Wednesday, April 29, 2015

3 Voice Recognition Platforms that Integrate with EHRs

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The user experience of documentation has been a problem ever since providers began using EHRs on a widespread scale.

While EHRs are effective vehicles for documentation, they are not the most efficient mediums. Physicians have never really warmed to the drop down menus and numerous points and clicks required to enter information. In a profession perpetually strapped for time, the added hours of data input are a significant burden.

Voice recognition software offers a viable alternative to the cumbersome EHR interface. Once offered as separate software, the top voice recognition apps now integrate directly with a number of EHR platforms.

Adoption of this software has been hamstrung by low accuracy rates — low in this context meaning in the 80 percent range — but improvements in the software’s transcription capabilities have boosted accuracy rates into the mid to high 90 percentages.

And the benefits looking promising. 

KLAS recently interviewed 10 hospitals about voice recognition, and nine out of 10 hospitals plan to expand their use of speech recognition. All of these hospitals already used voice recognition in some capacity, and correlated improvements in transcription time, documentation time, and completeness of patient narratives to the use of this software.

Depending on the type of voice recognition process hospitals set up, the facility can save a substantial amount on transcription fees. If the accuracy of the patient document can be maintained, these improvements in transcription and documentation time can also improve clinical documentation, which can result in a higher reimbursement rate.

Types of Voice Recognition Software

Voice recognition software comes in two broad forms: front-end and back-end.

Front-end voice recognition software relies on a physician or nurse to activate the software, select the right input fields while dictating notes, review the notes, and then sign off on the document.

KLAS’s study looked at front-end voice recognition specifically, and this type of software seems to be more popular because it significantly reduces the role of the transcriptionist and recoups those expenses for the hospital or practice.

However, a front-end process does require a physician or healthcare provider to review and sign off on the text, which can take longer.

A back-end process relies on the software to convert speech directly into text without initial oversight from the physician who dictated the notes. The text is then filtered through a template that captures the requisite clinical information. At the end of the process, a transcriptionist reviews the form, but a physician or other provider usually still signs off on the completed document.

3 Market Leaders

A provider of speech recognition in multiple industries, Nuance’s Dragon Medical speech recognition software is the clear leader in the healthcare segment of speech recognition. The capabilities of Nuance’s speech recognition software are so advanced that they even play a large role in the iPhone’s Siri application.

In terms of utility, Dragon — a particular voice recognition company acquired by Nuance — boasts 99 percent accuracy and features vocabulary for over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties. This voice recognition app claims to work with nearly any Windows-based EHR system, but features notable integrations with Epic, Cerner, and GE systems.

The application’s functionality is extensive. Users can call up macros or templates for different scenarios, such as a new patient encounter or SOAP notes. Once inside the template, providers can use shortcuts for common diagnosis and ICD codes to reduce the time it takes to find and enter information.

Providers can choose from one of three product tiers: small practices, medium practices, and enterprise. Each features a specific functionality set calibrated to fit the needs of a particular type of customer.

Less well known than Nuance, Dolbey has quietly produced voice recognition software that actually surpassed their more famous rival in a recent KLAS report. Dolbey’s FusionEMR scored a 90.3 to Nuance’s Dragon Medical score of 86 and ranked highest in Sales and Contracting, Implementation and Training, Functionality and Upgrades, and Service and Support.

Dolbey’s FusionEMR features many of the same functions as Dragon Medical but operates as a one size fits all solution instead of delivering different levels of functionality to certain market segments. Like Dragon Medical, FusionEMR claims to integrate with any EMR platform by using FusionEMR as an interface between Fusion Expert (Dolbey’s front-end recognition software) and the free text forms of third party applications.

Other unique features of Dolbey’s offering include having just one user profile for both back-end and front-end applications, which can simplify the transcription process if your facility is planning on outsourcing that service.

Based in Nashville, Tennessee — the same stronghold as the now struggling M*Modal — Entrada uses smartphones as its primary dictation platform. They have native apps for both iOS and Android operating systems, though the company also offers desktop and tablet solutions.

Entrada may not be as storied as Dolbey or Nuance, but this voice recognition vendor was recognized as the fastest growing privately held company in Tennessee and named to the Inc. 500 list in 2014.
Entrada’s software allows physicians to dictate notes directly into their mobile device and tag sections of the patient narrative throughout the process. The data is then directed to Entrada’s editing center where transcribers edit the notes and redirect them into the EHR system.

