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.

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.