For Optimized Brand Strategies, Look to Market Research

brain_gears_on background_Who knew that Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors, knew a thing or two about market research? Proof is in one of his great quotes “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

That’s a comment on discipline, and it takes on a whole different—and cautionary—meaning when it’s applied to primary market research.

As a market researcher, my first order of business is to help clients “get the facts first.” The discipline of gathering the right facts from the right stakeholders―and in the right way at the right time, to boot―allows us to not only uncover our customer’s drivers and motivators, but also to help inspire changes in behavior.

There are certain activities and processes that are important for us, as an agency, to shepherd our clients through. For instance, we don’t want brand team members driving the creative according to their personal beliefs and perceptions about the product. Rather, we want our clients to clearly hear their customers’ voices, and shape their brand strategy accordingly, with our guidance.

As market researchers, we help ensure that clients “hear” their customers by answering 4 key questions:

1. What are the right facts?

  • The right facts can be as simple as the customer’s geography (physical location) and demography (age, gender, occupation, socioeconomic status), or as complex as their behavior (product consumption level, use patterns, frequency, and loyalty), and psychographic profile (interests, attitudes, and opinions)
  • By targeting the specific questions that our clients need to answer, and by understanding how that data are meant to inform business decisions, we determine the right facts to gather

2. Who are the right stakeholders?

  • Pharmaceutical clients often believe they have a “physician problem,” but chances are they could also have a patient, caregiver, payer, or pharmacist problem (And I could go on!). Sometimes it’s even more than one problem! Healthcare is a sector defined by intricate interdependencies among a long list of stakeholders that ultimately impact product usage
  • Well-designed market research takes into account all relevant stakeholders, including them as the research questions dictate. We often talk with clients about, at minimum, viewing patients, physicians, and payers as three legs supporting their product’s stool—the “length” (eg, importance) of those legs can vary by therapeutic area, but they all need to be taken into account when planning brand strategy

3. What is the right way to gather the facts given budgets and timelines?

  • Do we need one-on-one conversations with customers where we can take the time and latitude to investigate the “why’s” behind responses, and explore topics that might be challenging to articulate in front of others?
  • Do we need small groups of customers to talk with us about our clients’ products’ features and benefits, and the extent to which they produce functional, emotional, and/or personal benefits?
  • Do we need to use projective exercises in which ambiguous or vaguely defined stimuli grant customers’ considerable freedom in their responses? Images and metaphors can sometimes reveal a deeper dimension of thought/decision-making processes and feelings than objective, “correct” responses to explicit research questions
  • Do we need to survey a large number of customers, and on a big enough scale so we can obtain results that are statistically significant?
  • Do we need to survey various types of customers to understand the number and size of diverse market segments, including what those segments look like?
  • Do we need to deploy mobile or app-based methodologies that allow us to track customer thinking and behavior in real time?

4. When is the right time to gather the facts?

  • Sometimes we want to conduct research, either to take the market pulse on the heels of a significant marketplace event, or to get a “snapshot” of the market at a particular moment
  • Sometimes we want to be in the field when the market is quiet, so we can get a baseline against which to compare the impact of future disruptive events
  • Sometimes we want to longitudinally gather the same metrics from the same customers at certain intervals to get a long-term understanding of customer behavior and product usage
  • Sometimes we simply have materials or concepts to test. This might warrant multiple rounds of research, depending on customer response

Contrary to Mr. Twain’s memorable comment, the second order of business for market researchers is to make sure that clients do not distort those facts to fit their own view of their marketplace–or the marketplace they want instead of the one they have.

It’s therefore our job not just to provide the facts, but to give them meaning and to make actionable recommendations. The beauty of being part of the larger Ogilvy CommonHealth organization is that we have a wide and deep network of resources to help us round out our interpretation.

Drawing on our own backgrounds in multiple therapeutic areas, and working closely with our account team counterparts, optimizes our point of view on the research. Having our secondary research, data analytics, and digital colleagues weigh in allows us to ensure that our recommendations are deep and broad, and showcases our capabilities as an integrated agency.

