Artificial intelligence can elicit a host of different responses from medical marketers. Some may view the technology as a powerful tool to empower patients and healthcare brands alike while others may see it as an intimidating unknown. 

Regardless, like so many other technological innovations, AI is making its presence felt in the world of healthcare marketing. 

Agencies of all shapes and sizes continue to explore opportunities in AI and invest resources into machine learning as a way to bolster patient engagement on behalf of their clients.

Bridget Seay, executive director of customer experience and commercial consulting at epocrates, said AI can improve customer experience during a time when expectations are at an all-time high by anticipating client needs and boosting sales potential as the technology continues to evolve. 

Like so many other aspects of the industry, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the interest and adoption of AI, she said, noting that pharma marketers saw the value in leveraging AI capabilities to deliver the right content to a target audience at the right time.

In the absence of in-person meetings with physicians and other HCPs, pharma marketers utilized available technology to reach prescribers and ensure that they were still placing messages at key points in the patient journey. 

The shift to POC marketing has been a long time coming, Seay said, moving from the days of pharma marketers featuring ads in print publications to displaying a message in front of a physician at a critical time in the care experience. 

“The pharma industry has done a good job as a whole embracing AI and using it effectively,” she said.

Looking ahead, Seay predicted that IBM Watson is a “sleeping giant” with the potential to have a significant impact in the pharmaceutical marketing space thanks to its strategic partnerships and machine learning processes. 

“IBM Watson has the ability to help craft messaging and tailor it to the individual recipient,” she said. “There’s even talk about IBM Watson lending itself to individualized treatments, which would then require personalized FDA and MLR sign-offs. That’s pretty sophisticated but I don’t think that’s all that far-fetched.”

When put into action, AI has proven its worth in terms of delivering for pharma brands.

On behalf of a life sciences manufacturer, OptimizeRx created a model using AI and real-world evidence that predicted when a patient was going to hit a prescription coverage gap, also known as the ‘Medicare donut hole.’ This technology would prompt a physician to help patients adhere to their medication plan as well as overcome any unexpected costs due to the coverage gap.

The results were meaningful, according to a company case study, which found that over a six-month period, there were more than 46,000 incremental scripts among HCPs receiving affordability information and financial resources for their patients. 

Additionally, more than a quarter of the HCPs identified and targeted for the affordability information program enrolled a patient for the first time, leading to 200% growth over the brand’s initial number of HCPs identified with ‘at-risk’ patients.

Mike Rousselle, VP of data product at OptimizeRx, said the effort was a success for the brand and patients alike, which led the company to deploy more of these models for other organizations across the industry. 

Rousselle, an MM+M 40 Under 40 honoree, said that the value of AI is clear from not only the work OptimizeRx has conducted but also from other instances in the sector. He said that some may be intimidated by the concept of AI because the messaging around it hasn’t been clear and should be considered as part of a “spectrum of how we can predict the future.”

“Predicting the future within the concept of POC messaging is about predicting when my messages will be more timely or relevant,” he said. “Everyone is using insights to inform what they should do and AI is just one end of that spectrum of insights.”

For a February 2024 article on how AI can revolutionize pandemic response, click here.