Future of Digital Innovation in Healthcare

December 2021

The DHC Group


Future of Digital Innovation in Healthcare

As we wrap up 2021, we asked several key opinion leaders to weigh in on a series of questions related to the future of digital innovation in our industry. We’d like to thank the many experts that have contributed to DHC content over the past 12 months. Whether as video interviews, survey responses, or Summit speakers, the collective insights shared have been instrumental in advancing digital communication to both physicians and patients at a time when healthcare information was critical.

We look forward to seeing how the rapid recalibration brought on by the pandemic translates into lasting change for the better as we continue to partner with all of you to improve patient health outcomes through digital innovation.

Closing Thoughts in 2021


What key trend(s) do you see emerging for 2022?

Susan Quinn, Media Director, Underscore Marketing

While the pandemic will continue to loom large, we will see four key trends that will impact and evolve how the healthcare industry engages with healthcare professionals, patients and caregivers in 2022.


Leveraging physician and audience-level performance data to drive the next-best engagement.

Pharma marketers will learn to marry the right message with the right channel in order to move audiences through the marketing funnel and ultimately closer to conversion. To prepare for a cookieless world, marketers need to prioritize building their database/CRM to start engaging with audiences in a more personal way.


Evolving point-of-care strategy to adapt to seemingly daily updates.

Maintaining a balance between in-office and telehealth media support will be crucial in 2022. Telehealth evolves as not just a new channel but an integral channel to engage with patients/HCPs. With the aging workforce of physicians, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will be crucial for patient care and we expect more opportunities targeting them to emerge in 2022.


Activating social media is imperative but requires authenticity, personalization and frequency.

Using CRM and social media data to understand target audiences will guide pharma marketers to develop the right content to engage with them. Building infrastructure through real connections with the right content to key audiences delivers strong conversions.


Search Experience Optimization (SXO) shifts focus from just organic traffic volume to the quality of the traffic.

Marketers who improve both content optimizations and the user experience will drive quality traffic and conversions.

“With these four trends in mind, Underscore will guide our pharma clients to deeper and more qualified connections with HCPs, patients and caregivers.”


What change from Covid do you want to keep/retain?

Laurie Dewan, VP Brand, Insights, and Communications, Healthline Media

“I wrote in Ad Age earlier this year about how Covid is changing consumer behavior. They are more empowered and engaged in their health and seek to turn that health into joy. Despite challenges, they are more resilient and feel deeply the significant impact of small steps. The consumer has embraced their complexity, vulnerability, and authenticity, and we want them to continue doing so. Moving forward, we hope that more and more health brands will embrace consumers right back.”

Danny Flamberg, SVP Strategy, LiveWorld

“The adoption and growth of social media for HCPs will continue apace in 2022. Social behaviors prompted initially by COVID-19 have become standard operating procedures. Embracing nuances and developing new approaches will distinguish effective competitors from also-rans. For pharma marketers, discerning effectiveness of social media marketing and convincing or finessing conservative medical-legal reviewers will continue to be primary challenges.”
Danny Flamberg's Social Media Predictions

Learn more about Danny’s prediction and the 12 emerging factors that he believes matter most.

Amy Turnquist, Principal, North Highland

“Over the past two years, our industry has been forced to innovate and adapt to ongoing disruption in consumer & HCP behaviors and access. At the same time, our success in bringing a drug to market in a matter of months, not years, has forever changed our expectations of what is possible. At Reuters Pharma USA earlier in 2021, the theme was about nottrying to return to our old ways of doing things.

The current push to use data to better understand and meet customer needs, identify target therapies and drug candidates sooner, bring them to market faster, and create seamless customer experiences from clinical trials through to activation and adherence, are positive outcomes and principles that we need to continue to embrace.”

Richard Schwartz, Life Sciences and Medical Device Industry Cx Practice Lead, Medallia

“When you scrape away the messy stuff that rose to the top of the pandemic as it cycled through simmers, boils; all the political unrest, social divides, a seemingly never-ending stream of ‘people behaving badly, and general media madness – when you get beyond the fact that many brand’s first responses were spreading their logos as some hobbled creative attempt at empathy – we really did gain a new sense of kindness. I mean at a human level – with the people you actually talk to live or over a Zoom as well as at an industry level. 

Our collaborative worlds narrowed down to screens in our homes and for many that created a focus uncluded by office politics, agendas, and the in-crowd. It helped us listen better. I have not met a single client live in two years and have only met two co-workers ITRW, yet I feel we have accomplished more in days than we would have in months.

Mark Bard, Co-Founder, The DHC Group

“Between the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021, the health care system moved from the idea that digital first was a temporary solution to finding ways to fully incorporate digital first health into planning, tech strategy, customer service, and of course reimbursement (for those providing digital care). It’s not to say there will always be a digital first solution. It’s clear in some specialties and therapeutic categories the in-person visit for diagnosis, treatment plan, and first fill are still largely dependent on traditional in practice care.

However, we learned that for a large number of patients, physicians, payers, and pharma a large portion of activities we just accepted as in person – they could be digital first or digital only. The low hanging fruit was follow up care, routine admin updates, and customer service. The end result was that many of the stakeholders across the system have now reworked their workflow to offer digital as the only or primary option for a wide range of services. For example, for a number of routine communications throughout the system we don’t ask – ok, are we going back to in person and pen and paper for this process when this is over?

