What we learned about pharma digital at this year’s Digital Pharma East

Guest post by Matthew Arnold of DRG Digital

This year’s Digital Pharma East conference was a buffet of food for thought about digital health and pharma — we’re still recovering! But we opened our notebooks (and Twitter feeds) to see which themes, trends and insights really popped. Here’s a few:

  • A new model for sharing digital best practices is cropping up at pharmas like GSK and Bayer. As we found with our Structuring for Success research, the Digital Center of Excellence model often isolates digital expertise in large pharmas, while brand-based approaches perpetuate siloing. Now, as “digital marketing” becomes plain old “marketing,” some orgs are experimenting with ways to share digital learnings and resources across brands and franchises.
  • The “pharma social” puzzle is beginning to come together. We used to talk about “social media” as a mysterious, amorphous thing, a kind of channel incognita waiting to be discovered, mapped and settled. With platforms like Facebook, Doximity and Sermo marketing out-of-box, MLR-friendly solutions to reach well-defined audiences, there’s less uncertainty about where to invest marketing resources and more around how to use social platforms effectively (unbranded disease education and awareness seems to be the predominant use case).
  • Pharmas are trying to get personal and offer their customers content tailored to their needs, whether through tabs and filters on websites or via geotargeting and persona modeling. That’s great news, because demand for more personalized digital resources from pharma is a persistent theme in our research across all audiences.
  • Millennials have arrived and are on pharma’s radar in a big way. We have some insights into this cohort of digital native patients and physicians.
  • Chatbots for health is actually a thing now, moving out of the realm of the gee-whiz theoretical and becoming an actionable means of improving the customer experience, triaging inquiries and delivering information much more quickly. One important wrinkle here: where a year ago, companies were sweating the regulatory implications, they’re realizing that carefully-controlled scripting actually makes compliance less of a headache, particularly on apps and websites for HCPs, where a human rep might wander off script/off label and into hot water. Ditto for healthcare voice apps.
  • Digital therapeutics are in development — but who’s going to pay for them? Right now, healthcare companies are borrowing from tech in taking an agile approach to “digiceutical” R&D, experimenting and iterating for the sake of experience and building out their benches. However, commercial models for these solutions remain in doubt. Who’s the customer? The consumer? Governments and private payers? Employers? TBD.
  • There’s concern — but not panic — around data transparency with GDPR and CCPA coming into effect. There’s substantial risk for companies that don’t establish adequate compliance regimens and install expert officers, but greater transparency could foster trust with pharma’s customers, as BMS’s Lisa Flaiz told us.

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