Earlier this month, DHC members, donors, and other industry experts gathered for the annual DHC Midwest Summit. First, we’d like to thank the wonderful team at Takeda for both hosting and providing rich insights for attendees. While we always encourage you to participate with us at DHC Summits for the maximum benefits, we are happy to offer here a recap of the afternoon.
To lay the framework for a robust discussion on the applications of Artificial Intelligence for pharma, the afternoon opened with a futurist session from AI expert Casey Bennett. Casey is currently with CVS Health and has been driving forward innovation in the AI space for years. His talk included an overview of the work he has done with the aging population. “Someone who has a chronic illness only shows up in the doctor’s office a couple of times a year … the problem with that is that health is something that happens every day. An accumulation of choices. We currently lack a window into people’s day to day lives”. Casey solved that problem by creating a robot that lives with elderly patients. Many of these patients need significant monitoring in order to be carried for properly, yet the burden on caregivers is crippling. AI technology provided Casey a solution to that issue. Bennett invited a “cuddly, soft” pet robot that collects data on patient behavior and health patterns. (You can see the robot here). In addition to the therapeutic applications, this AI solution provides the data scientists with data that can help drive better future health decisions.
The application for pharma is the concept that “treatment is a series of decisions”, how do we help patients get from point A to point B? Understanding that a new Rx is just the beginning of a series of decisions – point A – that need to take place in order to get patients to the desired health outcome – point B. Bennett challenged attendees to consider how AI applications might help us increase the success rate of the number of patients moving from point A to point B.
Digging deeper into this subject brought us to Google’s Head of Industry – Healthcare, Hillary Gurber. Hillary walked audience through the application of AI and the user voice experience/interface, especially with regards to how it interplays with mobile. She offered the reminder that understanding the way the consumer is engaging with technology is paramount to using that technology to engage with your intended audience. For example, the way that users interact with a voice interface for search is completely different to how they complete the same task on a computer or even the keyboard on a mobile phone. “Increasingly users are looking for help with getting things done, and that is probably the biggest difference from search. It’s the biggest opportunity for brands who are thinking about how they’re going to interact with this next generation of search.” When considering the impact this type of AI will have on the digital health industry, Gurber points to a recent patient poll by Yext, where 35% of patient respondents indicated that they would use voice search to request reminders to take prescriptions, 43% of patient respondents said that they would use voice search to make appointments with a doctor and voice search to see what kind of insurance a doctor accepts. The applications exist for HCPs as well, with 23% of physicians say that they would use a digital assistant for professional reasons. Gurber acknowledged that the solutions for these applications are not yet all in place, but encouraged marketers to stay ahead of the curve so they could continue to react quickly to emerging opportunities.
Taking a closer look AI applications for interactions with physicians, was Justin Chase, the EVP of Innovation and Media for Intouch Solutions. Justin demonstrated one area where AI was already at play in the world of sale rep visit – a climate that has changed significantly over the last several years. With the number of low-see/no-see doctors continuing to increase, pharma brands are looking for all opportunities increase the impact of their sales rep force. Using AI tools like Intouch Solutions’ “Eva” – a voice-assist based platform – sales reps can increase efficiency and deepen their knowledge pool on individual doctors as well as brand information.
