As retailers and all manner of adjacencies start to play bigger roles in serving healthcare, that’s spurring some unlikely partnerships, offering biopharma and med tech companies fresh opportunities to create a better customer experience — and gain patient data and insights.
“The most interesting of those new partnerships are focused around solving simple problems within healthcare,” said Duncan. “Look at companies such as Lyft or Uber working with insurance providers and being able to tap into electronic health records and schedule rides for people to and from the doctor — it’s more a user experience issue than necessarily finding a panacea for some disease.”
The insurance company Kaiser is partnering with Ginger.iO, a health coaching startup that offers emotional support and therapy to patients who have chronic conditions and a high propensity for suicide, observed Powell. By incorporating this app into its workflow, Kaiser has reduced ER admissions, cut suicide attempts, and lowered healthcare costs. “As an industry we can learn a lot from that,” she noted.
Mickelberg offered another example of an unlikely partnership that aids patient self-management. “Teva Pharmaceuticals got involved with Spotify to address the way people with Parkinson’s tend to shuffle,” he explained. “They created an app that tuned the music to the user’s gait to provoke them to move further or faster. Plus the data collected was transmitted to payers to prove the efficacy.”
How do you go about locating the right partner for your business objectives? “You need to think big and outside the box,” noted West. “We’ve given some of our folks a lot of latitude to scout what’s out there in the hotbeds of technology. Then we have a rigorous process to evaluate potential partnerships that would complement the innovation we’re expert in and also help meet the needs of our customers.”
Powell’s group exercises a similar rigor around the criteria it uses. “We consider what’s the shiny object versus what will be sustainable for the future and really help us disrupt the marketplace,” she said. “But we’re also trying to build competencies within the organization — marketers have to evolve their skill sets by expanding their knowledge of digital tech.”
While new partnerships are often prompted by the need for data, Mickelberg (above) observed, “the challenge is to harness and use it. We tell our clients, tongue-in-cheek, to let their data out of jail, because it’s not doing anyone any good when it’s confined in endless silos.”
Duncan emphasized that pharma needs to ensure the partnership isn’t all one-sided. “I’d want to be sure the pharma company is getting as much out of it as the other brand — that its not just using you to drive customers to Spotify, and that your company is gaining brand equity.”
As providers merge with payers and retailers get deeper into healthcare, change is clearly in the air for pharma and media. “Certainly the Googles, Amazons, Apples, and many others understand who the patient-consumer is as an individual,” said West. “It’s not just a person saying ‘I’m sick and I need medicine.’ That gives us an opportunity to leverage the insights and data they collect and use them to get that health and wellness component in there — by helping people remember to take their medications without defining them by their condition.”
Powell offered the example of sports brand Under Armour as another potential partner or even acquisition. “It has a health and wellness community of more than 250 million people, including diabetics and older adults with cardiovascular issues who’ve been told by their HCPs to engage in more physical activity,” she explained. “They’re getting encouraged by this worldwide community [to participate in activities], and Under Armour is collecting medication information and other data — but it’s not on our radar as an industry.”
Added Mickelberg, “The excitement of these new combinations of players is that you get lower costs, increased innovation, and more experiences.”
Healthcare in the moment
Technological advances are also bringing changes to the site of care, another factor impacting pharma’s marketing efforts.
Today, our health info can follow us everywhere, Mickelberg noted. “So pharma marketers should stop thinking about patient brochures and TV spots of people holding hands walking down the beach. They should be thinking about helpful interventions in the moment, using data to personalize those interventions where it makes a difference, and become powerful partners.”
Marketing today is all about customer experience, added Mickelberg. “And no industry has more right to engage with its customers than pharma.”
Powell finds it interesting that payers have such large innovation hubs. “For example, United Healthcare recently announced they’d partnered with Best Buy for a smart home system for the aging population,” she said. “We need to figure out how to leverage these trends, whether at the pharmacy, in smart homes, or in remote services. We’ve also seen news articles recently about remote clinical trials and monitoring — that’s another way to start creating equity with customers as they’re experiencing your brand.”
Regarding the move away from the doctor’s office, West (above) observed that remote support — whether it’s by Skype, dashboard, apps, or outsourced coaching — is a huge way to alleviate the time challenges of healthcare providers. “But remote monitoring is an uncomfortable place for the pharma manufacturer,” she added, “because it’s pushing us outside the traditional model of molecule development. We have to think about new revenue streams — new services that help doctors connect the dots.”
“Traditionally, if you have an affinity with your doctor, you trust that they’re prescribing a medication that works,” noted Duncan. “When you go outside that, there’s a huge opportunity for pharma companies to build brand equity with the customer. It’s all about creating a relationship directly with the consumer by saying, ‘We’re here to help you.’”
The role of data in proving value-based outcomes was also explored. West stressed that the more data you collect, the more responsible you need to be with how you use it. “There’s a lot of consternation on the consumer side — ‘How do you know so much about me?’ We need to use that information in a respectful way,” she explained.
Noting the preponderance of data, Powell mentioned Mary Meeker’s 2017 internet trends report, which showed 60% of Americans said they’re willing to share their healthcare data with Google, but not necessarily with pharma companies. “That should wake us up,” she stated emphatically. “In our minds we’ve been a trusted partner, but in our customers’ minds, we have not.”
So how can marketers leverage data to ensure their brand is engaging with the appropriate individual, whether it’s a prescriber, a person living with a condition, or a caregiver? Pharma has to move beyond push marketing and create relevant content at a relevant point in time for that individual, wherever they are in their journey, Powell urged.
“Let’s say at some point, Amazon will have more healthcare advertising,” she said. “If you could engage with someone living with diabetes who was buying health-related products, and know whether or not they’re one of your patients — that would be an ideal world.”
“Without question, Amazon will be the big story for us in the coming years,” Mickelberg noted. “But tech is getting out ahead of the media agencies’ ability to harness it and use it properly, which has created this pervasive transparency and fraud issue. Perhaps the media agency model is broken, and media is one of those things that could be — for now or forever — insourced. That’s something we as marketers should be open to.”