Using a smartphone for dictation is convenient, and Entrada’s software gives providers the ability to capture remote images and view patient data directly in an EHR. In addition to its impressive growth, Entrada also has strategic partnerships with athenahealth, Greenway, NextGen, and Allscripts.

If KLAS’s report is any indication, voice recognition could be one of the first major medical software supplements for EHR systems. If physicians are unhappy with their workflow, voice dictation offers a powerful alternative, even if the market of vendors is still relatively small.

About the Author:  Zach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers gamification, healthcare IT, business intelligence, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Evolving Your Marketing Strategy to Engage with Physicians

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Regulatory changes and advancements in healthcare technology are motivating providers to adopt new technologies. Federal incentives and payer pressure for high-quality data are spurring healthcare practitioners to integrate e-Prescribing and Electronic Health Records into their practice. A study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that eight out of 10 office-based physicians now have some type of EHR system and 72% are now certified e-Prescribers, according to the 2013 National Progress Report from SureScripts.

However, increased adoption of healthcare technology into physician practices does not necessarily mean these solutions are being fully embraced. Impediments to workflow caused by new technologies, as well as functionality shortfalls are causing practitioners to depend on tried-and-true traditional methods alongside these digital tools. For example, HCPs remain reliant on pen and paper even when they have access to electronic prescribing, particularly to prescribe controlled substances. In fact, less than 25% of all prescriptions dispensed in 2013 were actually issued electronically.

So how does pharma engage with prescribers as they blend traditional tools with new digital solutions? The key is to evolve marketing strategies into a multi-channel approach that allows marketers to analyze which channels are achieving engagement goals and determine a truer return on investment of marketing communications activities.

Merging Traditional Channels with Digital Solutions

Pharma companies have all the tools at their disposal to develop a comprehensive multi-channel program that integrates traditional marketing with new technology. Implementing a successful strategy involves six critical key steps.

1.)    Set Clear Goals – Knowing what you are looking to achieve makes reaching these goals more likely. Defining objectives of a campaign is the foundation for building a strong strategic plan, as well as a reference point for whether the campaign is delivering. Don’t forget to establish a baseline for measurement.

2.)    Define Your Target Audience – Leverage your physician database or work with a third-party provider to establish the best target audience. Defining targets will help you to optimize the marketing spend by narrowing in on the physicians that are most likely to contribute to your end goal.

3.)    Determine Your Channel Mix Put yourself in the position of the provider. Practitioners today are more time-pressed than ever before, and therefore, are more selective about when and where they interact with pharma. Choose an integrated mix of digital and traditional channels that best fits the needs of your target audience.  

4.)    Adapt Your Message – It’s important that your brand message remains consistent across all channels, but cater the message slightly for each individual channel in order to yield the best response from providers. If you are targeting different audiences with your campaign, it’s also critical to customize your message  for each physician group. It is worth investing the extra MLR time to customize your messaging.

5.)    Harness Data – A multi-channel campaign is only successful if you leverage the collected data to tailor the use of channels and messages in future marketing campaigns. Build profiles for each physician that identifies their responses, interaction, conversion, etc. This insight can result in increased engagement and relevancy.  

6.)    Optimize for Mobile – Your targets are viewing this content at the point of care on their smartphones or tablets.

Reaching physicians and impacting their behavior requires pharma to be in the right place, at the right time. In an environment where physicians are using a combination of digital solutions and traditional methods, the best way to engage with providers is through a multi-channel approach that leverages the unique advantages of each tactic.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Breaking through the Noise: Reaching Physicians with Precision Targeting and Customized Messaging

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Changes in the healthcare environment have made market segmentation and targeting more critical than ever before. Diminished access to physicians and shrinking sales forces are forcing pharma to explore new ways to reach prescribers in lieu of face-to-face rep meetings. In order to succeed in this non-personal business model, marketers need to consider the mounting demands on providers. A value-based reimbursement model, adoption of new technologies, and changing patient demands are putting pressure on physicians’ time.

This creates a growing urgency for pharma to deliver the right messages to the right providers at the right time. Given the challenges associated with this current marketing dynamic – to say nothing of competitive pressures – implementing best practices can help life science companies concoct a successful formula.  

Segment Your Audience
Although some channels offer the flexibility to reach a large prescriber base, targeting providers with irrelevant messages can erode their perception of your brand. Not to mention, it results in wasted marketing costs. An audience segmentation strategy should be developed that is based on a combination of demographics, psychographics, decile, prescribing patterns and patient data.
It’s imperative to work with your channel partners to hone in on the right targets. Investing the time early on to effectively segment your audiences will benefit both the provider and the patient, which will lead to positive results for the brand.

