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.

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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.

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


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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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Helping Clients Navigate Compliant Communications for FDA-regulated Products

Helping Clients Navigate Compliant Communications for FDA-regulated Products IMAGE_EDVANITY URLS: Google Paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Changes
• Redirecting ad changes effective January 12, 2016
• Prohibiting ads where vanity URLs are utilized and dramatically different from the destination URL

Google has announced significant changes in their paid search engine advertising policies with regard to pharmaceutical products. The change that we are addressing here deals with vanity URLs, and their respective redirecting ads, that will take place in January 2016. The bottom line is that Google will no longer allow vanity URLs in an effort to provide consumers with more “clarity and transparency.”

Google has a long-standing policy prohibiting any ads where the destination URL differs dramatically from the display URL. Please note, this prohibition is not exclusively for pharmaceutical products—it has been Google’s practice across the board. Up until now, the pharmaceutical industry had been the exception to the rule. The reason for the exception was because in many cases, information seekers will not know the name of a drug, but will understand and know the symptoms/disease state information.

FDA background information
Previously, the FDA never objected to marketers utilizing vanity URLs and/or redirecting ads. These URLs/ads typically do not directly promote the name of a prescription product. Instead they lend themselves more to a disease state or descriptive nature, and then redirect users to another location or URL where they will see branded information specific to the prescription drug and/or disease state. Vanity URLs/redirecting ads are not exclusive to online SEM use, and are also used in print ads, television commercials, billboards, postcards, and more.
In March 2009, the FDA sent out 14 violation letters regarding search engine marketing practices of 48 brands. Thirteen of those violations referred to SEM ads running on Google. The FDA noted four types of violations in 2009:

  1. Omission of risk information, failure to meet requirements of 21 CRF 202.1(e)(5)(ii)
  2. Inadequate communication of indication
  3. Overstatement of efficacy
  4. Failure to use the required established name

Google’s reaction—what exactly is Google implementing?
Beginning in January 2016, Google will not permit pharmaceutical advertisers to have vanity URLs (such as “”) that redirect users to a website.

Pharmaceutical marketers will have the following options for vanity URLs:
Option 1


Sample ad showing company name as URL

Option 2
They can add “.com” to the company name.


Sample ad showing company name plus .com as URL

Option 3a (for prescription drugs, biologics, and vaccines)
They can display the phrase “Prescription treatment website” as the display URL.


Sample ad showing prescription treatment display URL

Option 3b (for medical devices)
They can display the phrase “Prescription device website” as the display URL.


Sample ad showing device display URL

All of these ads will be able to drive to pages on the or website.

At the present time, this change has been instituted by Google only, and doesn’t lend itself to print, television, or other advertising mediums.

What does this mean for our clients?
Review and reassessment of live and proposed Google SEM campaigns where clients utilize vanity URLs need to be completed as soon as possible. New campaigns need to take these new rules into consideration during the tactical planning phase. Funds can be shifted to Yahoo and Bing, however there is the possibility that they may also follow suit.

Google has indicated a willingness to work with pharmaceutical clients to minimize potential negative impact to paid search campaign performance. Testing of the new formats will determine which type of units work best with various campaigns.

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Are You Harnessing the Power of Video in Healthcare Yet?

Young woman with gold fish tankDid you realise that the average attention span of a person has dropped to only 8 seconds? That’s one second less than a goldfish!

Video can combat this. It is a fantastic way to hook people in and capture their attention. Online video is growing so quickly that this is an opportunity that’s impossible to ignore:

  • Views on mobile devices have increased 400% in the past 2 years
  • YouTube is now the second most popular search engine behind Google, with 40% of its traffic coming from mobile
  • 80% of online visitors will watch a video all the way through, compared with 20% who will read a webpage

Patients are being diagnosed via video, surgeons are swapping clips on operation techniques, and, as everyone is rapidly becoming more and more mobile-connected, healthcare knowledge sharing will soon have no boundaries.

