Help Give Digital Healthcare a Voice @ SXSW

SXSW_Logo_2013_BlackBG_CSThe South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival held every March in Austin has earned itself the reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and technologies.  It is the biggest festival of its kind in the world focusing on emerging technologies.

In keeping with Ogilvy CommonHealth World Wide’s ongoing drive to focus on and advocate for emerging trends in healthcare we have two panels in the running to be presented at the 2014 SXSW festival.

But to get in we need YOUR help.

Public voting accounts for 30% of the decision-making process so your vote is vital in helping to get digital healthcare the visibility and presence it deserves at this important forum.

Please take the time to vote for both of our two linked OCHWW entries below.

Filling Emotional Voids: Health Communities Online

Brad Davidson, General Manager of OCH Behavioral Insights, and his counterpart, Rob Malouf, will look to discuss what roles, beyond information-sharing, do online healthcare communities of practice fill, and how does this affect real-world health? Can they be identified, and their content meaningfully analyzed via computational means—and if so, to what end? What implications and lessons do the form and function of online healthcare communities of practice have for real-world medical practice?

Beyond the Pill: The Promise of Connected Health

OCH Digital power-team Matt Balogh (SVP, Director of Technology) and Buddy Scalera (SVP, Interactive Content & Market Research), will discuss that as integrated health systems become the norm, and the Affordable Care Act comes on line in the US, Big Data analyses reveal chronic patterns of under-treatment and under-performance of healthcare delivery. Among other things, they will address when and how the digital revolution in healthcare will become an outcomes-changing reality and what providers, pharmaceuticals, payers, and individuals need to know to prepare for the next evolution in healthcare delivery. Beyond the pill is the next generation of healthcare, providing individual attention and real-time, personalized, contextually relevant communication to help patients optimize their treatment journey.

A few important details to make voting easy:

  • For the first time onlyyou’ll need to create an account to vote at You will receive a confirmation e-mail – check your spam/content catcher.
  • Once logged in vote by clicking the Thumbs-Up icon next to the pages listed above.
  • You may vote for as many sessions as you’d like but you may vote for each individual session only once. Any new vote you make will override the old one; voting more than once for each submission is an enthusiastic idea but sadly, a waste of time.
  • Voting closes Friday, September 6.

Please feel free to share the links with your friends and family.  The more votes, the better our chances!

Our thanks in advance for your help.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

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Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness

Even with our medical knowledge of the neurobiologic causes of mental illness, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness is not decreasing (according to a study published by Indiana University and Columbia University).

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are 450 million people worldwide who suffer with mental illness but fewer than half receive care (caused by limited resources and stigma). While the WHO is taking action, by assisting governments with better access to healthcare and training healthcare workers to recognize the signs of mental illness, the WHO cannot fight stigma alone.

Many people with mental health concerns hide their illness or decide not to seek help because of what others “think.” They are often plagued with shame and agonize over with whom to share (family, friends, colleagues) their diagnosis. Worst of all (in my opinion), people with mental illness often “self-stigmatize” (internalize the public’s perception) and limit the amount of success they think they can attain or deserve.

Could you imagine how different our lives and nations would be if society knew that Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill had a mental illness? Or worse, if these two men held themselves back because they felt they didn’t deserve to succeed?

Mental illness is no different than any other illness, but because it manifests in the characteristics that make us human, it is more difficult to understand and often feared. In some cultures, superstition also contributes to how people are treated or viewed among a productive society.

So what is the tie-in with why I picked this blog topic and Fast4wD Ogilvy? Fast4wD has been at the center of global communications for clinical research for the past 10 years. While our therapeutic area of expertise is broad, the majority of our business has fallen under CNS. In addition, since 2003, my career has coincidentally focused on mental health research. I say coincidental because several of my immediate family members and very close friends have struggled with these concerns. I’ve learned a lot through my personal and professional experiences, but the most heartbreaking learning I’ve had is that a double standard exists. From a scientific and medical professional perspective, the “support” is there (just look at the list below of common or well known disorders currently open on, but the dialogue behind the scenes isn’t always very nice or compassionate when it affects the immediate business. lists the following open clinical trials:

  • 2005 depression trials
  • 1505 anxiety disorder trials
  • 594 schizophrenia trials
  • 475 ADD and ADHD trials
  • 472 eating disorder trials
  • 351 post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) trials
  • 296 bipolar trials
  • 158 trials listed collectively for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and Tourette’s syndrome

As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says, “Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery. It is time to take these barriers down.”

We can start by looking for ways to help make a change.

  • Be compassionate and be careful of what you say:
    • “Tard”
    • “Psycho”
    • “Did you take your meds today?”
    • “Just snap out of it!”
  • Participate in a nonprofit like NAMI at some level:
    • Memberships
    • Volunteering your time
    • Join fundraisers (walks, runs, etc.)