Develop Concise, Customized Messages
Each physician segment may require a different messaging strategy. Understanding each provider’s needs, interests, and motivators will allow brands to develop meaningful messages. Study after study shows that personalized content can increase audience responsiveness while reducing promotional costs, creating an optimal return on investment for your marketing dollars.

The more concise a message, the more likely it is to be consumed by a time-pressed physician. The average adult's attention span is down to just 8 seconds, so messages need to be brief, clear and compelling. This is particularly important when attempting to communicate with providers at the point of care when they are making critical clinical decisions.

Establish a Multi-channel Mix
No one channel is THE right channel. The best way to determine a physician’s preference for when he/she wants to receive marketing messages is to establish an integrated multi-channel mix. This approach will also help to increase brand recognition by reaching physicians at different touch points throughout their day.

Select a few channels where your audiences are interacting on a regular basis and are receptive to promotional messages. Integrate a combination of digital approaches and traditional print vehicles to effectively cut through the noise and reach a diverse prescriber base at a variety of touch points.

Measure Results and Refine Database
Before even launching a campaign, marketers need to identify the measurement criteria that will be used in post-program ROI and impact analysis. Properly evaluating a campaign will allow marketers to determine which strategies and channels yielded the best results. This data can be used over time to refine your marketing mix and optimize your investment. Ask channel partners to share measurement results and work with a third-party credible company that can measure audience exposure and interaction.

About the author: Robert Bedford is the Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing of MediScripts. His career spans a wide breadth of prominent positions at leading direct to pharmaceutical marketing services companies. Robert is supporting MediScripts’ growing suite of clinical management solutions designed to help marketers reach physicians at the point of care.
Connect with MediScripts on LinkedIn.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Payers, Personalization and Patients

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This post is brought to you by our partner PharmiWeb Solutions and originally posted on their website.  PharmiWeb Solutions was born in November 2003 - the brainchild of a group of people who saw the benefits of bringing digital to pharma and healthcare. 

By: Avril Humphrey, Client Services Executive (US Office) 

Increasingly in the Pharma industry, we are seeing that the rather fixed mindsets that can result in frustration among digital marketers are being challenged by the evolving world of our customers and the consumers of our products. How can an industry stand still when there are new decision makers, new ways of sharing information and, critically, new ways of seeing how that information is being received by patients or physicians?

ePharma 2015 touched on all these topics and more, allowing speakers to present their experiences and insights into how we can navigate new territories or, at least, start to enter arenas which have so far been perceived as too risky. 

So, who are our payers, how are we targeting them and are we doing this effectively? The Affordable Care Act, part of wider Healthcare Reform, is cited as the most impactful change of recent years, and the effects are still being understood, including the influence on access to physicians and the consideration of a new customer segment of decision makers. As we consider the breadth of roles that now impact prescribing, we need to think about the content that is being promoted and how this is being done. This is where digital is integral to ensuring that the Pharma industry can stay relevant and adaptable. The tools in the field and online represent an opportunity to tailor your message across different channels and audiences; the data analysis tools above the field allow you to assess how successful your strategy is.

Tailoring your content and targeting your audience are essential to a strategy that presents the right people with what they want or need to see. We’re not in a position to create an experience for physicians, and they don’t necessarily want this – distinct from other industries, customers within Pharma are skeptical of the information they are being given and what they have to provide in return to see it. Within these limitations (and others), the only way to cut through the deluge of material available to, and directed at, physicians is to give them information that provides value, in a way that they want to see it. To do this, though, is to evolve the approach to content creation and distribution, as well as to navigate the complex course of federal and organizational approval systems and processes. Continuous analysis of the result of these efforts, however, makes it possible to gain a real return on the investment by evaluating and subsequently adapting tactics based on the evidence available.

As for the patient, can we accept the risk of evaluating their experience or creating a dialogue with them? Patients have opinions: they care about the drugs they are taking, how those drugs are making them feel and how those drugs are making other patients feel. The opinions of patients matter: an informed and supported patient is more likely to see the value in the medications they are prescribed, leading to better adherence and outcomes. Methods of opening up this communication with patients exist and there is a drive to use these from patient advocacy groups, as well as patients themselves and brand teams.  As Pharma continues to recognize the mutual value of this sort of engagement, and the qualitative results that can be gained, the commitment to new interactions signposts a promising trend towards transparency and consideration for the patient experience. 

