Doctors media preferences…Social? Maybe. Print and email? Yes!

When  it comes to digital adoption, it seems a no-brainer; isn’t everyone engaged? No. A notable exception are medical professionals. Doctors and nurses (NP/PA’s) tend to lean towards the conservative — not only politically, but in terms of their digital adoption. A recent study by HealthLink Dimensions, an email list and Big Data firm, produced a study on their information-gathering preferences among 700 medical professionals.

Email may seems so…yesterday. Yet, 75% of NPs and PAs and 66% of MDs prefer email for communication regarding the following:

• Industry news

• Product updates

• Research opportunities

What device is favored for reading email? Specifically, almost 52% of NPs/PAs and 46% of MDs utilize mobile devices; while almost 53% of NPs/PAs and 51% of MDs use desktop computers to comb through their emails.

Social Media? They love their closed, private peer-to-peer communities, such as SERMO (600K doctors)

Per the survey, 66% of NPs/PAs and 63% of MDs don’t use social media to communicate with patients. Instead, only one-third of these medical professionals are active on social media – mainly Twitter, LinkedIn, SERMO and Doximity – primarily for networking with their colleagues and peers

Last is print: 50% of NPs/PAs and 46% of MDs frequently use printed materials provided to their practices

Why is this hot? As with all customers we strategically serve, their content consumption habits have a major impact upon our planning. Knowing this, we must always realize to be customer-centric is to not fall in love with a shiny media object or a cool platform…

  • Time is a critical factor for HCP’s which drive what they consume and how; with an average of less than 15 minutes per patient, you know when it is a mobile device, they are on the move, doing rounds, trying to solve problems in real-time; your content and experience should embrace that. So, snippets of content are smart when you want them to be consumed at POC (Point-of-Care); conversely, HCP’s often have to consume intense medical journals, clinical studies and dense scientific content, which requires a desktop or laptop
  • Using Performance/Analytics to see how your clients’ content is consumed by time and device provides an invaluable insight into content strategy; if you want it to be useful in the NOW, then snippets, mobile-first; if you want to provide deeper content, then plan for desktop, but always offer email/download functions to account for mobile



What is the most dysfunctional conversation? Between Doctor and Patient.

As communications experts in the healthcare vertical, from strategy to creative to even Search, we all struggle with language. Not just because of regulatory/FDA restrictions on what you can and cannot say — no, this is more fundamental. I’m talking about actual language — how people speak to each other about their health and treatment. There is a huge chasm and a few companies are trying to cross it.

Basically, no one is satisfied with the current state of communication. Get this stat: in a typical 15 minutes consult, the doctor will speak for 11 of the minutes. They dominate. Partially because of that, 50% of patients do not retain what their doctor said to them, and if given a new prescription, 1 in 6 will not fill or pick it up. Why? They simply don’t understand or believe.

So Pharma stepped in. Starting in 2002, Pfizer was the first to try and own the issue of health literacy — based on the U.S government declaring all patient communication should be written to a 6th grade reading level, the average in the U.S. (Now that is scary). Many agencies adhere to that rule. They have kept their focus on this even at MRM-McCann. This is how Pfizer defines it, which is merely common sense:

Clear health communication between health care providers and patients can help to improve understanding. Techniques that providers can use include:

  • Speak in simple language and avoid jargon terms
  • Focus on key information needed for the visit
  • Listen to patients or families about their needs or concerns
  • Make information relevant to the family’s culture
  • Use simple educational materials that have pictures to help explain things
  • Use interpreters, language lines, and language specific information for those that don’t speak English as their main language
  • Work together with patients to make decisions and set goals
  • Ask patients to share back information learned or plans made

Last year, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) launched (Universal Patient Language) and called it an “open source” for creation of better conversations. Both companies have decided to share their secrets — their research and framing.

Why is this hot? The issues of the dialogue that occurs between patients and doctor’s is pervasive in all Pharma marketing. On one side, clients ALWAYS say “We need to craft the shared language so they talk about our treatment.”  If you speak to doctor’s they will say, with such limited time they have to get their questions asked and answered to properly help the patient. If you ask a patient, more times than not, they will either forget their questions, or try and squeeze them in at the end of the appointment — what is called the “hand-on-the-doorknob-conversation”. Even more so, in the age of the empowered patient, who needs to understand the science, can we really dumb down such complexity for the conversation?

As communications experts, these are incredibly valuable tools to use and consider in our client work. Yet, they need to be filtered through the lens of a science-based organization trying to be patient-centric — always a battle. Last, is the daunting reality of patient non-compliance — over 50% of ALL patients stop taking their treatments as prescribed within 100 days. even cancer patients!