My challenge to you is to add to my list above of how we can help make a change. I want to hear from you.



Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in behavior change, clinical trials, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Mental Health, Patient Communications | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Escalating Scientific Credibility of OTC Products

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have long been the mainstay of consumers seeking immediate relief from what ails them. Go to the corner pharmacy, pick up some medication along with some staples like tissues, go home and take as directed. These drugs are readily available to us because the FDA deemed them safe enough for consumers to judge on their own what to take and when. Somehow, ready availability, safety, and lack of physician oversight has translated to a perception of being less effective, lacking in clinical studies, and/or being beneath a doctor’s notice. After all, by the time we go to the doctor, we want something really powerful, right?

The fact is these products often have a great deal of scientific distinction. And there has been precedent for targeting physicians as advocates. Cough/cold products, dental care, and analgesics are three categories where this has particularly been the case. Tylenol, for example, built its reputation—and its brand—on the value of hospital endorsement. Listerine became the No. 1 mouth rinse by gaining the ADA Seal for plaque and gingivitis and promoting this to dentists. Heck, even Trident gum managed to build sales on the basis of dental recommendations for helping to avoid cavities by mere omission of sugar as an ingredient.

While these examples are 30 years old, we are seeing a resurgence in this type of marketing approach as more manufacturers of OTC products seek out medical education support to bolster their standing.  Typically this involves development of sophisticated mechanism-of-action (MOA) stories, often accompanied by MOA animations; undertaking clinical trials to demonstrate significant effectiveness (since safety is a given), speed of onset, longer duration, etc; data publication both at congresses and in peer-reviewed journals to join the ranks of “more serious” Rx drugs; scientific platform development to establish competitive differentiation from other OTCs and often parity with therapeutic modalities; and thought leader engagement to build advocacy and recommendations.

The fact is we are having no difficulty recruiting thought leaders into these activities. Even specialists have taken an interest and participated with the energy and enthusiasm typically devoted to Rx products. Physicians take greater comfort in adding OTCs to their consideration set with patients because it’s been proven to them that these products hold their own scientifically and clinically.

So the next time you feel your OTC product growth is stagnating, consider following the proven path of elevating credibility and distinction through science and advocacy.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, Branding, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Marketing, Medical Education | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

B2B2C – The New Normal

As the marketing world evolves and social media become the go-to source for information, Business to Business to Customer (B2B2C) is now the new norm. To take an innovative approach to B2B2C, it’s important that we now partner with strong companies that can give as large a reach as would be expected from an Ogilvy & Mather company or even a WPP company.

A good place to start is a nonprofit organization. Working with nonprofits is always a win-win—as we grow our own business, the nonprofit grows their business, and the company that we’re all working for gets extended reach and higher ROI with minimal costs. How to do this or get this started? Here’s how…

1. Differentiation From Your Competition

This is perhaps the most important benefit for a nonprofit these days. With so many nonprofit organizations (latest U.S. count of nonprofit organizations was 1.5 million, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics), it’s easy to get lost in the masses. Worse, people are beginning to get jaded when they hear about a worthy nonprofit organization—almost as if they view having a nonprofit organization as more of a trend than anything else.

This means you constantly have to vie for attention from consumers—your donors, in other words. It also means you need a way to stand out. A nonprofit organization marketing partnership is your ticket to doing just that.

2. More Resources and Revenue for Your Organization

Even though nonprofits stand for some of the most important elements of our society, few organizations have access to a lot of marketing muscle and funding. On top of that, a lot of nonprofits lack even the manpower needed to get their message out.

Joining forces with a corporation through a nonprofit organization marketing partnership solves those problems. The corporation then benefits from your knowledge of your nonprofit organization, what it stands for, and how best to support it, while you benefit from a bigger marketing budget and the workforce within a company.

3. Nonprofit Organization Marketing Helps With Nonprofit Organization Branding

Nonprofit organization marketing frees you from confinement to the traditional route of building a donor list and systematically asking for funding. Instead, you get access to different ways to launch publicity campaigns that put an entirely new face on your nonprofit organization efforts.

Essentially, nonprofit organization marketing is a way to go far beyond fundraising. It’s a way to effectively produce massive education and public awareness initiatives and inevitably get noticed by the right types of citizens.

4. Greater Accountability and Present-Day Relevance

A nonprofit organization marketing relationship with a company gives your organization a fresh dose of credibility and accountability. The modern-day market calls for a great deal of transparency in the marketplace. This makes the multiple communication channels used within a nonprofit organization marketing campaign an easier way for nonprofits to share information with this audience.

5. Solutions on a Global Scale

Most people agree that today’s public challenges affect virtually everybody, especially when you start talking about environment, food availability, and clean water. Yet, most of these challenges are too big for any single nonprofit to take on.

