to talk about the issues related to patient listening and engagement- how to capture patient voice, improve medication adherence, and work with online patient communities and activists.

The consensus among the panelists and participants was that patients need to be given the opportunity to define themselves- their needs, preferences, emotional state, and barriers in order for pharma to understand what role it can play within patient communities. As Todd Kolm from WEGO Health put it, “You won’t know if you don’t ask.”

Pharma Engagement with the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Community
In order to effectively support patients, Jennifer Thomas of Janssen US said that pharmaceutical companies and others must listen to the needs of the community, look deep to find hidden truths, and lead patients to credible information.

Over the past several years, Janssen has taken great strides to engage with patients. “We did a lot of listening to patients around the time that the FDA released its guidance on social media,” Thomas said.

Working with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients, Janssen found a really passionate group of people. “That’s where we started to really uncover what their needs are [in order to] hopefully engage with and bring value to them,” Thomas said.

Through it’s listening, Janssen uncovered themes within online discussions among IBD patients- treatments, daily living, and more. They also discovered a lot of confusion among patients, bad advice, and frustration.

“[We learned that] branded marketing messages were not the way that we were going to move the needle for the IBD patient community,” Thomas said.

Janssen developed a panel of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis activists to uncover online needs and perceptions in order to help shape key messaging and materials.

Thomas offered a piece of advice for other pharmaceutical companies preparing to embark on similar listening ventures. “Be ready to hear honest and real feedback, incorporate suggested changes, and to fall in love with the patient community. It’s a powerful way to bring what you do to life.”

Engaging Patients to Improve Medication Adherence
A neurosurgeon by training and former practice, Dr. Katrina Firlik of HealthPrize is looking at human psychology to understand what makes people take or not take medication.

Dr. Firlik embarked on research into medication adherence and non-adherence based around some sobering statistics:
-       In the United States, medication non-adherence accounts for $290 billion spent in otherwise avoidable medical costs
-       25 percent of new prescriptions are never filled
-       50 percent of new patients quit refilling their scripts within 12 months

For years, medication non-adherence was attributed to either high costs or patient forgetfulness. However, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine yielded other reasons that patients did not take their medication:
“I’ve never been a pill person.”
“I don’t believe in them.”
“If there is a lawsuit out there about side effects, I’m not taking it.”
“I don’t like taking medication, period.”
“I’m old-fashioned. I don’t take medicine for anything.”

Looking at similar studies, Dr. Firlik and her team at HealthPrize concluded that providers and pharmaceutical companies need to find a way to make the medication taking process more positive. HealthPrize created short-term rewards, which yielded high engagement rates because of the instant gratification patients receive.

Rewards aren’t the end all be all for medication adherence. Dr. Firlik said that the benefits of taking medication need to be better communicated. “[Being on] medication can impose a sick identity antithetical to how a patient feels,” she said. “A positive metaphor or visual can help express a medication’s benefit. We need to leverage the power of personal testimony and videos.”

The negatives of non-adherence also need to be communicated more effectively. Dr. Firlik suggested that virtual reality could be used to show patients the impact of taking medication to manage an illness versus not taking the medication. This would provide patients with a realistic look at their illness and make better decisions about their treatment plan.

Patient Perspective on Engagement
Andrea Meyer grew up in a highly regimented family- everything was planned out. But in 2001, her life was flung into inconsistency. The co-founder of the Great Bowel Movement said she went through months of debilitating pain, weight loss and hair loss.

“College is when it came to a head,” Meyer said. “After my 21st trip to the bathroom in a 24 hour period, I decided I was done with loss. I needed to know what was wrong. I wanted to gain things again- knowledge and hope- and I wanted a plan.”

Meyer was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and about seven years ago, had surgery to remove part of her intestines. Once she was recovered and healthy, she decided she needed to do something useful and set forth on her path to becoming an advocate.

“When you’re chronically ill, you have to learn how to be a patient for the rest of your life,” Meyer said. “You can’t see a finish line.”

She said patient engagement is key to giving chronically ill patients some sense of control back into their lives. “When someone is first diagnosed [with a chronic illness], there is a sense of being victimized. Asking someone to be engaged gives him or her a piece of control back. That’s huge,” she said. “Patients are like horses- they are going to spook easily and will respond best to repetition and consistency.  Once you reach out to them, they are going to look to you to lead the way.”