Consider how primary market research can help your organization’s brand teams to get the right facts first (distortion-free!), and use that data as a platform on which to build robust strategies that firmly stake your brands’ positioning in the marketplace.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
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Machines Learning Marketing

Self-driving cars, Facebook auto-tagging photos, Netflix recommendations, and targeted advertising—what do all of these have in common? These technologies have all undergone significant advancements in recent years due to an explosion of computing power and advancements in computer’s ability to learn, or “machine learning.”

While it sounds like a futuristic term, machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. For example, let’s imagine a CRM program where data has been collected on customer’s interests, demographics, and engagement with previous campaigns. Based on previous interactions with customers, we can create predictions of how these customers will interact in future campaigns.

While the technology has existed for quite some time, significant advances in scale and computing power have allowed this technology to flourish. Companies including Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft have all developed user-friendly machine-learning capabilities to complement their growing web service and cloud offerings. While some user interfaces are more intuitive than others, the goal is to allow users to upload data and allow the computer to extract valuable insights.

The marketing field is certainly taking notice. Marketers who have begun to use these technologies are asking questions such as, “What type of user will click on this ad?” or “How likely is this user to return to my site?” One popular use of the technology is to determine the probability that a user will respond to a direct mail or email. Based on previous information gathered and past user behavior, machine learning can identify who is most likely to engage in certain activities. Instead of blasting a direct mail out to 10,000 people blindly, we can really hone in on the users that we think are going to respond and customize a solution for them.

Another use is detection of click fraud in online advertising. Marketers certainly do not want to pay for 1,000 clicks when 980 of them are spam. While there can be numerous types of fraud, a computer can differentiate these types of spam and determine if a “real” person actually clicked on their ad. These technologies can realize significant savings for advertisers, and certainly distinguish advertising platforms and publishers.

Of course, there are still significant challenges to overcome. In the case of ad fraud detection, because click-through rates tend to be quite low, a significantly large amount of data is needed to accurately predict user action. Another issue is the growing complexity of these machine-learning models. As predictions tend to become more accurate, the complexity of how the computer arrives at an answer is increasingly unclear. Most recent machine learning algorithms have been labeled “black boxes,” as computers are performing millions of abstract calculations that are too vast for the user to analyze.

As machine learning solutions become user friendly and easy to implement, marketers should certainly start thinking of how they can apply machine learning to find new insights about their business.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
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Modernizing Healthcare Communications

Blog-Summit 160x160Remaining Relevant In an Age of Ubiquitous Information

Last month, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide hosted our first marketing summit in collaboration with eConsultancy. This conference was initiated to bring healthcare leaders, marketers, and innovators together to discuss the changes that need to be made to build more effective patient communications. The summit showcased a massive well of talent, enthusiasm, and vision our industry has already in its ranks and a vision to deliver relevant healthcare information to patients and caregivers.

The Shackles of Our Own Making

Several years ago, healthcare marketing was years behind in its adoption of technology. Where many packaged goods brands had already adopted mobile, social, and eCommerce solutions, healthcare and pharmaceutical brands were still working with self-addressed postage solutions and print-your-own coupons for patients. Today, we are moving at a much faster pace, but there is still room for improvement.

Healthcare and pharmaceutical leaders are no longer trying “me-too” solutions to compete with consumer brands. We are now writing our own rules. Many brands are leveraging both the healthcare start-up culture and our “veteran” status to build strong partnerships for companies new to the space. We are also taking on the burden of regulation with a new vigor — by educating our teams and developing thought leadership around managing communities. We are also playing to our strengths and authority in disease categories and research. We are innovating in this landscape in spite of the burden of being “regulated brands.”

Digital is not separate

Digital is not a separate marketing platform. People don’t generally view experiences with their smartphone, TV, magazine, or desktop computer as unique “experiences” or “channels they engage.” They do see themselves as intelligently choosing the optimal channel to achieve a goal or move back and forth between mediums. This is normal, healthy, and a clear sign that these mediums and their users have matured. Its unfortunate that many clients and agencies compartmentalize their strategies and plans. Regardless of age, our patients are going to begin to question and express frustration as to why different channels have their own messaging, tone, and offers (in the case of coupons or reimbursement).

