The Recap: A Look Back at the 10th Digital Pharma East

Digital Pharma East celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and the following is a recap of the first three days of the four-day event, which ran October 24-27 in Philadelphia, PA.

Digital Technologies Day

For the third time, the conference began with a Digital Technologies Day devoted specifically to helping attendees harness the power of digital health as an asset for life sciences organizations of all sizes and explore the benefits of digital disruption, new data, analytics technology integration and execution profiling.

If you weren’t able to be there for Digital Technologies Day in person, here’s what you missed!

Digital Technologies Day, chaired by Bob Cannan, founder and CEO of Eagle Productivity Solutions, began with two case studies: one from Pfizer on measuring the success of DTC advertising, and a second on reviewing an exploration of virtual and augmented reality. Celgene’s squamous-cell lung-cancer experience, developed by Pixacore, debuted at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference and doubled brand expectations. The experience will now be modified for deployment to the field, with untethered goggles and perhaps even tablet versions.

“Analytics at the Speed of Global Business,” presented by Dr. Elena Alikhachkina of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Medical Technologies, gave an overview of the impressive data challenges facing that organization (they deal with more than 20 terabytes of data, used by more than 100 brands in more than 60 countries) and how Johnson & Johnson developed a Tableau-based analytics portal based on Dr. Alikhachkina’s question, “Can I create a data landscape that can optimize how we spend money on technology?”

NewsCred’s Mike Bower offered a session on “How to Build and Measure the Success of Your Content Marketing Strategy,” pointing out the historical lack of engaging content in pharma websites. “Stop being so stodgy and stuck, and start being warm and cool,” he exhorted, directing attention to successful content like Purell’s “Cootie Catcher” campaign, Pfizer’s and Medtronic’s PillCam.

Eli Lilly’s Joseph Kim had the unenviable spot of presenting immediately before lunch, but gave a powerfully compelling talk on the Hero’s Journey art project he spearheaded for the company, working with a fine artist to create an installation that will honor those who volunteer to participate in clinical trials and be created from components designed by the volunteers themselves. The piece will take the shape of cairns, traditional journey-markers, and will be composed of individually designed bricks. The project uses traditional methods of art to create authentic, trans-media, user-generated content.

As the afternoon began, Shire’s Nicole Rojas discussed “a digital corporation communications perspective” of the acquisition of Baxalta and her path as head of digital communications through the merger: before, on and after Day 1. As she noted, “Day 1 is just the beginning…take a hot second to think about the implications of what you’re doing.” Prioritization is key when dealing with various technologies and media. Rojas explained the importance of handling not only internal and social media, but also policies to keep things organized.

Lance Hill, CEO of Within3, compared the pros and cons of real-time and “over-time” venues, as well as in-person and virtual technologies, for various applications. He offered three case studies of how online discussion sessions and communities can be utilized. In one, HCP advisory board sessions saw increased participation time and feedback quantity. In another, patient journeys were studied in simultaneous online sessions to compare patients in a trial with those who were not.

Zoetis’ Imron Haque and Erik Poole discussed “embedding digital across your enterprise” by developing a digital strategy road map that drives business results, empowers sales forces and marketing teams, and enhances the overall customer experience. If it’s not working, they noted, “You’re not articulating the reason to believe in what you do.” They advocated the use of a lean canvas, a one-page business model format developed by Alexander Osterwalder.

Justin Fried of CMI/Compas spoke on how data insights can inform a content strategy that drives customers to conversion. “Our industry is not an excuse for a poor user experience,” he asserted. He explained how activities like social listening, device usage analysis, eye tracking and use of JSON schema coding can help optimize and prioritize marketing activities for better results.

WebMD’s Ben Greenberg’s presentation title, “Killer Robots in Healthcare,” caused a ripple of amusement, but his fast-paced presentation engaged his audience rapidly in an overview of how intelligent robots are already or soon will be present in our lives, from driverless cars to chatbots, with a particular emphasis on voice-controlled AI. Automation due to these technologies, he said, will affect the world with such an impact that “it’s going to make the iPhone revolution look like the Dukakis campaign.” He acknowledged the historic reticence of the life sciences industries to embrace the cutting edge, but pointed out, “Follow the money. This is not the one you want to sit out. This is going to change the world.”

DocGraph’s Ashish Patel closed out the day with a presentation on open data. Their mission: “bring healthcare data into the open.” DocGraph’s commercial arm, CareSet, analyzes Medicare data and has been used to restructure provider networks and report on quality metrics. Their work led to the first national Provider Referral data release by the U.S. government, and Patel’s presentation included the first-ever release of a series of data sets from the White House Cancer Moonshot — six years of Medicare data on how cancer patients enter and exit hospitals. The data will be open to anyone, including scientists and entrepreneurs.