For pharmaceutical companies and others looking to build relationships with an online patient community, Meyer says that authenticity is important. “Nothing spreads faster than genuine reliable content.”

So what do patients want from pharmaceutical companies? According to Meyer, “complimentary services and information that go hand-in-hand with drugs and procedures. Patients are big sponges. If the information is there (and it should be), we are going to take advantage of that.”

Additionally, she cautioned pharma to maintain a presence once they begin engaging. “We want to know we’re headed somewhere together- don’t just survey the community and disappear,” Meyer said. “We want to know where everything is going.”

While a social media presence is a must, Meyer ended by cautioning pharma from trying to do too much. “Don’t be a diner,” she said. “You don’t have to do everything. Pick a couple of things and do them well; don’t do everything mediocre. It will pay off leaps and bounds.”

About the author:
Rebecca Kaplan is a communications consultant, freelance writer, and blogger. You can read more about her life loving someone with Crohn's disease on her blog, on Huffington Post, or follow her on Twitter



Turning Underdog Brands into Overachievers

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Closing out ePharma Summit 2015 this afternoon in New York City, Bill Drummy, CEO of Heartbeat Ideas, talked to us about turning underdog brands into overachievers.

If you are an underdog, you have to overcome a lot of skepticism and obstacles. Many of us see ourselves as “the underdog.” On the other hand, there’s very little resonance with “the top dog.”
The underdog effect impacts the pharma industry in many ways. The underdog brand struggle includes less money, fewer resources, but must quickly prove success.

What is the behavior of an underdog that causes overachieving? You have to think different, be bold and stand out, you have to move really quickly, and you have to use tools in an innovative way.
Some examples of underdog marketing campaigns outside the pharma industry include K-Mart’s “Ship Your Pants” campaign and Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign, which were both highly successful almost immediately.

In the pharma industry, a brand called Sientra has been a successful underdog because it thinks with absolutely clarity. It created new marketing campaigns targeting plastic surgeons and consumers. In turn, these successful brand marketing campaigns caused Sientra to go from nothing to an IPO in just over two years.

In addition, a brand called Testin created another successful campaign that launched it into success after speaking directly to the male consumer about low testosterone through TV and web by using humor and unique creative.

Overall, underdog brands in the pharma industry today can become market leaders by adding creativity and innovation into their marketing and advertising campaigns.


About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.

Is 2015 the year Pharma "Likes" Social?

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In 2014 the FDA finally began to carve out a position on social media. While the current guidance is far from complete, we are beginning to see definition around some of the key areas in social media where pharma would like to play. With a more definitive set of guidelines, expected to be released in the coming months (fingers crossed), the road forward for pharma in social media could become a little clearer.

This is an exciting prospect, but how ready is pharma for social, really? While some companies have been way ahead of the curve, many are just starting to think about social media as a viable channel. We’re getting there! But for those who are just beginning to test the waters, what should you be thinking about?

HERE ARE FOUR CRITICAL AREAS TO CONSIDER:

1. User-generated Content
Commenting, sharing, re-tweets…it can all seem a little overwhelming to manage. The good news is that the FDA will not hold brands accountable for social content that is deemed “truly independent”. This will likely free brands from direct responsibility for comments posted on or to their social channels, which allows for a more genuinely “social” interaction with users.

However, fear of negative brand comments and adverse event (AE) reports are often one of the biggest hurdles for pharma marketers to overcome as they prepare their organization to launch a social media channel or campaign. In fact, valid AE reports are extremely rare in social media—a recent study found only 0.3% of social posts contained an actionable AE. As for negative comments, the best thing a brand can do is be prepared to get ahead of a potential problem. Negative conversations will likely happen with or without you, so put processes in place to proactively address issues if/when they come up.

Takeaway: Think through every possible issue and develop a detailed response plan and protocol to prepare for user comments.


2. Fair Balance Requirements
Social media can be especially complicated for branded pharma communications because of fair balance requirements. Most social platforms are set up to deliver micro-communications that are structured around character limitations (eg, Twitter’s 140-character count). The FDA requires any brand message that includes both brand name and indication to carry the full fair balance. Posting the fair balance prominently on a brand’s social channel isn’t enough, especially when you consider that most social posts are viewed as part of a feed and not on the brand’s homepage.

