30,000 new patients? Free consults? Tele-health/Telemedicine takes off. (But can doctors compete?)

(A 3-minute read but great content to explore to get the deeper story! I am going to bookend this post.)

Here’s a novel idea: maybe Biopharma can expand their business model to include tele-health services and develop this new revenue stream and offer it to large health systems?

These past few weeks seemed like “Tele-health Month” in my email and in the content I read weekly. But as usual amidst all the noise, market and human realities need to be considered. Before we get to the take-off of tele-health, let’s look at the current leader of the treatment model — the doctor.

Tele-health vendors are filling in some vital cracks in the health system. Doctors in large systems or in private practice need to be aggressive with their digital patient outreach or fall further into non-relevance. Do they need to be convinced? Do the tele-health service companies threaten their practice future?

Yes, on all fronts. Medical Economics, a great HCP site, posted an article on the “Top 7 reasons physicians should consider telemedicine”. While the reasons are good ones, anyone close to the shifting dynamics of the industry have to wonder if the article is for Luddites or those already left behind. You could say that doctors are already emailing with patients through their EHR Portal, but most of us know that is usually a notice about tests or a non-committal note about appointments.

HealthTap is pushing the limits very well. In a great, smart and moving email from HealthTap those who suffered from Hurricane Matthew are offered free consults, a perfect reason for tele-health and one that creates market share:

I think this is a brilliant example of smart marketing; this free offers is an obvious and dramatically relevant reason to engage with telehealth. Add the humanity/compassion of their free offer and you see how fast this could be adopted. When marketing and compassion come together, it always wins.

Then, I receive an email from American Well, stating:

“Learn how Southwest Medical Associates enrolled more than 30,000 patients in telehealth and conducted more than 20,000 telehealth visits.” Clearly not a boast, but a tipping point.


Have any of you engaged with such smartphone/tablet services? Does it feel “right” or is it still working out the kinks on what those tele-docs can do or say?

And those doctors sitting in their offices with the lineup of patients? Maybe the real worry is for those doctors — 60% + of all practices — who sold themselves to a hospital system and are paralyzed because of their loss of prescribing, and the 15-minute-per-patient performance metric. The days of waiting are nearly over. The days of lean-in and engage are here.

Here’s a novel idea: maybe Biopharma can expand their business model and develop this new revenue stream and offer it to large health systems?

If you want to discuss this, or any topic in the world of Customer-centricity, where analytic/insight meet marketing and success, call or write.

Wearable research: Design? UX? No, accuracy of bio-metric data rises to the top

A 3-minute read, at best. I promise a chuckle inside the more serious business topic of wearables for health. A recent study is worth sharing; the one caveat being since the research was commissioned by a sensor company, one has to read it somewhat skeptically — yet, health wearables is a hot topic among consumers, so the research is certainly relevant.

Now for the chuckle. From the New Yorker:

Thanks New Yorker for always skewering a topic just right.

Let’s look at recent research about a conversation I have rarely thought about: health wearable accuracy. Not being a wearable person, I would have thought that accuracy of bio metric data was a given or else who’d buy one?

In this study, consumers weighed in that the most important aspect of their wearable, whether an owner or prospective buyer, was accuracy.

Methodology: The online survey polled 706 U.S. consumers, ages 18-65, on their knowledge and preferences around wearables, which were defined as a device, clothing and/or accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies. Among those surveyed:

  • More than 42% of respondents own or have owned a wearable device
  • 63% ranked accuracy as a highly important feature of that wearable.
  • Among wearable owners, 80% feel that their wearable has a positive impact on their health.
  • For those who do not own a wearable, 74% of would consider using one if accuracy in wearables could help them to better manage their health.

Conclusion? The door is open and consumers just want to know the wearable they want isn’t just ergonomically beautiful or solves 50 problems, they want to know it works like a clock. After all, who would buy a clock that wasn’t accurate?

Thank you Valencell. The Valencell site and study press release is here: http://goo.gl/7BhLxp

As always, I hope this helps deepen your thinking on devices, Pill + type strategies.

7 Things an Oncologist Should Never Say to a Patient.

Summary: 2-minute read: this is an heart-felt article on CancerNetwork about one oncologists honest admission of what NOT to say to a cancer patient. So many of us focus on aiding or informing the doctor/patient dialogue, but here is an example of the reality patients face. We need to understand this because emotion is a part of the discussion, and we marketers shy away from any emotional language or communication.

Guilt, insensitivity, myopia, lack of emotional intelligence, there are so many verbal sins that come from these…

What are the 7 things? 

“I’m afraid i have bad news.”

“Is there some reason you did not see your doctor when this started?”