To wrap up the day’s segment on AI, DHC Co-Founder Mark Bard was joined by Daniel J. Gandor, Director, Digital Innovation and Corporate Program Management, Takeda and Neal Bloomfield, Sr. Director, Commercial Systems, Horizon Pharma. Mark centered the panel’s conversation on the real applications for AI for pharma, explaining that in recent DHC research on industry trends, AI was one of the fastest moving. While it was ranked by respondents (from 25 pharma cos) as mid-level trend in 2018, it shifts to a top-level trend for importance in 2019. He, Dan, and Neal discussed why this might be – with Dan pointing out “the reason why AI’s become so much more important for brand teams and marketers is because we can now see actual use cases in areas of automation, engagement, and insights – whereas two, three years ago, those weren’t as tangible; those weren’t as obvious. The overall space has matured enough that this isn’t just some lofty idea that AI is this thing that we can’t put our hands around. It’s something that we all now literally have in our pocket or on our desk and we’re interacting with day by day, hour by hour.” Neal agreed, adding that from an IT perspective “technology has reached a point where it’s usable to us in the industry. The data that’s out there has become more available, and we’re able to make the connections that weren’t there before.” As they delved into the motivations for pharma cos to embrace AI and overcome the challenges to implementation, they raised a point that would become a theme for the day – the responsibility to deliver more value for patients and use the tools available to impact health outcomes. Neal explained: “We strive for ways to deliver more value to our patients and to find patients who may not know medicines are available for them.” Dan concurred “At the end of the day, if we can provide the right information at the right time and in the right way, I think that’s really what our customers are going to expect. We live in a world with Amazon where consumers are able to pull up their phone and order things suggested to them, and that’s spot on. Similarly, our physicians don’t want to be searching for information. They want the representatives to come in and provide the right information the right way at the right time. We’re at a point where that has to occur. That’s the higher expectations that are upon us.” Pointing back to research done by the DHC on AI attitudes within pharma, Mark referenced customer insights and loyalty as two of the biggest reasons given by pharma for using AI. Neal echoed that finding, explaining that one big opportunity for groups within pharma cos often referred to as a patient services group is to use AI data to ease the friction between getting a prescription and actually getting the medication filled – navigating all the channels associated with reimbursement, authorization, benefits, investigation etc. Both Dan and Neal were energized by the idea of a future where pharma is able to leverage this technology to realize a more connected and patient-centric experience.
The panel also spent time exploring the important question of “where does AI belong within the pharma co organizational framework?” with a resulting consensus that to be most successful, it should be part of the collective DNA of the organization so that wherever digital technologies are applied or digital first thinking occurs – whether in R&D, marketing, or even HR and corporate communications, it needs to come naturally. They recognized the need for a duality where it both lives everywhere and is natural but that there should also exist groups that can serve as a resource to help grease the wheels, getting in faster and orchestrating the sharing of best practices and successes to ensure scale across the organization.
This question of successful implementation with the organization was further addressed by McKinsey Partner Sid Chadha. Sid outlined a possible structural framework to make the exponential change of pace manageable, pointing out that “while it takes multiple shapes and forms, healthcare on mobile devices has exploded. What does this all mean for us? As marketers, it means a lot of things. It means our roles are changing. It means we need new capabilities.” He proposed the application of the Scrum method, with the introduction of digitally native talent, as a way to keep pace or even stay ahead. He asked that pharma think about culture “in a way that actually promotes experimentation, it actually promotes testing the right way”, asserting that “nothing is possible without technology keeping pace of the way it is done.” He left us with a key question to ask ourselves: “Are you building the right foundation skills, the right technology skills, and the right translations skills? It’s not just enough to have technology, you’ve got to be able to see what the technology says to you. You’ve got to be able to translate that to the business. Do you have that foundation ready?”
After an inspiration break, where attendees heard from Dr. Alex Leow, inventor of BiAffect, the focus on the afternoon shifted back to the day’s emerging theme of delivering value and improved health outcomes for patients. Ryan Mason, Chief Creative Office of Closerlook, took the audience through a new framework for patient services and its impact on the patient relationship. He challenged the over-used “Beyond the Pill”, predicated on “an attempt to solve the problem of undifferentiated products and find new revenue sources”. Instead, he asserts pharma needs consider how to improve patient relationships “Around the Pill…Product…Patient – providing patients with personalized services that create better patient experiences with a focus on access to therapy and adherence so that everyone involved enjoys better outcomes.” And while some of this is already in place for pharma, he cited several data points that illustrate the work yet to be done. 52% of pharma currently spend money on extended patient services, with that number projected to rise to 84% in the next 18 months, yet only 44% of pharma cos feel their technology is strong in this area. So how do we close the gap? Ryan’s advice: “Look forward and think about a want-to-provide strategy from the position of pharma that’s around the patient, there’s the opportunity to really become great marketers and seek out the source for differentiation and competitive advantage. If we think about some of the best products and the best product marketing in the world or brand marketing in the world, it’s really basic commodities that are infused with differentiation based on the experiences and the services around the brands themselves. Lock into that, then we may have an evergreen source for our differentiation.”