Some pharma brands have gotten around this rule by creating branded social platforms that never mention the disease they are indicated to treat. While this can be somewhat effective if the brand name is well recognized, there isn’t much value for the user in Tweets or Facebook posts from a brand that can’t actually talk about what it does or the condition it treats.

Takeaway: As long as fair balance requirements remain as is, branded pharma communications in social media may not be worth the level of effort required to make them happen.

3. Internal Regulatory Preparedness
In many cases, ambitious or innovative ideas don’t make it through the medical/legal regulatory review phase. Due diligence is an important part of the process, so how do we manage regulatory concerns while also maintaining the essence of a social experience?

First, be realistic about what’s possible in a regulated environment. While it can often be creatively rewarding to push boundaries, it’s important to acknowledge that there are certain things we just won’t be able to say. Be mindful of where the roadblocks are and push your teams to think around them, not ignore them.

Second, in many cases, regulatory teams have little or no familiarity with the social media space. Sure, they’re probably using Facebook but they have likely never really thought about how social platforms work or what types of guardrails can be put in place to help pharma brands remain compliant with FDA regulations. Instead of throwing your hands up in the air and wailing about mean old regulatory, take some time to work with them to explain how each social media platform works and how you intend to manage it.

Takeaway: Make it your mission to help educate regulatory teams— it’s amazing what a difference this can make!

4. Planning and Resources
Once you’ve cleared the way to move forward with social media, how do you actually make it happen? An effective social media strategy includes meticulous editorial and engagement planning, as well as ongoing channel management. One of the biggest mistakes we see brands make is launching one or more social media channels without considering the need for a plan or a community manager. You’ll likely be able to spot these unmanaged channels in a couple of ways: 1) They post sporadically (some laying dormant for months or even years) 2) The channel content is almost entirely self promotional.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s called social media for a reason. A brand should establish a unique voice and presence, interact with users (even if only occasionally), monitor the conversation and deliver compelling content that users are interested in. This takes time and effort. Don’t assume that you can get away with letting the channel run itself.

Takeaway: Community Management is a full-time job and it is well worth the investment.

Social Media is more than just a passing fad, it’s now firmly established as a valuable communications tool. With guidance becoming clearer for pharma, now is the time to explore what’s possible!

About the Author: Sarah Campbell is the SVP Group Director of Digital Activation at McCann HumanCare, an integrated health & wellness communications agency that’s part of McCann Worldgroup. Connect with us on LinkedIN.




Daiichi Sankyo & Partners Healthcare Center for Connected Health Use Mobile Techn to Increase Engagement

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This morning at ePharma Summit 2015 in New York City, Greg Barrett, vice president of marketing at Daiichi Sankyo Pharmaceuticals and Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health/Partners Healthcare talked to us about how they worked together to leverage mobile technologies to increase engagement.

Since the 1960s, the United States has been awarded more Nobel Prizes in medicine than the rest of the world combined. So, with all of this brilliance and investment, why is it that the NIH looks at the U.S. and it consistently performs at the bottom year after year. Things like this don’t change unless you change the dollars behind the equation. “We have to address quality and efficiency in U.S. healthcare,” the speakers said.

In fact, The Affordable Care Act has created significant shifts in our healthcare system. The pharma industry has to address quality and efficiency to address these shifts. “We are moving towards value-based reimbursement in our healthcare system.”

So, how does the pharma industry move beyond the pill? There are two options: bundle with therapeutics or compete with yourself, according to the speakers.

As the pharmaceutical landscape continues to evolve, with a lot of new customer types, a shift in how health care is being delivered and the opportunity to leverage new technologies, Sankyo saw an opportunity to increase patient engagement.  In the Fall of 2014, Sankyo and the Center for Connected Health announced a partnership to create a coaching platform that engages patients in their care and supports behavior change with the ultimate goal of improving patient health.

Their new program is intended to improve the patient engagement and patient-provider dialogue. We learned how they are harnessing mobile and taking a “pill-plus” mentality, and hear the feedback they’ve received on this innovative programming from HCPs and patients thus far.


About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.

