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.

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 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 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 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, 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 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 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!

Friday, February 20, 2015

“Putting the ‘Health’ back in ‘mHealth’: 3 Game-Changing Innovations that Are Saving Lives”

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This blog is co-posted with Medicine in the Moment.

Ask any tech-savvy layperson to describe mobile health, and they will mention sleek, high-tech wearables and smartly-designed activity-trackers. Companies like Fitbit, Apple and Nike have successfully bestowed a sense of style upon the industry; and, as more players compete, newer products with flashier design and higher functionality are flooding the marketplace. This deepened focus on bells and whistles has convinced much of the world that discerning gadget enthusiasts are the target audience for mobile health. Yet, a look beyond the glossy façade of mainstream products, which range from apps detailing yoga positions, to sleep trackers, to designer jewelry with biometric monitoring, brings the vernacular use of the term “mobile health” into question.

If we believe that health and fitness are different things, perhaps we would be wise to name the large universe of fitness and lifestyle devices and apps as belonging to a “mobile fitness” industry. We could then reserve the “mobile health” moniker for technologies that impact the clinical experience and tangibly address disease. Though they don’t get as much media coverage as the RunKeepers and Fuel Bands of the world, clinical and disease-focused innovations like the OmniPod, the Propellor Health Sensor, and the work being done by organizations like HealtheVillages, are creating value on a different scale and in a different way, and may be mobile health’s unsung heroes.

OmniPod- Wireless Insulin Pump

The OmniPod by Insulet, the first FDA-approved wearable and wireless insulin pump for Type 1 diabetics, attaches painlessly to the body via cannula and is usable for up to three days. Wearers are free to go about their daily lives—sleep eat, exercise and bathe—while the waterproof pump administers a steady stream of insulin. A handheld controller is used in conjunction with the pod to guide users through insulin delivery; it has a built in blood glucose meter, a wireless remote, and an in depth food library to help with counting carbs. This technology not only eases the burden of maintenance and helps eliminate risks of disease-related complications—it enhances quality of life.

Propeller Health Sensor

More than 50 million people in the U.S. are affected by asthma and COPD, prompting Propeller Health to develop a small sensor that attaches to an inhaler and wirelessly syncs to the patient’s smartphone. The sensor not only monitors usage frequency—it also keeps track of the time and place in which patients use their inhalers so they’re able to accurately identify trigger patterns. Data from the sensor provides users with reports about their symptoms and medication use, which can be reviewed by their physician.

For parents with asthmatic children, this technology can be used to monitor and control the disease, allowing for alerts when a child uses his inhaler. One of the most important tasks of an asthmatic or COPD patient is to track symptom triggers and frequency of rescue inhaler usage. Propeller’s technology revolutionizes this process by taking the user error out of capturing this sort of data.

Health eVillages

The World Health Organization reports that, in 2012, citizens of Europe and the Americas were twice as likely to have access to physicians in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific. Health eVillages, a collaboration between our own Physicians Interactive and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, is helping to solve this problem by arming health care providers in clinically underserved areas like earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Uganda and rural Louisiana, with smartphones and tablets containing medical reference and clinical decision support resources. Healthcare professionals in these regions, some of who still rely on outdated medical textbooks, can use these tools and training materials to accurately diagnose and treat patients. HealtheVillages, and other organizations like it, are creating unprecedented access to health care among a global population of patients who have seen decades of care disparity.

When it comes to discussing, and evaluating, the role of mobile health, we must look beyond novelty and aesthetic appeal, and consider the role of product need, access, and the ability to leverage unique opportunities provided by mobile technology. Developing marketable products is good, but doing the greatest good for the most people is better. We must remain committed to investing in mHealth solutions that have the greatest impact in closing serious gaps in health care around the world.

Physicians Interactive is a Gold Sponsor of this year's ePharma taking place February 24-26, 2015 in New York City.  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us and mention code XP2000BL, you can save $100 off current rates!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Myths That Give Marketing Automation a Bad Name

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As an industry, marketers are hounded to build compelling narratives and connect with customers on an emotional level. Mentioning the word “automation” can quickly stir up resentment and lampoons. This is especially true for the growing industry of marketing automation software.

