The new age of pharmaceutical targeting on social media

Social media is among the most valuable channels by which pharmaceutical brands can reach healthcare decision-makers, drive engagement and build their businesses.

However, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when building a social media strategy – from regulatory challenges to the rise of the pharma influencer.

The proliferation of social media channels and the expansive reach they enable has propelled healthcare provider (HCP) networking as they take to platforms including Facebook and LinkedIn to discuss their work and spread scientifically-backed research, products and treatments on a global scale. Engaging this audience across traditional social media channels offers many benefits, enabling marketers to reach HCPs in their professional sphere as well as in their personal, everyday lives.

And while strict pharma regulations have long stifled brand reach when using traditional targeting methods, social media is becoming increasingly pharma-friendly. Today, Facebook even allows for the same advanced targeting you’d expect from programmatic or EMR, thanks to the platform’s robust first-party data (a factor becoming increasingly important as the curtain falls on the third-party cookie). On a platform such as Facebook, pharma brands can hone in on a specific HCP audience – or even a specific practitioner if your list match is right – and push out relevant content to them while they are scrolling.

For pharmaceutical brands, the importance of at least maintaining a presence on these social platforms is becoming more exigent. HCPs are there, just like they are on EMRs and portals. Brands can further increase their increasing frequency and reach by extending into social. As a result, they’ll drive awareness, engagement and, ultimately, ROI. But maximizing this ROI requires that brands consider certain factors when developing their social strategies.

The opportunity to catch Dr. Sam as Ms. Sam

We all know the importance of reaching doctors when they are in a healthcare practitioner mindset – while interacting with patients, consulting with their peers, at the point of prescribing or doing research. But we can’t forget the power of engaging with doctors while they are also in their everyday mindsets. Dr. Sam is also Ms. Sam. She engages with consumer channels because she too is a consumer. And the way that Dr. Sam engages with social media during her off-hours is no exception.

According to MedData Group, 72% of physicians surveyed were active on Facebook weekly and 38% were active on Instagram and LinkedIn weekly. The types of professional content on Facebook that physicians are most likely to engage with include continuing medical education opportunities (37%) and physician online community information (31%).

Dr. Sam as Ms. Sam is still a doctor, always in doctor mode, and using social platforms to further her connections with other medical professionals or getting advice or education from those who can relate. Via social media, doctors connect with peers from all over the world, extending their network past their in-office or med school colleagues and gaining access to entirely new cohorts. The appeal of getting advice from trusted professionals or sharing research has attracted millions of HCPs worldwide.

The pharma influencer

Another key factor to consider is the steady rise of pharma influencers – which could arguably be the new term for key opinion leaders (KOLs), thanks to social media.

Pharma influencers, who are often HCPs, have mass followings and get treated like celebrities – but their social influence perks are often just a fallback for their everyday jobs as practitioners. Consumers often see these influencers as trusted authorities.

Considering that SocialPub projects that the social influencer industry will be worth between $5 and $10bn by next year, pharmaceutical brands that partner with popular – and well-trusted – social influencers have a valuable opportunity to drive their bottom line.

Understanding the pharma marketing funnel

The key to reaching HCPs is knowing that pharma follows the same marketing funnels as any other vertical – while acknowledging that there are stronger differentiators on how awareness happens.

Engagement with a doctor can be facilitated by a sales team in the doctor’s offices or via paid media promotions that have been targeted to key physicians via their NPI. These differences in how a doctor can be influenced require us to think about where physicians are in their condition/treatment journey and how the lower funnel metrics could also build up instead of our tendency to build strategies only from the top down.

Pharma brand managers and marketers should engage HCPs where they are spending their time: on social platforms that allow you to prepare now for a cookie-less world, and take advantage of a high-value targeting opportunity that is both established, yet largely untapped for many pharma brands. Challenge your in-house team or agency to bring you a clear HCP-focused social media strategy, and work with your legal and regulatory teams to educate marketers on what’s possible.



How to Overcome Inertia and Adopt Omnichannel Marketing for Pharma

Omnichannel marketing touts delivering efforts across all channels simultaneously, and looks to dethrone the incumbent multichannel marketing, but making the switch isn’t exactly easy.

Omnichannel marketing is gaining traction within the pharmaceutical industry as a concept, replacing the current dominant multichannel marketing approach. The omnichannel model is attractive as it promises to help orchestrate and optimize all marketing efforts across channels and multiple stakeholders simultaneously while delivering a more honest view of promotional ROI and helping to reduce marketing waste.

However, the prospect of shifting to omnichannel can appear overwhelming at the onset. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical organizations that are prepared to make the shift will have the opportunity to generate unprecedented benefits for their brands and for their customers (patients, healthcare professionals, and payers).

Why is the shift towards omnichannel marketing seemingly so difficult?

There are several reasons why pharmaceutical companies are struggling to make the shift towards a full omnichannel approach.

