There has been more intrigue and discussion about the point-of-care environment over the past 18 months than in the last decade combined — and the news keeps on coming.

Just recently, the Point of Care Communication Council (PoC3) released the first version of its anticipated Best Practice Guidelines and Auditing Standards report. In the wake of the Outcome Health controversy from last year, these new guidelines are an important first step in rebuilding trust in a historically fruitful and effective marketing channel and should help pave the way for a set of much-needed business practices in this environment.

Change is only born out of disruption, and it is fair to say many in the industry got a little too comfortable. In order to ensure the voice of the buyer was heard, starting in early 2017 PoC3 invited both pharmaceutical brand and media agency leaders to participate in the Verification and Validations Standards Committee. As a member of this group of advisors, I was able to collaborate with the PoC3 member companies in the development of the guidelines.

Together with analytics and operations executives from the various PoC3 member companies, pharma marketers, and key agency stakeholders, we debated key topics, including the frequency of reporting and the approach to independent third-party verification versus internal auditing and reporting. While there are slightly different standards for digital and printed formats, a majority of time was spent collaborating around the digital formats, given the complexity and technical aspects of the execution.

The point-of-care landscape is complex and there will likely never be a perfect set of standards that covers every possible situation. However, the PoC3 member companies took an important step by proactively developing a framework to hold themselves accountable for delivery and performance in a similar fashion to other communication channels.

These companies understand the importance of accountability. Welcoming input from the buyers’ side illustrates their belief that collaboration from all sides is critical to ensure success.

However, it will be important for the PoC3 member companies to continue to welcome dialogue and feedback. Broadening outreach and soliciting additional input from more agencies and marketers that can add strategic planning, analytics, and operations perspectives will only create more effective standards and greater buy-in. Indeed, the group has grown to include a panel of more than a dozen agency stakeholders who will act in an advisory role on an ongoing basis.

Sellers and agencies are striving towards the same goal: To restore credibility and generate positive outcomes for patients and our clients

Benjamin Assor, Healix Global

Agencies are under pressure to be equally — if not more — accountable for every investment in the current climate, and justifiably so. There are unique dynamics and nuances to each campaign, from format to scale to campaign structure, and the Best Practice Guidelines and Auditing Standards may not fit neatly in every case. Depending on the situation, additional auditing might be necessary and justified.

For instance, when inventory is tight, a common approach is to collaborate and build a custom network or expand the existing footprint into new offices. But in doing so, it’s important for the vendor to provide frequent updates on status of the build-out and confirm operations are running smoothly. I’ve experienced scenarios in which formats were not installed properly, or outside the agreed-upon footprint, in an effort to meet the contracted count on time.

Agencies must also hold themselves accountable to ask the right questions, conduct the proper due diligence when evaluating and selecting point-of-care partners, and ensure that the partners are providing the transparency and accountability that clients demand. At the end of the day, sellers and agencies are striving towards the same goal: To restore credibility and generate positive outcomes for patients and our clients. But we won’t get there without both sides working collaboratively.

If agencies don’t feel that the verification and auditing have enough teeth, then skepticism will remain and investment may not grow much beyond current levels. Yet if agency demands are too extreme and lack some sort of consistent and prioritized structure, accountability might be difficult to come by.

Everyone is incentivized to make this work. All eyes are on us.

Benjamin Assor is SVP, strategy at Healix Global