Patient Engagement in a Changing Ecosystem—How Expectations Are Changing for All Stakeholders

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This morning at ePharma 2015 in New York City, Jeremy Shepler, patient-centered strategy and solutions at Novo Nordisk, took the keynote stage to discuss how patient engagement in a changing ecosystem is changing expectations for all stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry.

The ACA has been a catalyst for a dramatic shift in the healthcare landscape toward more empowered patients and more powerful payers, potentially upending the way we market our products.  But, there is a big gap between cost and quality of United States healthcare. Today the U.S. outpaces other countries in cost, but not outcomes. In fact, almost one out of every five dollars is spent on healthcare in the U.S. This is not sustainable, period, according to Shepler.

“This is the challenge that we all face and this is causing the model in the pharmaceutical industry to change dramatically,” he explained.

Today, engaging patients is critical to improve health outcomes and improve system costs. This challenge leads to a huge and complex issue that we’ve been talking about for years – patient adherence. A new level of support must address the unmet needs of multiple constituents.

Currently, the pharma industry is shifting its focus very slowly, but it is working to become more customer-centric.  Patient empowerment is not dead, but we have to have a more deliberate focus on our customers, not just ourselves.

Are we structured to do this? Perhaps it’s not about structure, according to Shepler. Instead, maybe it’s about our mindset. If we are going to change this, it has to change at the top of our organizations. He said, “This change is not going to be easy and it’s going to take time.”


About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Integrating Digital Marketing with Field Force Engagements

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This afternoon at ePharma 2015 in New York City, Brian McHale, Enterprise Multi Channel Marketing, Global Commercial Operations at Pfizer, talked to us about integrating digital marketing with field force engagements.


Ideally, sales forces and digital marketing materials will have a synergistic effect on promotion, providing HCPs with face-to-face relationships and digital information. Over the years, the numbers of sales pharma sales representatives have decreased, but the nature of who and what this field rep is, is changing and their responsibilities are changing.

Today, in most of the major markets around the globe the sales force continues to be the major investment for pharma. The impact of relationship generates sales. Often the relationship is a sales generator.

So, how do we make the most out of the sales force as a significant pharma investment?

For example, McHale and his team at Pfizer launched a rep triggered email strategy to integrate marketing and field force. This strategy allowed reps to enhance their relationship with the physician by providing timely and impactful resources and information via email. It also enables reps to communicate with customers in a manner that is aligned with how customers engage with information today. This strategy increases between HCPs and brands and drives “pull through” of other MCM programs.


About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.

How Real Life Experience Can Enrich CX & Put Customers in Control of Their Health

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Thomas Goetz, co-founder, Chief Executive Officer of Iodine took the keynote stage this morning at ePharma Summit 2015 in New York City to discuss the importance of customer experience in healthcare and pharma.

Today, clinical measures of medication efficacy and side-effects are the gold standard for targeting therapeutic interventions. But, that approach omits a valuable complementary dataset: people’s real life experience. Founded by the former editor of Wired and a former Google computer scientist, Iodine has created a new way to gather, surface, and filter this real life experience, putting consumers in the driver’s seat to make smarter, more informed decisions.

Today, Goetz looked at the core principles that serve people’s every day health. The notion of being lost and being in the wilderness without a guide or a map is a metaphor for so many people in their health and medical paths.

“We are without a guidebook – the people outside of the industry who are trying to cope with their daily struggles. They are urgently in need of a guidebook telling them how to stay alive in healthcare,” he explained.

According to Goetz, the reason this guidebook doesn’t exist is because medicine is hard. It is this confluence of a highly complicated system that is really hard to orient yourself to. Everyday life is a messy process with mortgages, kids, television shows, health, etc. “That is the world in which medicine happens – the messy landscape of peoples’ lives.”

So, we are dealing with this through the externalization of healthcare and medicine through things like Wearable Technology and mHealth. Where people live their lives, they really need personal medicine - giving them the information they need when they need amid that messiness of real life.
Where is consumer experience happening? We are measuring consumer experience in every possible avenue except in healthcare and medicine. Goetz said, “We haven’t broken through this last frontier in healthcare. We are failing them to give them an experience they are getting in every other aspect of their lives.”

