In this episode of the MM+M Podcast, recorded live at the DTC National event in Boston earlier this year, MM+M’s Stephen Madden speaks with Paul Theisen, CEO, Populus Media, about how the pandemic provided the “mother of all use cases” for point-of-care media in telehealth, how virtual care has settled into a new normal, and what’s next for the tech-driven firm, including launch of an enterprise version of its product suite and a rebrand.

Transforming pharma marketing through personalized healthcare solutions

Paul Theisen
Populus Media

Populus Media recognized that the healthcare industry was on the cusp of a significant shift toward virtual personalized healthcare from the comfort of patients’ own homes. Prior to the pandemic, the company began offering educational content and advertising opportunities during the time a patient waited for their physician to join a telehealth consult. The explosion of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed Populus to grow rapidly and offer additional services and opportunities.

During a recent MM+M podcast, Stephen Madden, GM of Haymarket Business Media Group, sat down with Paul
Theisen, CEO of Populus Media, to discuss how the pandemic provided the “mother of all use cases” for point-of-care media in telehealth; how virtual care has settled into a new normal; and what’s next for the tech-driven firm.

“We’ve been fortunate to have this ‘big bang’ moment where all of a sudden we raised our hand and said, ‘Let us tell you, Mr. or Mrs. Brand Manager, how to spend in this new telehealth channel,’” Theisen said. “Now the challenge is to extend that and continue to be the first mover in that space.”

The evolution of telehealth

Launched in February 2020 by Satnam Gandhi, Ray Rotolo, Howard Seidman and Theisen, Populus Media was envisioned as a way to “take the concept of point-of-care media — communicating with physicians and patients just before a consultation — into the virtual world,” he explained. The pandemic accelerated the shift “from 1% of the population using telehealth regularly to over 60% by late 2020,” he said.

Engagement continues to remain robust, with 20% to 25% of all visits being done virtually. According to physicians, “70% of their case workload can be done virtually,” Theisen said, adding that virtual visits appeal to multiple generations of patients as they can be less stressful and time-consuming. However, “the health systems and the underlying infrastructure of healthcare need to continue to evolve to be able to deliver that connected care.” 

Telehealth is the future of healthcare. “Every major health system has virtual care as a key component of their growth,” Theisen said. With doctors overworked and stressed, a virtual team can help ease the burden of routine care by allowing physicians to “focus on the more urgent, chronic care cases that they need to take care of every day.” 

Scaling the business

Populus Media has an addressable market of approximately 30 million virtual care encounters a year. Since launch, the company has focused its efforts on engaging patients through advertisement placement within the virtual care environment. With a doctor and patient in every visit, there is a clear “path to an HCP business and product,” Theisen said. The second phase involves building out that aspect of the business.

As one of the few players in the virtual care media space, Populus has integrated approximately 15 telehealth companies with the platform and anticipates reaching 50 million encounters by the end of the year. That will give Populus “the capability to deliver messages and content to patients at scale,” Theisen said.

The primary difference between point-of-care media and Populus’ virtual platform is “targetability,” he continued. A patient at the office can receive messages through billboards, wall boards, TVs and more, but is still unknown to the advertiser. With telehealth, Populus can identify the audience and target by the reason for the visit.

“There’s a whole world of opportunity out there with connected care,” Theisen concluded. “There’s no shortage of ideas on how you can build a business, provide value and create new products for pharma clients or nonendemic clients
as well.”