It’s likely that for whatever purpose, be it for a symposium or for patient education, your video will end up online, where it will receive the majority of its views. But it’s a noisy world out there, and one rule is key: keep it short, smart, and snappy.

What kind of video content should you choose?

The great news is that there are all kinds of exciting options that won’t break the budget. Think about who the audience is and how they’ll be watching. Are they using a small screen? With or without sound? On social media? Or at a live presentation…could Dr Smith at the back please put his mobile down and watch? (Hopefully if he enjoys it he’ll search for it later online, “like” it and share with his colleagues.)

Explore the different ways to cThe Other Sideonnect with your audience. Enriched video content is great for increasing user engagement, and interactive user-defined storytelling can be a totally immersive experience. It lets you get the right messages to each individual user by letting them click on objects in the video to influence what they see. “Choose a Different Ending” is a beautiful example of a great campaign tackling knife crime that drew immediate response. And another of the best ones I’ve seen recently is The Other Side of Honda.”

Or, if you need to get more complex data across in a way that quickly informs and engages, use an animated infographic to make data come alive. These motion graphics pack a huge visual punch, are bursting with information, and are rapidly becoming key tools to promote branded messages. For a truly multi-layered, fast and constantly moving example with beautiful visual transitions, you can’t beat “STUXNET: The Virus That Almost Started WW3.”

Whatever you want to achieve, remember you’re not alone. We recommend that you use a Creative and Motion team to help you get all those questions answered on the way to making great videos.

Video is a super strategy to stand out from the competition and it’s definitely a healthcare trend that’s already here and set to keep on growing.

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Twitter and Google Forge Deal That Reintroduces Tweets to Google Search Results

Social Search Blog Image_This article was co-authored by Buddy Scalera from Ogilvy CommonHealth – Parsippany, NJ.

Twitter announced recently that it will be providing Google with access to its microblogging service for search indexing. Although Twitter activity appears in Google’s search results now, the staggering volume, more than 6,000 tweets per minute, makes crawling and organizing the data impractical.

The new partnership between Twitter and Google will grant the market-leading search engine access to Twitter’s “firehose” of data. This data is generated from the stream of 140-character tweets produced by Twitter’s 287 million users. Google’s unique access will enable it to parse, arrange, and develop rank and relevance for the social content in real-time.

It is not clear how Google will present Twitter’s data in search engine results, but the real-time and topical nature of the social network will make it especially relevant for breaking news, cultural subject matter, and rising trends. It will also likely be aligned to searches for individuals and personalities. It seems natural to index a person’s Twitter account, recent posts, and other activity in Google’s Knowledge Graph. It is also likely that user activity provided by Twitter will help determine if Twitter data is shown at all and with what prominence.

Of course, Google and Twitter have both been smart about how to monetize their offerings. We expect them to maximize their shared advantage for advertisers on both platforms.

What does this mean for healthcare brands?

For brands that are participating on Twitter, this continues to extend the reach of those messages into keyword-oriented searches. It also gives added pause to those concerned about the impact of influencers and popular Twitter users who mention brand names and conditions. Although it is not likely that a rogue Twitter handle will appear in a product search return in the first few pages, it will be extremely relevant to the nature of searches surrounding patients, their discussion of their disease, and treatment options.

For brands not active on Twitter, there is still the need to monitor activity on social networks, especially those that are publically searchable. Users who share brand information may be competing with your brand for users’ attention. Those users may also be candidates for influencer engagement, or an opportunity to correct brand misinformation.

The new inclusion of timely social posting would work to tremendous advantage for those brands that seize conventions and meetings for social sharing and engagement. The timely nature of event hashtags and the limited shelf-life for this type of communication create an ideal pairing for topical search and brand engagement.

Brands that have not engaged in social media marketing or listening programs are likely to be surprised by the changes in search results for their brand names, disease state terms, and other organic search results. Brands will now be competing with many more voices and another variable of timeliness. As with many of the changes Google has introduced for marketers in recent years, the changes will come quickly and with little time to react for a process-oriented industry like healthcare.