This is a pain point for the agency as well. If we are unable to unify our messagingand present a fully informed, multi-channel brand experience, we not be prepared to engage the next wave of the “digitally native” patient. We will also miss the opportunity to align the multi-generational conversation that will be more and more common as the digitally-centric children evolve into caregiver roles for the exploding baby boomer population. Our role as healthcare communicators is to unify channels and bring a channels agnostic message to our audience.

What is changing that model

There is a bright future ahead: Stimulus from the start-up community, a new type of self-educated patient, and a trend towards wellness in our culture are all fueling a new kind of healthcare marketing. This new perspective is focused on content and delivering a value that is rooted in supporting the patient with what pharmaceutical and healthcare brands can provide best — information about their products, the efficact of those products, and guidance to help patients manage their therapy through pharmaceuticals.

It may seem trite, but content is truly king. For brands looking to reach patients, content, when executed properly, is channel agnostic, portable, and scalable to every stakeholder in the chain of care. It is also something that can unify the phases of a patient journey and support a segmentation model for improved ROI of paid media

To not be lost amongst the WebMD’s, Dr. Oz’s, and patient influencers of the world, brand leadership needs to develop a vision for their brands. Specifically, a content strategy that will result in an “ownable” space that is the brand’s own and provides a strong foothold for patient interaction and discovery. From this place, brands can carve out a meaningful role in the patient’s journey that builds trust and provides a valued source of information about the product, disease state, and broader meaning to wellness in the patient’s life.

Changing the healthcare marketing model

The presenters at the Ogilvy CommonHealth Marketing Summit represent leadership from every facet of our industry. Each of them, from the perspectives of technology, content, company they work for, or patient service, all echoed the same refrain: The healthcare industry is at a pivot-point. Patients have access to a near infinite amount of information of varying degrees of utility. Our physician population is under new types of pressure to care for patients while managing group policies, provider requirements, mounting financial pressures, and patients equipped with massive amounts of their own data. Let these challenges be a call to action for marketers and content creators: Our focus needs to be building communications that are relevant to each phase of a physician’s journey and creating content based on the authority we have as drug manufacturers or brand management experts.

See more insights and opinions from the Ogilvy CommonHealth Marketing Summit at https://tagboard.com/OCHWWSUMMIT/245462?.

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The Battle for the Inbox: Giving Your Email Campaign a Fighting Chance

Inbox_OverflowI don’t know about you, but my inbox is a war zone. I’m fighting a losing battle daily.

It is under constant barrage from companies, organizations, and campaigns that at one point I trusted enough to exchange my email address for a ride through their marketing funnel. However, for some of these companies, that trust was quickly eroded once I became bombarded by an endless barrage of uninteresting updates, overly aggressive offers, and endless e-begging for change. By the way, if anyone needs a coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond, let me know. I can make it rain coupons.

But seriously, as a marketer, I understand and appreciate the ease in which email allows my brand message to be crafted, targeted, and scheduled exactly how I want and to whomever I want for only pennies a send. It’s magical. However, marketers also have to understand that our job is far from over once we hit send. Our email is now just one drop in a tidal wave of emails, making it look less like the carefully crafted brand message chocked full of utility that we intended it to be, and more like a groaning zombie in a mob of other groaning zombies with one single-minded purpose, to eat your brains. And by brains, I mean your attention.

Earlier this year, a study released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information noted that the average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015, which as the study noted, is 1 second shorter than that of a goldfish. No shock there. Humans have a lot going on. We have emails to delete, zombies to kill, etc. What do goldfish have going on? Exactly.

As marketers, we know that we have a fraction of a second to pique our audience’s interest before our email’s fate is determined with a single swipe (no pressure). With so many messages competing for those 8 seconds of attention, your email is going to need a little help.