The first day of Digital Pharma East focused on digital technologies and set the bar high for the rest of the conference, with insights, world firsts and guidance from the highest levels of the industry.

Main Conference Day 1

Conference co-chairs Melissa Mackey of Novartis and Pete Dannenfelser of Johnson & Johnson kicked off the main two days of the 10th annual Digital Pharma East conference. Were the vendor-provided tin cowbells deliberately in keeping with the anniversary theme (the traditional gift for the 10th anniversary being tin)? We’re not sure, but let’s go with it.

If you weren’t able to attend the conference, here are some of the highlights of the first day, which was jam-packed with sessions, keynotes, panels, case studies and chats.

After the welcome, the day began with a keynote on innovation by Dan Seewald of Pfizer. He told the story of high-wire walker Philippe Petite (known from the documentary “Man on Wire”) and his dedication to preparation, research and learning before attempting risky feats like walking 1,300 feet in the air between the World Trade Center towers. “I am not a risk taker,” Petite said. “My preparation is so thorough that nothing is left to chance.” Innovation, Seewald explained, requires a learner’s mindset and a researcher’s mind, because the real risks arise when we trust assumptions and blindly follow habits. He offered four tips to become a Learner (versus a Knower):

  1. Start small, iterate fast.
  2. Seek uncertainty and test it.
  3. Invite failure.
  4. Discipline continuous learning with three questions:
    1. What worked well?
    2. What didn’t?
    3. What could I do differently next time?

Justin Stebbins of Otsuka Digital Health spoke on the role of analytics to improve the delivery of health care, focusing on the mismanagement of patients with mental illness. He pointed out, “We have reached a time when our jails and prisons have become our largest healthcare institutions.” In a world in which 5% of patients account for 49% of health costs — and mental health accounts for the third-largest share of cost behind cancer and hypertension — he pointed out the illogic in the fact that people with mental illness are three times more likely to be incarcerated rather than hospitalized. “Our current system is giving patients with mental illness criminal records rather than treatment,” he said.

ZS Associates’ Pete Mehr spoke on the need to use data-driven multichannel insights about customers to optimize marketing.

A panel including the Digital Health Coalition’s Mark Bard, Intouch Solutions’ Chris Humphreys and Image Center’s Mike Bulliss told the story of the #ALLin campaign, a year-long effort to collect insights about patients and caregivers through live interviews around the country. The qualitative data spurred a survey of more than 750 caregivers. The results of “The State of Caregiving 2016: A Joint Research Study,” were shared, and the team offered the findings report for public download.

Matt Lasmanis of GSK spoke on “The Age of the Immediate” and the need for pharma business models to evolve to meet today’s consumer expectation of an “Amazon-like” online experience. He outlined how GSK is changing its model to compensate the sales force differently, to develop a new e-commerce platform for the vaccine business and to improve the R&D process digitally.

Prodeep Bose of The Bloc spoke on a “people-powered engagement ladder.” He explained that extensive research and data was vital to understand customers, but that it could not itself form the content of messaging. Rather, engaging messages are personal and aspirational and share the stories of relatable people.

The Digital Pharma Series Annual Plenary Panel Discussion focused on specialty medicines, with participants from AstraZeneca, Mylan, Pharmacyclics and QuintilesIMS. They noted the industry’s transition away from blockbuster large molecules, and the increased focus on pricing and comparison shopping for results.

Bill Drummy from Heartbeat spoke emphatically on the concept of “ethical marketing” for ethical pharmaceuticals. He pointed out that not positioning brands and the industry at large ethically enables detractors to do it, and that the recent predatory pricing has given them plenty of ammunition. “Ethical marketing,” he said simply, “is better marketing.” Heartbeat also spoke about “Pharma Marketing in 3D,” the recent McKinsey/Google/Wharton e-book.

After lunch, David Goren of AstraZeneca spoke on the disruption of digital healthcare. As the ownership model is shifting, and as healthcare is increasingly seen in the lens of the “as a service” model, the patient journey is becoming less sequential and patient-centricity is becoming even more important. “Stop,” he suggested, “focusing on inputs [e.g., the number of pills] and focus on outputs instead [e.g., patient outcomes, whether from a pill or an app or a combination].”

DMD’s David Reim explained their product offering in stark terms, titling his presentation “The ‘Holy Sh*t’ Moment of HCP Digital Marketing” and stating, “This is going to change your future.” He illustrated his claim that there has been a 20-year stagnation in pharmaceutical marketing by comparing 1995’s with websites of today, and argued that the difference will come in having an intimate understanding of who visits websites. This, he said, will enable communication that is better focused and timed — and far more personalized and useful.