Despite its potential, a significant number of businesses still view these systems as untrustworthy spam factories that harken back to the heyday of aggressive, un-targeted email marketing.

This perspective is founded on a number of myths, many of which seek to transfer blame from the marketer to the automation system. In truth, marketing automation is simply a tactic for scaling the strategies a business already has in place. It doesn’t introduce an entirely new set of principles.

When used correctly, it maintains the personal touches found in manual efforts and introduces them in specific, targeted ways to segmented audiences.

If marketing automation fails, it’s the fault of the marketer, not the software. As evidence, let’s deconstruct four popular myths.

1)      Marketing automation is spam

The inbox is a private space, protected by increasingly sophisticated spam filters that guard against unwanted email blasts. Therefore, it’s very off-putting for consumers when an unsolicited email appears in their inbox.

These types of emails are disruptive because they’re irrelevant, not because they’re surprising. Consumers often welcome relevant surprises, but irrelevance is a waste of precious time.

Powering email campaigns with marketing automation is a popular practice, but that doesn’t excuse poor segmentation or non-targeted emails. Sending effective emails at scale does require a lot of hard work and skill, but it’s the marketer’s job to segment the prospects correctly rather than blasting everyone in their database with the same content.

When executed well, email automation can be invaluable for nurturing and educating prospects who aren’t yet ready to make a purchase. Most consumers still read their email, and they don’t mind being marketed to as long as the material is useful.

       2) Automation isn’t for humans

Automating the processes of marketing won’t turn your brand into a robot. In fact, just the opposite should happen. Quality marketing automation software acts a lot like an operating system for marketing departments, because it touches social, email, landing pages, and even pay per click campaigns. Deploying marketing automation results in a wealth of data about consumer behavior across your digital properties.

Equipped with this information, marketers can segment audiences based on their behavior and preferences and develop campaigns that specifically target each group. Even if a prospect takes an unexpected action, it’s easy to set up rules that transfer them to a more appropriate campaign.

All of this heavy data analysis and segmentation should lead to a healthy dose of targeted marketing. If not, the error lies in the market’s inability to comprehend and leverage the data the system provides. Or the marketer has set the system up incorrectly.

Robotic marketing arises from a lack of context; it’s essentially saying the same thing to everyone. Automation software was developed for the exact opposite purpose.

3) Automation doesn’t need a manager

Letting automated campaigns run without any oversight will inevitably lead to disaster. It will result in spamming people and sounding like a robot. The idea that the system will run itself is preposterous, and only fosters lazy marketing automation practices.

To be effective — not just in marketing automation but in any digital channel — marketers must use data to test and iterate, with the goal of finding out what tactics best suit the needs of their market. Automation software comes packed with different features for split testing landing pages, email campaigns, and a number of other touchpoints to help with in this endeavor.

If marketers aren’t constantly testing and refining their offerings to better serve their audience, then they haven’t joined the rest of us in the Internet Age where marketing has become a data-driven practice.

                4) Marketing automation only benefits marketers

Because consumers have such a low threshold for inconvenience, making the customer journey a seamless experience should be a priority for any organization. That means lining up sales and marketing — two departments that don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Marketing automation systems provide the best opportunity to join these two forces. Most products integrate with customer relationship management systems, which means you can connect the two main systems for each department. Data can then flow back and forth between the two platforms, and their respective teams.

This results in sales getting a better picture of which leads are worth following up with and which need more time to research. For marketing, they can look at which leads convert best once they get to sales and use that information to hone their strategies.

This not only makes for a happy marriage between the two households, it also yields better results for the customer — which translates to better results for the company.

Implementing marketing automation isn’t easy. It requires a lot of work to set up and even more work to optimize and use correctly. It’s not a product that everyone should adopt.