Many brands participate in social listening to understand the way patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals are discussing the health category and their brand. These brand teams are likely to be better prepared for the deluge of information to come from this announcement, and how to process it.

Both Twitter and Google are companies that are comfortable experimenting in real-time. So while these changes will probably start with search engine results pages, we expect to see a ripple effect across other properties. Google+ and YouTube channels may be the first places where we see different types of experimentation and integration. After all, these properties are all part of Google’s ecosystem of data and advertising.

Although the announcement has been made, both parties have noted that it will be several months before tweets begin appearing in users’ searches in real-time. This announcement should have tremendous impact on the Draft FDA Social Media Guidelines presented to the industry last year.

To learn more about how this announcement and other market changes may affect your brand, please contact our team here at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide.

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Are You Listening?

8370148From predictive sentiment analysis and word association to audience profiling and message personalization, social listening techniques are helping healthcare marketers translate everyday conversations into brand positioning strategies, outreach programs, and relevant online content.

With the exponential growth in social sharing and social media, we posed the question, “Are You Listening” to the healthcare industry during a recent panel discussion on social listening at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide’s 3rd Annual Marketing Analytics & Consulting Summit. The reaction to the discussion during the summit was incredible, as attendees bombarded our panelists with questions, which made for a lively discussion.

Joining our expert panel discussion were several contributors: Ryan Alovis, InTouchMD, Karen Auteri, IMS Health, Michele Baer, Feinstein Kean Healthcare, Kim-Fredrick Schneider, Sermo, and our very own Angelo Campano, Ogilvy Healthworld.


Attendees learned multiple perspectives from our expert panelists. First, social listening provides marketers with a reality check for what patients and physicians are discussing in terms of disease states, available drugs, and lifestyle considerations. Second, attendees learned that many of the techniques employed have been shown to help marketers manage and respond to adverse events and reposition web content to deliver more meaningful messages to audiences they are trying to reach and educate.

Our Approach

Making sense of social conversations as related to branded and unbranded messages, and disease states, is central to capturing emerging patient and physician trends around sentiment, preference, and message personalization. In the Analytics department at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, we believe social listening needs to be a dynamic discipline that is “always on” and can be configured to leverage our sophisticated network of algorithms to aggregate unstructured conversations, and glean meaningful insights related to the way patients and physicians are talking about our clients’ products.

Natural Language Processing (NPL) and text mining machine learning algorithms are used to extract dominant concepts across posts, tweets, text messages, and call center conversations. We create a dictionary of terms with the highest frequency across messages, which is also known as a term document matrix. Correlation analyses are run across the document matrix to isolate the top 100 concepts and messages. This concept investigation is done through splitting the data into a training dataset and a test dataset (usually a 70/30 split, respectively). We then apply decision trees and neural networks to learn from our sample training data on how the text in each comment is configured to help derive classification rules on sentiment (positive or negative). Once classification rules are set, our rules are then deployed for overall monthly scoring of brand sentiment.


We can help our clients understand questions such as:

  • What are HCP and patient sentiments about the brand?
  • What are the terms and attributes HCPs and patients are using to refer to our ailment state or specific brand?
  • What are HCPs and patients saying about competitor brands?
  • How can we proactively manage adverse events reporting?

Notable Applications

With limited social buzz, a cancer drug maker found that their brand’s category was mostly associated with terms like LDK-378, crizotinib and maintenance terms. The brand itself was strongly associated with terms like Tarceva and ALK, but social listening allowed the brand to identify opportunities within the category to purchase tertiary or long-tail terms to optimize search.

In addition to finding ways to optimize search, we were able to identify three different types of back pain sufferers through social listening. From over 115,000 local EU market conversations, we were able to identify pre-concerned, seekers, and diagnosed back pain sufferers. This learning enabled our marketing plan to amplify key brand messages at the right moment, in the right space, and at the right time that was most relevant to when each audience was most likely to respond.