As ePharma gave delegates an opportunity to see, digital is opening up better and more intelligent avenues to personalize the physician, payer and patient experience by providing the means through which we can target users, tailor content and appraise the results. It’s up to us to use it properly to reap the benefits.

Do you need help in creating your very own Digital Ecosystem? At PharmiWeb Solutions we help our customers understand what their customers want from a digital experience and deliver on this, from strategy and scoping to data & insights. Contact us to find out more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why You Should Sync Your CRM and Marketing Automation

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By: Zach Watson, content manager, TechnologyAdvice

Disagreements between marketing and sales are well documented. More often than not, the two departments most responsible for fulfilling the needs of the customer can’t seem to get along.

What keeps the fires of their feud burning? Usually, misalignment and data silos. The bickering between sales and marketing often comes down to the quality of leads and the consistency of follow up. Marketing generates poor leads. Sales doesn’t follow up with enough opportunities to make an impact.

To get marketing and sales to stop bickering and start collaborating in a productive (and profitable) way, you need to make sure both parties have access to longitudinal data about their customers. In order to do that, you have to sync your marketing automation (MA) software with your customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Clarity Through Connection

Because marketing and sales are the two most customer-facing departments, it makes sense that their main software systems would hold the majority of customer information.

For sales, the CRM has long been the repository for lead and contact information, and it’s more recently become a type of operating systems for emails, social selling, and other important sales tasks.

The marketing automation platform is a less mature product, but it’s finding a place as a central hub for a number of marketing tactics that span email, social media, landing pages, pay per click marketing, and more. This wide range of functionality means these systems gather a tremendous amount of behavioral data.

Connecting the online behavioral data from a marketing automation system with the qualitative data in a CRM helps build a more holistic buyer’s journey, complete with data on leads throughout the funnel.

Better education. Better Leads.

Connecting these two systems is especially important for increasing revenue. MarketingSherpa reports that 61 percent of business-to-business marketers (which includes pharmaceutical and life science companies) pass every lead directly to sales despite only around 27 percent being qualified.
Talking to sales early in the purchasing cycle is contrary to how the majority of consumers — both business and personal — make decisions about products and services.

Postwire Founder and CEO Cliff Polan explains, “in the old world of sales, salespeople controlled the information. Today, all of the information is publicly available on the internet. The salespeople must now add value, because if salespeople aren’t adding value to the discussion, they’re losing.”

Consumers want educational material that helps them construct their own perception of the market. This reinforces the importance of marketing in the early stages of the funnel. For salespeople to remain relevant, they need to access and make use of the behavioral data generated from marketing automation to provide context for their conversations with leads.

Proper lead nurturing through educational marketing will also ensure that sales doesn’t intrude on the consumer when they’re still in the research phase. It takes some testing, but marketing should be able to use behavioral cues as a signal that a lead is ready to move to the next stage.

But this continuous buyer’s journey breaks down if sales can’t intuitively access the marketing data. Connecting the two systems is key to arming sales representatives with the context they need to address customers’ problems in a meaningful way.

Measurable Marketing ROI

Just as sales benefits from accessing a customer’s online behavioral data to clarify and confirm what they’re interested in, marketing enjoys a greater understanding of the success of their campaigns by accessing data from the CRM.

Since CRMs often record revenue data on a per-sale basis, marketing can quickly tie that information to a lead’s profile and segment campaigns based on number of deals closed, or actual revenue.

This may seem like an obvious goal for every organization, but being apparent doesn’t equate to being easy. Only 21 percent of B2B marketers say they excelled at measuring ROI in 2014. Many of them were not thinking of ROI in terms of revenue.

Aligning sales and marketing has key strategic benefits for both intra office morale as well as revenue. With the growing prominence of marketing automation, businesses now have an endpoint with which to connect the CRM.

Fusing these two databases breaks down information silos and creates a more complete view of the customer that benefits all parties. When selecting marketing automation software, be sure to look for integration with popular CRMs, or at the very least API availability that enables easier interface development.

About the Author: Zach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers gamification, healthcare IT, business intelligence, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Millennials and the New Health Revolution

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Preventative Health is Best Thought of When You Don’t Have to Think About It

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Unfortunately paying tribute to this age old adage in practice can be a lot more difficult for most of us than it sounds. Our healthcare system could be better described as a great sick care system, with only a fraction of resources focusing on preventative health measures. 