The framework of multichannel marketing is so ingrained in the mindset of many organizations and brand marketers that inertia is understandable. The traditional model has been used with moderate success for decades. Whether supporting a newly launching brand or continued support for a mature brand, the mantra has been: “We’ve always done it this way.”

As the approach is deeply ingrained, brand health and KPIs are rooted in the multichannel approach. Therefore, brand leaders with visibility in the organization observed that success within these parameters is often tied (in whole or in part) to promotions, bonuses, and other incentives. If you or your team have experienced continued success within this framework, there may be a perceived disincentive to move in a new direction.

The current multichannel marketing model largely mirrors the fragmented nature of organizations today. As an example, the people developing and executing the consumer strategy, and the people formulating the professional strategy may be two completely different teams, and they are not often looking at the interplay between the audiences as a result of this siloed approach.

Agency services also reflect this fragmentation. The agency working on the digital strategy is typically different from the agency working on the TV strategy, media support is often separate from the creative and account services, etc.

Cognizant of these circumstances, we find ourselves in situations where the traditional approach and supporting measurement framework are designed to reward success metrics that are based on outdated thinking. Breaking things apart to bond them together again takes effort and diligence and many teams do not have the time or resources necessary to do so.

Why have cracks in the multichannel model begun to occur?

Despite the ingrained nature of the multichannel model, cracks in this approach are becoming more and more visible.

With the multichannel approach, channel impact or return on investment are viewed on a channel-by-channel basis and operate under the assumption that a channel or tactic is solely responsible for the new patient start. In stark contrast to this are the media-mix model results provided every six months or so by the organization’s internal advanced analytics teams. These results are aligned more so to the omnichannel approach, and thereby, account for variables such as the overlap across channels and audiences. With everything reported in silos in the channel ROI reporting approach, results are often contradictory in nature to the media-mix model results, potentially leading to confusion (at best) and misinterpretation in informing strategy (at worst).

Let’s consider this example: Assume that I am a potential new patient start who saw Brand X’s commercial on TV and was exposed to digital display during my health information journey shortly thereafter. In the siloed approach of multichannel, both TV and digital would get credit for the conversion despite there only being one individual (me) with one Rx in hand. The media-mix model would then only count one new patient start, which reflects reality. There is already potential for contradictory results and we haven’t even addressed the added complexity of healthcare professional promotion (both personal and non-personal), the impact of payers, etc.

Increasingly marketers acknowledge that there is a disconnect between these KPIs and the business reality – causing them to ask how they can bridge the gap. Thankfully, the evolution of the technology and data available to support more complex analytics has increasingly enabled a more integrated view across all channels and audiences. For example, our client reports can be provided weekly, monthly, or quarterly for all channels and audiences, and these data points can flow into an omnichannel approach more akin to a media-mix model.

Are smaller, emerging biopharma companies more adaptive when it comes to omnichannel marketing?

Using a metaphor, it is easier to change course rapidly and navigate more nimbly with a small boat than to do so with an ocean liner or cargo ship. If an emerging company has a small number of brands or a single entrant in the market, there is less history (or baggage) that encourages brands to do things “the old way,” and therefore, affords the freedom to chart a different course.

Additionally, many emerging companies are serving smaller and/or rare disease populations with new and novel types of therapies. When attempting to reach a diabetes audience, you may be able to rely on higher reach channels and be comfortable with large amounts of waste. However, with smaller disease states, your efforts require precision in execution, and you need a measurement framework and approach to know quickly what is (and is not) resonating with your audience. Companies faced with these challenges are more open to exploring a new approach, and often their success is linked to embracing new ideas – especially during a critical launch phase.

Omnichannel marketing is the future

The omnichannel marketing approach is the model of the future for pharmaceutical brands and organizations. The path to broad adoption will be difficult as it requires a breakdown of organizational siloes and mindsets. However, the rewards are compelling, and companies will reap the benefits for their own organizations, while also delivering better results for all of their customers.



What is Speaker Training? How important is it to the Pharma industry?

What is Speaker Training? How important is it to the Pharma industry?

The pharmaceutical industry is defined by constant change and evolution.

This ever-changing nature of the industry, driven primarily by advances in therapies, medical devices and disease management, creates a constant demand for Pharma companies to educate healthcare professionals (HCPs), ensuring scientific data is accessible and accurately interpreted.


A major part of this education effort is taken on by Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) – highly

respected experts in a particular therapeutic area or segment of the industry, who support the dissemination of scientific information and drug innovations to their HCP peers, which is a fundamental activity for the continued improvement of patient treatment and health outcomes.

what is speaker training

Ideally, speaker training programs are leveraged by pharmaceutical companies to develop both the presentation and communication skills in KOLs who have this subject-matter expertise. This combined approach yields persuasive scientific authorities who champion knowledge dissemination and guide their peers in improving patient management and expanding treatment options.


Pharma companies select well-known KOLs within a disease area to participate in their

speaker training programs, and establish them as future champions for product or advances in disease management. But how does it work?