“You’re just wasting your money taking supplements.”

“I don’t want you leaving town.”

“If you had not smoked, this would not have happened to you.”

“You have (insert number) months left to live.”

“This treatment will not make you sick.”

Here’s the entire article; for each statement, the doctor supplies straight-forward, common sense reasons why each is harmful to the patient. Some of this is blindingly obvious. Still, it provides empathy and clarity around how to communicate.


7 things first screen 7.4.16

Thank you CancerNetwork and Dr Craig Hildreth.

As always, in a world where automation and technology seem to have taken over many marketing conversations, humanity and empathy still rule the day as the most effective form of communication.


In health is the notion of “Trust” as important as a good User Experience? A new study offers the stunning truth.

Summary: one new study by Makovsky/Kelton delve into the latest trends of online behavior and the issue of trust among key audiences and healthcare. The results seem to indicate that a good User Experience is almost as important as the source, if not more! Read on for the story and stats, and a few helpful conclusions.

Are we really so superficial? Or have we as consumers finally reached that tipping point of where our Experience with Web site content is truly how we frame our trust of that content? Just check out this chart and see how the “trust” chart line and the “ease-of-use” from the Makovsky “Pulse of Online Search Survey, 2016”.

I love human contradictions. We are so simple and yet so complex. Take a few observations from this chart: Advocacy sites are the most trusted and yet least visited…is that really because their “ease-of-use” is so crude, under-funded and under-engaging? It would seem so.

59% trust Advocacy sites, but only 19% visit them.

53% visit WebMD, but only 39% trust the content.

And for Biopharma? Only 10% visit (OUCH) but of those, around 40% trust the content and find it easy-to-use.

Does that mean that Biopharma’s (bad) reputation is the biggest block to more brand site visitation? Or, as the report teases out, is the real key that Biopharma brands need to pull down the walls and channel the authenticity of the Advocacy groups and their own branded needs? Why can’t Advocacy groups distribute their content on brand sites?  It almost seems a childish church-and-state separation.

Last eye-opening but not surprising stat:

95% of online Searchers (18+) trust their doctor. BUT 62% research the recommended treatment after a visit. Does that tell us that consumers have just embraced this habit, or is it that ever-shorter, ever-less-satisfying visit to the doctor leaves us with more questions than answers? Another reason why Biopharma brands need to accept that patients want the science — brands need to start sharing their clinical information, as well as disease state, with transparency. Patients are looking for that information — but they are not looking at the branded site.

The lead researcher is quite succinct in setting the reality, the challenge and the opportunity for healthcare brands — hospitals or manufacturers — to pay attention to: “The type of health information consumers seek online is changing, as well – with consumer behaviors clearly shifting from symptom-focused research to treatment-focused research, both before and after doctor visits,” commented Alexandra Peterson, SVP and Practice Director, Makovsky Health. “Consumer actions to prepare for and then validate conversations with physicians via online search illustrate the balance between patient empowerment and desire for professional guidance. Combined with the fact that the majority of patients are likely to ask their doctor for a prescription by name, survey results show that patients are walking into the doctor’s office armed with more information than ever, eager to have a more active role in the treatment discussion and decision.”

CX (Customer Experience) is my work and is almost the single greatest thread that goes through every marketing conversation.  As marketing professionals, digitally conversant, we all fret and obsess at the gaps and opportunities clients either do not see, or do not have the ability to act upon. Yet, with every passing day, we all are documenting the Customer Experience in ever greater detail; as we see studies like this we need to view and share them as confirmation we are doing the right thing for our clients, patients and caregivers.

The real insight here is how healthcare and health in general is fast becoming a shopping experience — it used to be “Does it work?” when it came to treatments. Now it seems we consumer are overlaying our shopping habits to health — “I don’t like how this looks or feels”.  Since Biopharma companies DO have a lot to offer patients, focusing on CX and perhaps the trustworthiness of their content needs to come to the forefront of planning any campaign.

Want to discuss the impact of great CX or Journey Planning on your business? I can prove the results can make a big difference with even a little ‘tinkering’. Call or write me:

aoneill@harbingerassociates.net / 215-688-7613

Can Twitter really tell you which hospital offers the best care?

Healthcare and Social is a fast-changing landscape. While Biopharma manufacturers have been slow to adopt social strategies and presence many hospitals use Twitter aggressively to engage with their patients, and influence hospital choice through seeking satisfaction comments. This is certainly true with “Likes” on hospital Facebook pages. But a “Like” in some ways is more passive than a posted Tweet. The Tweet is often a more immediate post hospital care reaction and has a ripple effect. Amazingly enough, as of early 2015, nearly half of all U.S. hospitals have Twitter accounts.