Cost to society? Over $250 billion dollars in lost productivity per year.

Theory has it, if the patient truly understood the what and why they are taking a drug, they would be more compliant. Even though Pfizer started this effort in 2002, the situation is just starting to change. Or as BMS declares about the future: “Always ready, never finished.”




Lung cancer? Complex and scary. So how should Pharma engage patients?

It is often said that when a person hears the word “cancer” anything following goes unheard; the topic is truly that scary and that emotional. In our culture, until recently, lung cancer = death. Yet now cancer treatments are going through a revolution; in some cases many can live with this disease – even recover from it! Several giant pharmaceutical companies are investing heavily in this new immuno-therapy science. How do you communicate that complex science to patients? Especially when then U.S. government claims the average American reads at a 6th grade level.

Given the high expense and other issues patients have, connecting with them and caregivers is crucial to creating product awareness and advantage But the brand-centricity usual to Pharma has given way to patient-centricity, forcing the industry to explore new engagement strategies. Here are a few:

  1. Start with science. Merck has created the “Test. Talk. Take action” campaign. In a short animated video, they do their best to simplify the complex, then drive the patient to discuss with their doctor — arming them with testimonials and discussion guides.


2. Dumb it down: Novartis uses even simpler animation to lecture you (a British accent helps make it acceptable) on how cancer works and how immuno-therapy works. Think of that 6th grade reading level and view the video with that limitation. Is it too dumb? Complex that is rendered simply?

3. Be Human: AstraZeneca (led by Richard’s story….even his Pinterest postings covering his journey to recovery!) The UX is well done and the content of text and video stories is quite emotional and compelling.

The singular focus on the humanity of suffering and treating lung cancer is a very lean-in experience. AstraZeneca gives voice to the miracles these treatments create and engages across several Social Media platforms. Now we are getting to the essence of Humanity at it’s most raw and hopeful.

Why is this hot? Disease education from pharma companies minus mentioning any specific brand is not a new strategy. What is different, is the overt use of humanity, interactive education, and Social Media – separate or mashed together. This shows that these companies are trying to educate, and in doing so, motivate patients to ask for their therapy — the early stages of true consumer marketing: engage, be personally relevant and drive-to-sale. For a highly conservative industry, this is a good evolution.

Last, this has the foreshadowing of a disruptor. Pharma sales reps for decades had easy access to doctors to deliver scientific and branded messages; today, access to those doctors is under 50%. Is it possible that a well-informed, empowered patient can actually act as a proxy for a sales force rep. that can’t get in the hospital door? Is this a movement to make the patient their own sales rep?

Telehealth is here, it’s what next that is truly…

Scary? Amazing? Ruined by bad user experience? Right for some not for others? Revolutionary?

Telehealth video calls surpassed 50 million in the US last year. Telehealth video visits will reach 158 million by 2020. Just pick up your phone and you get a video consult with a doctor. There are two points to be made: it is not that Telehealth is big news, it is the dramatic rate of adoption starting…now.

A recent study done by AmericanWell, a major Telehealth provider, basically proves an aggressive adoption rate, but with caveats.  One of the major barriers? A doctor is really not allolwed to diagnose you over the phone. Another? Telehealth also weakens your relationship with a doctor, who uses visual observation as a key tool for diagnosis. But here are the stats that make it hot:

  1. Today, 50 million U.S. consumers would switch providers to one that offers telehealth.*
  2. Willingness to switch to a doctor that offers Telehealth is highest among parents of children under age 18 and 35-44 year olds.
  3. 60 percent of consumers who are willing to have an online Telehealth visit would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition.
  4. 67 percent of adults ages 45-64 who are willing to have an online Telehealth visit would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition.
  5. 79 percent of consumers currently caring for an ill or aging relative say a multi-way video Telehealth service would be helpful.

Why this is hot? Not because it is accelerating in use, but for what comes next: biometric sensors for your phone so when you do a video tele-consult, any of us will allow the doctor’s network to hook into all your health data, perhaps resolving the “no diagnosing” barrier. But there are real concerns. Is convenience gained but something lost? Would you like the world better if you didn’t have to go through the hastle of arranging and going to a doctors office? How do the doctors feel? And who is this doctor anyway — do you medical advice from someone you know and trust?

This year, with our IPG health insurance, we all received a plastic flyer offering the service to all employees, 24/7. Please share any experiences you have, if you feel comfortable doing so.

Cameras in the body. (Get my good side!)