To give our email campaign a fighting chance at relevancy, we need to ensure we’re effectively communicating our brand’s value to our audience. We must first ensure that we’ve employed a sound segmentation methodology that groups targets by quantifiable value metrics. Depending on campaign objectives and visibility into the audience data, we may determine that value is measured by the audience’s likeliness to respond, say from previous responses, or their projected business impact.

We also want to ensure that we’re measuring success with metrics that actually matter. Oh sure, we might glance over our post-campaign email report to see some double-digit open rate and some non-zero click-through rate and conclude that we just did marketing. But why stop there? Email open and click-through rates alone only provide clues, not insights. In addition, these metrics can be misleading, as they are often over- or under-reported due to different email settings. For example, aggressive spam filters may activate links within an email prior to it reaching an inbox to determine if the links contain malicious content, which is usually reported as an email open.

So instead of just scratching the surface, why not look to understand how well your campaign did at driving the desired on-site responses that it intended? By designating a hierarchy of desired on-site actions and tracking our campaign to those actions, we can begin to see a much clearer picture. From here we should be able to make some strong assumptions about why actions were taken or not taken on our site and prioritize areas of focus in order to get better results in future iterations. Did our message properly communicate utility? Was there enough of a value tradeoff for our audience to take a desired action? Was the right message targeting the right people?

Now we’re getting somewhere. We now know that we sent this message to these people and this percent performed at least one of our desired actions on the site. Knowing things is cool. But as we are reminded by the great philosopher, GI Joe, this is only half the battle. Although I can’t recall GI Joe ever actually revealing what the other half of the battle was, I think it’s safe to assume that the other half of the battle is “doing.”

So what actions can we take to bring our performance to the next level? Based on what we know about how our segmented email audience responded to our recent email, we can begin to formulate and test some additional hypotheses using A/B split testing. One thing to note here is that we must ensure that we have a cohesive testing framework in place where our tests are driven by our hypotheses about our audience segments and those tests must prove or disprove those hypotheses.

After the conclusion of our tests, we should have answered some of our burning questions about our audience, which we will then use as insights we can apply in other areas of the campaign in future communications. Insights such as: people may not want to be e-stalked with daily branded emails. Who knew?

At the end of the day, we’re seeking to change behavior by providing value to our audience in the quality and relevance of our communications. Force-feeding our brand’s message will likely end with a quick swipe to the Deleted folder, or worse, on the unsubscribe list. Your campaign deserves better than that.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
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I’m excited about the new Facebook Search!

Facebook Search

The new Facebook Search feature is a pretty robust tool that we should be excited about as both marketers and users. Here are a few thoughts, as well as a few predictions around where Facebook might be going with this.

As a regular Facebook user, I was really impressed by the amount of content I was served up when I did a simple search for “cough.” The results were divided into three buckets: Pages, Friends and Groups, and Public Posts – and the keyword was highlighted in each of the posts. There is also a sub-navigation that lets users filter results by Top, Latest, Photos, Videos, Places, and even Apps and Events. Having immediate access to relevant posts that were outside my network was really refreshing, and it was cool to see who was talking about coughs within my network specifically. It will be interesting to see how the results will update during a political event or a big game. In many ways, it reminds me of the way current events can be followed on Twitter.

For users who have privacy concerns, this new feature should raise red flags. Facebook provides users with privacy settings in the actual post window that allow them to choose who can view their post. Those rules will continue to hold true within the search results. If your post is only visible to your friends, then it would only appear in the search results of users in your immediate network. If it is a public post, it will be visible outside of your network. The same applies to comments on posts, as well.

As marketers, we should be excited about the role that brands can play within this new space. Since this is new to all of us, we don’t yet understand the rhyme or reason behind the order of the posts that are displayed when a user searches. That being said, this is a great opportunity for brands to ensure their social engagement strategy is buttoned up. Brands need to be ultra-focused on creating relevant content on their feeds that is keyword-rich, and that includes image and video descriptions.

