As Digital Pharma East (DPE) 2022 kicked off in Philadelphia Tuesday, there was a feeling of a near full-return to pre-pandemic levels of “normal” for an industry function — and less of the hesitation that marked most of 2021.

The event began with IQVIA’s VP and GM of digital solutions, Frank Lin, declaring that the “future is infinite” when it comes to digital media in 2023.

There was also a mention of point-of-care and how marketers can reach patients on a more emotional level. This is an important consideration as patients are increasingly likely to experience anxiety and stress in waiting rooms, according to PatientPoint research presented this morning.

The survey found that a majority of Americans are too afraid to ask their healthcare providers about their conditions or symptoms and one-third of respondents said that waiting and exam rooms cause anxiety. Additionally, nearly 50% leave the appointment feeling confused about the medical information.

The speakers posed a simple question: How can POC marketing remedy this issue? One pathway lies in something simple and cute, but perhaps unsurprising: cats.

Patients want education and information to ease their anxiety, Linda Ruschau, chief client officer at PatientPoint, said. “The right content can transform anxiety into empowerment,” she noted.

In a deeper-dive eye-tracking study, PatientPoint exposed patents to a variety of different content to see what sparked joy or was engaging. The primary takeaway: experiential content evoked positive emotions, while videos featuring cats created joy.

While cats may not literally be the answer to healthcare’s woes, it points to a larger theme: patients desire upbeat messaging. 

“From a brand marketing perspective, how can we switch it up, inspire joy and give the patient some information to hope for?,” asked Sarah Bast, head of investment, marketplace and partnerships at Publicis Health Media.

Brands should aim to create content that creates relaxation, Ruschau noted. 

“People with cancer say, ‘You don’t have to tell me I have cancer. Give me something else to think about while I’m sitting in the waiting room,’” she added.

When it came time for a panel on imminent pharma marketing trends, speakers looked past the typical buzzwords like agile, fluid, culture, people and journey. Instead, they focused the conversation on using data to shift the industry from activity to impact.

“We’re now being rewarded for impact versus activity, a shift that’s happening because of data,” Michelle Kehily, VP, global head of digital marketing and commercial excellence at Merck, said. “It’s a huge behavioral shift and cultural shift, but it does make a difference.”

Finally, instead of thinking of connected TV as a silo, Lauren Sacks, director of omnichannel marketing, Nurtec at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, and Lesley Tavel, SVP of planning and strategy at Klick Health, urged marketers to pair it with linear TV as a “dynamic duo.”

About 90% of U.S. households already own connected TVs — and when the question was posed to the audience, nearly everyone said that they own one. It’s a pretty good reason for pharma marketers to overcome any hesitancy to get into the game, Sacks and Tavel argued.

“If someone is viewing the content on connected TV, you want to be there,” Sacks said. “Why wouldn’t you be on both linear and CTV to expand that reach?”