Body Sensors Daso 3.9.16

There have been several Sci-fi movies over time that tell the story of people being shrunken down to then ride the blood stream and fix some horrific problem someone is suffering from. Well, forget shrinking people, the healthcare industry device manufacturers and many small start-ups have started an upward swing in using micro-cameras and sensors to help play the first line of defense in detecting diseases.

Examples? Sensors that are either ingested or inserted under the skin that can detect breast cancer, COPD, sight degeneration: that is just a sample of the Gold Rush to get a sensor or camera in your body.

One camera, created in Scotland, is using infrared to detect cancer growths in certain parts of the body. Said research associate Dr. Mohammed Al-Rawhani, in a university news release:  “The system could also be used to help track antibodies used to label cancer in the human body, creating a new way to detect of cancer.”

As of today, the FDA approved PillCam COLON2 (you really have to wonder who picks these names) which will be used for hi-risk colorectal cancer patients, a disease which is the 2nd biggest killer in the U.S.

HS Medtronic pill 4.1.16

Why is this hot? For two reasons: first, it is a sign that the reliance on technology is changing the observational role of the doctor — they are trained to watch your every gesture, emotions, words, all weighed against experience and intuition to lead a doctor down the detective path to a diagnosis. Sensors and cameras start to make them health technologists. Second, this will also enable to get ahead of many diseases, not behind. Don’t we all secretly, in some dark moment, wonder if a tumor is growing somewhere in your body, unknown and lurking?  That fear and the thousand shadows of uncertainty will be gone in a decade or less.

Let Doctors be Doctors! So says Rapper Dr. Zubin (With Over 1 million views!)

HSA 11.6. Dr Zubin photo

This post is about the Affordable Care Act. Or maybe it is about one doctor, Doctor Zubin. Like all major legislation, the ACA is complex and has it’s detractors and advocates. In some cases, one person can be both. Case in point: nearly all healthcare professionals agree that it is great that eventually the entire healthcare system will be tied together electronically — which will help lower costs, create healthier more empowered patients and allow doctors and others to coordinate patient care at a level no one could ever imagine.

That at least is the theory. The reality is that Electronic Health Records — the first step in Connected Health (my post of last week) — are a debacle. Hospitals and doctors offices keep installing and then throwing them out. One major criticism is the User Experience — but that goes beyond the interface. UX in this case is that doctors are trained to observe and engage with a patient, not look away and peck on a laptop keyboard. In other words, EHR’s are getting in the way of doctors being doctors.

HS EHR Use 11.6.15One doctor — Dr Zubin — is sick of it. What has he done? Gone on YouTube and taken on the broken healthcare system in musical rap videos and is trying to ignite a cause campaign to change healthcare. He has over a million views. As he states on his YouTube channel about his most recent video:  “EHR’s suck. Let’s make ’em better. Go to and tell the IT and government folks what’s up. And check out for lyrics, behind-the-scenes dopeness, and all our other videos. Please SHARE…or the machines win.”

Why is this hot? First, it is radical that a doctor would create such a cause and bring it to life so creatively and publicly. Second, his use of social media, YouTube, multi-channel integration, is brilliant. Last, kudos for his boldness. He is taking on his entire industry and profession and broken many unspoken rules in his profession — decorum, keeping opinions private, even going against his own hospital employer! But I think his own video on October 19th on EHR’s speaks for itself:


Interoperability? THE weak link in the ever-changing healthcare system.

HS Why connected health 10.15

In a recent article in Medical Economics, Edward Gold, MD, makes a compelling argument and call-to-action on one of the most complex demands of the Affordable Care Act: Interoperability. A topic with enormous impact, but little discussed.

Simply put it means every Electronic Health Record, every doctor’s office, every surgery center, every patient App, all have to be sharing data and centralizing it for the better care and healthier outcomes for patients. Cost control is a big part of this, too. But the bottom line is cost control comes from coordinated, proactive care and an engaged patient. What is difficult is that so much venture money and rush to install non-compatible systems have been done over the past 5 years and wasted billions of dollars. As Dr. gold puts it: “I don’t think we’re more interoperable than we were three or four years ago,” he says. He still can’t exchange secure messages with most other doctors, he notes, and a local health information exchange (HIE) initiative has come to naught so far.

HS Interoperabiloity 10.15 cost issues

A 2014 study published in Health Affairs found that health information exchange was still quite low, despite the rapid increase in the percentages of providers who had adopted EHRs. Only 14% of physicians, for example, shared information with providers outside their organizations in 2014. There are more reasons for this problem than can be counted — half are just sheer human stupidity, poor User Experience and resistance to change, half are that the government was slow to set standards.

