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About that Apple HealthKit hospital rollout….

Reuters has an exclusive report this morning about hospitals rolling out pilot programs using Apple’s HealthKit. If you work in this business no doubt link to it have flown through your Twitter feed all morning. If you read the MacRumors version of the article, it’s obviously all-Apple, but there’s a bunch of interesting things that are being overlooked in the Reuters report.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. When Apple rolled out the HealthKit announcement, they indicated they were working with many of the EMR providers to begin integrating data collection. Reuters confirms this. Read More…

Everything wrong with health tech reporting in one article

Before I delve into this rant, let me start by saying that Business Insider isn’t exactly the Economist of technology reporting. I’d equate it more to a poor man’s HuffPo, but the format of their SEO-optimized clickbait articles (or listicles in this case) means that they permeate the web at a high volume. Good for their ad rates, natch, but bad for informing the public at large in any meaningful way.

I write this because these types of articles shape the opinions of a large number of people who don’t otherwise understand that most of the coverage is superfluous fluff with no real substance. The problem seems to be particularly acute in healthcare technology reporting because, in my opinion, the people writing these stories aren’t even remotely qualified on the subject matter.

Case in point: This article on “9 Ways Google Is Changing The World” Google does do an excellent job self-promoting, but most of their announcements are vaporware that the tech media gobbles up like candy. BI bit hard on these announcements time and time again and covers them like they are real. To be fair, they’re not the only ones guilty of this, but I’ll detail a few examples to show you what I mean.

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Pharma Still Sucks At Digital: A Manifesto


In the movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise’s character has a crisis of conscience. One evening during a league meeting crafts a manifesto of sorts about how sports agents, colleagues, and competitors, could all do a better job serving the best interests of their clients. In the fever pitch of finishing this document, he distributes copies to every single person at the meeting and is greeted with uproarious applauses of approval by his fellow agents.

A week later Jerry had lost all but one of his clients, and his career was in ruins.

Hopefully this won’t be my Jerry Maguire moment, but much like Tom Cruise’s character, the manifesto that follows is probably long overdue because it’s 2014 and pharma still stinks at digital marketing.

Having been in the industry for 18+ years now, I continue to observe the same recurring challenges that plague the business and severely impact the quality of the work. These challenges typically take the following forms.

On the agency side:

  • Work is often done in silos: With little to no collaboration between agency teams the end result is almost always very transactional programs. Media, web, mobile, social, PR, etc., are more often than not being managed by different agencies with little or no incentive to cooperate and collaborate
  • Ideas are transactional: Isolated thinking more often than not translates into an extremely low value ideas with little to no enduring value or utility.
  • Agencies are built to sell: They approach work as a zero sum game. Less for you is more for me. Instead of focusing on brand growth, they are incentivized to try and take revenue from other agency partners.
  • Teams are highly suspicious of one another: Internal or external, the territorial behaviors associated with the previously mentioned challenges kill the scale of a program, as working with another group or agency puts your own revenue at risk.

It’s incredibly easy to focus on the agency side of things, but all is not rosy on the client side of things either. Agencies are, for the most part, a reflection of the clients that manage them, and their behavior is a result of the leaders who manage them.

Some challenges on the client side include:

  • High turnover rates = short term management: Most clients don’t stay in their roles longer than 18-24 months, so programs aren’t designed, built, or managed for mid-long term success.
  • An over-emphasis on innovation: The hunt for ‘the next big thing’ is a constant churn, and comically ineffective. Pharma clients typically define innovation as “new” instead of “better.” Any innovative program by that definition typically can’t build the kind of meaningful scale needed to be effective in the short term, as the audiences and utilization need to be grown. That lack of immediate scale leads to, you guessed it, the eventual hunt for the next ‘next big thing.’
  • Clients are built to buy: Given the relative lack of marketing experience most pharma clients have when they enter their marketing roles, the focus is almost entirely on generating tactics. This leads to an“ I’ll know it when I see it” culture that constantly churns through vendors and pitches with the end result being little to no cohesion in a marketing plan.
  • “Vendor” mindset: The end result of all of this is a disposable attitude towards a client’s agency partners. Any effort to provide strategic council is often rebuffed, and if a client is counseled that an “exciting “ idea may not fit with the overall brand strategy, the consequence for the agency is to be told “if you won’t build this for me, I’ll get someone who will.”


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Who Responds To The Responders?

This one is for you, Dan.

As I thought it might, my last post about social media stirred quite a bit of discussion. As such, I thought it would be useful to perhaps dedicate another post as a means of both clarifying my position, and providing some counter-points to the various responses that have been generated around the web.

To recap, my original post wasn’t meant to suggest that pharma should completely abandon social media, but rather that the interest in social engagements is over-calibrated when weighed against the potential business impact for a given brand.  There are two points that encapsulate my thoughts on how social most typically makes sense for pharma. First, for corporate communications, investor relations, and (hat tip to Craig DeLarge) corporate level customer service, social media makes a ton of sense. Second, placing content inside a given social platform, but turning comments off, relinquishes any hold on the notion of that program being even remotely “social.” While placing content in channels like YouTube can be a highly effective tactic, it ceases to be social without conversational interaction.

Those specifics being stated, a healthy debate has arisen to my point of view on this. That’s good. The industry needs more thorough discussion of the why and how communications should be rightly used to better inform all of us. But from my perspective, the counter arguments being posited just don’t hold much water.

Unbranded social media engagements provide real business impact
(Messrs. Mack and Spong)
There’s really only two situations where an unbranded program makes strategic sense for a pharma product; pre-launch, when the market needs to be seeded for a particular indication, and post-launch when a new disease category needs to be better understood by patients. I would argue that the latter makes less sense than the former, but I can see the rationale and so I’ll include it in the debate. Read More…