Further attention was paid to the question of building relationship with patients, this time at the point of intersection with patient and physician – the point of care. Linda Ruschau, Chief Client Officer, PatientPoint and Lisa Chengary, Manager, Multi-Channel Marketing – GI Customer Engagement and Marketing Innovation, Takeda unveiled new research from the DHC and PatientPoint on physician attitudes towards in-office technology (survey data powered by SERMO). Highlights include 77% of physicians believe the use of patient engagement technology improves the overall experience and 74% are interested in in-office tech featuring tailored education + ads. Like pharma, physicians are excited about the ways that technology can increase the patient’s health experience and understanding of important health information. Linda summarized “Patient engagement technology is transforming how healthcare providers are interacting with and educating patients with incredible tools to drive further engagement and better treatment options.” Takeda’s Lisa Chengary demonstrated the ways in which her work in the GI category has taken advantage of the evolving communication methods and buy-in from pharma within the point of care – including a patient testimonial video that was viewed for an average of an impressive 4 minutes and 16 seconds. “The interactive exam room is key – we can serve up questions and highly relevant content. For me as a marketer, this was a huge success – that we were able to provide patients with a video, a way to request a doctor discussion guide and sign up for the email program. I am able to provide them with tools to have the dialogue with their physician about treatment decisions.”
Shifting gears to the online world of digital, Summit attendees received an always-popular update on the DHC/Klick Health Social Media Landscape Research project. In this session, Brad Einarsen, Senior Director of Social Media (Klick) took attendees through some highlights of the latest round of data – nuggets of wisdom include the new vertical video style, 70% of digital use is on mobile – and social is the dominant activity there. Everything is visual and video is key regardless of platform. HCPS are using social media and pharma is talking to them there. Pharma benchmarks are achievable – Einarsen encourages marketers not to be daunted by social channel expectations – revealing that posting volumes are relatively low and comment volumes are manageable. He also tipped attendees off to a new feature on Facebook that will allow brands to digger deeper into competitor activity – the info and ads tab. The full report is available for download now.
As with other sections of the day, the session from J.R. Hermann, SVP Commercial, SERMO pointed us back to the increasing trend of the need for savvy pharma marketers to not just understand the consumer landscape, but also the world of the physician. He walked them through some new tools available to better understand physician attitudes towards brands using physician social data. Physicians rate brands on preference, efficacy, safety, tolerability, accessibility, and adherence – brands tapping into that data are able to better understand what’s driving a doctor’s preference and perception.
Wrapping up the day is the DHC Summit Fireside Chat. This session featured Steve Schaefer, Senior VP, General Medicine Business Unit, Takeda in a conversation with DHC’s Mark Bard. Mark and Steve wrapped up the day’s content, underlining several important and inspiring themes. Together, they reviewed the history of pharma’s stance on patient services and the way technology and the new consumer landscape has broken that model. Steve explained: “the availability of data, algorithmic marketing etc. has made it much easier for us to start to understand our customers, where they are on a journey, and start to customize content and get it to them in a manner that is very much how we would prefer to see it as consumers ourselves.” He furthered the challenge and call to action heard throughout the day, highlighting the importance of the customer experience and the responsibility that rests on pharma as they work to deliver both the experience and improved health outcomes. He shared his thinking that was also an excellent summary the themes throughout the day, summarizing that “the challenge question that I think we ask ourselves from time to time is “what’s our motivation?” If the motivation is only financial, then maybe we should pursue a different route. If it is really about patient outcomes, then I think we’re on the right track.” (Steve’s full interview with Mark will be available from the DHC in an upcoming feature email).
The DHC would like to once again thank the many thought leaders who participated, the attendees who dialogued together, and Takeda for hosting this outstanding afternoon.
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