Why is this hot? First, because the ACA demands it and the health economics will not show efficiencies and savings without it. Next, comes the patient/doctor relationship; within a year, doctors will be paid for emailing not seeing patients; but if you had a surgery at one hospital, are at home being monitored, and your doctor is in a private practice, as of now, you are afloat in the world of disconnected data. No one is really watching out for you. Email or visit, no one professional is seeing your entire picture.

Many experts say this will work its way out. But will it? Some systems are light years ahead of others; it is almost as if a digital caste system of have and have-nots is being created due to lack of interoperability. We all need to be our advocates for ourselves, parents, children and ask ALL your healthcare providers: how connected are you?

Do you “trust” Big Pharma? Do you care? bought to you by PhRMA lobbying group

Reputation plays a big role in many industries. For Big Pharma, each year brings a new corporate reputation survey that places the industry one notch above car salesmen and insurance companies. While there are many reasons for this – from the regulatory handcuffs of the FDA, to DTC-ads with their scary voice-overs, or frustration over drugs being too expensive to afford — there is a clear need to try and let the industry tell its story.

Thus, Here is the home of the industries “story.” HS 8.27There is a ton of information, interactivity, mobile-friendly content. Just one of the top three tiles is an interactive guide to understanding clinical trials — one of the industries biggest issues due to poor patient recruitment and that they take so long and cost so much; next to that, articles and slideshow carousels on innovation and the future. Just from the home page, you can educate yourself with content that has never before been aggregated and delivered in such a consumer-friendly User Experience.

HS top 3 tiles

HS Clinical Eco-system 8.27

Why is this hot? Biopharma/Life Sciences is an enormous and incredibly complex and little understood industry. This content-rich Web site may seem like the industry is pulling back the curtain: but is it believable? At the very least, if you want to get an education on many aspects of the industry, this would be the place to do it.

This new site, was created by the industry lobbying trade group, PhRMA. While their key audience may be politicians, policy-makers and such, this site was clearly created for patients and those in the public who relish information and any potential transparency that comes with it.

Oddly enough, while reputation can have a direct correlation to trusting a company’s product, it has little meaning or impact in Biopharma/Life Sciences. Most patients have no idea what company makes a drug; and most doctors, while aware, are driven by other more quantitative factors like clinical data.

So we have to ask the right questions: While it is very engaging and easy-to-navigate does it actually help the industry reputation? Or is it a self-serving content strategy served up with good UX? Or more realistically, will patients appreciate the content but cherry-pick what they believe, or not — this is an established behavior when searching for drug information…cull from a dozen sources, weigh the results and synthesize an opinion.

Perhaps the real strategy here was not to enhance reputation or gain consumer trust, but to just add one more source/voice to the conversation. In this world of too much information, they have decided that to join the discussion with credible, easy-to-understand content, thus they gain a share-of-Influence, while still striving to raise their credibility.

Breaking down the healthcare walls: TEMPLE adds Digital Health Center.

A hospital with a Digital Health Center? A surgeon who creates Apps? This may be a first for the industry and a harbinger of things to come. This new Digital Health Center was created by one of TEMPLE’s leading thoracic surgeons — who in turn has a company that creates that partners with the hospital to create a wide range of Apps, the first of which has been hugely successful for their COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) patients.

Clearly, both this surgeon and the TEMPLE Hospital system is taking a step out of its comfort zone and venturing into unknown territory. Or perhaps, they are creating a new model that turns truly embraces the entire digital health system. Doctor Criner explains it all in this short video interview:

 Why is this hot? The U.S healthcare system is over a trillion dollars in revenue, costs, development, investment…and more to come. The acceleration of change in the entire system is an outcome of the Affordable Care Act. While medical innovation in surgery is at the heart of what hospitals do, individual digital innovation is not.

For clients in Biopharma who have been slow to embrace their own Digital Transformation, this is the sort of news that would get a smart CEO to pick up the phone and say: “How can we work together?”

Just look at the company ( Doctor Criner has created; it has a profound Mission statement, and serves up proof through the effectiveness of it’s COPD patient App:

HGE Mission H Sauce 8.7H Sauce TEMPLE HGE COPD 8.7.15

Doctor Criner may not be alone — in fact Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and others are working hard to develop technology infrastructure. This is different. This is a doctor and a hospital that seems to get that “digital” is a philosophy not a laptop. To truly serve patients, control costs, and embrace the future, it starts with developments like this. Doctor Criner and TEMPLE “get it”: the future is here. Grab it. the early adopters have a better chance at market advantage as hospital systems compete against each other.