Offering Many Benefits

Through understanding and evaluating the reality of how patients and physicians are talking about disease states, branded or unbranded products, we’ve reshaped website content, fine-tuned campaign messages, optimized SEO, and considered new targeting pathways. Our processes will continue to evolve to help drug manufacturers become more relevant in meeting physician information and patient care needs.

If you’re not listening, our Analytics group at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide can help get you started.


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Are Infographics Right for Qualitative Insights?

BI-BlogInfographics are not doing qualitative research any favors.

Good infographics clarify and condense complex information into more easily understandable and digestible visuals—an absolute plus in a culture that wants to utilize big data, but has a short attention span. It’s little wonder why they have become so popular, and why our clients are now asking for them.

Here’s an example of a good infographic by John Nelson, in which each line represents the path and intensity of a tornado tracked in the last 56 years by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Tornado Tracks Infographic2

The data is accurate and current, the story is compelling, and the design is appealing and clear.

However, infographics are not appropriate for all types of information. Some are being made to represent material which would be better suited for a simple list or chart. Others are being made to represent qualitative insights, like the one below:

The Gender Divide Infographic2

[Source: Motivation Factor and the Boston Research Group, 2012]

It seems a little weak. But why?

Rather than focusing on “black and white” data, qualitative research wades through the complexities, observing and accounting for the “gray” areas that quantitative research cannot address, such as the “whys” of human behavior. That is not to say that the insights are more complex—in fact, despite rigorous research methods based on the theories of social science, good qualitative insights seem simple, like something you have known all along but never realized.

Qualitative insights are supported by evidence that often consists of quotes, photos, videos, and notes. For example, in an ethnographic study with spinal cord injury patients, we found that patients are often in denial about their loss of function. We demonstrated this through quotes from patients saying they have accepted it, juxtaposed with photos showing patients doing things that indicated otherwise, such as refusing to build a ramp to their front door.

Despite the fact that research insights are stronger when shown with their supporting evidence, qualitative data is not easily condensed into a format appropriate for an infographic, and unfortunately is often excluded, as in the infographic above.

When qualitative insights are stripped of their rich supporting evidence, they lose a lot of their nuance and context—often bringing the validity of the insights into question. This is the last thing that qualitative research needs, since there is already a cultural bias that quantitative data is more reliable.

So, should qualitative research jump onto the infographics bandwagon? Probably not.

That’s not to say that qualitative research can’t learn something from infographics. Most people are visual learners, and too often qualitative research reports are text-heavy—our clients get bogged down trying to take it all in. We need to lighten it up, show more and tell less—craft a story from our findings that draws them in and rely on carefully chosen examples to fill in the nuances and context, rather than more text. We also need to pay attention to the aesthetics—good insights are easily lost in ugly or confusing formatting.

If we do these things, then we may just get to a point where clients do not feel the need to ask for infographics, because the research will not only be accurate and current, as it has always been, but it will be compelling, appealing, and clear, as well.

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Numbers Don’t Lie—But They Could Be Trying to Tell You More

data tabletAn advantage of analytics that is often extolled or capitalized on is the sleek, easily consumed result at the end of miles and miles of data. It is an alluring power, to be sure, and the ability to see past the noise to extract core performance metrics is certainly foundational. Practically, however, these extractions may lull one into seemingly natural simplifications of data in order to provide neat, packaged numbers.

Analytics is not merely a mass of raw data; it is the underlying story being told by the data and it is the story that is meaningful. In essence, context imbues the easy and commonplace metrics we use and rely on with impact and meaning. Merely looking at just one aspect of performance can even be detrimental, as it blinds us from other motivating factors.

In fact, in an increasingly digital HCP world where 98% of physicians use the Internet for professional purposes [1], the task of understanding and connecting with this audience has grown more and more complex.

Specifically, with regard to digital web analytics, some of the primary and day-to-day concerns revolve around site performance and content engagement. What many of these issues generally boil down to are fairly straightforward answers—number of site visits and interest in specific site content.

