Jun 29, 2010

Managing Healthcare Email Cadences

An interesting point of view article just came across Mediapost on Managing Email cadences by Greatchen Scheiman of Ogilvy One.

The article covered off on basic frequency and portfolio ideas, asking sensible questions from the *sender's* perspective like "do you have new information to discuss," and "how often is the market changing." The example cited are sporting events like baseball: in-season, daily updates on games make sense -- out of season, less frequent news is far better.

However, thinking about Email cadences for healthcare is really more about what the *recipient* is going through in their decision making journey, whether this recipient is a patient, caregiver, or a health professional.
Time-based events are inherent in medicine:

* decisions to visit doctors, scheduling appointments with doctors, patient visits, and follow-ups, referrals to specialists
* time of health progression, like pregnancy, or pediatric growth
* seasonality of conditions like allergies, and arthritis pain
* treatment and medication protocols, as in oncology, psychiatry, or neurology
* refill schedules
* adherence drop-off patterns

Therefore, plan your healthcare email cadence so that your messages are in fact preparing your stakeholders for the important decisions they need to make.

Furthermore, let's not forget other Email best practices like subject line testing, creative testing, clear calls to action, and Opt-out management.
Proper planning can help you make the most of this channel.

RM differences for consumers and professionals

I have seen this multiple times in each direction: well meaning companies and their I.T. organizations wanting to adapt their consumer relationship marketing systems to handle professionals, or inversely, attempting to modify their professional RM infrastructure to handle consumers.

After all, the "C" in CRM stands for "customer" and these are just two types of customers, right? The both have names, addresses, emails, true?

Yes, but that is just scratching the surface. These two segments are not exactly the same. Software and database vendors who specialize in one or the other are likely to advocate this supposed equivalence when they are trying to sell themselves from one customer vertical to another. Be cautious about this.

There are different business processes, data availability, and campaign rules that apply to each of consumers and professionals. Here is a sample:

For professionals, there are sets of affiliations that we care about, such as group practice memberships, hospital affiliations, medical schools. Multiple addresses result. Multiple specialties are important to note. Usually, professionals are called on by a sales force, whose activities on each call, details and samples, must in turn be noted as transactions that are separate from the 'transactions' of prescriber-level Rx data. There is the firm distinction between marketing and medical contact management that must be preserved.

Consumers have special attributes as well: census, demographic, and psychographic data are particularly important. Also, due to HIPAA compliance, for most companies there is not usually an option to measure direct behaviors, so surrogates from web analytics are even more important. Consumers also change residence and email addresses quite frequently, making data cleansing especially vital. Consumers are the ones in conversion and adherence programs with financial components like coupons, vouchers, or copay cards, depending on the healthcare category.

These differences can demand distinct data structures, and different campaign business rule designs. Does a company need to pay twice for RM infrastructure for each customer vertical? Many companies in fact do. Even those that have tried to adapt one system to the other, the lesson learned is: this is not a quick migration, it takes a great deal of planning, implementation time, and specialization.

For these reasons I tend to advocate using "C" in CRM is "consumer" and the "P" in PRM is professional.

Jun 26, 2010

Apple IPhone and Company Sales Forces

The Wall Street Journal notes this week that Apple IPhones are increasingly being used by businesses, including the Bausch & Lomb Inc. salesforce of 1200 people. Some corporate I.T. departments are now supporting Iphones at similar numbers as Blackberries. This is due largely to enhanced security features, as well as employee demand.

This may be a significant turning point.
There are already consumer IPad applications available: for patients to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and their associated medications.

I am occasionally engaged in consulting projects on PRM and sales force tablets, and am asked about new platforms like the Apple IPad for professional selling. As soon as we see more sales force related applications, and with assured information security, this is likely to come to pass within the next two years. Which sales force automation companies will lead this development? And which pharmaceutical sales clients will be the first in the field?

Deeper acquisition engagement and Yahoo Health

The latest Medical Marketing and Media issue points out that Yahoo Health has added interactive health search tools to engage patients longer on the third most popular health portal.

For an example, consider these resources available on a Yahoo health search for osteoporosis . Tests, self-care, and treatments are follow-on options. There are also banner advertisements for pharmaceutical products. Indeed, hope for Yahoo is also to increase contextual advertising revenue.

There are also features like find a doctor by specialty and zip code, and symptom checker. These features are all about deeper consumer engagement at the earliest stages of the patient journey: awareness and acquisition. That additional engagement can prepare patients to be more informed and receptive as they visit the physician's office.

Jun 15, 2010

Cutting through the clutter

Very different stories this week bring up an old theme.

One is the uproar at this month's World Cup football tournament in South Africa over the vuvuzela trumpets, which create a dull, bee-like drone to those playing or watching the sporting events. Announcers, chanting, singing, are all inaudible due to the constant hum of the vuvuzelas. Many have been calling for their ban, others say part of the local culture. Each fan thinks they are cheering for their team, but in aggregate is just part of the hum.

Another, reported in MMM online is the recent phone survey of about 1,008 U.S. adults by Kyp and Opinion Research that patients are finding too many options for health websites. The article notes that "while 76% of respondents search the internet for health information, only 22% use the web as their first port of call after they suspect a health problem – seemingly because of the confusing number of online sources. Even in the 18-34 demographic, more than half (55%) report that 'there is just too much choice' and that they 'simply don't know where to turn for the best advice.'"

The common denominator of these two articles is what we in direct marketing have been calling a need to "cut through the clutter," whether the audio of the vuvuzelas, the stacks of direct mail each day, rows of "spam" invading email inboxes, or broad array of similar websites.