No. We realized many things in health were done a certain way because – well, that was how it was done for decades. We had a chance to literally re-engineer the process and workflow because we hit a giant pause (and reset) button in 2020 into 2021. As we looked at restarting, re-entry, and planning the future we realized the benefit and luxury of starting from zero offers all of us a chance to reimagine the flow, experience, and overall outcome. In many situations, the reimagined outcome was completely different -and often much more digital in nature. Another big driver to make all this happen was the immense pressure to enhance data sharing across the system. As we break down more walled gardens of data, the impact and shared value of digital grows exponentially in health care.”


What digital marketing trend was all hype?

Brendan McHenry, SVP Strategy, Healthline Media

“We continue to see many areas that, while they’re not all hype, they’re certainly being given outsized attention. Areas like voice assistants (think Amazon’s Alexa), augmented reality, even NFTs, they’ve all got potential, but the real opportunities for advertisers, especially in healthcare, just aren’t there yet.

That is only exaggerated by the fact that we see growing demand for digital health content. As cookie depreciation looms, that demand will skyrocket. We’ve been investing in medical accuracy, clear and inclusive content, and actionable advice since before the pandemic started. In 2022, we aim to continue leading the pack in digital health content.”


In your opinion, what were the most significant advancements in healthcare marketing in 2021?

Sarah Caldwell, General Manager, Veeva Crossix

“To keep up with shifts in viewing behavior, pharma marketers are investing more in digital video and Veeva Crossix has seen streaming advertising impressions increase by 58% year over year. With targeting capabilities on par with digital campaigns, marketers are embracing these new channels as a way to effectively reach their most valuable audiences.

Streaming video assets are, on average, 50% more targeted than linear TV, meaning they are 50% more likely to reach patients diagnosed with the health condition of interest. We’re seeing pharma marketers continue to unify their approach to video targeting and measurement, and expect this trend to continue into 2022.”

Leigh Householder, Managing Director, Omnichannel Strategy, Syneos Health
“We are an industry working toward sustainable acceleration. The pandemic forced fast-moving innovation, prompting biopharma organizations around the world to validate real-time insights and learnings that are now fueling industry change and value creation.”
Syneos Health 2022 Health Trends
Read the Syneos Health full report on 2022 Health Trends.
Richard Schwartz, Life Sciences and Medical Device Industry Cx Practice Lead, Medallia
“’Digital Transformation’ has finally moved from rhetoric to reality in pharma. With reduced field access, the current mandate to connect online and offline marketing and field experiences in an integrated, coordinated and personalized way is driving changes in how we use data to understand, meet and even predict customer needs. I’m excited to see how we continue to apply digital and agile mindsets in 2022 to make data-centric practices and a focus on customer-centric experience the new ‘business as usual.’”


Which healthcare marketing trend do you want to see end and why?

Brendan McHenry, SVP Strategy, Healthline Media

“I’d like to see consumers become more aware of the credibility and accuracy of their health information sources. This might sound idealistic, but I’d like to see health audiences pivot away from social media as a source of information and guidance and go directly to health brands instead.

Social media is a powerful tool to connect with consumers, but unless the environment is strictly vetted, misinformation can permeate the dialogue. Health brands should aim to become communities in and of themselves, providing a safe haven for people to learn, engage, and make progress towards their health and wellness.”


“After nearly two years of adapting to conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of personalization has likely become very clear for life sciences organizations. Commercial teams have been forced to invest in and experiment with how to distribute content on new virtual and digital channels.

While HCPs’ expectations have adapted to prefer digital engagements, teams are beginning to see evidence of dreaded digital fatigue among their customers as the world reopens. Life sciences orgs are discovering that the future of commercial engagement lies in orchestrating deep and meaningful customer journeys utilizing a hybrid of digital and in-person channels. The ability to successfully execute personalized omnichannel campaigns will be crucial for commercial teams.”

Gartner® Names Aktana in New Hype Cycle™ Category for Life Science Personalization Engines
Learn more about how to avoid customer digital fatigue in this new report.


What is the most underestimated marketing trend?

Richard Schwartz, Life Sciences and Medical Device Industry Cx Practice Lead, Medallia

“Listening to customers more precisely, empathetically, and intently. Under the cloud of operational metrics like views and clicks, and streams and beyond market research validating brand desires, COVID forced us to be quiet and listen to customers voices and signals. We now have an opportunity to focus on relentless resolution.”

Mark Bard, Co-Founder, The DHC Group

“Although the term ‘meta’ is clearly the most hyped term (and trend) overall, the impact of extended connectivity and enhanced virtual reality will have significant ramifications to health care in the coming years. As a population of patients we realized tele-health is convenient, accurate, and often provides a near practice experience in many situations. Extending that interaction with low cost virtual reality will open up opportunities for education, connecting patients to third party services, and many other enhancements related to monitoring and follow up care.

Like most tech trends the past several decades, the investments and enhancements in the use of consumer tech like VR/AR overall will create and open the window for enhancements in health care and pharmaceuticals. Low cost headsets – sub $250 – and widespread high speed connectivity will be enhanced by a massive increase in content and software to support the health space to the benefit of patients, physicians, and ultimately brands seeking to engage both through these platforms.”

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