The optimal outcome for speaker training educational programs is an all-inclusive forum for developing the scientific knowledge and communication skills required to make KOLs compelling ambassadors for the disease and its effective management with the latest treatment options:


Focus is on the latest developments in the disease state and treatment advances.


Special attention is given to the

content, ensuring it is non-promotional and HCP engagement is compliant with local regulations.


Presentation and communication skills are directly tied to the scientific developments.


Speakers learn effective techniques for connecting with their audiences, with a focus on creating action relevant to the scientific context.

When executed well, speaker training programs are an effective tool to create expert presenters who not only can communicate the science, but also drive peer actionand advocate for the Pharma company’s life-changing treatments.

Speaker training has become even more vital in this age of digital transformation, where the means of communication and technical tools at a speaker’s disposal are much more diverse and play a much more significant role in a speaker’s ability to convey the same scientific message. For Pharma, this means putting a bigger emphasis on speaker training to provide well-designed programs that set their KOLs up for success.

An all-in-one solution for Pharma companies that want to ENSURE HCP ACTION and a GROWTH mindset into their KOL scientific education and communication skills training.

speaker training

Collaboration & Agility – Core Themes & Lessons from Reuters Pharma USA 2021

At this year’s Pharma USA conference, Collaboration was the theme of the opening keynote session and a common thread woven throughout the event as industry leaders gathered to discuss how to move “Beyond Normal” to shape the future of health.

The event aimed at challenging attendees to not return to our old ways of working. To set new boundaries for partnerships across healthcare, implementing operating models that aren’t just resilient, they ensure a sustained cultural shift toward authenticity, patient centricity and agility.

John Young, Pfizer’s Group President and Chief Business Officer kicked off the event with a fireside chat on the value of competitive collaboration in driving innovation and creating a roadmap to delivering important medicines to patients who need them.

Over the past 18+ months, we’ve seen that the right collaboration brings together unique capabilities to create unprecedented innovation.

Collaboration in Action

Pfizer’s partnership with BioNTech is one example of what Forbes’ Magazine dubbed “The Great Coronavirus Collaboration.” In response to COVID-19, Pharma was forced to quickly pivot and explore new ways of working to act with urgency and a sense of responsibility. Pfizer’s size, solid manufacturing capability and experience running large scale vaccine trials combined with BioNTech’s strong science, created a synergistic effect that resulted in the first COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA for emergency use in December 2020, just 336 days after the genetic blueprint of the virus was published.

Beyond drug discovery, we witnessed Pharma pull together in ways that would have never been considered in the past. For example, where they had capacity in the supply chain, Pfizer further leveraged its capability to support other pharmaceutical organizations, which was evident when we saw Pfizer team up with Gilead to support the production of Remdesivir.

The unexpected wave of teamwork in 2020 gave us important lessons on the power of such collaboration and its potential to deliver a similar impact with a similar sense of urgency for patients suffering from illnesses where treatment options are still needed.

Breaking Down Silos

Panellists reminded us that when it comes to collaboration, it’s important to look inward as well. Other speakers highlighted the results of their efforts to drive cross-functional collaboration within their organizations to deliver greater impact to patients through enhanced customer experience.

Andy Kennemer, Vice President, Customer Experience & Digital Innovation at GSK, shared a case study on GSK’s efforts to transform from a brand-centric organization to a customer-centric organization by creating collaborative roadmaps across internal teams. Working cross-functionally is the real re-engineering that must happen to add value at every customer touchpoint, and he sums up that effort in one word: Agile.

Agile ways of working pull together cross-functional teams to facilitate collaboration, break down silos, create common goals, align objectives and deliver speed and agility in the process. For organizations looking to embed these principles in their own organizations, Andy offered the following suggestions:

  • Start Small. Create a small, dedicated Agile team and empower them to move fast and make decisions. Stay as lean as possible to start – one brand, one customer type – to mitigate risk.
  • Disrupt the Old Ways. Use Agile planning tools to break work down into components to see where bottlenecks exist and identify new pathways.
  • Reduce the Handoffs. Find where stages of work have too much idle time or where tasks sit waiting for action. Create a passing lane to speed approvals and review if necessary to keep things moving.
  • Build & Scale. Once you have a viable working model, add more brands and specialized roles as you scale, adding new pods as you go.
Keeping Patients at the Center of Care

Anchoring the conversation around critical collaborations, Fatima Scipione, Head of Global Oncology, Patient Advocacy and Engagement and Kristen Huehbner, Associate Director, Engagement Strategy, BMSspoke to the importance of keeping patient insights and experiences at the center of the strategy.

While unbiased, 2-way connection with patient advocacy groups can be valuable, collaboration with patients, who are living with short-and-long-term-diseases, is crucial to understanding how we can improve their experiences at every stage in their healthcare journeys. Listening to patients will provide direction on what type of collaboration is most valuable. Depending on the insight you are looking to acquire, the solution may be a secondary research project or a roundtable with advocates – or something else.