Twitter logo 11.23

 One study, which was published this month in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, (http://goo.gl/dkkmB7) examined whether Twitter could be a reliable, real-time indicator of hospital quality. The study, researchers crowd-sourced U.S. hospital Tweets to determine whether their overall sentiment could denote quality of care.

The study found a positive sentiment correlation to the use of Twitter.  They also observed that smaller hospitals in more rural settings had deeper engagement, which makes sense as a local issue. But a true disconnect was unearthed: Twitter sentiment was not associated with Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) ratings but just having a Twitter account was. So, while positive engagement helps the hospital brand equity and reputation, the government’s own ratings do not yet measure it. So why have a Twitter account? Simple: engagement drives business in a world of customer-focused healthcare insurance.

Another study concluded that Twitter had a very positive impact on the overall goal and metrics the hospitals use. From “Tweeting and Treating: How Hospitals Use Twitter to Improve Care.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26217995), Dr. Frederick, July 2015.


“Savings opportunities are generated by preventing unnecessary office visits, producing billable patient encounters, and eliminating high recruiting costs. Communication is enhanced using Twitter by sharing organizational content, news, and health promotions and can be also a useful tool during crises. The utilization of Twitter in the hospital setting has been more beneficial than detrimental in its ability to generate opportunities for cost savings,Twitter hopsitals over US 11.23 recruiting, communication with employees and patients, and community reach.”

As it turns out, Twitter is also a pretty good gauge of hospital quality. The study found that “hospitals that people liked on Twitter were also doing better at not having patients come back within 30 days – one of the indicators of care quality.” Why is this hot? Adoption of Social in Biopharma manufacturers is far behind that of hospitals. Also, hospitals are being held to ever-increasing quality-of-care metrics – these metrics act as badges of honor but are needed to attract patients to their services. If they keep patients from being re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days, the Affordable Care Act rewards them with higher reimbursement. Also, hospitals are pioneering what sort of content engages patients and community. Look at Mayo Clinic, they have 1.23 million Followers. True, they are a world-class brand, but it shows what is capable and a hunger for connection. Biopharma should watch hospital Twitter experiences very carefully.

Mayo Twitter page 11.23

In terms of content, an expert on the topic weighs in…

Alicia Daugherty, who works with the Advisory Board’s Marketing and Planning Leadership Council, points out several key strategies for hospitals that are trying to maintain vital, active Twitter feeds: “It’s all about relevancy–the care experience prompts patients to follow the hospital, and then it’s up to the hospital to sustain their attention with interesting, useful content,” Daugherty says. She separates hospitals’ most engaging tweets into three common categories:

  • Practical health advice: Daugherty notes this is easy to offer, although Twitter is somewhat saturated with health tips and tricks.
  • Unusual or counterintuitive information: These tweets can be more interesting, but harder to provide on a regular basis.
  • Content that sparks a conversation:However, the most active discussions may center on controversial topics–and that’s “usually best avoided” for hospitals, Daugherty concludes.

As an example, just look at what the Cleveland Clinic has on it’s page today…education, help, hope.



Who is winning the innovation race: hospitals or Big Pharma?

Summary: as we all read a spectrum of news about the accelerating pace of innovation in the entire healthcare ecosystem, is it Big Pharma or Hospital systems who are leading the way? Part 1 deals with Forbes great article about hospital innovation I will add some commentary to; Part 2 will focus on Novartis’ launch, ENTRESTO and the future-forward partnerships and Big Data model it is offering.

The recent Forbes article about the future-view of 5 technologies you will see at hospitals and what they aim to accomplish. As the article suggests, this is the meeting place between physiology and technology.

The starting point of this change is the ACA and money pouring into Digital Transformation. As the article states: “Investors seem excited about the potential. Digital health startups attracted investments of $6.5 billion in 2014, a 125 percent increase from the previous year.”

Before we get into the 5 technologies, a question has to be posed which I wrestle with every day: are hospitals innovating faster than Big Pharma? Hospitals are so bureaucratic and well known for their ‘controlled chaos’ of technology, paperwork, egos and conservatism. Innovation in medicine, yes, brilliance, passion, but not necessarily innovation in enterprise-wide technology of true Patient-centricity.

Yet Big Pharma has the money and all the reasons for change: the pressure of their business model changing underneath their feet, the rise of the Formulary as King, consolidation of insurance companies and the drugstore chains dropping expensive drugs from their shelves (CVS removing Invokana this week) among a dozen distinct and fearful challenges to the industry. From clinical trials to LOE, there is change needed at every step. With all that, shouldn’t the acceleration of change would take greatest hold where the greatest need is, the manufacturer?