It will be a matter of time before we are able to advertise in this space. Like Google, media buys will likely dictate your brand’s rank within the search results in the Pages section, with native advertising appearing throughout the Public Posts. When we factor in the Buy Products feature, it’s easy to see how Facebook can begin to position itself as a direct competitor to Google and Amazon, although I think that’s still some ways away.

Visit http://search.fb.com/ to hear all about it from the proverbial horse’s mouth.

This article was originally posted on Ivan Ruiz Graphic & Web Design.

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Analytics, With a Side of Bacon

Bacon BlogKnowledge is power. We’ve all heard it. Maybe we’ve heard it too much, to the point where the message, the value and…well, the power of that statement is not truly appreciated, especially in the data-rich world we live in today.

While variations of the expression above have been around for thousands of years, the core message is most often attributed to Francis Bacon, an English philosopher born in the 16th century.1 Bacon’s use of the phrase was actually in an essay on religion; however, the saying has since been adopted as a motivational and inspirational catchphrase for parents, teachers, and, of course, business professionals. Specific to our cause, we will address marketing professionals.

In today’s marketing environment, knowledge—and the subsequent power that’s derived from it—are rooted in analytics and data-driven decision-making. You might say the message has evolved to:

data=knowledge,  knowledge=power, DATA=POWER

Successful decision-makers and key influencers—strategists, account leads, media planners, CMOs, CADs (Chief Acronym DuJour)—embody the spirit of that data-to-power relationship. These stakeholders work hand in hand with analytics folks and embrace the culture of utilizing the vast amount of data that’s available today toward making smarter marketing decisions. We need to constantly evaluate key business questions using supporting data to shape those decisions—questions such as:

  • What does my audience look like? (target size, buying habits, demographic)
  • Where is my audience? (channel preference, geo-targeting)
  • How much of my audience can I expect to convert? (predictive analysis)
  • What content is resonating with my audience? (path flow, engagement analysis, social shares)
  • What is the relevant message for my audience? (media performance analysis
  • & optimization)
    When are the best times to communicate with my audience? (dayparting implementation & analysis)
  • Why is Bacon so awesome? (no analysis required; some things we just accept)

So we’re back to the bacon? Sort of, but before we get to the food product, let’s jump back to Francis and his statement. Knowledge is definitely power, and data can drive that knowledge. Analytics should be the fuel constantly feeding the marketing engine.

Yes, you can make the case that Mr. Bacon’s expression has been overcooked (and who likes their bacon overcooked?). You can also make the case that data analysis can be overcooked as well. Let’s be honest, either too much data analysis or too much bacon can produce undesirable intestinal reactions. But with the right amount at the right time? It’s a home run.

To take it a step further, you can go to Denny’s and order pancakes, hash browns and eggs—but to truly make it a Grand Slam, you need the bacon! Just ask your friendly analytics server; they’ll set you up.

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

1. David Simpson, DePaul University; “Francis Bacon (1561-1626)”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – A Peer Reviewed Academic Resource [n.d]; viewed 8/28/2015; http://www.iep.utm.edu/bacon/


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At the crossroads of health, wellness, technology, and marketing

2015 Marketing Summit Template_BLOGIt was a privilege to attend the 2015 Marketing Summit hosted by Ogilvy CommonHealth and eConsultancy. As the producer at the event, I was able to spend some time with each of the presenters. I was also able to hit the 10,000-step mark on my Fitbit by 3 pm—I’ll circle back to wearables later. I was most impressed by the diversity of speakers who are playing at the crossroads of health, wellness, technology, and marketing. The people I met and the messages I heard made me extremely excited on two different fronts: as a human being, and as a marketer.

As a human being, I was excited about the ideas surrounding personalized health that we heard throughout the day—especially since I moonlight as a fitness instructor.

Among them was Jeff Arnold from Sharecare, who is empowering consumers to take charge of their health by delivering personalized resources and expert advice through their online health profiles. Melissa Bojorquez of Physicians Interactive talked to us about technology’s unique power to help people connect with each other, and in doing so, defying the isolation and fear that accompany serious health conditions. Bill Evans from Watson Health showed us how Watson is changing the face of medical research with its ability to “read” thousands of medical journals and white papers in unimaginable speeds in an effort to increase the safety and efficacy of clinical trials drugs.

