A Q&A With Jennifer Brekke and Michael Treff on Code and Theory Health

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Med Ad News spoke with Jennifer Brekke, principal and CEO of SCOUT Health, and Michael Treff, president of Code and Theory, about the formation of Code and Theory Health, a new business unit of the two agencies specifically focused on healthcare. Brekke and Treff shared how Code and Theory Health was formed and what the agencies expect the unit will be able to do for pharma companies.

Med Ad News: How did this all come about?

Jennifer Brekke: In 2015 for Code, and in 2017 for SCOUT, we joined The Stagwell Group. Stagwell has been really great in that we run our shops independently and collaborate within the family. And so we have been collaborating over the years, and as things are moving forward, we just said there was so much need in the marketplace for us to combine and integrate our service offering and really make a big impact in healthcare. So that was the genesis of a lot of the conversations that started. And then we were really pretty serious about it last year and agreed towards the end of the year to formalize it and make a big impact in the healthcare space.

And for Code and Theory, they have been in the disruptive space, in categories where there is a great need for digital transformation, and they have done that across multiple industries. So to come in with us, as the experts in rare and specialty diseases and partner to bring a new service offering to the healthcare sector, was just a really exciting idea.

Med Ad News: So what does that bring to Code and Theory?

Michael Treff, Code and Theory

Michael Treff: Code and Theory, we’ve been around for almost 20 years. We started in 2001, and as Jen said, we’ve always worked with numerous industries that are being disrupted, from media and publishing, where we helped lead the transformation to digital for over 120 media companies and publishers. We’ve worked with a ton of financial service companies over the past decade, which is certainly an industry going through a significant digital transformation at this point. And we’ve always dabbled in healthcare as another category. Over the years we have worked with hospital systems, we’ve worked with diagnostic companies, we’ve worked with healthcare and wellness-related publishers…and we’ve always felt there was a significant need in healthcare to put the patient first, to put the patient experiences first, to really use digital as a differentiator, to not only bring innovation, but bring better experiences to patients, who are going through very stressful emotions and situations in their lives. So as our healthcare business expanded and our collaborations continued [with SCOUT], we really felt that this [partnership] made a ton of sense.

Code and Theory Health is a division of Code and Theory proper, where we will umbrella most of our heathcare related work, again using that broadly from the diagnostic systems to the healthcare companies and the wellness companies and publishers, as well as pharmaceutical companies. And in Code and Theory Health, it’s really a partnership with SCOUT.

Jennifer Brekke, SCOUT Health

Med Ad News: For SCOUT, what does Code and Theory bring to you?

Jennifer Brekke: For us, we’ve been doing digital work for quite awhile in the healthcare space but what they’re able to bring to the table is a very patient-oriented experience across all touchpoints for the patients at a level that just doesn’t exist in the healthcare category now. So for us, to use our 20 years of deep experience in specialty and rare diseases, and combine that, for us we feel that we will help transform what that engagement will look like for the pharmaceutical companies, both for communicating with the healthcare practitioner, as well as communicating with the patient. You put those complimentary skill sets together, and I think that’s what we’re most excited about, is bringing opportunity to the marketplace.

Michael Treff: There are obviously very complementary capabilities within the companies. We have 200 engineers, people who work in technology disciplines, and when you’re talking about digital transformation and reinventing all of the touchpoints and services, and the ways in which the patient engages in their healthcare ecosystem, having a deep, strong bench in engineering, in data analytics research and testing, in UI/UX design, to partner with exceptional marketing communications healthcare experience, deep knowledge in SMEs around that, we feel that combination is very appealing. We don’t see that kind of deep expertise in category coupled with digital and digital transformation. That’s where we feel the real opportunity is.

Med Ad News: When you are talking about opportunities, what exactly are you talking about here? What would you like to see come about?

Jennifer Brekke: There is so much, and that is what is awesome about the opportunity. It’s everything from reimagining the clinical trial experience, all the way through every touchpoint for the pharma companies to communicate, educate, and inform the patient population as well as the healthcare practitioners. For many people in our space of rare and specialty diseases, it may take them years to get to diagnosis. So all of the communication touchpoints on disease education – through to diagnosis and then learning about the treatment options, and then to the branded piece of this, when they actually find a product that is hopefully a solution for their health situation – that entire journey has so many touchpoints, from a digital opportunity standpoint, to put the patient’s education and care first. All those experiences along the journey is where we partner to elevate that. It could be anything from the simplistic things of just mobile and website, but it’s more than that. It’s the data, the communication, and the whole ecosystem of how we communicate with the patient.

Probably a really important point for specialty and rare diseases, we’ve probably launched 30-plus drugs over the years, products, therapies, treatments, and as we look at that, especially a patient in a specialty and rare category, the healthcare providers and the companies that are bringing products to market, are on this long journey with them. They’re partnering with the patients, to help them find the right treatments and to stay on that journey with them to get them to quality of life. So staying connected on that journey with patients and being a part of their world, is massively important to them. I think pharma companies are looking for better, more effective ways to stay in that journey and stay connected with them. So we bring that expertise of understanding the complexity of what the patient and the healthcare practitioner are dealing with, and Code and Theory comes and looks at all of the ways we can stay connected, communicate, and work with these communities.