It’s also easy to use incorrectly. Proper targeting and impressive amounts of content are required to fuel the marketing automation engine. But when done well, it can lead to happier customers and scalable processes.

 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.

Pharma and Digital Video

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ePharma is only a few days away, and I hope you’re as excited about it as I am. This year, for the first time, I’ll be speaking at ePharma. I hope you’ll be able to come to my talk on the value of digital video for pharma on Feb. 24 at 9:40 a.m.

Digital video is an increasingly important way for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to seek health information. Brands can capitalize on that, but there are some considerations to be aware of. The rules are different from broadcast, but that difference confers particular advantages for pharma—especially if the industry can capitalize on the huge and growing mobile market.

The future of digital video will affect how healthcare is delivered. The companies that will benefit the most from those changes are the ones who “get” digital video and make it a part of their brand experience. I’ll discuss how to do so in more detail at my talk at ePharma. See you there, front and center!

See other articles written by Tim Garde:
YouTube – Pharma’s Perfect ‘Social’ Partner?
Is There a Difference Between CRM and Marketing Automation?
The Second Screen and Beyond: The explosion of cross-device interactive video experiences

Would you like to meet Tim at this year's ePharma taking place next Tuesday-Thursday, February 24-26 in New York City?  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us and mention code XP2006BL, you can save $100 off current rates.

About the author: Tim R. Garde is the Chief Operating Officer of Calcium and is relentless in his pursuit of excellence in life sciences communications. Tim couples decades of experience in brand launches, patient communications, healthcare professional initiatives, payer strategies, and retail distribution with a passion for digital innovation as a way to improve patient outcomes. Above all, Tim believes that a team-focused, collaborative approach allows team members to shine, and delivers the best value and quality to his client. Tim's industry leadership activities include being a member of The 2012 Top 100 Most Inspiring People in the Pharmaceutical Industry, PharmaVoice July/August 2012, and regular speaking/lecturer engagements regarding healthcare and digital marketing. Tim earned his BS degree at the Smeal College of Business, The Pennsylvania State University, and he also attended The Wharton School Executive Business Program. He currently serves on the Smeal Alumni Society Board and Board of Visitors for the Samson Colleges of Health Sciences, University of the Sciences.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

mHealth and Pharma: Improving Adherence and Preventive Care

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Pharma companies have been slow to adopt mHealth strategies as a result of regulatory concerns coupled with resistance to thinking beyond the pill. Despite these challenges, the state of patient and physician mobile use and technological advancements are driving pharma to explore ways to leverage mobile health. Those companies that lead the way in discovering the best ways to utilize mobile technology to market themselves and brands stand to reap the greatest financial reward.

A recent study by analytics firm FICO found that four out of five U.S. smartphone users are interested in mobile healthcare interactions. To meet this demand and increase engagement with patients, providers are embracing mobile technologies. Nearly 79% of physicians believe the use of mobile devices can help them better coordinate care. This trend in provider and patient behavior opens a door for pharma. Mobile tools that engage patients and integrate with a physician’s EHR offer an opportunity for pharma to help improve medication adherence and patient outcomes while promoting their brand.

Improving Medication Adherence
Strengthening medication adherence is one of pharma’s biggest digital health opportunities. Nearly 75 percent of adults are nonadherent to a treatment plan in one or more ways, such as not filling a prescription or failing to take a medication on a regular basis. Nonadherence directly relates to poor clinical outcomes and has been estimated to result in annual health care costs of $100 billion to $300 billion.

Patients today want more control over their healthcare and are comfortable sharing health information across devices if it will result in better care. Mobile apps can empower patients by making it easier to track dosages, organize medication schedules, refill prescriptions and schedule physician appointments. Gamification apps that educate users about a condition and prescription drug through an interactive, rewards-based model can also influence adherence.

From a physician perspective, apps that sync with electronic health records to help track patient treatment compliance and health are of significant value. These tools allow physicians to be more efficient and help them to provide patients with better care.