Pharma USA 2021 was committed to instilling in attendees what it will take to deliver true impact to patients, and to healthcare professionals who treat them. Moving “beyond normal” will empower pharma and health leaders to drive new collaborations, greater innovations, and more personalized experiences that will continue to enhance the lives of patients.



A new challenge: Moving pharma marketing from multichannel to omnichannel.

Omnichannel marketing has emerged as the solution to the growing pains that arise for pharmaceutical marketers as they strive to reach and engage customers. 

Faced with a challenging healthcare environment, as well as overwhelming, uncoordinated channel use and promotional waste, marketers are replacing multichannel marketing with omnichannel marketing to enable simultaneous orchestration, optimization and personalization across channels and multiple stakeholders.

Multichannel marketing was not the solution

Over the past 20 years, multichannel marketing had been evolving as a solution to the marketing challenges plaguing the pharmaceutical industry, but the success was limited. At first, multichannel marketing appeared to be a somewhat effective strategy as it enabled pharma marketers to activate multiple channels simultaneously.

However, despite the evolution and availability of new communication channels (email, digital, social, etc.), many companies were slow to adapt the approach to their existing but lacklustre customer engagement strategy. Instead, they mainly prioritized their field force. In many cases, this disconnect resulted in the development of commercial strategies in which personal and non-personal engagement, or multichannel marketing, were viewed as distinctly separate focus areas. Adding to the complexity was the implementation of strategies focused on other customer stakeholders, such as patients and payers, without incorporating or providing input that connected holistically with traditional healthcare provider strategies.

Ultimately, during the past two decades, multichannel marketing was based on siloed activations in separate channels with limited, if any, coordination or intersection across stakeholders.

Omnichannel marketing is evolving as a new promise

Today, omnichannel marketing is increasingly replacing multichannel marketing. Instead of the fragmented and siloed multichannel approach, omnichannel marketing employs the simultaneous orchestration and optimization of channels across personal, non-personal, and media, and addresses the integrated needs of multiple stakeholders – consumers/patients, healthcare professionals, and payers.

Bringing the channels and stakeholders together in a truly integrated manner is the pivotal shift required to break through today’s noisy and crowded pharmaceutical marketplace.

Several key areas of marketing are transformed in the evolution from multichannel to omnichannel marketing.

Omnichannel marketing pharma

Key elements of omnichannel marketing

There are several elements required to develop and execute omnichannel marketing that enable the agility and speed of execution, and elevate the ability to connect and optimize communication across channels and audiences:

  • Turning promotion on or off: The omnichannel marketing approach will enable marketers to determine which promotional activities to dial-up and dial down, or turn off entirely based on evidence and data.
  • Advancing intersection of communication across audiences: New models of engagement between patients and physicians have been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic environment, with emphasis on the rise of virtual care and telemedicine.
  • Optimizing across channels and stakeholders: Traditionally, marketers might direct spending across a single or just a few channels, but not across all channels and/or customer stakeholders, which ultimately erodes fiscal optimization. Omnichannel marketing provides the opportunity to work with brands on a continuous optimization cycle throughout the life of a campaign.
  • Personalizing and targeting: Based on the increasing availability of data along with technology and analytics, marketers have the ability to get closer than ever to their customers in order to meet their expectations and satisfy their information needs.
  • Getting smarter with machine learning: The models and metrics traditionally applied by the pharma industry to measure marketing performance will need to be reassessed and modified to ensure measurement of simultaneous impact across channels and customers.  A lot of the old measurements were stagnant, and the focus was solely on ROI.  With advanced technologies (AI, ML, and NLP), omnichannel marketing can perform dynamic analytics and modelling, which will enable smarter campaigns.

Omnichannel marketing has the potential to improve the pharmaceutical customer experience by increasingly influencing the number and adherence of patients on therapy through integrated promotional efforts that engage them in their own healthcare journey. This promotional approach also will enhance the pharma organization’s experience by enabling it to optimize spend as it efficiently navigates all relevant channels and stakeholders.


6 predictions for B2B customer experience in a post-pandemic world.

The line between the B2B and B2C customer experience is blurring, forever changed by the pandemic. Over the past year, the requirement to work from home has generated a shift in corporate behaviours, creating a less formal, more personal environment in which to do business. 

B2B firms have realised that the organisations they’re selling to consist of real people – people who, perhaps, love cooking Indian food, enjoy cycling, like taking the dog for a walk and watching their children play football at the weekends. The more B2B organizations get to know their clients at a personal level, the better the relationship becomes and the greater the customer experience. With 80% respondents in a Salesforce study saying their experiences are as important as a company’s products and services, organizations must rethink the B2B customer experience if they are to continue to meet clients’ expectations in a relevant, thoughtful way.