Nonprofit organization marketing partnerships bring companies and nonprofits together in admirable joined efforts. Even better, the issues these partnerships support often align with the interests of government. Imagine what would happen if all three sectors—nonprofits, corporations, and governments—responded jointly to the bigger problems affecting society. It would mean huge advances in the amount of resources and energy devoted to solving the world’s problems.

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Let’s Be Advocates for the Advocates

One of the foundations of effective public relations is establishing strong relationships with potential advocates for a cause, brand or company.  In the pharma industry, one of the most critical allies is the patient advocacy group (PAG) sector.  Whether it’s securing optimal market access, or gaining access to funding for outreach and awareness activities, the industry and PAGs need each other’s support like never before.

The good news is that a recent survey by PatientView of 850 international, national or large regional patients’ groups found that about half of the groups have current or past relationships with pharma companies.  Of those, about 85% say their relationship is good.

But there may be some suspicion lurking beneath the surface—another survey by the same organization reported that only 37% of PAGs considered pharma companies trustworthy.

So how can we as consultancies help foster mutually beneficial relationships based on a foundation of trust?

One way is to ensure that we start with solid knowledge of how advocacy groups are formed and operate, which in turn helps us understand their drivers and motivations.

A patient group’s evolution broadly follows some key stages:

  1. An individual (usually someone personally affected by a specific disease) recognizes the need to do something to improve the situation and starts to act.
  2. Like-minded individuals come together to collectively share expertise and deliver more.
  3. Raising a group’s profile and securing more funds to support its work.
  4. Greater professionalism and a more businesslike approach to operations, such as forming a board of directors.
  5. Registering as a charity.
  6. Geographical expansion and service diversification.
  7. Mergers and growth.
  8. Establishing international networks and influence.

Pharma companies are likely to form alliances with PAGs in the later stages of their evolution, but it is important to remember that they have usually grown out of one individual’s vision and mission.

Building trust is critical—and that means being transparent and reliable. There are plenty of regulations governing financial transparency surrounding pharma/PAG relationships, but it is just as important to be transparent about our aims and objectives when partnering on a campaign or other project. PAG partners also value stability in a relationship—no one likes to be dropped after a project is completed or have their key contacts constantly changing.

Finally, we need to remember that the value exchange in the relationship doesn’t always need to be financially based. Pharma companies, and their consultancies, hold a wealth of knowledge, expertise and services that PAGs may not be able to access otherwise. Providing help with business planning, market research, public relations, insight into health service reforms, organization and operational development, and process and systems analytics may provide value far beyond that of a non-restricted educational grant.

As a consultancy, it is often our job to help form and manage these critical relationships, and we can best do this by being the advocates for the advocates.



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Pinterest and the Patient

Is there room for another social network in your life? You may want to make some for Pinterest.

The invite-only network has over 19 million users and counting. At first glance, the site may seem overwhelmingly fashion-focused. But delve deeper, and you’ll see that professionals from marketers to healthcare providers, consumers, and patients of all backgrounds are “pinning.”

What is it?

Pinterest users create a personal account which they use to build virtual pin boards. These boards are collages of “pinned” images that fall under a number of categories, from Food & Drink to Architecture. There’s no predefined category for Health, yet, but you can be sure it’s coming.

Each pin is sourced from another website or blog, uploaded by the user, or “repinned” from another user. And pins aren’t just standalone images; they usually link to the original source of the image, be it a news article, blog post, recipe, or other website.

Patients on Pinterest

We can see that patients are flocking to the new network to express peer support and advocacy for many disease states. They pin inspirational messages, ribbons, and images associated with information about treatment, diagnosis, and support.  And this is a key thing to note about the burgeoning network: it’s about hope and empowerment.

Whether users pin images of their favorite piece of art, a pair of designer shoes, or a pink ribbon, the overwhelming theme at Pinterest is “inspiration.” Pins are aspirational in nature—some represent goals and ambitions, some represent everyday plans, and some represent pipe dreams. Being respectful of this vibe is a key part of authenticity in consumer social media engagement.

Authentic engagement

Going in with the right mindset, there are many ways to engage with patients on the platform in meaningful and impactful ways to enhance your story. There are a number of granular ways healthcare companies should consider engaging with Pinterest and the patient: sharing advocacy messages, or simply offering a route to a patient support iPhone app via an appealing screen shot and link to the download location.

Further, as an active social media channel for patients grappling with a number of chronic or new conditions, Pinterest represents a new network to be monitored analytically for patient insights, opinions, and needs. Gaining this knowledge helps us to respond dynamically to the needs and opinions of the people we all want to help.


Also posted in Great Ideas, Health & Wellness, Marketing, Patient Communications, Physician Communications, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed