Leadership teams from the 2020 Manny Award winners and finalists participated in a Q&A forum to offer their analysis on a variety of healthcare industry themes and trends. 

By Andrew Humphreys • [email protected]


1) What will be the short-term and long-term effects on the healthcare industry from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Robin Shapiro

Robin Shapiro, CEO, TBWA\WorldHealth: The story of COVID-19 is really two different tales. From a human perspective, it has been a heartbreaking tragedy, causing over 1.25 million deaths. From a pure business perspective, it’s like 10 days of corona pushed the healthcare industry forward 10 years. This crisis has forced companies and brands to rethink their entire commercial models. They are relying less on traditional, conventional solutions and boldly experimenting with more engaging, human, customer-centric approaches. Using digital innovation to deliver better access; more empathetic, more personalized care via remote clinical trials; telemedicine; and simpler, more intuitive patient support programs – all with newfound urgency. If there is a silver lining for COVID-19, this is it: it will be viewed as a welcome kick in the ass for our industry. 

Jennifer Matthews, President and CEO, The Bloc: The effects of the pandemic have been profound, and I expect many of them to alter our healthcare landscape permanently. On the negative side, the number of patients delaying care related to diagnosed illnesses or avoiding a wellness checkup due to concerns about catching the coronavirus is staggering. The full effect is hard to quantify at this point, but it should be significant. And the impact to the health – physical and financial – of physicians and providers has to be taken into account, as it may lead to an overall reduction in resources and services. On the positive side, delivery of care has been transformed by the rapid adoption of digital health, and it is here to stay. The shutdown has also provided opportunities for many to focus more on wellness in their lives. The pandemic has also exposed two critical realities: first, the utter void of a practical and enforceable national, unified public health action plan and the consequences of patchwork state and local strategies for dealing with it; and, second, that people of color suffer significant disparities in health services and outcomes – while known before, the pandemic, combined with heightened awareness of racial injustice, has brought this more to the forefront. Both are complex issues that require considerable leadership and actionable plans to address.

Mario Muredda

Mario Muredda, CEO, Harrison and Star: That’s the million dollar question for sure. Hopefully we’ll see the recent improvement in infection control practices in the general population continue with a long term reduction in communicable diseases. I’m hopeful that we will also see a persistence of telehealth services that through the pandemic have enabled and expanded not just disease and treatment management from the safety of our homes, but also remote diagnosis (The FDA just granted an Emergency Use Authorization for an at home, patient-administered rapid COVID-19 test. Amazing.) I also expect that while the pandemic continues and infection rates remain troublesome, our ability to both diagnose new diseases early and quickly detect disease progression in existing patients will decline, potentially leading to a slowing or a reversal of many of the improvements in morbidity and mortality that we have achieved over the last two decades in serious and debilitating diseases. So while we may gain some positive improvements in the form of better public health practices and more widespread at-home diagnostic and treatment services for minor conditions, we may lose some ground when it comes to controlling more serious conditions that require frequent in-person HCP interactions. How we as an industry adapt to these forces may ultimately depend on our willingness to embrace the increasingly central role of the consumer/patient (rather than the HCP) in our healthcare model.

Bill McEllen

Bill McEllen, Partner, Fingerpaint: On a broad level, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of the healthcare system – from the science behind every life-altering therapy, to making sure everyone who needs them has access. It is an exciting time in our industry that is not going away anytime soon. It has also fast-forwarded the industry on so many levels, like the adoption of telehealth. On a more granular level, the pandemic has accelerated the ways our clients market. They have had to reimagine how to reach their customers when arguably their biggest asset – their sales force – has been grounded. Our clients have always embraced the digital advancements available when it comes to personalized, one-to-one marketing, but we are seeing an added emphasis on these tactics.

Ken Begasse Jr., Founder and CEO, Concentric Health Experience: The impact of the pandemic is profound and has shifted the course of our country and healthcare system permanently, and that may not be entirely bad. Early and short-term shifts were seen in the way we seek and provide care. The rise of telehealth grew exponentially in April and May, eventually falling in July as the country opened up. However, the impact remains, with 20-25 percent of all outpatient visits being telehealth now vs. zero in January of 2020. So, it appears that telemedicine has finally come to age and is here to stay. I would expect continued commitment by healthcare systems to leverage telemedicine and the industry at large to innovate on customer experience.

However, the impact on our current healthcare system is a bit more dire, changing the face of care in the United States. The financial fall-out from the pandemic is multi-faceted. Decreased volume because of non-essential care, shifts in patient coverage to Medicaid, patients not seeking treatment because of reduction of health benefits, and finally because patients with lower and more precarious income status that depress demand have dramatically eroded revenues. In the short-term, government aid has helped to mitigate these losses but with a second wave upon us, it’s clear that there will be a massive shift in our healthcare systems as this revenue loss cannot be entirely replaced by telemedicine or new revenue opportunities. This will continue the trend of practices to reduce staff and/or salaries, cut services or consider practice consolidation, and even shut down. Independent practices, especially in primary care will be the hardest hit, with nearly 60 percent reporting a high likelihood of closure.

Ken Begasse Jr.

The effect of the pandemic on an already thin provider base is even more profound, with the emotional and mental impact of COVID-19 widespread. Front-line workers are suffering from burn-out, stress and trauma at alarmingly high rates, the long-term affects still unknown. However, we’ve heard of increase suicide rates for these front-line heroes. But the impact reaches far beyond the front-line, with those tertiary treaters who are fiscally vulnerable and feeling the insecurity of their profession. It is feared, this will lead to a mass exodus of physicians from the system with one of five PCPs considering a change in profession. On the flip side, this is creating an opportunity for the evolved province of the NP/PA. The NPs and PAs are handling a high volume of the telehealth visits, with over a majority reporting that they are performing at least 50 percent of their visits through telehealth. As previously stated, telehealth has come of age. With this, so has the NP/PA, as they will most likely represent over half of the prescribers in the U.S. by 2030.

In every challenge, there is an opportunity. We need not to think about returning to normal but to think about returning to a revision of new. This would signal progress from our previous circumstances. Without doubt, healthcare has accelerated its digital transformation and marketers better take note. The pandemic has deepened commitment to new tech and digital tools, with 74 percent saying they’ve sped up their digital plans by at least 6 years. Prescribers and patient behavior modifications are here to stay as there has been an increase in the value of digital experiences both in and outside of health. More than ever, HCPs are valuing industry educational content through social channels and have adopted sharing this content with patients across telehealth platforms and personalized emails. These behaviors have been a welcomed transformation for patient care and represent an opportunity for healthcare marketers to drive valuable content online, especially through social media. Furthermore, the HCP to sales representative relationship has evolved in value. Access has been declining for decades. However, during the pandemic, it actually increased…digitally that is. Pharma has shifted their communications beyond product information and towards more relevant and needed information around support, especially on how to solve the for the patient gaps in care during COVID-19. This approach must continue because it is customer-centric, with 87 percent of HCPs wanting either all or a mix of virtual and in-person engagement post pandemic and desire more digital content to use in their practice. What’s most encouraging has been the increase in consumer confidence of the biopharma industry, regaining a positive connection with the public for the first time in nearly 20 years. This is a significant opportunity for our industry to reinforce the value of pursuing clinical innovation to solve humanity’s most significant and dire health needs. In this case, returning our world to “normal” would be deeply and universally appreciated.

Jim Joseph

Jim Joseph, President North America, McCann Health: I’m not the first to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a temporary change to our lives but a complete paradigm shift across all aspects of our lifestyle. From our unique perch working within the larger healthcare ecosystem, we are seeing these sea changes happening in our industry in rapid real time. As healthcare marketers, we are on the leading edge of both observing and motivating the evolutions in human behaviors as it relates to health. 

In the short term, literally overnight, we’ve seen innovations that were merely bubbling on the surface suddenly take shape and become the norm. Telehealth is just one example and is merely symbolic of how the places for care have broadened with more and more options available to serve differing and evolving patient needs. 

Suddenly, we are seeing the individual patient experience, not just collective, be at the forefront. 

Suddenly, we are seeing the pharmacist emerge as a true healthcare provider on the frontlines. 

Suddenly, we are seeing alternative places for care conform to patient needs rather than the other way around. 

The longer-term impacts are immeasurable as we all now realize that individual health is linked to family health is linked to community health is linked to global health. None of us are in it alone and our own health and safety affects those around us and vice versa. This will ultimately provide the industry with even more continuous ways to innovate and improve service, with technology at the center of it all. When was the last time you thought of healthcare as an experiential business? And when was the last time you thought of a healthcare provider as a tech company? 

James Talerico

James Talerico, President and Executive Creative Director, Heartbeat: Deepened attention to our health and our bodies’ well-being, particularly in urban and suburban areas, will mean a culture of health dialogue that will forever change how the industry communicates with its patients. If we thought demand for accurate, accessible and human-scale health information was increasing before, well, that will look like a whisper compared to the cacophony that’s coming. 

Does anyone really understand what their personal risk of getting COVID is? Or know what the fatality rate is once they get it? The proliferation of data and the ambiguity of risk is at an all-time high. Most people are either afraid or over-confident… and few can tell you what all the data means for them individually – whether we’re talking about COVID or diabetes. The numbers are too big and the math too complex to be meaningful. And for some, willfully misleading. All this information and data needs to be brought down to a human-scale: to an intimacy that informs and inspires action in each of us. Understandable risk at the individual level, decision-making context, and real expectations. Simple does not mean ignorant.

This data craving will drive the nascent market for health tracking/monitoring apps to explode and lead to deeper engagement, not only with health maintenance, but preventative treatment. People have become tired of waiting for this health info access to be realized. Those companies and institutions that don’t get there soon will just be left in the dust.

Craig Romanok, President, CDM Princeton: There’s no arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way we do business. The question is, will the impact last forever? The way we see it, this is an inflection point for our industry. How courageous we all are during this moment will define how transformative the future of our industry will look. We need to jump in with both feet and use this time to reinvent our agency model. We know that in the short-term, current technology has allowed us to be as productive in our quarantined environment. The challenge now is to build a long-term, agile model that offers new ways of engaging with our staff and clients, drive a culturally rich agency experience for our employees, and bring new ways of experiencing our brands to our customers.

Matthew D’Auria

Matt D’Auria, CEO, Healthcare Consultancy Group (a part of Omnicom Health Group): The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed healthcare stakeholders, like healthcare providers (HCPs), patients, and the pharma industry, further apart, but altruism, technology, and innovation are helping to close that gap.

In the short-term, healthcare engagements became almost entirely virtual overnight, and while live office visits have returned, “virtual” is here to stay. Further, initial fear of the unknown and hazards associated with the pandemic led to healthcare and screening delays that will negatively impact overall health in the coming months and years.

Looking longer-term, patients will require a hybrid model of care combining in-person and virtual interactions, and healthcare systems will subsequently adapt. Pharmacists will have an increasingly prominent role in active patient care, particularly with the impending availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

Tools for remote patient assessment and monitoring, such as wearables, will be increasingly valuable. For the pharma industry, after initially being viewed as innovators through creation and mobilization of viral testing, novel and repurposed treatments, and vaccine development programs, a lingering long-term challenge will be to find innovative ways to establish new relationships virtually. Sales and field medical teams will be transformed to align with the trend toward increasingly virtual interactions. The role of opinion leaders will evolve, as the reach and resonance of traditional key opinion leaders (KOLs) may wane, but the influence of the digital opinion leaders (DOLs) will rise. Changes in medical training and education that have occurred with the transition to virtual engagement, ranging from new approaches to the physical examination to “snackable” content, are also here to stay.

Susan Dorfman

Finally, we have seen an important and increased awareness of social disparities that have reverberated in healthcare; a major long-term opportunity for the pharma industry will be to serve as a catalyst for positive change to address these issues.

Dr. Susan Dorfman, President, CMI Media: The pandemic has brought with it a number of short-, mid- and long-term effects on society, health, and business. It has shed immense light on societal issues, inequalities and the importance of self and community care. From a health perspective, COVID has shed light on differences in health care access, delivery and options, showing an imbalance across race, income and other factors. While many of us are working from home, there are so many others who are unable to do so. Lives and livelihoods have been disproportionately devastated by this pandemic, while overall health will continue to suffer. The health impact will be greatly felt in years to come – particularly in areas of mental health, heart health, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and immunologic disorders. As an industry, there is much we can and must do to support those that need it most. 

Wendy Blackburn

Wendy Blackburn, EVP, Marketing & Communications, Intouch Group: In the short term, we are still seeing a reluctance by patients to fully return to their doctors’ offices and hospitals. That means routine visits are being skipped, symptoms are being ignored. Obviously, this leads to long-term implications for patients – cancers will go undiagnosed and conditions will be left untreated. It’s a secondary, indirect health impact of COVID-19, and the consequences for patients could be dire. Of course, this also means physicians and hospitals are not seeing as many patients, so their numbers are down, and less prescriptions are being written or filled, so pharma’s numbers are down, too. 

Telehealth has stepped in to fill some of this gap. The spike in usage has tapered off and stabilized, but telehealth, remote diagnostics and remote monitoring is here to stay, and brands should be looking at ways to integrate these now-remote touchpoints into their patient journeys and the path to a prescription.

Finally, overall, we have seen pharma – including its marketers – pivot quickly and successfully to serve patients in the short-term. Pharma’s COVID-19 response proves the industry CAN be nimble when it needs to be. In the long-term, if we get vaccine manufacturing/pricing/distribution right, there’s a tremendous opportunity for reputation redemption.

Fred Bassett, Head of Consulting, Fishawack Health: We recently conducted a research project on this topic, which revealed the pandemic is going to change every care pathway in one way or another. The implications span the drug development process, customer engagement, product launches, and the patient journey.

In terms of R&D, COVID-19 has disrupted clinical development, with numerous clinical trials being postponed or delayed. As a result, the industry is turning to novel ways of generating data ranging from capturing real-world evidence to undertaking complex innovative trial design. Here, the needs of stakeholders, including payers and healthcare professionals, must be considered to ensure the information is valuable in the clinical setting. 

Collaboration between medical and commercial teams will ensure stakeholders can use the novel data in the real world. For example, recent studies have shown that healthcare professionals often struggle to interpret RWE and understand what it means for patients. 

Fred Basset

Developing an early clinical strategy will ensure the right evidence is used to illustrate the value of the product – this is essential for producing an impactful value proposition. The approach involves applying a commercial lens to the evidence generation plan. It will also help drive clear communications, which give context to the data, showing the impact on the disease, the patient, and healthcare economics. 

Telehealth and remote patient monitoring have become normalized, and patients and healthcare professionals expect a seamless customer experience when using these platforms. 

The rise in digital tools for accessing and providing care, combined with more stakeholders involved in the care pathway, has created an unprecedented situation.
Stakeholders will require new support services to help navigate these unique challenges. Life sciences companies have a tremendous opportunity to collaborate with patients and healthcare professionals and co-create novel solutions that shape the future care pathway.

The relationship between the healthcare professional and sales rep has also changed. During the pandemic, in-person meetings have not always been feasible. Instead, interactions have taken place digitally. Almost 90 percent of physicians have said they would like to retain virtual communications or a mix of in-person and virtual interactions in a post-pandemic world. 

There will be intense competition for the physician’s attention, and all interactions will need to be value-adding if they are to engage the healthcare professional. To be successful, life sciences companies will need to rethink their omnichannel engagement strategy, and the sales force will need to upskill to meet the change in the healthcare professional’s engagement preferences and expectations.

Brenda Aske

Brenda Aske, Senior VP, Managing Director of Strategy, Biolumina: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency to address health misinformation, as well as the need to more clearly communicate advances in science to the general population. The understanding gap between a healthcare-savvy person and one who is not has widened to a gulf. When combined with social media, this has contributed to tragic healthcare myths that increase morbidity and mortality. When nearly half of people would refuse to take an approved COVID-19 vaccine – in the midst of a deadly pandemic – we know we have a lot of work ahead of us in the near term.

In the long term, the industry is in for some evolution, but not revolution. There will be more emphasis on safety, convenience, and quality of life in addition to a focus on efficacy. Cost of care will remain a critical part of the conversation. There will be more flexible treatment touchpoints, such as telemedicine and secure texting. Finally, physicians and other HCPs on the front lines will place pressure upwards – onto their institutions, systems, and professional organizations – to demand adequate protection and appropriate respect for their work, in order to never struggle again for PPE, staff support, and diversity and inclusion protections.

Beth Carik

Beth Carik, VP of Human Resources, AbelsonTaylor: COVID-19 has challenged us all to live and work in a different way. At AbelsonTaylor, our first priority was to ensure the health and safety of our employees which lead us to move to a 100 percent remote workforce. Our employees adapted to a work-from-home office and were able to do so with few disruptions. Our people were not just employees but some had additional responsibilities as teachers, caregivers, and pet walkers. Employees are now having to juggle a lot more than they used to, which can add to their already full plate. 

Other things COVID-19 changed were managers had to get used to doing video interviews instead of in-person. New hires go through virtual onboarding instead of in-person meetings and all of our company, client meetings, and new business pitches are held via Webex. 

Seth Gordon, General Manager, EVERSANA ENGAGE: One thing we have all learned about COVID-19 is that we continue to learn in real time as this pandemic evolves. 

Jeff Lavaute, managing director, Market Access, conducted primary research with healthcare providers (HCPs) and payers two months into the pandemic. Some of the major findings on behalf of primary care physicians and specialists was how well some practices transitioned to telemedicine – those offices that had the infrastructure to quickly adapt were best positioned to mitigate any drop in patient volume. 

A reduction in referrals was seen both ways between HCPs and specialists. One concerning piece of the research highlighted the perceived reduction in physicians administering in-office prescription therapies (e.g., injections, infusions). 

Payers also noted that they were re-visiting some of the utilization management policies and practices to not delay providing access of needed therapies to their membership. We have also seen the payer community embrace digital interactions, whether through product theaters at conferences or account manager interactions. 

HCPs and payers still want the same relevant information (e.g., efficacy, safety, co-pay, real-world evidence), but today it’s now being delivered in an efficient digital venue. Developing resources to help pharma and life sciences clients get that attention of their customer base has always been paramount; now it’s just a matter of modifying to the current circumstances. 

In addition, COVID-19 is impacting every aspect of the Quadruple Aim, a concept developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), especially as more and more patients have been home during this time.

There has been a greater focus on shifting to value-based care by health systems, as the pandemic has forced a decrease in some healthcare resource utilization rates from elective procedures to emergency department and physician visits. 

Population health has been a focus to decrease disparities that have been highlighted during COVID-19 – this can occur with a focus on “Who CARES about COVID … ME”: W – wellness, C – coordinated care, A – acute care, R – Rx management, E – end-of-life care, S – social determinants of health, and ME – mental health care. 

Central to the Quadruple Aim, our chief medical officer and former CMS policy scholar, Dr. Richard Stefanacci, loves to the term “payviders.” This is where payers and providers come together as one to increase major deliver of this new Quadruple Aim. Again, given the financial benefit in taking risk during COVID-19 as well as the ability to use risk funds more effectively in addressing the Quadruple Aim, payviders will likely continue to grow beyond the COVID pandemic. 

Finally, caregiver support is especially critical given the stress on front-line healthcare workers from COVID-19. The change from COVID-19 on the Quadruple Aim will be seen both now and for years to come.

(from left to right) Eliot Tyler, President | Deb Deaver, CEO | Dina Peck, Chief Creative Officer | Tom Galati, Associate Partner, Group Creative Director | Patients & Purpose

Eliot Tyler, President | Deb Deaver, CEO | Dina Peck, Chief Creative Officer | Tom Galati, Associate Partner, Group Creative Director | Patients & Purpose: There is no question that COVID-19 is influencing and will continue to influence the healthcare industry for many years. Back in April, P&P conducted research with over 500 patients to understand the short-term impact of COVID-19. In our research, we found a profound, yet not shocking, increase in health-related anxiety. This anxiety was particularly pronounced with those who were already immunocompromised. Most interesting in this finding was these patients were managing their COVID-related anxiety by turning to social media for emotional support. While sharing and receiving support could be a short-term positive influence of social media, we also know that the potential spread of misinformation can adversely influence personal healthcare decisions. 

A second trend we identified in our research was patient concerns regarding access to their medications – both logistically and financially. Because of this concern, many people are not taking their medicine as prescribed – skipping doses or stopping treatment altogether. In fact we found that 7 percent of patients had already stopped taking their medications. And the impact of stopping treatment is far broader than simply the worsening of a patient’s current condition. It may also increase their risk of hospitalization or otherwise negatively affect their health. It may also lower their body’s ability to fight COVID-19, should they become infected. This trend requires our clients to increase promotion of their patient support programs that can help patients get and pay for their medications. So patient services, a core part of our business, is growing in priority for the majority of brands we work on.

At a cultural level, we see two promising trends. The first relates to the increased engagement in helping loved ones who are considered “high risk.” Friends and family are offering more support to help loved ones manage their conditions. It is too early to tell if this trend will continue post-COVID, but we certainly hope so. 

Long term, a second positive societal trend is the increased awareness of how diseases are transmitted. Now more than ever, people are conscious of how to protect themselves and others. Our hope is that these new learned behaviors, like hand washing, will drive future decreases in colds, flus, and other infectious diseases. 

John Kane

John Kane, Managing Director, MedThink Communications:

Short-term effects

Digital enablement

As everyone reading this knows, the entire healthcare sector (patients, physicians, and the pharmaceutical industry) has been forced to embrace digital forms of communication due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although our industry was already moving in this direction, the pandemic represented the tipping point to digital transformation.

Notably, the pandemic caused face-to-face access to physicians to be halted seemingly overnight. The result was a trial-and-error approach to determine the best way to continue relationships and connections with healthcare professionals (HCPs). On the whole, the industry has done a good job of navigating this digital landscape with videoconferencing, physician engagement through multichannel CRM, and apps connecting HCPs to representatives and medical science liaisons. 

Advisory boards moved online, and with this move came many new learnings in how to engage and derive value from key opinion leaders (KOLs) in a newer medium. At MedThink, we learned that it is more effective to have shorter-length, two-day advisory boards than the customary full-day, face-to-face variety. We also learned that asynchronous platforms add value to KOL engagement as a follow up to advisory boards or can even be enabled to conduct entire advisory boards asynchronously.

Medical education

HCPs have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Practices have slowed considerably during this time. However, there has been a bright spot for HCPs as they realized more time for medical education. More than half of the physicians surveyed by Accenture recently said they had more time to learn about new therapies. Immediately after and in the first few months of the lockdown, physicians sought education about remote patient care, conditions relevant to COVID-19, and info to help patients access lab tests and imaging, along with digital patient education.

Most physicians said finding time for medical education opportunities before the pandemic was difficult. The pressure to see patients and increasing administrative burdens left physicians with little time for focused education. According to Kantar data, more than one-third of physicians read medical information during breaks or mealtime while on duty, and about half read medical information after working hours. 

Long-term effects

Digital enablement is the norm

Reliance on digital communication is here to stay and will only become more refined as new lessons and opportunities emerge. HCPs communicate more now with pharmaceutical representatives than before COVID-19. It appears that most HCPs have become comfortable with the new normal of virtual meetings with pharma representatives and want it to continue. 

There will be times when face-to-face communications are necessary in the future, but most meetings will be conducted virtually. We are receiving positive feedback from clients and HCPs regarding virtual meetings. First and foremost is that representatives are getting scheduled time with physicians allowing for a focused interaction compared with catching a physician in the hallway. Another component of this interaction is that the conversations last longer than previous interactions, although they may be less frequent.

Medical education, part 2

Events geared toward medical education such as conferences, symposia, and speaker meetings have shifted to online platforms and are likely to continue in the foreseeable future if not permanently. Online medical education will benefit from this shift as programs and plans are being converted to virtual platforms, creating new opportunities for education and engagement.

Although the shift to digital communications provides new ways to engage with our target audiences, we must be careful not to over saturate or inundate physicians with digital noise. The more we understand the needs of target audiences, the more effective we will be. Knowing what kind of solution or information is needed to support a physician’s practice and expand their learning is just the start. Understanding their channel, format, and platform preferences will further engage physicians and get them the information they need most. 

James Tinker

James Tinker, Managing Partner, Moon Rabbit: The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation within healthcare systems by allowing the incorporation of new tools into previously rigid workflows. There are plenty of examples: the rise in telemedicine, digital companion programs, remote patient monitoring, etc. For me, at least, it’s a silver lining to have seen some successes here in systems across the world. The future surely incorporates more digital tools and integrated systems across the patient journey, from pre-diagnosis to ongoing disease monitoring. For all its negatives, the pandemic has accelerated these conversations, enabling some positive-use cases for developments across a wide range of areas and across broad geographies. 

Blake Schiller, Executive VP, imre Health: Traditional personal promotion sales models in pharma and biotech are further eroding because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Realistically, they may never look the same as healthcare adjusts to ‘new normals’ in lieu of manufacturers. Similarly, non-personal promotion models aren’t gaining traction because HCP customer attention cannot be afforded to industry platforms that are increasingly decentralized. Now, more than any other time, commercial executives in pharma and biotech must reimagine the future of engagement with HCP customers to drive business goals. 

At imre Health, we believe that selling is losing impact, so we must enable brands to maintain relevance through service experiences that drive relationships, value, and relevance. Key to this model is compassionate intelligence training, which is emerging as a modern core competency for healthcare sales and marketing execs navigating this new normal, as well as an understanding of the HCP omnichannel and virtual experience. Our goal is to add value to physicians’ practice, eliminate obstacles for them, and help improve patient outcomes.

Jose Ferriera, Senior VP, Product & Innovation, CMI/Compas: We are still seeing regular reporting that we have not reached pre-COVID numbers of patients seeking medical care for what they deem to be non-critical problems. This will have a longer-term effect on population health and require more medical services because conditions aren’t being addressed early. This may cause a post-COVID wave of patients playing catch up with medical care, putting additional strain on resources as an interim step before returning to normal. However, some of the social distancing and hand washing practices we have been conditioned to adopt during COVID will likely have a net positive effect in lowering transmission of viruses into the short-term future. 

Ryan Burchinow

Ryan Burchinow, Director, Social Media, CMI/Compas: Short-term changes could affect long-term behavioral changes both online and in social for HCP and DTC digital behavior. During the initial quarantine we saw increased platform adoption and usage (e.g., Instagram and TikTok) and communication norms change with HCPs and consumers. Unsurprisingly, overall content consumption increased during this time increasing the age portfolio of social and digital platforms. From a content perspective we have seen HCPs creating platform-specific content and changing their messaging (e.g., custom memes on Twitter to emote conference takeaways). It’ll be interesting to see if these new habits continue to proliferate, which will increase the need for NPP marketing – including social, streaming, and other digital channels – as time goes on (post-pandemic). 


2) In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business?

John Cahill, Global CEO, McCann Health: Like Jim mentioned, COVID-19 has been a paradigm shift in the way we live our lives, and in every aspect of our industry…from the dramatic pivot to all things digital and virtual, to the change in “where of care,” and the emergence of new venues for health delivery like telehealth and pharmacies. 

John Cahill

In terms of business results, we are having one of our strongest years. Health is at the forefront of society’s collective mind, unlike ever before. Institutions, companies and brands are investing in the future of healthcare by putting out innovative programs that keep people engaged in the current moment while simultaneously developing programs that will impact the quality and delivery of healthcare in the long run. Fortunately, McCann Health is leading the way with these organizations. Our global network houses a vast range of specialization and expertise that can be tapped to create solutions customized to each client’s specific needs. It’s a very good time to be in healthcare.

This has not come without its own challenges. While our business is thriving, we are proactively managing “pandemic wear out.” Working and living in the same spaces, and the uncertainty for the immediate future, requires careful monitoring and supportive programs so we can take care of our people while we take care of our clients and business. 

Faruk Capan, CEO, Intouch Group: Despite the challenges COVID-19 has presented, I feel very fortunate – 2020 has been a productive and successful year for Intouch. Our pivot to full-time remote work in mid-March was seamless, thanks to our stellar IT team. We currently have nearly 1,200 remote employees working around the country – nearly 260 of whom were onboarded virtually – and we were able to keep our summer internship program going this year by transitioning to virtual, recruiting nearly 50 interns and hiring almost half.

While it’s impossible to tell when the real COVID “recovery” will even begin, I’m still cautiously optimistic about our business. Existing client business continues to grow, and new clients are being added to the mix. We have even revised our revenue projections up for 2020. 

Joshua Prince

Joshua Prince, Chief Marketing Officer, Omnicom Health Group; CEO, DDB Health: In some ways, COVID-19 has been a positive disruptor to our business. While it has put a pause on in-person selling, meetings, and events, it’s helped accelerate the uptake of digital, data-driven work for many of our clients.

It’s forced us to think more creatively about how to connect with, engage, and motivate doctors and patients in a mostly screen-based world, so we’re seeing more experimentation, more multichannel planning and investment, and more telehealth innovation. As a result (and despite COVID-19), our business has benefited and actually grown this year.

At the same time, COVID-19 has shone a bright light on health inequities in the United States and spurred much needed discussion – and some action – around this. We hope to instigate and see more effort and work around connecting important health information with communities of color. Health equity challenges certainly include access challenges. But they also include trust, engagement, and communication challenges – and we see that becoming a growing part of the work we do with clients.

COVID-19 has additionally had an outsized impact on how we run our business and engage with our own people. By the time this appears, it’ll be a full year of working mostly from home. This has posed some real challenges for our employees around creating and setting limits, managing family (especially children) in the same time and space as work, staying connected and inspired, and avoiding burnout.

We’ve challenged our leaders to be as accessible, authentic, empathetic, and supportive as possible. We’ve also done our best to over-communicate and be as transparent as possible. Interestingly and despite the pandemic, many of our agencies have found their staff is actually becoming closer – and their agency communities tighter – as we help one and other navigate the COVID-19 separation marathon.

Kristen Gengaro

Kristen Gengaro, President | David Stemler, Executive Creative Director | Deepa Patel, Chief Strategy Officer | CDM: Our world has changed at the speed of COVID, no doubt. A pivot to non-personal promotion as a primary business driver; a shift to solving broader healthcare delivery issues that have emerged; a need to build cultures – within our agency, and with clients – without the benefit of in-person engagement; and an imperative to bring topics of diversity and social justice to the forefront in our agency leadership.

Among all of those challenges, though, a small silver lining has emerged: the infusion of more humanity in the interactions with our clients. Children on our laps, dogs that need attention, technology snafus, and vulnerable moments. During some of the darkest of days, we’ve seen the very best in people– and that inspires us to move forward with each day.

Meredith Pugh, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer, Centron: We are incredibly grateful that our business has continued to grow, the team has expanded, and we’ve been able to fortify and live into our promise of finding the simplest path to the highest good more deeply. We know what we are made of more than ever and while we’ve managed to find meaningful ways to connect on zoom, the truth is that we miss being together.

While we collectively experienced moments of transition and acclimation, we rose to deliver against the client goals and agency vision in an elevated way. We did not miss a beat for our clients. We converted live experiences into zoom experiences, adopted new technologies, launched a brand, and successfully pitched new business. Above all, we reinforced for our teams and clients the value of focusing on what matters most and leaving the non-impactful behind, living the promise of simplicity. 

Our culture quickly and organically transferred to virtual engagements – coffee club was booked immediately at 3 PM every day, game night continued and leadership meetings consistently brought us all together. Keeping everyone connected, nurturing development and focusing on the highest good remains our top priority. 

Colleen Carter

Colleen Carter, Head of Corporate Marketing and Business Development, Fingerpaint: Fingerpaint is built on a foundation of putting people first and showing empathy toward each other. The COVID-19 pandemic put an added emphasis on this. From making sure our people are safe, to consistently evaluating and reevaluating how we can support them and their wellness. For example, hiring additional talent, flexible scheduling, access to telehealth, and more. In a learning culture like Fingerpaint, even through a pandemic, we have continued to provide opportunities for professional growth, unlimited professional opportunities, and reinforced our commitment to career progression.

Ross Toohey, Chief Commercialization Officer, Fishawack Health: Before the pandemic, we identified a gap in what life sciences companies require from their agency partners. 

During the last decade, drug launches have become more complex. There are more channels, more audiences, more competition, and there is more at stake. And yet, there’s an imbalance between the ratio of experienced pharma marketers and the volume, velocity, and complexity of therapeutic launches. Life sciences companies want a partner with the resources of a network and the skills of a specialist agency. 

Ross Toohey

When COVID-19 hit, the industry faced a new layer of complexity. The pandemic accelerated change across the entire healthcare system, from clinical trials to customer engagement and care pathways. It’s also transformed product launches. We researched these challenges, and the findings inspired us to adapt our approach and reorganize as a global commercialization partner for the life sciences industry.

Seamless collaboration has formed the foundation of our new structure. We developed an integrated offering to unite our operating divisions – Medical Communications, Consulting, and Commercial – in bespoke teams created around the clients’ specific challenges. The structure overcomes the usual silos traditionally seen in agencies and life sciences companies, so we can help our clients respond rapidly to the changing market and, importantly, make plans that retain that sense of agility. 

Ultimately, COVID-19 challenged us to build a better organization. Patients have experienced disrupted care across numerous disease areas, and life sciences companies need to respond with dexterity to continue to innovate and provide solutions that patients desperately need. Our new structure helps our clients ensure patients and healthcare professionals have the innovative products they need and the knowledge they require to live better lives during the pandemic and in a post-pandemic world. 

John Tenaglia

John Tenaglia, Managing Partner, Moon Rabbit: We probably all thought of ourselves as digital nomads to some degree, but the pandemic really thrust us into that environment. The way the team responded and adapted was nothing short of impressive. Sure, we made greater use of the platforms we already had in place to communicate, but the camaraderie and how close we have been able to get with our current team, and the people we have never met who joined us during the year has been amazing. We have developed new ways to stay engaged professionally and personally, and that has kept us connected through this extended period of relative isolation. What makes agencies special and what produces great work is that bond and the chemistry you have with your team, and being able to continue to build that from afar has been a great achievement. That all said, I know there is a mountain of excitement to get back to the office and actually meet a lot of our new family members in person – when the time is right. 

JD Cassidy, President, Advertising, Syneos Health North America: COVID-19 continues to shape our journey as a business in unpredictable ways. That said, this year has challenged us to be more resilient and agile than ever. The connectivity we’ve built as a virtual community has enabled us to adapt to collective challenges and unique circumstances. Our priorities continue to be protecting our employees’ health and safety and partnering with our customers to ultimately deliver life-saving medicines to patients worldwide. One can only hope that one of our customers will successfully launch an effective COVID-19 vaccine, and perhaps we may begin to put the worst of this pandemic year behind us. In the meantime, we continue to work together, stick together, and are confident in how we show up for each other and our customers.

Deb Goldberg, Executive VP, Director of Client Services, CDM Princeton: With so much suffering and loss experienced by so many, we were very fortunate that this pandemic didn’t have more of a serious impact on our business. CDM Princeton was already offering our employees the flexibility of working from home a couple of days a week, which helped us prepare for quarantine. The biggest issue we are experiencing is the blurring of the boundaries between work and personal time. Helping our employees better balance their commitments is an ongoing struggle. 

Carina Whitridge

Carina Whitridge, Executive VP, Director Client Services, Cambridge BioMarketing: We work in a fast-paced business. We need to be able to quickly respond to our clients, the healthcare environment, and the disease spaces in which we work. From that perspective, we have excelled during the pandemic. With our strong focus on omnichannel marketing, we were built for this challenge. Our teams have researched, brainstormed, and offered up innovative ways to meet, present, and engage in this new world, and that was a huge benefit to us as a company and to our clients. We needed to think about how sales reps would be delivering materials now – how often, through what channels, to whom? Ultimately this led us to consider how a patient’s world was changing and affecting their relationship to their health and their healthcare providers (HCPs). 

Beyond reaching HCPs, we have also encountered challenges in manufacturing, infusion-site/HCP-administered treatments, and switches because patients aren’t in the office. For our prelaunch clients, the pandemic has created even more uncertainty with clinical trial delays. These unforeseen delays and changes have at times caused us to slow down, but have also given us the opportunity to serve as a true strategic partner to our clients, guiding them through these unique 2020 challenges. 

We have also seen the impact of the pandemic on our agency culture. We work in a fun, interactive, collaborative business and COVID-19 created challenges. We thrive on engaging with one another. We have a pretty special office space that we are proud of. We love having a beer and doing timesheets together on Friday afternoons. We check in with one another through kitchen and hallway chats. Sometimes we cry together in the bathroom. On March 13, that all changed. The Zoom fatigue is so very real. We miss hugs (well, most people do) and happy hour and kids on Halloween. Putting our heads together to design kickass creative, throwing slides up on the wall during pitch prep, having a really tough conversation, celebrating a holiday together – these all look pretty different now. But the fact that they are ALL still happening effectively is a sign of our resilience, our adaptability, and our potential as individuals and together. Some days it feels like, “Is this really still going on???” And some (hopefully more) days it feels like, “If we can do this, what can’t we do???”. 

We’ve certainly learned to overcommunicate and to give ourselves and each other a break – meetings on your patio in the sun are not slacking, they are sanity. We have also gotten to know each other better. How can I not learn about your noisy dogs, your apathetic cats, your mischievous kids, your oblivious parents, your hilarious spouses? They are the workforce of 2020 and they have made our business better. 

Eugene Lee

Eugene Lee, Chief Operating Officer, CMI/Compas: Operationally our business had to make adjustments. We were already set up to enable all employees to work remotely, so we were able to focus mainly on making sure they had all resources we could possibly provide to keep them productive and support their well-being. This included everything from flex time to a productivity stipend to focus groups to make sure everyone was doing okay. We’ve been hiring during this time, and it’s creating a new challenge for us where we are also making adjustments to incorporate new staff that have never met team members in person and have never been to our offices and we want them to be part of our culture. Every employee is faced with different challenges, and we’ve prioritized supporting them to create the best possible work at home environment and accommodate their challenges so that we can still continue to deliver high caliber service to our clients. 

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga, Senior VP, Social Media, CMI/Compas: Speaking from a media perspective, we have had to make adjustments during certain months to our social media strategies, ranging from pausing ads out of consideration for larger world/national impacts in the news to re-strategizing early off to get more information out to HCPs as it related to education (re: sales reps no longer in offices, etc.). Social has been and will continue to be an important vehicle to get health and drug and disease state information out quickly to HCPs and patients alike in the midst of the pandemic. 

James Talerico: We’re really grateful to report that our business, when it comes to client and revenue growth, has been extremely positive in 2020. With pharma products having short shelf-lives due to patents, launches must happen on schedule and in-market products must be promoted to maximize the opportunity within their lifecycle. And being a digitally-native organization, we were ready when pharma (and the entire country) turned to the not-next-new platforms of digital/social/mobile for connection, community, and health information. But even with such a big head start, we had to push ourselves to be even more agile & responsive, while taking platforms like one-on-one video and chat from pilot engagements to broad platform.

But the impact on staff is another topic. Balancing the pace of agency life with the stressors that have followed from this pandemic – additional home responsibilities, sickness, loss, isolation and more – has become an essential focus of our people strategy. Practically, we have staffed up to aid in efforts to relieve staff; emotionally, we have created a number of forums and programs to ensure our connective culture is maintained and conversation is happening to make our community aware of individual experiences, fostering empathy, understanding and support. As a result, we believe Heartbeaters have actually grown to be an even tighter and fiercely supportive crew this year. We’re really proud of the team.

Eliot Tyler | Deb Deaver | Dina Peck | Tom Galati: Throughout the pandemic, our business has remained incredibly steady. Like other shops, we had a few weeks where we refined some creative executions. But we found new and safe ways to do everything from broadcast and photo shoots to patient videos and even large patient co-creation workshops. One of the more positive impacts of COVID has been the acceptance of virtual patient market research.

We believe that no one knows patients better than Patients & Purpose, and we are completely committed to keeping it that way. Since the pandemic started, we have held more interactive workshops with patients, including co-creation sessions and patient language sessions. The acceptance of workshopping in the virtual environment, with patients engaging from the comfort of their own homes, has made these sessions more enlightening and inspiring than ever before – and quite frankly, quicker and less expensive to pull off!

Brenda Aske: The pandemic has proven that we can do it all remotely – but reinforced how much we miss our personal relationships! Although we were able to seamlessly launch multiple times, incorporated innovative ways to collaborate with each other, and introduced new ways of workshopping with clients, we miss the interstitial interactions in the hallways and spontaneous ideas sparked by being together in the same room.

Seth Gordon: At EVERSANA ENGAGE, we saw an early impact, most notably on recruiting patients for clinical trials as part of our Seeker platform, along with re-exploring how we did live venues with the rare disease community. Fortunately, we were able to quickly pivot in an effort to strategically re-evaluate both of those platforms. 

Regarding our patient-finding platform, while clinical trials (generally speaking) may have slowed during the middle part of this year, pharma and biotech clients were still very interested in our technology to help find patients, most notably in rare disease. We nuanced our messaging to clients to note that the digital strategy and technology are more important than ever. We must utilize these strategies for other purposes, moving much of our business from clinical operations being the buyer to more of a commercial, marketing focus. 

For the rare disease communities, virtual engagement was the obvious transition, along with some creative approaches we pursued enabling some of these families to record their journey on their terms with our final creative touch. 

Blake Schiller

Blake Schiller: COVID-19 has presented upside to imre Health. In fact, we can attribute incremental growth because of the pandemic on top of the organic growth trajectory we were driving. We’re able to realize upside because we’re an innovation led full service agency, and the current environment has forced clients to reallocate traditional investments in their plan to more modern digitally driven ones. During those moments in Q2 we found all of our clients turning to us seeking innovative ideas and opportunities to scale up to remain competitive in an increasingly virtual engagement ecosystem.

Jose Ferriera: Another strategy brands adopted well into the pandemic was to automatically turn media on or off within different geographies based on non-essential business shutdowns and protocols. Now that we’re entering a third wave across the country, and some states and municipalities are weighing the possibility of targeted shutdowns, it will be a strategy that becomes relevant again. It enables brands to only have a media presence in areas where most medical practices are operating normally and not competing for the attention of medical professionals attending to the acute needs of COVID patients. 

Ken Begasse Jr. : I think we’ve become stronger through the increased importance of culture. Faced with uncertainty, it must be felt deeply, the certainty of our commitment to each other and our clients. So, we did what we ask our clients to do, pivot. In doing so, we’ve identified areas of improvement and took action. Doing so has led us to simplify our approach and bring focus on our values that encourage broader ownership of our agency’s business. Most important was the realization that we could not mistake connectivity with connectiveness, so we recognize our individual and collective resilience as the foundation upon future success is built. 

Jennifer Matthews

Jennifer Matthews: We are extremely fortunate to work in the professional services sector, so the rapid shift to remote work has been the most significant challenge for us this year. Like everyone else, we are dealing with new communication norms and the challenges of collaborating internally and with clients via a zoom interface that slows everything down. As we head into the winter months with the virus raging, concern for our people’s mental health is at an all-time high. We’ve put programs and resources in place to do our best to support people, but it can only go so far. All that being said, our financial health has never been stronger. As we look to the future when a vaccine is available, designing our hybrid model of employees opting for some level of permanent remote work is essential.

Robin Shapiro: We have been fortunate. Our agency has always been built on a “geographically boundless” model. We are quite comfortable applying talent and building bespoke teams across several offices for the same business. The move to a fully remote environment just amplified what was already second nature. There’s been no disruption to our business. We’ve continued to grow and thrive and, in many ways, become even more productive. What does take more thought (and what we’ve spent the majority of our time thinking about) is how to maintain our culture. Our collective sense of belonging. People get into their Zoom zone and can’t see anything beyond their direct team. We lose the more serendipitous, unplanned moments – or what I call the peripheral vision of the agency experience. 

We have to find new ways to recover these spontaneous culture-building moments: casual mentoring sessions, spur-of-the-moment events, “hallway” conversations. These are the intangible but critically important social activities that connect people, reinforce culture, and make the agency experience distinctive. 


3) Black Lives Matter is one of the largest movements in U.S. history. How has this movement affected your business and how is your organization achieving diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace?

Sharon Callahan

Sharon Callahan, Chief Client Officer, Omnicom Health Group; CEO, CDM: Black Americans were not surprised by what happened to George Floyd and countless others who preceded him. What’s surprising is that many White Americans, including many of our own colleagues, were surprised and horrified, feeling a sense of shame in how long it has taken to confront our collective past. 

One of the most significant effects this has had on our businesses is that we’ve really doubled down on listening. We’ve held forums with our Black talent to hear how it feels to be a Black American, and what it’s like work in the largely White advertising world. While the honest answers have at times been hard to hear, it’s important we hear them.

We’ve heard about the sense of “aloneness” and feeling of dissonance that Black talent can experience. We’ve heard about how they feel the need to be extra-vigilant or over-prepared in navigating a majority White workplace. Black employees don’t always feel they can bring their whole selves to work. And so we’re determined to change that.

Many of our leaders and employees did not understand or appreciate how this affects Black colleagues we know, respect, and love. Or how it influences the composition of our workforce, from recruiting right up to promotion and leadership. We’ve always believed in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, but the reckoning following George Floyd’s death has added fuel to our resolve.

We’ve hired a new VP, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Omnicom Health Group, Gena Pemberton. Gena’s goal is to help us understand the Black employee talent-journey and experience, and work to make all of our agencies more inclusive and diverse. Black employees are underrepresented in our leadership ranks, and we’re looking forward to changing that. 

We’re also supporting a new group –the OHGH Black Collective – led by Black leaders from across our companies. The Black Collective is focused on reimagining how we can aggressively open doors to increase Black talent, ensure a sense of inclusion and enfranchisement, and build a culture that supports swift and loud promotion for the contributions of this talent. 

In addition, every leader of every OHG company has agreed to sponsor high-potential Black talent because we know that when senior leaders are allies and use their clout to talk up, advocate for, and advance talent, real change will happen.

We have a collective responsibility to make sure racial equity continues to be front and center. We’re committed – and holding ourselves accountable – to change that makes room for new voices. Beyond the fact that the diversity of our people and their ideas is the source of so much possibility, supporting them is just the right thing to do.

(from left) Meredith Pugh, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer | Celine Vita, President | Carolyn O’Neill, Chief Creative Officer | Centron

Celine Vita, President, Centron: The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other victims of racial violence deeply touched all of us beyond what words can express and we are all confronted with the undeniable need to act and change the unacceptable. As an agency, we self-reflected and decided to understand the issue of diversity with depth before acting, consider all dimensions that applies to diversity, equity and inclusion in order to drive sustainable, meaningful and measurable change.

We recognized our need to understand where we stood on this issue rather than thinking where we were. We conducted an agency wide survey to establish our true baseline and shared the results with the agency and our commitment to driving change. We trained everyone on unconscious bias to establish a common knowledge and shared awareness. We solicit help from the agency and activated the first diversity, equity and inclusion team at Centron, a team of passionate and dedicated individuals who are informing, shaping our commitments and mapping collective actions toward change. We continue to hold ourselves accountable to drive change, act with meaning and honor our commitments. 

Kirsten Kantak

Kirsten Kantak, President & CEO, Biolumina: Biolumina is proud to be an anti-racist organization. We recognize that we have more to do to achieve racial diversity and inclusion within our organization and our industry. We fully support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and take racism in any form seriously. We’ve taken immediate action: donating to The NAACP Legal
Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., incorporating diversity and inclusion education and discussions into our organization, educating our employees on unconscious bias and the impact it can have in our day-to-day decision making, actively recruiting from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, reaching out to new networks, and amplifying voices of the Black and minority science and medical community on our social media platforms. 

We’ve asked all of our teammates to speak up against racism if they see it and to live up to our values by being inclusive. All of our teammates are asked to bring their authentic selves to work every day. Biolumina believes that it takes a diverse organization, with individuals from differing backgrounds, opinions and experiences, to create the best ideas and produce the best work for our clients.

Kelly Wilder, Executive VP, Strategic Business Development, Precision Value & Health; Co-President, PRECISIONvalue: May 25, 2020, the day that the world watched George Floyd being murdered on camera, was a turning point for the nation, and Precision. While Precision has always been anchored to a set of five guiding principles, of which “purpose” is one of the central elements, we reinvested our energy, time, and resources to focus with a purpose toward greater Diversity and Inclusion. Like any good plan, Precision’s leaders started by listening. Listening to our teams talk about their pain, hopes, frustrations, and need to make a meaningful difference. Our collective consciousness was ignited to form the “Humanity in Action” plan. Like many other organizations, we hired a seasoned D&I consultant to help us structure a path forward to enact meaningful and sustainable change. In addition, we empowered our employees to lead and join several committees for specific areas of change from learning and development to donations and support. While I am exceptionally proud of our people and our work, our path forward to continued success will seek to further recognize our diversity, promote equity and elevate a culture of belonging where the varied and unique perspectives and contributions of our entire workforce inspire our best work. With those principles in mind, we committed to conscious and consistent efforts to strategically evolve our talent, culture, and communities. 

Our mission to be a more diverse and inclusive organization is personal to me because I am Black, I am a woman, and like many others throughout our organization, I care. There are many of us who care about diversity and inclusion for various reasons, but for me I need to know that we are (I am) doing our very best so that my daughters can see their own reflections throughout Precision. I don’t want them to have to imagine a place for them in organizations like ours, I need them to see it as reality. 

Geline Midouin

Geline Midouin, Global Chief Talent Officer, McCann Health: McCann Worldgroup and McCann Health specifically has long been on a path to do better, to embed diversity values and practices into every aspect of how we conduct business through an extensive, multifaceted set of initiatives and programs. In a time when the nation and the world feels unsafe and divided, we are striving to drive positive change by taking an active role in cultivating the work culture we want and continue to counsel our brands and businesses to earn a meaningful role in people’s lives.

As a globally-integrated community, the Black Lives Matter Moment has revitalized our commitment towards creating a culture where people of all backgrounds and identities feel respected and empowered to share their unique perspectives. Cultivating empowerment requires that we all take consistent and deliberate actions that foster inclusivity, provide a sense of belonging and rally all of us together around shared purpose while ensuring that each employee feels safe and protected. We call this “Conscious Inclusion” – which serves as our organizing philosophy underpinning our strategy and aligning our global network.

Our diversity efforts focus on both short-term and long-term initiatives with a focus on building diverse candidate pipelines, driving leadership accountability, and bolstering the visibility and development of our diverse employees. We have activated multiple diversity coalitions by geography and have rolled out various trainings on addressing bias and leading inclusively. In December, we will hold our second global Day for Meaning (DFM), a first-of-its-kind global change management initiative focused on shifting our behaviors and actions to foster inclusion. Like last year, we will halt regular business operations for 24 hours across the network so cross-departmental teams can focus on developing ideas and solutions to drive inclusion in their local offices.

The newly expanded North American D&I Coalition in particular has made incredible progress, unencumbered by the unexpectedly virtual environment of 2020. The Coalition provides recommendations for new avenues and opportunities for diverse recruitment, including a partnership with well-known minority internship program INROADS, as well as DiverseCreatives.com, a recruiting platform started by our own Ron Lewis, VP, Creative Director for McCann Health New York. The group has also begun evolving existing activities, such as mentorship and buddy programs to be more diverse and inclusive. All employees have completed a training on addressing bias and senior leaders took an additional workshop on inclusive leadership. Managers will be required to complete another training on recognizing, standing up to and challenging exclusion. To keep us accountable, all reporting strategies and methods are being reviewed to better measure outcomes. 

Our guiding philosophy is that brands and businesses must earn a meaningful role in people’s lives to remain relevant and successful. We’ve implored our brands to identify a purpose beyond merely selling a product or service. To be prepared for and navigate through crises. To keep their ear to the grindstone and never stop learning – translating data and insights into action and impact.

Alyse Sukalski, Managing Director, CB West, Cambridge BioMarketing: Black Lives Matter is the most important movement in our times, shining a light on continued systemic racism against Black Americans. We all have turned the mirror to ourselves to reflect on how we raise our children, how we interact with each other as humans, how we do business, and who we should all strive to become. Cambridge BioMarketing (CB) is proud to be a part of UDG, who considers diversity, equity, and inclusion to be core pillars of our future success – not just in business, but also in helping to build a more inclusive community in our healthcare communications industry. 

Alyse Sukalski

While UDG has always had Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in place, we know we need to do more to truly open up opportunities for all ethnicities and minorities. This year we are dedicating investments of talent, resources, and leadership to DEI. We have appointed our first-ever DEI officer – a dedicated, global position across all of the UDG companies. And to ensure we reach the local-level needs within all of our agencies, we have established the Diversity Inclusion Champions Network to engage and share success across all of UDG. 

At CB, we have always prided ourselves on serving underserved patient populations by working on disease areas with serious unmet needs. We are a group of activists who are motivated by making positive change. We are not experts in racist oppression or social justice. But we are experts in health, and we are experts in putting humans first. So in addition to making concrete changes in our employee recruitment, training, and recognition, we have used our knowledge to try to expose the structural racism in our healthcare system by starting a complementary social campaign – Black Health Matters. As an organization, we know this is just the beginning of picking apart the structural racism that exists in our community and in our industry. We see this as a positive step forward and persistent part of our culture.

Amy Gómez, Ph.D., Senior VP, Diversity Strategy, Klick Health: Black Lives Matter has been a galvanizing force across institutions and industries in the U.S., and its influence on the marketing/advertising industry is uniquely important. Our industry creates the narratives and images that broadly impact perceptions and can make the difference between propagating harmful stereotypes and ensuring authentic representation.

Amy Gómez

At Klick, we are fortunate to have the leadership of Carl Turner as our chief brand strategy officer. Carl provided editorial input into 600 & Rising’s Open Letter and, with the support of our Leadership team, he was an early signer. He also worked with our Leadership team as we made a public commitment to the letter’s 12 actions agencies should take in order to work toward eradicating systemic racism at their organizations.

The biggest impact at Klick has been the addition of data and accountabilities to the strong existing support for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We had already taken many steps outlined in the 12 actions, such as the establishment of a diversity review panel to stem the spread of stereotypes in creative work. Klick had previously established a Cross-Cultural Marketing capability in early 2020, and its function goes beyond just avoiding stereotypes – it focuses on creating authentic connections with multicultural consumers through insight-driven strategies. But we lacked concrete data, and there was no single person or group focused on moving us forward. So this summer, we collected employee demographic data to help us understand very specifically where our gaps are, and we are in the process of developing concrete goals that will be published with the data in Q1 2021. I am proud to spearhead Klick’s DE&I initiatives with our newly established DE&I Council of cross-functional leaders who guide our efforts and hold the organization accountable for achieving our goals. We’re confident we’ll make significant strides in 2021 and into the future.

Kristi Veitch, Executive VP, Human Resources, Intouch Group: Intouch has always been committed to embracing and acknowledging the diversity of our employees’ backgrounds and experiences. While we’re proud of our inclusive culture, we know there is always more work to be done.

Kristi Veitch

In response to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, we surveyed all Intouch employees to determine how we, as a company, can take meaningful action against racial injustices and systemic racism. Common concerns and themes surfaced, including racial justice, community, education and healthcare. It became clear that there is a desire to protect, improve and extend Black lives, today and in the future, and we arrived at a multifaceted program where Intouch will:

• Partner with local and regional community organizations that empower Black youth to actively explore and change the world, including introducing them to the advertising industry as a potential career choice.