Over the past year, most of us had to adapt the service and the experience we deliver to our clients, to help meet their evolving needs. Here are some insights about the customer experience going forward:

1. Your clients will expect deeper levels of personalization

Just as we expect consumer brands to ‘know’ us and our preferences, the same is true with the B2B customer experience. B2B decision makers want humanized, personalized, helpful and relevant experiences to reduce complexity and save them time. They want businesses to anticipate their requirements beyond the ‘You liked that, now try this’ algorithm. Achieving this isn’t a Holy Grail of customer experience: it’s about building relationships, enhanced by data, tools and automation, combined with intelligence gathered from every interaction.

2. Self-service will remain popular

The ability to problem-solve quickly and efficiently using digital and web self-service tools will remain paramount. Even with complex B2B products and services, the option to self-serve plays a key role in delivering a great B2B customer experience. The SalesForce study found 65% would prefer to help themselves through self-service for simple issues. But self-serve won’t just be for issues resolution: McKinsey found that 97% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end, digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50K or more online.

3. Engagement through social channels will be high

The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020 reported that 75% of B2B buyers are significantly influenced by social media and 84% of senior executives use social media to support purchase decisions.  LinkedIn has reported record levels of engagement over the past year. Not only are social channels ideal for informing and engaging but crucially, they’re perfect for listening, delivering insight that can drive deeper levels of personalisation within the customer experience.

4. Clients will continue to value virtual face-to-face interactions for meetings

While virtual meetings are no replacement for a meeting ‘in person’, they’re close.  Less formal than a face to face meeting in a traditional workplace environment, they can accelerate professional relationships and help to quickly build trust. Generally, it’s quicker to get a group of decision makers together virtually than in person, and any questions or concerns can be addressed promptly. The McKinsey study found that 90% of B2B decision makers expect the remote and digital model to remain. Three in four  believe the new model is as effective or more so than before COVID-19. As we move forward, the B2B customer experience will comprise a hybrid of face-to-face and remote interactions.

5. Large events and summits will be augmented with digital events and personalised digital demos

When Mobile World Congress was postponed in February 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic, it represented a turning point as live annual events moved online. In-person B2B events are invaluable for brand presence, for networking and product demos, and we look forward to them returning. However, for the near future we see digital events and smaller in-person sessions augmented with client conversations tightly focused on solving specific business challenges. These conversations will be supplemented with personalized virtual product demos which help clients visualize how they will use products and services within their own businesses.

6. Clients will expect emotional intelligence

Every individual has experienced the pandemic in a different way, and it has become more important than ever to communicate and interact with sensitivity and empathy. 68% of businesses in the SalesForce survey expect brands to demonstrate empathy, but only 37% are experiencing this, while two fifths of B2B marketers have adapted content or creative materials to become more emotional. Emotional intelligence has become one of the most critical skills during the past year, and will continue to be a valued and influential part of the B2B customer experience.

Just as our personal buying experiences influence where we choose to shop, the B2B customer experience has become highly influential in buying decisions. 56% of B2B buyers have said they would actually pay more for a better customer experience. Conversely, they wouldn’t buy from the same business again if their experience was below expectations. While none of us knows what our newly-emerging, post-pandemic world really looks like, it’s down to all B2B organizations to act responsively, to respond quickly, to add real value and to make every engagement matter.


State of the Connected Customer:

McKinsey B2B Pulse:


Debunking telemedicine myths beyond the pandemic

Telemedicine has played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing non-urgent but vital care to be provided in the safety of a patient’s home, while hospitals and primary care centers focus on emergency treatment. While its benefits are clear during a global pandemic, will it continue to grow and be a part of our lives in a post-lockdown world? What is its value? How will it be used to lessen the burden on health systems and improve quality of care? Before we tackle these questions, let’s first address three common myths.

Myth 1: Telemedicine is just teleconsultation used in primary care settings.

Reality: Telemedicine has many roles in healthcare delivery and spans the entire patient journey.
It can take many forms and is often labelled with a wide variety of terms: digital health, e-health, telehealth or teleconsultation, just to name a few. Ask someone what these words mean and you’re likely to get ambiguous and overlapping definitions.

With the rising demand for digital health and telemedicine applications over the past year, the industry, including regulators and professional associations, is actively working to clarify and define key terms to provide necessary clarity in a rapidly evolving space. Examples include the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society releasing a definition for “digital health” in March 2020, and the EU Medical Devices Directive expanding to include telemedicine solutions as part of their regulatory framework. The Digital Therapeutics Alliance has also drawn boundaries and classified an important subset of telemedicine technology – digital therapeutics (DTx). Industry alignment is fundamental in creating a shared language and understanding, underpinning the creation of regulatory pathways and assessment framework to advance progress.

