Digital marketing push for pharma in 2009

From iMedia:

“The pharmaceutical industry is preparing to make a big push in the digital marketing space in 2009, according to a new survey from MarketBridge. Although the industry is largely behind the curve when it comes to digital marketing, nearly 45 percent of pharmaceutical executives made it clear that they need to better understand the opportunity, and more than a third said they’re not adequately organized to take advantage, ClickZ reports.

“Half of all those who responded to the ‘Digital Marketing in Pharma’ survey said less than 10 percent of their company’s marketing budget is allocated to digital. Moreover, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty among pharmaceutical companies about whether they can prove a substantial return on investment if they put more efforts into digital marketing.

“At least 72 percent of all respondents said they would be investing more in 2009, although that may be tempered somewhat by the recession. Partha Krishnamurthy, director of the University of Houston’s Institute for Health Care Marketing, suggests that large pharmaceutical companies face significant risk if they embrace Web 2.0. By its very nature, digital marketing will give consumers a louder voice in shaping a brand’s message, and those with the most negative experiences can easily rise to the top.”


Social network for health

Here’s a great example of social media used by the healthcare industry, from MediaPost: Health insurance company Humana has developed some social media tools, including a Facebook application, to help customers keep their New Year fitness resolutions.

“One game, the ‘Freewheelin’ Cycle Challenge,’ is inspired by the company’s bike-sharing program. In the online game, users race against virtual opponents–such as a cheerleader or Marine drill sergeant–in a bicycle race. Energy and speed are gained by capturing nutritious snacks while running over junk food.

“The game is available at, a Web site set up in May by the health insurance company as a way to explore how to use games and technology to further messages of health. The game is being promoted through information and blogs on popular casual gaming sites, and can be emailed for maximum viral effect….

“The other application, available via Facebook, is called ‘The Battle of the Bulge.’ Through the social networking site, users answer a few questions and are assigned a virtual waistline. Through the Facebook network, other users can ‘fling fat’ at you, which would expand your waistline and lead to a possible online heart attack. Answering health-related questions correctly can shrink the size of the virtual waistline and enable you to throw fat at your friends.”

A Humana spokesperson said the application leveraged the competitive aspect of Facebook.

Conference booth = advertising?

From BNET’s 10 weirdest drug stories of the month comes the following, originally reported by the Science Insider blog:

“Most scientific meetings don’t need bouncers. But a Novartis stand at the annual gathering of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene had two guards—just to keep away U.S. residents.

“The reason? The booth has information about Coartem, an anti-malarial drug sold by the tens of millions of doses in the developing world. As long as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet given its green light to Coartem (a decision is due on 26 December) the stand would constitute an advertisement for an unapproved drug, says Novartis’s Hans Rietveld—and that’s illegal.

“Reactions among conventioneers ranged from puzzled and amused to annoyed. But not to worry: The drug was also discussed during several scientific sessions.”

Pharma marketing in the toilet?

Pharma Marketing reports:

“Whenever I hear or read about pharmaceutical executives bragging about their product “pipelines” to Wall Street investors I think of the Alaska oil pipeline – a huge and imposing structure, carefully engineered to bring me a product I need and desire.

“I don’t think about bathroom drain pipes discharging waste that I want to get rid of. But that’s apparently how the editors of Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine see drug pipelines if the cover image of the latest, December 2008, issue is any guide.

“PE has chosen to represent a drug pipeline by the type of PVC drain pipes commonly seen under our bathroom sinks, complete with the U-shaped “sludge” trap and all.

“PE shows money flowing into its “pipeline” at one end and pills coming out the other.

“But we all know that with bathroom drains, it’s always garbage in, garbage out!

“Is there some kind of subliminal message that PE is sending here? ‘Money down the drain’ comes to mind!”

I don’t need no steenkin’ map

This is off-topic, but as an expatriate American this struck a chord with me. Here’s hoping that Barack Obama initiates an education revolution in the US, similar to what Kevin Rudd has promised in Australia. A recent Gallup/Harris poll has said that 37% of Americans can’t find the US on a map! What’s worse is some of the quotes from typical Americans about the survey, as reported by the Huffington Post.  