Volume of site traffic is, independently, a rather inert number that can be incredibly misleading. High numbers one month followed by a much lower volume the next would assert that website performance has declined in terms of site traffic—but placing these numbers in context of another metric could change the view entirely. Looking at visits in light of bounce rates could inform us that a far smaller percentage of visits bounced in the latter month. Time on site might stay the same from month to month, but if page views per visit decrease, then more time is being spent consuming content on each individual page (on average), delivering an entirely different message once a corollary metric is introduced. The goal, after all, is to deliver the right message to the right audience, at the right time. A larger audience might not necessarily be the right audience, and so the quality of a site visit or a digital imprint is affected by and affects a multitude of other elements.

The benefits of exploring the connection between metrics are the models that emerge from the analysis, which in turn allow us to make more surprising and valuable insights. A top-line glance may miss or overlook these connections in its urgency to survey surface-level movements or trends; breaking down site referrals by traffic drivers might display which sources of site visits are the most prominent, but aligning these sources with other factors could reveal that certain segments are more likely to convert (download materials, sign up for accounts, order samples, etc.) and thus lead to immediately effective and actionable conversations.

At any point in a venture where data is generated, or can be generated, analytics can explain, evaluate, and optimize. No one part of it should be taken in isolation from the others, and this is no less relevant to the practice of analytics itself.

It is imperative that analytics never be stripped down to mere metrics, but live and thrive in a much larger framework.

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Oncologists to Initiate Discussion Around Value

money stethoscopeEarlier this month a new initiative was announced to encourage oncologists to discuss the price and relative value of cancer medicines with their patients. No, this was not driven by executive fiat as part of the ACA, nor is it the brainchild of an insurance carrier. Instead, it comes from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, or ASCO, the professional organization for oncologists and publisher of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, among other titles.

ASCO has formed working groups that will weigh efficacy, side effects and price to help better define the value of oncology medicines. Initially these groups will look at treatments for advanced lung and prostate cancer and for multiple myeloma, said Richard Schilsky, the group’s chief medical officer.

This comes a little less than a year after Scott Ramsey from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle published a study suggesting that individuals with a cancer diagnosis were 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy compared to a matched control group.

Not unlike hepatitis C, the price of therapy in oncology is a hot topic, as 11 of the 12 cancer drugs approved by the FDA in 2012 were priced at more than $100,000 per year.

To date, ASCO and another group, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), have published treatment guidelines that payers use as the basis for reimbursement coverage of cancer drugs, but these guidelines have been value-agnostic, meaning the price of the drug has had little or nothing to do with strong category recommendations. ASCO’s move could change this.

So how could this impact our clients’ business?

·         Pharma has traditionally had to defend ultra-premium pricing only to payers, who, in many cases, were/are legally obligated to cover the costs, at least for Medicare/Medicaid patients.  Broadening this conversation to include HCPs and patients could affect overall product positioning, messaging and channel strategy.

·         Manufacturers need to rethink how they approach the value section of the AMCP dossier as they submit these to payers as the way payers (public or private) are assessing value will change.  The dossier must also be consistent with value messages to non-payer audiences.

·         With compensation models for oncologists already shifting from “buy and bill” to “pay for quality,” these ASCO value ratings could further aid in the rapid adoption of biosimilars and generic targeted small molecules that will begin hitting the market in the next few years.

·         To the ire of many payers, pharma has been able to mitigate some financial barriers to obtaining therapy through the use of co-pay cards and other assistance programs. If the conversation turns from out-of-pocket costs to “costs to society,” demonstrating meaningful value will be of paramount importance to brands.

·         Dialogue studies in this category suggest sometimes broken dialogue between HCPs, cancer patients, and their caregivers. Layering on a discussion about the value of a drug could add to the confusion. As oncologists experiment with this new value lexicon, it could create an opportunity for brands to take a leadership role in framing the value discussion.

Historically in the US, positioning a drug on “value” has been akin to admitting your brand does not offer a meaningful advantage over existing therapy options. Will this nascent movement result in opportunities for value-based oncology brands? Only time will tell, but in the meantime rethinking how we articulate value is more important than ever.

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