We reviewed the multitude of definitions and see telemedicine as, in essence, the provision of clinical services remotely using both virtual and digital interactions at the core of a broad and complex set of digitally enabled healthcare interactions.

virtual care solutions medical communications

The following are not included in our definition:

  • Non-clinical telehealth, including telepharmacies, contact tracing and fitness tracking
  • Digital applications designed solely for in-person physical settings (e.g. digital lab diagnostics
  • Infrastructure that enables telemedicine, such as EHRs/EMRs, FIHR standards and HIPAA-compliant data centers

To bring this definition to life, we show here how it can be applied across the patient journey from prevention through wellness.

virtual care solutions medical communications

  • Pre-diagnosis: Keeping populations healthy, preventing disease at its root.
    Example: CureApp is a prescription DTx that supports patients with nicotine addiction used in conjunction with a portable carbon monoxide checker and is the first DTx to be nationally reimbursed in Japan.
  • Diagnosis: Driving faster patient identification, diagnosis or triage to therapy; plugging gaps in care.
    Example: In the U.K., Arc Health partnered with EMIS Health to improve GP access in care homes with its remote diagnostic platform for the patient with a number of connected meters and a camera. The partnership will introduce Arc to 57% of GP practices across the country.
  • Post-diagnosis: Supporting remote patient monitoring, disease management or adherence.
    Example: FreeStyle Libre, a continuous glucose monitoring system, provides care for more than 2 million people across 57 countries, with reimbursement secured in 37 countries. Studies demonstrate increased glucose control for users who consistently scan.
Myth 2: Telemedicine is a new development that would not exist without COVID-19.

Reality: COVID-19 accelerated telemedicine adoption by amplifying macrotrends and filling both new and pre-existing gaps in care, as the pandemic disrupted in-person physician visits and highlighted existing structural flaws in the healthcare system.

To say that it originated with new technologies at the onset of COVID-19 would be misleading. In reality, most of the technology already existed prior to 2020, exemplified through Teva’s acquisition of Gecko Health in 2015 and Roche’s acquisition of mySugr in 2017.

COVID-19 highlighted structural gaps in the way care is delivered and received. This expedited convergence of needs and expectations pushed the patient further to the forefront, with rightful demands for a better and seamless healthcare experience.

These underlying causes for the surge in this trend will continue to drive the market forward, even as we return to more in-person interactions. A key question remains: If the underlying factors were here all along, why did it take a pandemic for telemedicine to take off? There were significant barriers to telemedicine pre-COVID, such as concerns around privacy, security and trust; usability and integration; digital capability; and know-how. Although these still exist, necessity forced patients, providers and healthcare systems to overcome these barriers to help patients to receive care. Moving forward, security, user experience, cost and access will remain key considerations.

Myth 3: Telemedicine is an over-hyped trend that won’t last after COVID-19.

Reality: Though the number of teleconsultations has gone down in recent months as restrictions are being lifted, telemedicine is here to stay.

1) Levels of telemedicine growth during COVID-19 have increased at an unprecedented pace. During the pandemic, awareness and usage of telemedicine has grown with telehealth claim lines increasing from 0.15% of medical claims in April 2019 to 13% in April 2020, and up to 85% of physicians conducting some of their patient visits via telehealth. Accenture’s research showed that patients are open to new models of care as a result of COVID-19, and digital technologies will be key to fine-tune the patient services model and deliver the intended the impact.

While limited access to in-person visits could create an artificial inflation of the telemedicine market, following analysis of industry reports conducted by Accenture, we see that telemedicine would contract globally post-COVID but would remain above pre-COVID levels, with growth rate predictions for 2019-2025 shifting from 14.5% pre-COVID to 21.8% post-COVID.

2) COVID-19 has caused a shift in attitudes. 48% of patients state they would be more willing to seek virtual care in the future and 54% of primary care physicians intend to continue using telemedicine. The demand  is expected to continue due to the tangible value it brings:

  • Removing points of friction in the patient experience
  • Facilitating access to healthcare (Example: specialists and rural access)
  • Improving standard of care by building a holistic picture of patient health, allowing pre-emptive diagnosis and proactive disease management
  • Reducing costs for healthcare providers and payers through triage, reduction of travel and minimized hospital stays

3) During COVID-19, governments and regulators have had to adapt. In Germany, Digital Health Applications Ordinance — DiGAV introduced pathways to review the reimbursement eligibility of digital health applications by statutory insurers. In Japan, telehealth regulations and reimbursement conditions by national health insurance have been relaxed. In the U.S., many of the expanded telehealth services temporarily covered by Medicare due to COVID-19 have been made permanent as of December 2020.

Clearly defined regulatory pathways are a fundamental building block for delivery and widespread adoption. As these frameworks continue to develop, companies must pay close attention to this dynamic environment.

The healthcare ecosystem, including life sciences industry, needs to prepare itself for a world where telemedicine and digitally enabled care become the status quo, and address the implications for their businesses. How will they collaborate across this expanding set of telemedicine players? How do they commercialize and succeed in this new context? These are the burning questions for the industry as it adapts to a new reality.


Pharma surges in 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer

Despite a wave of positive recognition at the start of the pandemic, public trust in hospitals and health systems has declined, according to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer study. But the data also shows that the pharmaceutical industry continues to enjoy an uptick in positive public perception.