Increasing Preventive Care
Mobile solutions can motivate patients to take control of their own wellness and disease prevention. Applications are capable of helping to improve daily health habits as well as manage chronic illnesses. Mobile apps that aid in weight loss by recording caloric intake and exercise habits are among the most popular health apps. Diabetes management also leads the way allowing patients to monitor diet habits and track blood glucose levels in conjunction with their healthcare providers.

Remote monitoring solutions that send reminders can help patients control or prevent diseases. This is particularly important given that preventable and chronic illnesses account for 70 percent of U.S. healthcare spending. Mobile technology can also bridge the gap between the exam room and what happens after a patient interaction. Collecting data on daily habits and activities will help physicians to deliver better patient-centric care and improve outcomes.

By engaging with providers and patients in mobile apps that help improve adherence and preventive care, pharma can gain insight into the behaviors and interactions of these audiences. This valuable data can be used in marketing as well as research and development strategies. As more apps that integrate with EHRs become available, physician use of this technology will become an integral part of their daily workflow, creating an opportunity pharma can’t afford to miss.

Apps and the data gathered using them can do more than help in mobile marketing. Using this vital information to create a balanced marketing program that utilizes digital and traditional elements can prove to create a strong voice for a pharma company and its brands.

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.

Join MediScripts at ePharma this February 24-26, 2015.  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us and mention code XP2006BL, you save $100 off the current rate!

Healthcare Deserts

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This is co-posted with Medicine in the Moment.

We hear frequent media reports on food deserts—rural towns or urban areas without access to fresh, nutritional and affordable food. Yet, healthcare deserts, an equally concerning crisis plaguing millions worldwide, seldom receive such exposure. Healthcare deserts are areas across the globe where quality healthcare is severely limited or is simply nonexistent.

The World Health Organization reports that, in 2012, citizens of Europe and the Americas were twice as likely to have access to physicians, two and a half times as likely to have access to nursing and midwifery personnel, and nearly six times as likely to have access to dentistry as compared to citizens in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific. And, according to the U.S. Office of Rural Health Policy, 640 U.S. counties (about 20% of the nation’s 29,000 residential areas) are without quick access to an acute-care hospital. Problems are notable in cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., as well as rural areas of Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi.

When I founded Health eVillages, my vision was clear: to eradicate healthcare deserts by improving the quality of care in some of the poorest, most underserved areas. It was a lofty goal with widespread reach, one that would require a universal strategy that could be used by healthcare professionals worldwide. Our solution was mHealth technology—putting mobile devices into the hands of medical staff in clinically challenged areas, many of who still relied upon decades-old textbooks for diagnostic guidance.

Partnering with Physicians Interactive, we loaded iPhones and iPads with medical reference content and clinical decision support tools. We then traveled to clinics in developing countries, some without such basic infrastructure as electricity, to teach eager healthcare professionals how to use the technology. Because Internet access is not required, the devices can be used in the most remote regions of the globe to properly diagnose and treat patients.

To date, we have worked with medical professionals in coastal regions of Louisiana devastated by the Gulf oil spill and in hurricane-ravaged Haitian cities where water-based diseases have pummeled the population. We have partnered with clinicians in Kenya and Uganda and we will continue to expand our organization’s footprint this year as we develop impactful partnerships in India, China and South Africa.

One of the most salient examples of our mHealth successes comes from the healthcare desert surrounding Lwala, Kenya. After arming local physicians with mobile technology, the region’s infant mortality rate was cut in half. Building on the community’s victory, Physicians Interactive raised $150,000 to finance the construction of the first Health eVillage Maternity Clinic in Lwala.

This year I was named by the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights as a 2014 Ripple of Hope honoree for my efforts in addressing the needs of the least advantaged across the globe. I am deeply humbled by this recognition and I am truly inspired by mHealth advances and success stories. I pledge to continue my fight against healthcare deserts to ensure that quality care is readily available to all, regardless of geography, as a right, not a privilege.

Author: Donato Tramuto, CEO and Chariman, Physicians Interactive

Physicians Interactive is a Gold Sponsor of this year's ePharma taking place February 24-26, 2015 in New York City.  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us and mention code XP2000BL, you can save $100 off current rates!