“Stuart Weiss, senior sociology professor at Boston College, said although these findings may be surprising to some, they’re by no means atypical.

“‘The sentiment of many Americans is that there’s little intrinsic value in studying a map of a place you’re already at,’ noted Weiss. ‘It’d be like driving to Graceland and then asking for directions once you’ve arrived. Not much point.’

“Shirley Matheson, a part-time Arby’s employee residing in Dayton, Ohio, agreed with Weiss’s assessment. ‘I live in the U.S.A., so why would I need to know where America is? Or the United States for that matter?’

“Added Matheson: ‘As long as there’s still room on that map for all three of those countries, I’m sure everyone will keep getting along just fine.'”

Ooooh boy… but wait, there’s more:

“Of the respondents actually capable of pinpointing America on the map of America, their accuracy decreased considerably with each additional query about the country. Asked for the name of the U.S. capital, those polled placed Washington, D.C., fifth behind ‘Minneapolis-St. Paul,’ ‘Mount Rushmore,’ ‘America City,’ and ‘Whitewater.’

“Despite Americans’ seemingly underdeveloped sense of their own geography, history and domestic policy, they did score high points on the issue of patriotism, calling America ‘the greatest country in the world’ (47 percent), ‘the best state of all the Unites States’ (31 percent), and ‘a place to definitely explore when I finally get my passport’ (22 percent).”

No comment. No comment at all. No, really, I mean no comment at all…

EMR penetration not as good as it looks

Ken Terry writes on BNET Healthcare: “The latest news on electronic medical record (EMR) penetration in physician practices can be interpreted in two different ways, depending on whether you see the glass as half empty or half full. According to a 2008 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38.4 percent of doctors reported they were using full or partial EMR systems, and 20.4 percent said they were using minimally functional EMRs, including e-prescribing, the ability to order tests and view lab results, and electronic notes. In a 2006 CDC survey, the corresponding figures were 29.2 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively. Optimists might cite these figures as showing that physicians are really starting to embrace EMRs.

“But not so fast. When the CDC asked about EMR systems that conform to interoperability standards and are known as electronic health records (EHRs), just 17 percent of physicians reported having basic EHRs (which do all that basic EMRs do, and can also connect with other systems in a standardized way), up from 11.2 percent in 2006. Only 4 percent of respondents said they had fully functional EHRs, compared with 3.1 percent two years earlier.

“Here’s why the answers to the EHR questions are significant: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, to which CDC belongs, an EHR is considered interoperable if it is certified by the private, nonprofit Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT). Vendors of most full-featured EHRs have had their products certified by CCHIT for competitive reasons. So physicians who report they have a “basic” EMR are probably using a low-cost or older, non-certified EMR that can’t exchange data with other systems. Even practices with “basic” EHRs may not have the tools they need to use their systems for quality improvement or care coordination.

“So if someone tells you that nearly 40 percent of doctors have EMRs, remember that only 4 percent have fully functional EHRs that can do all the good things that health reform advocates want them to do.”

E-health waste a billion-dollar Australian industry

Released this week was a Booz and Co consultancy report commissioned by the Government’s health reform adviser, the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission, that has warned Australia was wasting money and falling behind in the digital health revolution.

The Australian called it “a new study [that] slammed scattergun spending of almost $1.3 billion on state-based e-health schemes.” It also reported on the same day that State health ministers have finally agreed on a national plan to share patients’ electronic records.

It reported, “they gave the tick to the strategy commissioned in April amid controversy over delays, cost blowouts and resignations in e-health projects and bodies across the country.

“Electronic records for patients are currently held separately, if at all, across GP surgeries, hospitals, government agencies and other health centres, allowing only patchy sharing of information.

“The gaps have resulted in duplicate consultations, tests and treatments and prescribing mistakes, with past studies calculating the net benefits of better electronic record-keeping at up to $8.7 billion over the first 10 years.

“The lack of common IT systems and fast broadband has also stalled moves towards more sophisticated innovations, such as remote robotic surgery and electronic monitoring of patients.”