The venerable Edelman Trust Barometer, based on an online survey that spans 28 countries and some 33,000 respondents, examines trust and credibility in global institutions. Amid a climate of instability amplified by COVID-19, civil unrest over systemic racism and an economic crisis, this year’s study found that trust has decreased across all types of societal institutions – including business, government and media – and that misinformation has proliferated.

The results showed an unusual trajectory for trust in the health sector. It experienced a boost in May 2020, followed by a decline.

That may say that people are losing their trust in all institutions.

Among the health subsectors singled out in the report – pharma, biotech, hospitals and health systems, consumer health, and commercial insurance – hospitals and health systems seemingly bore the brunt of the backlash.

The current decline in trust for the hospital and health system sector was largely driven by systemic disruption, with many patients unable or unwilling to venture into facilities for non-urgent surgeries or procedures. Emergency room footage provided viewers with a glimpse of the degree of strain on the system.

What the hospital sector should take away from the survey results is that they need to think about improving their commitments to innovation and surrounding communities. It’s essential that hospitals place a greater emphasis on taking care of their employees.

A few questions to ask themselves: How are health systems showing up with how they’re acting, and with the stories they’re telling about the importance of their employee population? How are they really taking care of them and addressing the burnout we know nurses and physicians have? How are they valuing everybody, from the top of the organization to the bottom?

Pharma in the spotlight.

The pandemic, meanwhile, provided the pharma industry with an unprecedented uptick in trust and reputation. Throughout 2020, as pharma companies scrambled to get vaccines developed and approved, the industry began to be perceived as a big part of the solution. Historically, “Big Pharma” was tagged with a rep of too willing to take advantage of patients through high drug prices.

In the U.S., pharma had a nine-point increase in trust, which is considerable. People believe this sector is really driving the most critical solution for the global community right now.

Despite those gains, however, pharma remains in what Edelman characterized as “distrusted territory.”

They’ve had progress, but they haven’t risen up into trusted territory. What that says to us is that there’s so much opportunity to take these trust gains and look at what they can do in the next 12 to 24 months, to think about the lessons they’ve learned during COVID.

The study results also revealed a heightened expectation on business – including healthcare and pharma companies – to take the lead in addressing broad societal issues, like health inequities and needed improvements to the healthcare system. More than 60% of people in the U.S. said that the country would not be able to overcome its challenges without the business community stepping in.

We now have this understanding that there’s an interconnectedness between the health of our communities and our people, and the health of our economy. There has to be an appreciation going forward of how we address things to improve public health for all communities, with equity at the center.

That means pharma and healthcare companies should prioritize employee well-being and allow CEOs to be heard early and often. Just as important is the need for these organizations to create and deliver trustworthy content.

The secret for Pharma may lie on an inside-out approach where the industry harness the positive pride that employees have, and help them to share stories externally. Give them opportunities to engage and take action, and then harness the pride they have in their companies playing a bigger role when it comes to societal issues and public health issues.




Is the cultural gap harming more effective partnerships between Pharma and startups?

Pharma and startups have a lot to offer each other. So why aren’t we hearing more pharma-startup success stories?

Digital health has the potential to transform the pharmaceutical industry and the patient experience. Both digital health startups and pharma are eager to engage each other. Pharma continues to have significant need to leverage innovative “beyond the pill solutions.”

Digital health startups offer a wealth of potential solutions, and investors have noticed. Such startups attracted over $6.7 billion in Q1 2021 alone.

Given the potential synergy, why aren’t we hearing more pharma-startup success stories? Many say the answer is in the “pharma-startup gap,” a disconnect due to the divergent ways pharma and startups operate. Differences in size, speed, processes and culture make it challenging for pharma and startups to partner.

Pharma firms are powerful and stable, with the resources and personnel needed to develop and test their products. But their ability to change course is limited and takes time. Pharma companies are complex organizations which operate via a myriad of internal processes.

They have built sophisticated channels for connecting with healthcare providers, navigating government regulation and handling payments. Safety and quality are nonnegotiable. They must be demonstrated initially and then monitored continuously.

As a result, pharma often moves slowly and cautiously. The average time from discovery to drug approval is over 10 years. To bring that single product to market typically costs over $2 billion.

Digital health startups are the exact opposite. They are small and nimble, and can focus on developing innovative solutions without regulatory constraints or complex infrastructure. Because funding can run out, speed is of the essence. A minimal viable product (MVP) can be developed in months – not years – and for a fraction of the cost of a drug.

Moreover, their product can be changed and updated rapidly in response to user feedback. If an idea fails, a startup can quickly pivot and change course. However, startups typically lack the infrastructure needed to scale and commercialize solutions. They may also not have a firm grasp of the regulatory requirements around certain digital health solutions.

Despite their differences, pharma and digital health startups each bring a set of unique and complementary strengths. Both contribute to improving patient outcomes and healthcare experiences. Startups can develop new ideas quickly, explore iterations and test them rapidly.