Sources: (pages 84 and 120, with attached spreadsheet calculations),2

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Connected Health as a Therapeutic

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By 2017, 50% of the pharmacy spend in the U.S. is expected to be for specialty pharmacy. It seems this is driven by two phenomena. The first is the growing crop of new molecules that are biologics -- classified as specialty pharmacy drugs -- and require special handling and care coordination. They are expensive but have given us new hope for such conditions as Hepatitis C and a variety of cancers. The second phenomenon is that just about everything else will be generics.

This brings to mind two opportunities for connected health. One is surrounding these specialty therapeutics with connected health applications in order to improve outcomes and reduce costs. The second is that connected health interventions, because of their demonstrated improvements in adherence, can also improve the care experience, patient satisfaction and quality of life, and themselves prove to be therapeutic.

Without getting into too much detail here about the first opportunity, our team is working on a real-life example of this at Partners HealthCare right now. We recently signed a co-development agreement with Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. to create a mobile app to serve as a coaching platform for patients with atrial fibrillation who have been prescribed oral anticoagulation therapy. The goal of this mobile app will be to support patients living with atrial fibrillation by helping improve patient adherence and compliance to medication, as well as fostering feedback loops that connect the provider to the patient.

Let's focus on the latter opportunity, which I believe is intriguing and a bit of a sleeper. Traditionally, the introduction of new technologies in health care has been assumed by a knee-jerk reaction to add costs. Yet, we’ve accumulated evidence to the contrary. I have two stories to demonstrate this.

The first example is a clinical research program we have under way with adolescents who have asthma. We’ve created a private Facebook group for them to be part of, and that’s about it really. No fancy bells and whistles. Just old-fashioned social networking. This is a study in progress, but to date we’ve already seen a positive effect, as measured by an instrument called the Asthma Control Test (ACT). Typically, the success rate of teenagers filling out this survey is 18%. Although the results are still preliminary, it appears that just putting kids in a Facebook group increased their participation to 80%. More importantly, the improvement in the score on the ACT, measuring how well these teens are controlling their asthma, also appears to be significantly improved compared to the use of a new inhaler. So, it seems that Facebook can be more therapeutic than a drug. I’m being provocative here, but you get the idea.

The second example is in type II diabetes, using connected health to improve activity. We randomized patients with type II diabetes into two groups, one received an activity tracker and nothing more, versus a second group that received a tracker plus were sent automated motivational text messages every day.

The messages were algorithm-driven; they were not sent by a person. The algorithm took into account several variables, including self-reported information on how motivated the individual was to increase activity, data from the activity tracker, weather data and some electronic records data. This intervention was conducted over six months. Interim data suggests that patients receiving the automated messages had a significant drop in HbA1c, more robust than the effects of Metformin, a generic drug. Once again, we see the potential of connected health to be more therapeutic than a drug. This result is even more impressive when you take into account the fact that the messages were machine generated.

These data drive home the point that engagement is powerful and that engaged patients do better. In both cases, those patients who were engaged, measured by either participation in the Facebook group or frequency of opening messages, did even better than the intervention groups as a whole.

Here are two examples, then, where connected health competes with chemical therapeutics in terms of efficacy.

It suggests a future where connected health programs are widespread, either as adjuncts to or substitutes for chemical therapeutics. And, we haven’t even discussed how connected health strategies can be integrated into clinical trials, or deliver value-added programs to build brand loyalty and patient engagement.

Author: Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Vice President, Connected Health; Partners HealthCare

Dr. Kvedar will be presenting Outcomes-Driven Marketing: How Daiichi Sankyo and the Partners Healthcare Center for Connected Health Are Leveraging Mobile Technologies to Improve Outcomes at ePharma on Thursday, February 26 with Greg Barrett, Vice President of Marketing, Daiichi Sankyo Pharmaceuticals.  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us with priority code XP2006BL, you can save $100 off current rates.