Tools like on Car.com, Yelp or Trip Advisor are tools that consumers need in healthcare. And, these are opportunities where his company Iodine can help people see the landscape. This is not a replacement for the traditional measurement of clinical validity or assessing what is the right medicine for the right patient. Instead, at Iodine, Goetz is creating a complimentary world for patients making assessments of medications.

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.


Major Changes in Healthcare Affecting Pharma Today

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Following the chairman’s opening keynote at ePharma Summit 2015 today in New York City, Paul Ivans, founder, president & CEO at Evolution Road Consulting lead the 11th Annual Thought Leader Panel.

The panel of industry pioneers discussed the major challenges in healthcare affecting pharma these days, and what the future holds for the industry. In the panel, we learned from industry leaders already adapting to the new healthcare ecosystem in the areas of EHRs, patient engagement, improving health outcomes, pharma’s new customers, and the paradigm shift from volume to value.
The panelists included Jonathan Gordon, director, Strategy at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Craig Kemp, Innovative Partnerships at Merck Vaccines, and Monique Levy, Vice President of Research at Manhattan Research.

One of the key challenges in healthcare affecting pharma is understanding that decision making is getting stricter; marketing is optimized to the point of sale. This, in turn, brings up questions of how you need to evolve and understand new markets. In fact, one in five patients say that cost is a deciding factor for choosing a drug. So, according to the panel, on websites and digital material, pharma marketers need to help patients understand what to do when they run into price problems and how to navigate those issues.

Although these are all real challenges for today, the question is where will we be tomorrow? What will the challenges be then? How do we establish value upfront that drives the decisions that we are dealing with today. Pharma marketers need to be thinking about what does is look like in six years and what do I need to bring to the table. The question is how do you change the game moving forward about who should really make the decision? The patient who is the sufferer should have a bigger role. If we are true innovators, we have to be looking at where we will be in three to five years, not just where we are today.

Overall, the pharma marketing industry has a sense of where they need to go, but they aren’t quite sure exactly how to get there. The value is really about the shifting of risk, and the risk presiding purely on the payer has caused a major hazard.  The theory going forward is for pharma marketers to put more risk in the hands of the providers like the doctors.

Another big challenge in this industry is how to integrate all of these different silos in a way that can tell a comprehensive story and a value proposition to customers. Today, in both big pharma and little pharma, it’s really about the ability to make informed choices and make them a responsible way.
What other challenges have you seen?


About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#ePharma 2015: Day 1

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Today marks the start of the ePharma Summit in New York City- three days full of presentations, networking, and information sharing between marketing, pharmaceutical, and healthcare professionals. I am excited to be attending the summit and learning more about how pharmaceutical companies and working to digitally engage with patients on a higher level.

If today’s pre-conference sessions are any indication, participants are going to come away from the summit with the knowledge and skills necessary to start better engaging with patient communities online.

I was particularly interested in two sessions today- one presented by Robert Muller, Roche Diagnostics Corps’ Digital Marketing Manager, and one from Bob Brooks, Executive Vice President of WEGO Health. Muller and Brooks both focused on the need to listen to patients and online activists and engage with them in a meaningful way in order to improve brand reputation, appear empathetic, build relationships, and stay relevant.

Here are some of the top line messages from these sessions:
  • You can’t serve a community you don’t know. You have to learn about your audiences and meet them where they are.
  • Patients want you to empathize with them, not sympathize. Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy fuels disconnection.
  • Listening is the key to engaging with patients- listening gives you the power to understand what’s important to your audience; know what they are discussing; identify how you can add to the conversation; learn what they are saying about your brand; and figure out how you can enter the conversation space without offending them.
  • You shouldn’t focus on controlling the message- the more you try, the more irrelevant you’ll become. Instead, you should be part of the conversation- it’s immediate, personal, and will bring personality to your brand.
  • Your audience won’t care about you until they know you care about them. You need to build a report with them in order to get them to care about your messages.
  • Don’t try to be something you’re not. If you are going to go out and join an online community, be very transparent about whom you are and why you’re there.
  • One of the basic tenants of business is that people like to do business with people they like- provide a human touch in your communications in order to accomplish that.
Stay tuned for more ePharma summit updates throughout the week!

