How can pharma use messaging apps to talk to consumers and patients in a manner that is respectful of data privacy?

Jeffrey Rohwer
Executive director, strategy and innovation,
Messaging apps such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp and WeChat in less than four years have tripled in popularity, with billions of users sending trillions of texts. This offers pharma an incredible opportunity to engage with millions of consumers, but only if we remain mindful of privacy and security considerations especially vital for personal health information.

Clients have taken baby steps, but precise, prescriptive direction is essential. The path forward is controlling the channel, starting with opt-in. Texts must steer clear of clinical subjects and instead focus on customer service solutions.

In terms of data security, end-to-end encryption is a necessary default. Privacy and security must be transparent throughout, with conversations expertly managed and, when necessary, escalated for added patient security. Messaging apps hold great power, but also demand great responsibility.

Jackie Singley
SVP, media director, 
Guidemark Health
Messaging apps represent a new communication medium, and the landscape is changing daily. To stay current, take advantage of live events to connect with experts and become familiar with specific platform terms of service.

Engagement rules only establish the guardrails to preserve a positive user experience. There needs to be full disclosure regarding what happens with information shared. There should be clear separation between using conversation chains to inform responses and larger marketing initiatives.

The focus should be on providing helpful content through customized chatbots and customer service. For example, brands offering a support program can provide patients direct access to nursing concierge services or access and reimbursement assistance via an opt-in subscription. If subscribing will capture emails for ongoing reminders or communications, disclose that up front.

Hoss Sooudi
Engaged Media
Messaging apps can offer value to pharma companies, provided they adhere to some of the guiding principles we’ve adopted.

First, we rely on participants to actively enroll in our programs, with clear explanations of the prescription adherence support they offer.

Second, we’re transparent in our content. Patients receive personalized messaging on behalf of our pharma clients, which provides them with clarity on who is sponsoring this information, why they’re receiving it, and distinct opt-out instructions.

Third, our participants’ information is never shared beyond our clearly defined clients. As we assess other channels through which to engage consumers, we will always consider how tech can help people better manage their health while protecting privacy and building positive relationships with brands.

Hans Kaspersetz
Cofounder, president, and chief strategist, 
With 1.5 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp is the de facto messaging app used globally (outside of China). WhatsApp provides multiple features that create opportunities for brand teams.

It implements strong encryption and connects people with instant video, voice, and text chat. It provides one-to-one communication, which is ideal for implementing telemedicine, adherence programs, and patient support programs. WhatsApp isn’t a push platform.

Therefore, pharma isn’t talking to a patient. Pharma must talk with individuals. While there are HIPAA- and privacy-related challenges, the scale and fundamental tech justify solving them. The truth is marketers must go where the audience is — and consumers are leaving TV.