karen newmark

When the Point of Care Communication Council (PoC3) named Karen Newmark as its executive director in November, the appointment was met with surprise in some health-adjacent circles. This had less to do with Newmark’s qualifications, buffed during in-house and agency stints, as it did with the absence of overt point-of-care experience.

The thinking was that the POC space had evolved so significantly in recent years — not to mention weathered an existential threat, courtesy of the late-2017 fraud allegations against Outcome Health — that only an individual with deep planning or branding expertise could navigate the numerous interested constituencies.

But given recent additions to the PoC3 membership rolls, which include A-list media agency HealixGlobal, auditing organization BPA Worldwide, and consultancy ZS Associates, it would seem PoC3 is less in need of somebody who has personally installed screens in physicians’ offices than a skilled marketer/communicator to help the group clarify its mission at a time of channel growth.

To that end, Newmark is an inspired addition. Since starting her career in healthcare IT, Newmark has held a variety of marketing roles, both in the agency world (at Intouch Solutions and ghg) and with big pharma (at Teva).

“Karen left a strong impression as a marketer in building a digital presence for our mature brand,” says Jan Jones, Teva VP, patient services and solutions. “She built a loyal following in our patient community by providing a different way of engaging through Lift MS.”

Asked whether she believes her background is somewhat unusual for the new post, Newmark acknowledges that similar healthcare associations tend to be led by individuals with channel-specific experience.

At the same time, she notes, just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s right. “The PoC3 focus is on driving better outcomes through better use of the POC channel, and marketing is at the heart of that,” Newmark says.

She arrives at a crucial time, as much for PoC3 as for the channel itself. MM&M recently reported that medical marketers spend an estimated $500 million to $600 million in and around POC. That makes PoC3’s role bringing forward and promoting best practices in the channel more important than it’s ever been.

The PoC3 focus is on driving better outcomes through better use of the POC channel, and marketing is at the heart of thatKaren Newmark, PoC3

“One of the things that maybe we haven’t done as much as we’d like [is] working to drive innovation. How are we shaping the future of the space? Where do areas such as remote health and AI fit in?” Newmark explains. “It’s about growing the channel and bringing education and awareness to it, but the real power is bringing together stakeholders who have the ability to impact the space.”

That mission remains complicated by the allegations against Outcome Health, accused in late 2017 of having misled advertisers about the reach of their POC placements. Unlike other execs in the POC loop, Newmark doesn’t suggest the industry has put the episode in its rearview mirror. “We have to finish restoring confidence,” she says.

Still, Newmark can find a silver lining. “It elevated the importance of the ‘we really need to do this together’ mindset,” she continues. “In an industry that’s experiencing rapid growth, things like this unfortunately do happen. You can look back and realize that maybe [the industry] should have had [guidelines] more formalized.”

In the months ahead, Newmark will continue to operate the health-first consultancy she recently founded. At PoC3, she hopes to increase the breadth of the membership base — HealixGlobal’s addition was seen as a huge step — and push for new types of partnerships and collaborations.

“Long-term, the challenge becomes what we saw years ago with digital. For new companies entering the space, it can be hard to stay ahead of the curve,” she explains. “We have to keep that top of mind.”

For MM&M’s three-part series “The New POC Landscape,” which examines one of marketing’s most misunderstood media spaces, click here.