Interoperability, the Holy Grail of the ACA, is when every hospital, EHR, medical record, remote tele-health, can all communicate and share medical and patient records. In some ways, Doctor Criner has moved the world an inch closer by creating a link between innovation at the hospital and in the hands of patients.

Building a Better Doctor’s Visit Through Telemedicine

Arizona Palliative Home Care started a new program within the Hospital “Hospice of the Valley.” The program takes care of seriously ill patients to improve their quality of life. Going in and out of the hospital for these patients are both difficult and expensive..

Because of this, Arizona Palliative has utilized technology from Avizia, a telemedicine company with a video chat system for easy communication with doctors and patients. A lot of these patients have cancer or dementia, and they’re using the technology to talk to patients about next steps for treatment – whether they want to undergo chemo if it means living for four more months. The platform also includes organizational software. The software, called Workflow, is a virtual waiting room. A doctor on call gets a private text by the Workflow operator, and if the doctor doesn’t respond in five minutes, the patient goes to the next doctor on call.



Before the company used the video chat feature, doctors would be able to see 3-4 patients a day, now they are seeing 6-8 patients, doubling their rate.

Why it’s hot: We’ve seen video chatting already on the Walgreen App as well as Google chat, but a cart such as this could standardize talking with a doctor 24/7 around the world. People who are actually sick dread going to the doctor’s office. This could be seen as a solution to get people in and out quicker without even having to leave the house. Technology is ever-changing, and we’ve been seeing the trend of on-demand is taking over. Will we see the trend next at maybe the DMV?


Read more here: here



Doctors code bills for payment. On October 1st, 2015, this will blow-up. Welcome to ICD-10!

ICD-10 COFUSION 5.29Ever look closely at the form the doctor or nurse gives you as you leave? There are codes that describe your specific medical reason for the visit; and thus, the specific amount of money they will be paid.

This is about to be turned on it’s head and everyone is scrambling. ICD-10 is about to cause potential chaos in our healthcare system.

Once again, government regulation is kicking into place another level of complexity for the entire healthcare system. It’s pretty straight-forward: as of October 1st, 2015, ALL doctors need to use a new coding system called ICD-10. Sounds simple enough until you realize the complexity of switching from ICD-9 to ICD-10 and how the market is reacting; it reveals both the inate fear and reminds us that as consumers we need to pay attention.

ICD-9 vs ICD-10 chart 5.29

ICD-9: 13,000 codes. ICD-10: 68,000 codes. Imagine the fear if they get it wrong. One of the leaders in electronic Health Records, Athena Health, is using this countdown (fear) with an aggressive offer (guarantee) to drive new business. Here is their guarantee:

“We take on the burden of the ICD-10 transition for our practices with a combination of continuously updated cloud-based software, including a team of experts handling payer and interface outreach and testing.  And, because we align our overall financial goals with yours, we put ourselves at risk for your resultsSee full details.”

They use a compelling video, too:

ICD-10 Athena Hot Sauce

Why is this hot? Complexity that requires simplicity is a challenge we all face as communicators and strategists. This is a great trend to watch to see how true disruption is managed. The software mentioned in an earlier post — Sensentia — is a great example of innovation meant to remove the complexity and humanize it. Hot Sauce Sensentia page 1


Soothing robot in the doctor’s office

Going to the doctor can be a scary trip for children.  But a robot named MEDI can make the visit a little bit easier and less frightening.  Short for Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence, MEDI stays with the child through medical procedures, talking to them in one of 20 languages and offering soothing advice to get them through the visit.

Equipped with multiple cameras, facial recognition technology and the ability to speak directly to the little patients, MEDI is the product of Tanya Beran, a professor of community health sciences at the University of Calgary in Alberta.  Her team began developing MEDI three years ago and conducted a study of 57 children.  According to Yahoo Tech, “Each was randomly assigned a vaccination session with a nurse, who used the same standard procedures to dispense the medication. In some of those sessions, MEDi used cognitive-behavioral strategies to assuage the children as they got the shot. Afterward, children, parents, and nurses filled out surveys to estimate the pain and distress of the whole shebang.”

The result was that the kids who had MEDI by their side during the procedure reported less pain. Since that study, MEDI is being programmed for more serious procedures, such as chemotherapy to blood transfers to surgery.

Why it’s hot

Robotic technology is starting to come together with practical applications for people.  With motion, voice, the ability to recognize humans and interact with logical language patterns, MEDI is a natural step along the way to fully interactive robots, possibly even artificial intelligence.