Is Big Pharma Losing Its Innovation Brand? Not so fast…

File under: Digital Health, Healthcare innovation, Pharma innovation

The list of leading consumer electronics and telecom companies that have embraced digital health this year are all household brands: Apple, Qualcomm, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Verizon and AT&T. Funded startups in the tough guymobile health sector number in the hundreds.

We’re seeing a phenomenon in which the tech industry, specifically tech entrepreneurs, are spearheading health innovation, replacing the traditional players like biotech, pharma and medical device companies. And pharma seems to be acquiescing to these newcomers, despite the fact that there is no other industry player as intrinsically linked to both innovation and the delivery of healthcare as pharma.

Health tech leadership evolving
Pharma has always been a health tech player. But in just the last few months as health tech has been redefined as digital, it’s become blatantly obvious that health technology leadership is now in the hands of big brand consumer electronics companies. And while the focus of companies like Apple, Qualcomm and Samsung has initially been the largely unregulated health and wellness sector, there’s nothing inherently limiting them from moving to the clinical side.

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The Land of Oz

File under: Digital Health, Healthcare innovation, Mobile Health, Patient Engagement

Dr. Oz and celebrity doctors like him have stirred up the medical community. Regardless of what you think about the accuracy of Dr. Oz’s claims and advice, he has created a huge audience of four million viewers who look to him for medical, health and nutrition advice.

While I don’t have the clinical background to judge the truthfulness of Dr. Oz’s advice, I do know that he’s leveraging media and technology in a very fresh and powerful way to enable and support patient empowerment. His platform puts medical and health information into the hands of millions of consumers. Dr. Oz’s approach is filling an unmet need in the medical community: helping patients to truly learn and understand their health.

OzThe Perfect Storm
It really is a perfect storm of trend, technology and media. Patients really want to understand how to live healthier, and cable television and digital media and apps have made access to fresh content cheap, convenient and ubiquitous. But this shift has upset the natural order of traditional patient-doctor relationships.

Physicians working in the traditional health care system are often overburdened and don’t really have the bandwidth to create new ways of doing things. So along comes a physician, Dr. Oz, who is able to break down health, healthcare and medicine in very simple ways that make it accessible to the population – and consumers are embracing that. The magic of Dr. Oz’s approach is that it’s engaging, accessible, simple and motivating.

What can we learn from Dr. Oz?
While there has been negative press about Dr. Oz’s endorsements of weight-loss products, there are people, particularly those who may not have a primary care physician, who use his advice to make decisions about their health. So before we attempt to silence or disparage him, I think it is better for us to look at what Dr. Oz is doing right and what we can learn from his success, especially at the physician level. What can physicians learn from Dr. Oz’s simple, clear explanations of what’s happening in the body, and how can they incorporate that into their patient relationships?

The patient empowerment movement isn’t going away, and we shouldn’t want it to, so it is important for physicians to embrace the patient’s willingness to learn and understand medicine and how it affects their bodies.

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Pharma and its Innovator’s Dilemma

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Healthcare innovation, Mobile Health, Pharma innovation

A recent conversation with a friend in the pharma industry validated my thoughts and concerns about the systemic challenges that pharma is facing. The pivotal insight came from my friend’s comment that he wants his next job to be “not just about pills,” but a job that takes on a broader role in healthcare, one that’s more focused on patient outcomes.

This personal revelation was a bit surprising given the fact that my friend’s entire career has been pharma marketing. Promoting drugs is his area of expertise. So why did it take a career “transition” phase to bring about this personal commitment to the need to broaden pharma’s mandate?

innovation highwayWhy not innovation?
The challenges and obstacles that senior-level pharma executives face are extraordinary, especially when it comes to innovation and moving the industry forward. Pressure from Wall Street, business partners and investors who are focused on revenue growth and short-term profitability makes it incredibly difficult for top executives to think outside the box or consider what’s next for the industry or their company.

Every day, pharmaceutical companies large and small are managed to meet performance and revenue expectations. My friend observed first hand how even the long-term planning process (5 to 10 year horizon) doesn’t give senior executives the flexibility to discover and engage in innovative opportunities that might allow them to consider new offerings or business models.

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More Than Half of Doctors Refuse to See Reps

File under: Digital Health, Multi-Channel Marketing, Pharma innovation, Relationship Marketing

A recent report from ZS Associates affirms a decade-long decline in pharmaceutical rep access to physicians. The reasons are well known: doctors have busier schedules, they’re joining large practices or hospitals with “no-see” policies that prevent reps from coming in, and in many cases doctors simply don’t think it’s worth seeing reps.

Although physicians don’t have time for reps, they do need their content. It’s just that now they would rather get it through digital channels.

There has been an evolution in the role of reps from someone who delivers a promotional reminder to someone who is more experienced and savvy and who serves as an account executive helping to provide doctors with the resources and content they need and want.

It’s no longer just an evolution
But what was once a gradual change is now accelerating. According to ZS, in 2008, 23% of doctors put restrictions on reps; now it’s 49%. Basically, half of the doctors in the United States now have moderate to severe restrictions on rep visits.

What we’re beginning to see is a business model evolution. Driven by technology and economics, the role of the traditional manufacturer’s rep is dying.

How fast will this happen?

diffusionDiffusion of Innovation
We have a tool that can predict what will likely happen. It’s called the Diffusion of Innovation theory. The theory, first published in 1962, outlines how a new idea, innovation or technology becomes diffused throughout society.

The theory addresses the questions around how innovation spreads. How connected is the social system into which this innovation is being introduced? How tightly knit is the social system of users, and how much do they talk to each other?

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Is it Digital Marketing or just Marketing?