Our Healthcare Startup Sharktank brought innovative thinking to the forefront of consumer health. Movi Interactive is incentivizing fitness tracker users in unique ways by gamifying their experiences to drive usage. Through their platform, Medprowellness is connecting consumers with clinicians, nutritionists, and personal trainers to provide a personalized layer of accountability to their 360-degree approach to health and wellness.

The marketer in me was excited about all the new ways data will continue to fuel our insights. Finding new ways to visualize data is critical, according to David Davenport Firth, particularly since 75% of physicians admit to not understanding the statistics in journals. Back to the topic of wearables… For a while now, marketers have been talking about the endless data streams being collected from wearables. Patrick Henshaw and his startup, Strap, can aggregate data from wearables, smartphones, and other apps, allowing marketers to draw insights from real-time human data. On a similar note, there was Pranav Yadav, whose company Neuro-Insight can help marketers and brands optimize their creative by analyzing the neuro-responses of their consumers.

We are at the crossroads of health, wellness, technology, and marketing. Ryan Olohan from Google reinforced the fact that like all successful companies, healthcare brands need to innovate or die. Companies like Kodak and Blockbuster didn’t, while companies like Uber and Expedia have changed their respective industries forever. As marketers in the healthcare space, we all need to look beyond our comfort zones. We need to encourage our brands to look beyond, as well.

This article was originally posted on Ivan Ruiz Graphic & Web Design.

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4 Key Takeaways From the OCHWW Marketing Summit 2015

Martha CMO Blog2_ED

Behind the scenes look at OCHWW’s Innovation Lab

The OCHWW Marketing Summit took place on September 24, when attendees from all over the world came together to discuss marketing in the age of person-centric healthcare. Throughout the day, speakers from the pharmaceutical and technology industries echoed four main themes surrounding the state of healthcare today: innovation, personalized medicine, social healthcare, and the vast amounts of health data being generated every day.

Innovation must play a larger role in healthcare organizations going forward. According to Chris Halsall of OgilvyRED, it cannot just be a hobby of an organization, it must be the core. As Ryan Olohan from Google Health puts it, “Technology comes at us like a train—you’ve got to innovate or get run over.” Innovation in healthcare comes down to courage, and we must change the culture of healthcare organizations to embrace digital innovation.

Personalized medicine
Personalized medicine is the intersection between biology and technology. With today’s technology, we have the tools to get the full picture of the patient—molecular, clinical, and demographic, according to Niven Narain of Berg Health. With that, we can deliver personalized precision medicine, giving the right patient the right drug at the right time to lead to better health outcomes. Jeff Arnold of Sharecare states that this ultra-personalization of healthcare will empower consumers to take control of their own health.

Social healthcare
Health is the most personal thing there is, but as it stands today, healthcare is the least personal. One of the most significant benefits of technology is facilitating human connection in healthcare. Health is now social, and patients are talking about your pharma brand whether you are part of the conversation or not. Be part of the conversation.

Health data
Vast amounts of health data are being generated every day, and we need a system to parse it to make it useful, according to Bill Evans of IBM Watson Health. David Davenport-Firth of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide states that patients can’t make health decisions if they don’t understand their health data. Cognitive systems like Watson can democratize health insights to better patients’ lives, and responsive and dynamic representations of health data can personalize and humanize patients, leading to better health outcomes.

Healthcare is undergoing a transformation unlike any it’s seen before. Looking to the future, healthcare organizations must be disruptive by embracing innovation and putting patients at the center of everything that they do.

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Infographic: Smartphone Use Among Physicians

In my first of a series of infographics on Digital Health, I look at smartphone use as a metric of digital acceptance and adoption among physicians. Like us, physicians are unquestionably connected through their smartphones, and are conditioned to receive digital content. The newest generation of physicians entering the field are digital natives, and do not know a world without the Internet or constant connectivity. These physicians will play a huge role in shaping the future of digital health. The key will be to understand how and when to best reach them, and those are topics we’ll cover in future posts.