About the author:
Rebecca Kaplan is a communications consultant, freelance writer, and blogger. You can read more about her life loving someone with Crohn's disease on her blog, on Huffington Post, or follow her on Twitter


Monday, February 23, 2015

Patient Engagement Sessions to Attend During ePharma Summit

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Tomorrow, IIR’s 14th ePharma at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City will be underway. Over the course of three days, numerous presentations will be given about how the pharmaceutical industry can better utilize digital tools in order to engage patients, providers, and payers. As a health care blogger, I am excited for the opportunity to learn directly from Pharma representatives about their digital initiatives and how they are working to empower patients to take control of their health.

The agenda for the summit is jam packed with interesting sessions about Electronic Health Records, mHealth technology, patient engagement, and more. There are a few sessions that I am looking forward to attending in particular:

  • Listening to Consumers' Needs to Provide Them with Valuable Content (February 24)
    • I have long said that in order for any health care company to market a product, it needs to use consumer input- i.e. talk to patients and listen to their experiences firsthand. During this session, Roche Diagnostics Corp. will talk about their experience doing just that- engaging with patient groups and creating dynamic, engaging content from their input.
  • Building a Strong Patient Engagement Strategy (February 24)
    • Similar to the session above, this one focuses on the importance of patient engagement. I look forward to learning from Purdue Pharma about how taking a patient-centric approach can benefit ePharma and improve patient care and treatment compliance.
  • The Patient’s Voice: Defining the Opportunity (February 24)
    • Following my interest in patient engagement, I am excited to see WEGO Health on the agenda for the ePharma Summit. WEGO Health does a fantastic job of promoting online patient advocacy and during this session, they will discuss the opportunities available for Pharma to engage with patient communities online.
  • My GI Health: Charting the course to GUT health through GUT feelings – A Progress Update from the last ePharma (February 25)
    • As someone who cares for a patient with a chronic digestive disease, this session has truly peaked my interest. According to the session description, “MY GI HEALTH is an automated on-line, in-office, and mobile application that captures, assesses and interprets gastrointestinal symptoms based on a data logic algorithm. It automatically translates the input into a full patient history and will improve the efficiency of the office visit…MY GI HEALTH tailors educational resources for the physician and patient to improve their dialogue, understanding and productivity of the office visit. This innovative capability has established a technology platform as a standalone app or within an EHR that can integrate multiple data sources such as a GI symptom assessment, a dietary assessment instrument, data from a wearable acoustic intestinal sound analyzer, and clinical treatment response.” MY GI HEALTH sounds like it could be a game changer for those living with gastrointestinal diseases and I am looking forward to learning more about how it brings together all the players across the healthcare ecosystem to bring down costs, enhance quality of care, and improve patient health outcomes.
  • • A Patient's POV: Connecting with Patient Communities (February 26)
    • I am a little biased when I say that this session is one not to miss! Andrea Meyer of The Great Bowel Movement is a fantastic advocate and blogger and someone that I have worked with closely in my advocacy efforts on behalf of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases. The work that Andrea and GBM does extends far beyond the digital sphere and this session will highlight how they are making strides to work not only with patient communities but also with Pharma, healthcare providers, and more.
  • Discover Hidden Truths & Capture the Patient Voice (February 26)
    • As I mentioned in my last blog post, there are some Pharma companies who have already made great strides toward executing programs that effectively engage patients. Janssen Biotech, in particular, has been incredibly engaged with the inflammatory bowel disease community both online and offline through its IBD Social Circle. It’s appropriate, then, that during this session, Janssen will highlight their work to engage patients and utilize the true patient voice.

Picking five sessions to highlight was incredibly difficult, as the entire ePharma Summit agenda offers incredible opportunities for learning. However, these sessions aren’t what I am most excited about. There is one thing that I am looking forward to even more- meeting all of you! If you will be at ePharma, I hope we will get to meet and discuss how you are working to expand your digital presence and effectively engage with patients, caregivers, and others in order to improve care and enhance the patient experience.


About the author:
Rebecca Kaplan is a communications consultant, freelance writer, and blogger. You can read more about her life loving someone with Crohn's disease on her blog, on Huffington Post, or follow her on Twitter


She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event.  ePharma will take place February 24-26, 2015 in New York City.  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us with priority code XP2006BL, you can save $100 off current rates!