- more intelligent search engines, and search engine optimization for those genuine authority health resources (inbound links from referrals)

- distinctinve, relevant messages, offers, and creative that get noticed

- in-market testing, especially on email subject lines.

Talk to us for more, we can help you "toot your horn."

Jun 14, 2010

Boomers and Conversion to Product

Medical Marketing and Media cited an interesting study by agency GSW Worldwide's Pink Tank unit about how 44% of female baby boomers do further research before going to the pharmacy to fill a medication already prescribed. Various sources are enumerated, including online drug background, cost, and consultation with friends.

The background cited refers to the begrudging attitude of these "KaBoomer" women who are indeed taking more medication than their parents did at this age, yet they are not pleased with taking so much medication, and are skeptical.

This added need to perform research presents a potential risk that patients in this demographic will not fill the medications they are prescribed by their physicians. It is another hurdle that could lower the conversion rate, and health outcomes.

What does this mean in terms of consumer relationship marketing? An extra critical step must be planned for between physicians writing Rx and the Rx getting filled. Manufacturers must provide the right information, across multiple forums: in-office materials, online websites, search engines, and social media. Trusted medical portals, associations and consumer advocacy groups should also clearly explain the benefits of medications as prescribed.

How about a patient starter kit directing to these sources to answer any questions? Could there be opportunities to test call centers supplying information, especially after new product launches to baby boomer categories.

The channels can be tested as part of CRM roll-out for response rate and utilization. But no question, the conversion step needs to be a bit more complex here.

Jun 6, 2010

Hacker's dictionary of gone by 1990s; still useful for CRM

When I am crunching (HIPAA compliant) data, or searching though files, deep into a project, I sometimes recall the bizarre "nerd" language of my grad school days at the MIT Lab for Computer Science. Most of these terms can be found at the Hacker's Dictionary Website

These terms are still coming in handy as one analyzes large CRM or PRM data sets and merges many disjointed files:

My favorite, with interpretations.

*Hack: To program for an extended period of time, and really love the creation.

*Munge: To analyze large data sets, and "work your magic" to get insights.

PERL, AWK, and SED: great Unix command line programs I wish I still had, for munging large text files.

*Snarf: To borrow from a colleague a file or document (electronic or paper)

*Grok: To pore deeply over an analysis, a code listing, a book, or a report, and really understand it

Try these terms yourself the next time you are grokking a few thousand rows of anonymized survey responses, or munging a ten-fold larger website click stream data set.

Jun 5, 2010

Coming down to the wire - finishing it off

June, 2010 is an interesting confluence of several factors all dealing with "coming to the finish line." The kids finishing school, the little league heading toward the playoffs, my book deadline imminent. Even the just completed Belmont Stakes horse race has its finish line. Plus I'm involved with multiple relationship marketing projects due to rollout within a month. These are all examples of homestretch, approaching a deadline.

When this happens, it is always a mix of emotions:

* desperation to get the project finished

* intensive, often late night work, to meet the delivery time.

* a thrill that the moment of truth is arriving.

Just as with patient conversion in CRM, do not presume that once the Rx is given that it will actually be filled (payer issues must be managed), and even if filled, that the drug will be taken (instructions and support are needed for adherence). The optimal patient experience must include the finish line.

Yet one thing is very important, at the finish line, not to let up on quality, not to forget the details. Otherwise, the competition may come back and pass you as you aim to cross the finish line. My son reminded me that come from behind victories happens in every horse race. Indeed the lead horse must stay vigilant.

How does your organization prepare for the big conclusion at a deadline?

How do you strike the proper balance between eagerness to complete, while still maintaining high quality?

Jun 3, 2010

Patient Clinical Outcomes Data on Social Media? Misguided

Perhaps I am a purist, but as a member of the healthcare analytics community I have been following with much concern the growth of social media where patients enter conditions, treatments, and outcomes, for retrieval as statistical summaries by others.

A recent NY Times article May 28th called out two social media websites that encourage consumers to describe their medical conditions and what treatments they have been using, namely Cure Together and Patients Like Me.

Having perused and joined these websites, there are certainly positive aspects. One is encouraging patients to track their progress toward achieving health goals, such as weight loss. Another is a venue for desperate patients with serious conditions to quickly link to others who are suffering similarly, and learning about potential treatments.

However, the major point of concern is how data on self-reported patient conditions, treatments and outcomes is being aggregated, summarized, packaged, and even sold as psuedo-outcomes results, or pseudo market research data.

Has healthcare social media research gone from the messaging and linguistic interpretation, as described in
Medical Marketing and Media in May 2009, to more quantitative clinical outcomes analyses?

For those viewing such statistics, Caveat Emptor. There are many sources of biases and unknowns here.

What clinical trials, outcomes research studies, and formal market research surveys accomplish, among other things, is provide clinicians, patients, and healthcare companies with statistically reliable data on treatments and outcomes by applying the scientific method, so that results can be properly interpreted. There are screening criteria for inclusion, test vs. control methodologies, and careful interpretation of results. Pharmaceutical data providers like IMS also hire statisticians to ensure their prescription and claims data are accurately projected.

By contrast, self-reported treatments and outcomes on consumer social media have none of that. Anyone can enter any condition, or any treatment, presuming the right terms are used and laypeople are self-reporting their outcomes using their own interpretations. It is the self-reporting bias taken to the Nth degree.

The websites sited above issue data tables regularly, package them, even create pseudo E-books for sale, and are aiming to re-sell as "research" for health organizations. These may be curiosities, or signposts, but are unlikely to be interpreted as any serious efficacy results.

It will be fascinating to watch the ramifications of this from the medical community, or even patient health advocacy groups.