File under: Multi-Channel Marketing, Patient Engagement, Pharma innovation, Relationship Marketing

In a recent article about the future of pharma, Craig DeLarge was quoted extensively about how to organize a “center of excellence” within a pharma company to ensure it is taking advantage of digital tactics and multi-channel marketing. He sees this as the first step in the process of digital transformation for pharma.

marketing dig ageWhat his remarks drive home is the fact that digital and marketing aren’t separate disciplines. “We are marketing in the digital age,” says Craig. This means that marketing and digital marketing shouldn’t be seen as two separate initiatives or even act in a parent-child relationship. Yet very often that’s what happens as evidenced by the typical marketing budget process.

Marketing in the digital age is still marketing, but technology now enables a custom marketing mix that’s appropriate for our product and our audience. It’s not simply a case of adding a few new online or mobile tactics to the marketing mix. That’s just a recipe for adding more promotional noise, without the benefits that we can get from digital.

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When did Pharma miss the Innovation Pride Parade?

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Healthcare innovation, Pharma innovation

A recent article identified four basic skills that new leadership in pharma needs to be successful in the arena of consumer health. The author, Michael Winter, addresses the topic from his perspective as an executive headhunter, with the expertise and obvious vested interest in helping to find, source and
pride paradeplace talent.

Winter observes that the capabilities, talents and skills that built pharma into the very successful industry sector it has been aren’t necessarily the same attributes that will make pharma successful over the next 5, 10 or 20 years.

“What got us here won’t get us there,” has never been truer than it is in pharma today.

The Skills Needed
The clinical research and development skills needed to produce new drugs will always be critical to pharma’s success, but our approach to the marketplace needs to be rethought and adjusted. The kind of marketing expertise needed in today’s environment has more common with successful consumer goods companies than traditional pharma.

This realization has spawned a growing contest for talent between pharma and consumer goods companies. In some cases pharma is trying to poach senior consumer executives. To be successful, however, pharma needs to first make itself an attractive destination for this type of experienced hire.

Most consumer executives look at an industry like pharma and say, “I don’t know… It looks complicated. It’s a highly regulated industry. They’ve got business model challenges. They’ve got brand issues. I’ve done well on the direct consumer side. Why would I ever leave my successful career here and move over into health? That just seems like a recipe for disaster.” Read Full Article Now »

FDA Loosens Regulatory Reins on Digital Devices

File under: Healthcare innovation, Mobile Health, Patient Engagement

Over the past year there have been a series of draft letters from the FDA on the approval process for medical devices, particularly in the arena of digital health. After several years of being a hyper-vigilant regulatory agency and effectively slowing down the approval process for new products, the FDA has begun to relax its approval requirements, especially for digital health products.

FDA3Historically, the FDA has divided medical devices according to device classification and risk to patient and user. Class I includes devices with the lowest risk such as an activity tracker like a Shine or Fitbit and Class III includes those with the greatest risk such as pacemakers or implants.

The class indicates what level of premarket approval is necessary. Most Class I and Class II devices are exempt from the 510(k) Premarket Notification application. Most Class III devices require full Premarket Approval (PMA), which generally requires clinical data to support claims. Read Full Article Now »

Expectations on the Rise for Digital Marketing in Pharma

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Multi-Channel Marketing, Patient Engagement, Pharma innovation, Relationship Marketing

ExpecatationsI’ve begun to observe among our clients a distinct shift in expectations for the role of digital marketing. Even though pharma marketing budgets continue to invest in the traditional channels of television and print, I’m seeing a change in how digital is viewed, and that’s a positive sign.

Smarter Marketing Talent
The caliber of marketing talent in key pharma leadership roles has improved, bringing higher expectations for technology and digital-based marketing. Marketers in both so-called centers of excellence and at the brand level are demanding measurable goals for what technology can be and should be doing for their company and their products. They reward success and fire agencies or technology partners that don’t meet expectations.

The Amazon Effect
Online retail and social media companies have raised the bar of consumer expectations for access to information and the ability to search and buy in a very seamless way. But until recently, consumer expectations didn’t impact pharma. Now, the online consumer experience is raising the bar on healthcare.

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Traits of a Healthy Marketing Agency

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Multi-Channel Marketing, Relationship Marketing

As closerlook passed 100+ employees last  year, I began to reflect on what makes (and keeps) an agency healthy. Although there are many qualities that one might attribute to a healthy agency, I’ve boiled it down to four main traits or characteristics that I think are key, at least in my experience.

traitsBusiness Clarity
The first trait of a healthy agency is clarity. The agency should be clear about what they do and don’t do. A healthy agency’s focus is rooted in deep expertise and a clear understanding of its business value.

In other words, a healthy agency knows what role they play in the business of their client. They know what kind of influence they have. Healthy agencies don’t think of themselves as just executors of strategy, but thinkers — they have brains, not just hands. Successful agencies want to have impact. They want to move the needle, not just deliver on tactics. They really see themselves as a business partner for their clients. Read Full Article Now »

Pharma and its Love of Deal Making. All Good This Time.

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Patient Engagement, Relationship Marketing

3-wayThe recent 3-way deal between GSK, Novartis and Lilly represented a major transaction for all three companies. The deal has been scrutinized by the Street like a master chessboard swap of assets, in this case, molecules. Obviously, it took a fair bit of corporate development work to make these deals happen, so it’s actually pretty impressive from that perspective. But what’s more interesting to me is the strategy that these moves belie. It’s another clue to how pharma is changing.

For the past thirty years, pharma companies rose or fell based on their ability to develop or acquire a drug with blockbuster potential. Sometimes blockbusters just showed up, as did the disappointing blood pressure medication with unusual side effects called Viagra. Or the also-ran cholesterol-lowering drug that was almost cancelled because it would be the fifth drug in its class and that went on to become the largest drug in history. Read Full Article Now »