Smartphones and the future of Healthcare

This article was originally posted on Ivan Ruiz Graphic & Web Design.

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Mobile in Healthcare: The Future?

Mobile Healthcare Blog ImageIn the past few years, mobile technology has changed the way consumers interact with their service providers. Whether ordering a cab to one’s exact location within minutes or getting groceries delivered in a matter of hours, there seems to be an app for everything. The healthcare industry is no exception to this trend. Mobile health data helps patients, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies in new and innovative ways.

Mobile technology is changing the way doctors and patients interact with both the healthcare system and with one another. The fitness wearables trend has put the power of transforming one’s health and body into the hands of the consumer. People use wearables and other mobile devices to get constant data feedback on their heart rate, steps, calories burned, etc. Many of these apps then organize and share this information in an easy-to-understand way, allowing consumers to make better decisions about their health. Patients can also use new apps, such as ZocDoc, which provide up-to-date appointment availability, enabling users to schedule visits with doctors as quickly and conveniently as possible. In fact, even more specific apps exist, such as Castlight, which compares prices of MRIs and other tests to find the most affordable options in a given location.1

Healthcare professionals also use a number of different apps to improve patient care and treatment. Indeed, there are entire sections of Apple’s App Store devoted to apps for doctors.2 Perhaps one of the most useful features in many of these apps is the ability to look up information right at the patient’s bedside. Quickly searching for certain symptoms can save crucial time for both the doctor and patient and may facilitate a more accurate diagnosis. Moreover, certain apps will soon offer on-the-go monitoring functionality, providing live feeds of patients’ vitals right to their doctors’ mobile devices. This continuous supply of information can optimize patient care and improve the healthcare system on a wider scale.

These mobile technologies are not just changing the way healthcare works in developed countries. Mobile has been incredibly helpful in transforming and improving the healthcare systems of many third world countries. This technology helps serve underprivileged societies by “addressing challenges such as reducing material and infant mortality rates, combatting infectious disease, creating awareness of HIV and delivering nutritional health and treatment for a variety of health conditions remotely.”3 CliniPAK360 is one app that has transformed treatment in Africa. The app works by allowing healthcare workers to input symptoms and information about a patient, which is then used to analyze and diagnose serious conditions. Other hospitals in Africa are using phones or tablets with preloaded medical information, which can be critical for saving time and effort in diagnosing and treating patients.

Mobile is also changing the way that healthcare marketers target consumers. Instead of simply “pushing pills,” companies now make their brands interactive and interesting to consumers, helping to change their brand image. Mobile apps help patients track their own health and progress and supply pharma companies with more data to effectively target consumers. Merck created MerckEngage, which provides health tracking services and has over 100,000 users from whom Merck can collect new insights and information. Geisinger Health System also launched an app on a small scale that studied “metrics like patient acceptance and treatment adherence to decide which solutions to these issues could be deployed on a broader scale” based on data they received from the app. Additionally, mobile apps can also help with medicine adherence by understanding which patients do not follow their prescription instructions and targeting them with more precise reminders. Pharma companies can leverage this data revolution to obtain the most accurate and useful marketing information yet.4

I have seen this mobile technology in my short time here at Ogilvy CommonHealth. In the past few weeks, I have helped work on an app which tracks a user’s sleep habits through either manual input or syncing up with a wearable device like Jawbone or Fitbit. This app is mutually beneficial as it helps the owners collect data on sleep habits nationwide, and helps users achieve greater awareness of their sleeping behaviors.

The central theme among all of these healthcare apps is optimization, data collection, and a better understanding of disease perception. Large databases of patient and consumer information now exist, which can be analyzed to streamline and improve patient experience, outcome, and overall health.5 It remains unclear how far these apps can take us, or if a piece of technology will ever be as good as a doctor’s intuition, but the continuing innovations provide a glimpse into the future of healthcare.

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