While programmatic is a channel that benefited from increased investment last year on the HCP and consumer marketing sides, click and impression fraud continue to be problems in the digital advertising industry. During this TrendTalks session, “Ensuring Transparency and Integrity Within Digital Points of Care” sponsored by Doceree, participants discussed current approaches to ensuring integrity in targeting healthcare audiences and the challenges they face understanding the technology and its potential fraud pitfalls. 

Moderator Harshit Jain, CEO of Doceree, noted that programmatic marketing can be a successful avenue for marketers to engage with physicians, provide access to financial programming resources, recruit patients for clinical trials and lift prescription rates. 

Proponents say that point-of-care messaging offers the promise of better efficiency of spend, a particularly attractive choice as budgets are down and 62% of marketers want to do more with less spend, according to recent MM+M research. “The closer brand messaging is timed to the writing of the script, the more likely the script will be written for that product,” noted Jain. 

More targeted approaches are becoming increasingly important to marketers. “The blockbusters of the world are going away and many of us are operating in the rare disease, oncology and live biotherapeutic areas. We can’t use broad-based awareness tactics — we need to find specialized target audiences and be much more efficient,” said Jennifer Ryan, director, patient marketing, microbiome at Ferring Pharmaceuticals. Predictive analytics can help find those patients.

Jain noted that, while placing ads in EHRs can improve business outcomes and should be part of every omnichannel strategy, the adoption in healthcare is extremely limited. “The channel has immense potential and I definitely see more agencies getting educated and building point of care specialties, but it needs more trust and confidence and pilots,” he said.

Amy McCann, former director, customer marketing and HCP experience at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, suggested that more robust data on effectiveness could help make the case for EHR targeting as a preferred solution. For now, most marketing professionals are leaving the responsibility of checks and balances of fraudulent behavior in these channels to agency partners.

“We rely on the agencies doing that modeling to get the best predictive analytics. But transparency is a different issue. I really don’t have insight into some of the tactics I’m using. We look at the data for outliers and hope somebody has a foolproof system in place,” said Ryan.

Jain noted that even agencies have limited knowledge and understanding because the channel is emerging. Several panelists acknowledged less-than-optimal experiences with the channel. McCann cited a bad experience with a click farm. 

To address the issue, IAB Tech Lab launched Ads.txt, an initiative mandating that platforms state which exchanges are authorized to sell their digital ad inventory — a development that provides more control over who’s allowed to sell ads on a specific site and helps prevent counterfeit inventory from being presented to advertisers. 

“Industry initiatives, such as Ads.txt, help everyone align in the right direction,” said Jain. He said more precise point-of-care targeting can be particularly important for brands that have passed the initial awareness stage and are more focused on the “action stage.” Messaging that can be timed to engage HCPs at the exact time in the medication journey can be very effective. 

Research shows the average U.S. physician uses six to eight point-of-care platforms, a combination of EHR, telehealth and an electronic prescribing app. “We have typically seen match rates of about 70% on any list match you want to reach. It’s as sharp and targeted as you could go,” said Jain. 

As telehealth grows in acceptance, the platform is becoming a more effective messaging vehicle for prescribing information or details on financial or copay aspects at key moments in the HPC-patient conversation. “Financial patient assistance program details can be directed to the patient with the script or the physician can have the opportunity to print or text the details of that program to the patient directly,” said Jain. “When the information comes from the physician, it has much higher credibility and the chances of the patient signing up are so much higher.”

Yet Ryan warned that, post-pandemic, the captive audience may not necessarily be the physician. “You have to make sure that message is going to the person who’s actually engaging on that platform,” she said. 

Panelists had other concerns about the platform. Several noted there are barriers to what brands can say on many platforms. Heightened awareness of consumer healthcare data being sold is another concern. “A lot of pharma companies are taking data privacy and data governance very seriously. It’s important that we have people’s trust,” noted Lori Holland-Hancock, director, channel strategy and engagement at Merck.

“We face significant fines if we ever had a data breach that shared any of our personal health data. We’re all trained on the process,” added Ryan. The sentiment was echoed by Leanne Miller, associate director, CX and commercial acceleration at Organon. “We have a rigorous process that any pilot program has to go through from a privacy standpoint, to make sure it’s very clearly tied to a business objective in order to even pursue it,” she said.