Jeff Broder of ContextMedia:Health spoke on geotargeting and its importance for reaching health consumers more effectively. While geofencing has already proven useful, “office-fencing” using WiFi makes it possible to talk specifically to patients in one office rather than an entire building.

A panel chat called “Patient/Physician/Pharmacist/Payor-Centric: Can You Be All of These at Once?!” included Dr. Kevin Campbell, Monique Levy from Patients Like Me, Robert Gargiulo from Mylan and Chris Di Lascia from Transition Patient Services, moderated by Zoe Dunn of Hale Advice. They discussed the pitfalls and potential of developing digital relationships among these various stakeholders, from privacy to legality. As Levy noted, “Where we’re lagging is letting you still be human while you’re managing your data. I don’t think one radio button at a time. Engagement technologies have to keep up.”

Kirk Keaffaber of Eli Lilly and Serena Goodwin of QuintilesIMS spoke on “accelerating the multichannel marketing journey,” offering a list of four required steps to multichannel marketing success:

  1. Strategy and customer knowledge — an insatiable desire to understand customer needs and preferred channels
  2. Leadership commitment — right-sizing investments across multichannel marketing and field promotion
  3. Platform and analytics — technology that enables brand and campaign data to live in one place
  4. Discipline framework — marketers that own customer experience optimization

“Without a disciplined framework of how to plan, track and measure, things get lost,” they noted. “The discipline’s the hard part.”

The first day of the 10th annual Digital Pharma East closed with Fred Bennett from Allergan looking 10 years into the future, giving his forecast for the “future state of pharma.” He pointed to systemic changes in the industry leading to specialization and new business models, and suggested that the pharma industry of 2026 might resemble a combination of 1/3 today’s pharma, 1/3 today’s financial technology industry (with the innovation inherent to that), and 1/3 science fiction.

Main Conference Day 2

The second morning of Digital Pharma East 2016, unlike the first, was organized into four tracks:

  • Ensuring Seamless HCP Communications and Engagement
  • Achieving Patient Centricity and Assisting the Patient Journey
  • Making Multichannel Marketing Integration and Analytics Seamless
  • Digital Health Innovation and Transformation

These tracks were focused on professionals, patients, multichannel marketing and innovation, and could be followed exclusively or jumped between at will.

In a session on “From Drugs to Healthy Outcomes,” Takeda’s Dan Gandor spoke on the success of their Digital Accelerator, an “internal VC” that has funded roughly 40 “scalable digital experiments” and has executed about 20 to date. In speaking on the need for innovation, co-presenter Christina Weir of AstraZeneca pointed out that “things that we accept in healthcare, we would never accept when buying a car or buying groceries.” Today, new job candidates at Takeda get an iPad with interview data that is triggered to provide new information as the candidate passes beacons throughout the company.

Sentient and Iroko’s presentation on “tying digital marketing efforts to Rx sales” noted that, “The promise of digital was measurement.” To get closer to that promise, they suggest focusing on each of four categories in turn:

  • Persona development
  • Customer journey
  • Media and assets
  • Measurement and reporting

Jeff Arnold, CEO of Sharecare, and Dr. Mehmet Oz of the eponymous television show, who is also a co-founder of Sharecare, were the celebrity keynote of the day. The pair discussed “the next quantum leap in health communications” — the ability to create automated, unique insights for each health consumer (using tools like Sharecare). “We’ll see more in the next 18 months than in the last 18 years,” Arnold predicted for health innovation, stating that VR and similar technologies will “profoundly disrupt the traditional practice of medicine.” Over the next two years, they predicted, we will see the beginning of a shift from clinicians using historic data to real-time data on patients in similar cohorts, to address health questions.

Facebook and Bayer provided the most-tweeted-about, most-blogged-about session of the entire conference, when Craig Hashi of Facebook and Ozgun Demir of Bayer unveiled, for the first time anywhere, Facebook’s new capability to scroll ISI in a news feed ad. They reviewed their experience bringing Bayer’s Betaconnect program into the realm of Facebook advertising, by means of an advertising-only, no-organic-content strategy.

The 10th annual Digital Pharma East conference was marked by its attention not only to technology — data-driven strategies, new user interfaces like VR and voice — but to personality and humanity, and the need to have a technologically adept back end powering a human-focused purpose. And so, while the innovations might be new from the first conference 10 years ago, the goals and the drive have remained the same.

Guest blog by Sarah Morgan. Be sure to follow Sarah on Twitter, @sarahmorgan.

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