Pharma has access to well-developed sales and marketing channels, as well as strong connections with providers and payers. Tremendous synergies can be achieved when pharma and startups partner. But finding each other and working together is not always easy, due to these fundamental differences.

To effectively partner and bridge the pharma-startup gap, both startups and pharma need to learn to speak the same language. For startups to successfully partner with pharma, they need to understand what drives pharma – what keeps them up at night. Meanwhile, to successfully adopt the digital health innovations of startups, pharma must understand the timing and funding pressures that many startups face.

Through partnerships, pharma companies and digital health startups can leverage their complementary strengths and accomplish what neither can do alone. But until they learn to understand each other, they will continue to be stuck on their respective sides of the pharma-startup gap.

A new digital divide? The haves and have-nots for Pharma virtual care.

The gap between telehealth haves and have-nots threatens to undermine the momentum toward Pharma virtual care.

Owing to a combination of stay-at-home orders and the federal government’s temporary expansion of coverage for telehealth services, COVID-19 catalyzed the adoption of telehealth. But while the surge has benefited both patients (hello, getting diagnosed on the couch) and doctors (who report having more time to speak with patients and caregivers, according to ZS research), a divide has emerged among telehealth haves and have-nots. Indeed, many of the preexisting barriers to care are being replicated in the digital realm.

So, as pharma marketers continue adapting to the world of virtual care, it’s critical to understand who telehealth isn’t reaching — and how their efforts can bolster equity in telehealth access.

The increasing divide serves to blunt industry momentum toward widespread telehealth adoption, which has obvious implications for medical marketers. At the start of the pandemic, point-of-care marketing quickly shifted from physical pamphlets and posters to two-minute informational messaging that plays in the virtual waiting room before patients connect with their doctors. Drug websites now encourage visitors to “click here to talk to your doctor,” connecting patients to vertically integrated telehealth practices.

Indeed, telehealth has become almost a marketing call to action. By way of example, Biohaven Pharmaceuticals’ Nurtec, a migraine medication that launched in 2020 with an assist from a telehealth firm that specializes in migraine care. The success of these types of activations depends on answering the question, “Did the telehealth option that brands were offering really solve a problem for the patient?”

After stratospheric levels of adoption in 2020 — IQVIA reported a 3,000% increase in users — telehealth claims have plateaued, though at a higher level than many in the industry expected. According to telehealth claims analysis by ZS, about 20% of patient visits will shift to telehealth long-term.

But none of this accounts for the telehealth users who have been left behind. In February, the NHIT helped launch the Telehealth Equity Coalition (TEC), a group of academics, telehealth providers and nonprofits working to identify barriers and advocate for public policy that increases access to telehealth among underserved groups, among them seniors, rural residents and low-income communities of colour.

pharma virtual care

The coalition’s website cites recent NHIT data on telehealth access showing that poorer and more rural states had fewer telehealth claims over the last year. Similarly, a study of COVID-related visits at New York City’s Mount Sinai Health System found that white and Asian patients were the most likely to use telehealth, while Black and Hispanic patients, people over 65 and non-English speaking patients were more likely to seek emergency room care.

First, there is the physical barrier of broadband access: The Federal Communications Commission reports that nearly 30 million Americans do not have access to high-speed internet, including 35% of people who live in rural areas.

At least 31.8 million American adults aren’t digitally literate, while many communities of colour have a history of distrust in the healthcare establishment. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Undefeated found that six of 10 Black adults said they trust doctors to do what is right most of the time, compared to eight of 10 white people.

To better understand the interdisciplinary nature of these challenges, the NHIT is providing the Telehealth Equity Coalition and its members with access to the NHIT Data Fusion Center, which incorporates data sets from governmental organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Federal Communications Commission. By layering these data sets on top of each other, TEC can create data visualizations that show where’s the broadband, where’s the transportation, food insecurity, etc.

So how can pharma support equitable access to telehealth? One example: patient support programs most pharma brands already have in place, which offer everything from co-pay cards to health coaches and call centers for answering patient questions.

There’s a tremendous amount of support pharma can provide to patients to cover some of these disparities that we see with telehealth and care overall. However, too often patients and physicians aren’t aware of them.

Meeting patients’ technological capabilities, through increasing the availability of audio-only calls for those without broadband and focusing on mobile-first resources, is also an important piece of the equity puzzle. Advocates are currently pushing the US federal government to reimburse audio-only telehealth at the same rates as video calls.

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center study, 26% of adults earning under $30,000 a year are “smartphone-dependent internet users.” Pharma companies could, then, think about text-based messaging and reminder programs, short videos or snackable content that will enable them to reach the patient where telehealth is happening.

Besides that, an emphasis is needed on the importance of listening to community needs and including the communities as partners in the production of health.

Above all, we need to ask communities how they want to access healthcare services and operate within that framework, rather than imposing a telehealth solution onto them.




Tags: pharma virtual care, telehealth pharma, virtual care pharma