But here come the Millennials who will infuse new life into the wellness and preventative care sphere, and will be the first cohort fully immersed in real time health monitoring. From disrupting the boundaries of traditional health and forcing stakeholders to rethink healthcare delivery, Millennials are also shifting the notion of preventive health and what it means to be healthy. For them, health inextricably goes beyond weight loss or avoiding a visit to the clinic. It’s about emotional wellbeing and leading a balanced lifestyle and perhaps more fundamentally, it’s about everyday decisions. These perceptions are rooted in an utter dissatisfaction for the healthcare system we have today-inefficient, expensive and impersonalized. Part of the new appeal for wellness is anchored in watching their elders, from diagnosis to treatment, traverse an often cumbersome, paternalistic, and choice limited healthcare journey.

We talk about the shift towards delivering better patient experiences and outcomes in healthcare. The wearables market will underpin these value propositions, introducing real time health monitoring in almost every aspect of your daily life.  As the patient becomes more empowered with millions of personalized data points, getting patients to share data could be a barrier to effective implementation of real time monitoring. Thankfully, the Millennial generation is amenable to sharing, and that will include health experiences. Whether you choose to share with your clinician, friends, or family will lead to the emergence of a new health revolution where wellness is just as important as health. It’s more about searching for an enriching healthcare experience and switching life health coaches if you don’t like what you are dealt with.  

Wellness communities will emerge, led and followed on Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, including groups from stress reduction to yoga and mindfulness, and from nutrition to fitness challenges. This movement will also help establish social proof and lead to the more widespread adoption of preventative health as integral mantra of one’s lifestyle. Preventative health shouldn’t be extra work, and as wearables form a key layer in our personal space, more engagement in wellness activities will be as common. Deeper insight is great, but insight without lack of actionable context and behavioral change is almost as useful as having a car without an engine. The most successful health stakeholders in this new health revolution will be able to engage and induce behavioral change.

The traditional boundaries of healthcare are slowly eroding as millennials engage in new spheres of health engagement and where health will be projected onto everything you do. As the delivery of healthcare takes place more and more outside traditional institutions, the new social norm will shift towards the establishment of a reward system for the maintenance and promotion of health. Millennials are breathing new life into wellness and prevention, and new horizons for stakeholders interested in providing enriching health experiences await-are you ready?

About the Author: Aaron Sihota is an award winning pharmacy innovator and recently hosted a webinar for the ePharma Summit  discussing emerging healthcare trends and opportunities for healthcare provider engagement for a younger health consumer generation. He has a keen interest in the application of innovative solutions to address today’s healthcare issues and actively promotes community pharmacy practice initiatives. He is a recent graduate of the University Of British Columbia Faculty Of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Digital Impacts Improving Patient/Doctor Relations

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Digital impacts on consumer insights have grown more vital in improving customer inclusion. Disruptive innovations are becoming paramount to improving consumer experience. These innovations span a wide variety of fields and a recent system has been introduced to the healthcare industry that has revolutionized patient involvement, physician time management and the health of patients.

Collabobeat, the brainchild of Italian entrepreneur Floriano Bonfigli, is a system designed to share doctor’s notes with their patients. The patient then can use the system to see what the doctor recommended when home in case they had either forgotten or weren’t clear on what was instructed. In the US alone, billions of dollars are wasted due to patients not following their doctors instructions. Thousands of patients become ill or potentially worse as a result.

The system has been trialed at 3 American hospitals involving 100 physicians and 10,000 patients. The results in general showed a huge success for the system. It was found that there was a 70 percent increase in patient medical adherence which leads to improved results in patient recovery. The results also showed that 92 percent of the doctors spent less time addressing patient’s questions outside of consultations. This platform for increased connection with the patient helps to give them a sense of involvement and empowerment. It stops information from the physician getting lost in translation as the ability to comment on and reread doctors notes means less of a chance for the patient to get instructions wrong, thus not putting themselves in harm’s way.

The system will be integrated into other software that is already utilized in the healthcare industry. The merging in of the system allows patients in time information at their fingertips that allows for a better relationship between patient and doctor. A strong relationship between industry and consumer is important in making the service feel more personal to the consumer.

Innovations like these show the greater need for consumer interaction that will improve experiences across industries. Better physician and patient relationships can translate into other fields such as retail whereby increasing the amount of information that is available for the consumer helps with their decision making and thus giving them a better retail experience.

Information is key to improved customer insights and digital impacts are increasingly improving the way in which industries and consumers interact. Personalization is key to making the customer feel more involved and having as much knowledge as possible about what they need. In a world that is becoming increasingly mobile and interconnected, digital innovations are becoming more important for the future of consumer insights.

About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at

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 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?


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.