Is this about speed-of-transformation as an present issue or human fear and resistance to change? I think both — but the greater resistance is human and fear-based. This is scary stuff and it is all changing so quickly it can make your head spin.

But good news? Novartis is setting a new standard with their most recent launch of ENTRESTO. First, let’s list the hospital innovations. Link to article: http://goo.gl/8vVokH

The 5 innovations:

1. Connected Medical Devices: all the wearables and trackers forcing us to monitor our own health and augment the doctor.

2. Quantified Health Metrics: HealthKit, PatientsLikeMe…great examples. And for those who need to truly understand that we are all patients and most likely have one health issue; sign up as a member of PatientsLikeMe and join into the conversation. The community of compassion and data is mind-boggling. They boast of 28 million data points.

3. Shareable Health Records on-the-go: simple reason? The Cloud, which has changed everything. Between wearables, health-version of Internet of Everything, EHR’s…all within instant reach.

4. Docs on call: these 24/7 video Docs already exist and are blossoming monthly. Much like the minute-clinics, they can do everything short of diagnosis. But the availability to data and EHR’s will change that. Yes, you may never have to visit your doctor’s office again. Check out HealthTap:

5. 3-D Bioprinting: whether it is nanobots repairing your blood vessels, organs, if it is human, eventually they will “print” it. This is moving so fast, that last week it was announced they’d “printed” a pill, next week it could be an organ.

Next week, I will compare these innovations to the Big Pharma ENTRESTO; let’s see who is really owning the innovation space…or it it a race?

Part 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs & Healthcare

Summary: a discussion this past week about behavioral re-targeting made me think of the larger more macro issue of human behavior overall and how it applies to healthcare marketing and content. Thus, Maslow. This will be a blog posting in 2 parts:

  1. Maslow Hierarchy of Needs and Social Media.
  2. Neuroscience and Marketing: the next thing?

As a highly regulated industry, we struggle with the boundaries and barriers of Patient-centric marketing. Yet, the tidal forces of an accelerating society, policy and Consumerization make this a moment of great opportunity for marketers. We can now actually get closer to our customers — the media channels are established, the tools exist to measure. Strategically, we can use these trends, media and tools to engage with our customers them to actually influence choice, loyalty and industry perception.

What is holding us back (besides regulatory fears)? Understanding the human condition and how to speak to different people with different needs and be compelling in your message: it is the heart of Customer-centricity.

Human behavior is at the center of so much if what we know and do as healthcare marketers. The closer we are to gaining insight into how the people we sell to, the more we can understand what is needed to get them to act and engage.Yet what I think has occurred is that the focus on process/people/technology as the baseline to get to Customer-centricity has made us blind. Blind to the fact that once you do enough Journeys, enough channel-planning, enough insight-mining, you get to human behavior. The buck, literally, stops there. No sale, no loyalty is achieved without a behavior change.

No one understood human behavior better than Maslow. He was truly ground-breaking in how his pyramid of the Hierarchy of Needs showed a clear path from the critical but mundane needs to the highly enlightened stage of Self-actualization.

Can we use his model as a source for inspiration, guidance, Planning?maslow_ingles

Last week, I discovered that someone actually mapped the stages of the pyramid to the myriad Social Media platforms. This was fascinating to me because if you really apply the Patient or HCP Journey you work with, then this illuminates where, when and how you speak to them.

Yet I am not sure I agree with their assessment. But it makes one think, that’s for sure. Check this out:

At first notice, you could argue that Tumblr belongs in a few spots. But then you see that no Social platform covers the physiological needs.

Twitter seemed a bit misplaced; in fact, one could argue that the instant nature of Twitter could serve many levels — perhaps the physiological most of all, which has no platform associated with it.

Can we apply this to how we frame content development and where we think our audience is?

mHealth App development, or developing an evergreen content strategy for a Branded or Unbranded site — this is where I think the Hierarchy plays best. Apply your imagination — what if your Patient App actually held the content and UX to allow someone to move up-and-down the Pyramid and have many of those needs served.

Align your App or site goals to focus on Maslow’s thinking. Does someone living with a chronic condition go through each of these levels of the pyramid before coming to terms with it? Can we help get them there through smarter content that speaks to them and the needs they have? Can we move someone to a point where Adherence simply seems in their best interest because they see passed their barriers to a more enlightened — this makes me healthier — perspective?

I believe Maslow’s insights could play a huge role in creating an App that actually provides long-term value.

Thanks to the companies listed at the bottom of the infographic for their depth-of-thought and generosity.