• Remove barriers to healthcare and address existing disparities within the Black community with particular focus on mental health, women and girls (to start).

• Invest in achieving racial justice through financial contributions (and matching employee contributions) to organizations dedicated to preventing injustice and repairing the effects of previous injustices toward Black Americans. 

Our own Inclusion + Diversity Alliance, launched in 2018, continues to grow, providing content for, and guidance on, a broad variety of company initiatives and events, including working with client teams to ensure work is approached through a diverse lens. 

We also recently created a Diversity Strategy role (promoting from within our Talent team) to enhance our diversity recruiting efforts by introducing hiring practices that support our commitment to an inclusive workplace and align with the overarching vision for I&D at Intouch. This role will partner with Talent and I&D to establish well-informed metrics and goals to create a more cohesive approach to diversity recruiting; it will also act as a diversity talent acquisition SME for the business and partner with executive leadership to strategize and prioritize diversity talent needs, develop new processes, and coach teams on effective interviewing.

Ane Jones

Ane Jones, Managing Director, Oncology, The Bloc: At The Bloc, diversity has always been one of our core values and it continues to be. That said, the Black Lives Matter movement has reminded us that we are not doing enough and that we need to do better. Earlier this year The Bloc formed a diversity and inclusion committee with a focus on team diversity, cultural sensitivity, and healthcare disparity. From a team diversity perspective, we have kicked off a number of initiatives, including interview training on how to avoid unconscious bias, partnering with MAIP, and actively recruiting from historically black universities and job boards. We have also enlisted Jennifer Brown Consulting to help us identify how we can improve in these areas. From a healthcare disparity perspective, we plan to continue to educate our internal team on the disparities that exist, but more importantly, use our voice to create content like “The Call,” which was an initiative that we worked on in collaboration with EmpowHer NY, to highlight the disparity between the treatment of black women and white women. We realize these are just small steps and that we have many miles to travel, but we will stay the course. 

Michelle Edwards

Michelle Edwards, VP, Human Resources, Heartbeat: The BLM movement has had a tremendous effect on Heartbeaters’ lives, both personally and professionally. Many of us are dealing with trauma, but we’ve also seized upon the hope of this moment, and have been galvanized to action. While Heartbeat has long prioritized inclusion and authenticity, we’ve supercharged our commitment to racial justice in the workplace. We released a commitment letter this summer outlining our plans, and since then, we’ve been taking major steps to increase BIPOC representation at Heartbeat, and to build a more supportive environment for diverse employees through a variety of internal programs. And we’re already seeing tangible results – nearly half of our recent hires are from diverse racial backgrounds. 57 percent of promotions in the past six months have gone to diverse Heartbeaters, and we’ve been steadily increasing diverse representation at the Director level and above. Beyond hiring and promotions, Heartbeaters across departments and levels are engaging enthusiastically with our racial justice initiatives and pouring time and energy into making this a sustained shift in how we operate. It makes me proud and gives me a lot of hope for our industry. 

Abby Hayes

Abenaa (Abby) Hayes, DE&I Practice Leader, W2O: This year has been a catalyst for change and evolution of the human race globally. For W2O, we have reflected more deeply on what more we can do, as it is clear to us that we and our industry have not done enough. Our business relies on creative and innovative people and our workplaces should reflect the communities around us. If we are to change, we need inclusion and diversity to grow and transform. We cannot sit idly and complacently by in this situation. We will continue to work together to improve our profession across agencies and companies, with the broader goal of addressing systemic racism. That is one way we can change ourselves to change society. To that end, we have taken action and are sustaining a commitment to:

1) Inspire the next generation of people of color to work in our business. Standard recruiting from communications and journalism schools is not enough. We will cast a wider net and build more bridges with historically Black universities, among others. W2O has a unique partnership with Syracuse University, and we are committed to replicating this work with other universities. This includes creating and implementing the right curriculum that will prepare our future workforce to hit the ground running the day we hire them.

2) Retain and advance diverse talent for the long term. We will take concrete actions to set diversity targets and share diversity metrics. We will hold leaders accountable and reward them when they make progress. We will make sure all employees feel respected and valued, and through mentorship and sponsorship, we’ll ensure they have an equal opportunity to grow and advance. We will, therefore, make our allyship real to ensure people of color have a sustainable career trajectory

3) Listen to Employee Resource Groups and employees of color. ERGs are a powerful community for companies to drive collaboration and co-creation in critical areas of growth and accountability. At W2O, our multicultural ERG, W2O Fusion, has never been more important than right now. This group of committed, passionate professionals has done as much, or more, than I and other leaders to ensure we’re making a positive impact during these challenging times.

Kristen Gengaro | David Stemler| Deepa Patel: BLM has been a true accelerant within our organization, shifting the focus from highlighting problems to driving solutions. In the words of our DE&I group, the spotlight on BLM “has allowed for more honest and transparent conversations, no longer allowing people to deny the biased realities that exist. Our organization has opened the doors to employees to stand up and be heard, and to bring forward the changes that are needed.”

Our work is nowhere near done. There are more tough conversations to be had. And more concrete actions to be taken. But we’re fortunate to have the backing of Omnicom to take a firm stance on this topic, and to ensure we are purpose-driven organizations that leading with heart.

Craig Romanok

Craig Romanok: Watching the events that are unfolding around our country reminds us we’re battling more than one virus in this country. It is sad watching our country get ripped apart so violently due to ignorance, intolerance, discrimination, and abuse of power. At CDM Princeton, we stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, friends, and family members who are reeling from the senseless actions taking place in the world. To help advance the efforts of social and racial justice, CDM Princeton is fortunate to be part of a network dedicated to acting and making measurable progress in this area. At an Omnicom Health Group level, we are thrilled to announce the appointment of a new VP, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Gena Pemberton. She is a seasoned leader who will organize, drive and help us prioritize efforts so we can make measurable progress as an organization. At CDM Princeton, we are championing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all we do, including the work we create and the businesses with whom we partner. We are leveraging our Diversity and Inclusion programs to create a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all employees.

Eliot Tyler | Deb Deaver | Dina Peck | Tom Galati: The Black Lives Matter movement and the continued heart-wrenching events of 2020 have profoundly affected P&P. We are a diverse company with a culture that is built on caring for others. We do not see diversity, equity, and inclusion as obligations. We see them as opportunities to continue to learn and grow as advocates for change. 

Years ago, we built an internal team focused on Diversity & Inclusion to help guide us in fostering a more inclusive workspace. We’ve also established innovative hiring practices to help bring more people of color into the P&P family. We continue to be strong supporters of the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP), ADCOLOR, and other organizations like NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, and the Center for Policing Equity. 

As an agency, we are wholly committed to all patients. Our Equal Health Group has been partnering with clients and internal teams to promote health equity for all. We are incredibly proud of the work we have done recently to educate and/or support people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community. We are just as proud to have clients who recognize that there often isn’t one solution, and they need to go beyond virtue signaling. As an industry, there’s still much more to do.

JD Cassidy

JD Cassidy: GSW is passionate about building and maintaining a dynamic and diverse workforce of people with unique backgrounds and expertise who spark new ideas and groundbreaking work. It is imperative that the culture in which we work continues to be a collaborative and open environment where people are free to share their thoughts and can challenge one another to arrive at the best outcome. We believe that diverse agencies are creative agencies.

In 2018, GSW employees created RISE, an employee-led initiative that stands for Realizing Inclusivity and Success through Equality. RISE’s shared goal is for everyone in the agency to have the same opportunities to grow and advance as the person sitting next to them.

RISE has grown from a just few founding members focused on equality to dozens of active teams cultivating a sense of belonging for all GSW employees. Members of the RISE planning and events team are cross-functional, cross-level, cross-gender, cross-identifying, and include all ages, new and tenured. The events and initiatives RISE introduces are all sparked by personal passion. Events are well attended, and the initiatives have further sparked open and thoughtful communication throughout the organization. 

GSW is serious about getting rid of any real or perceived barriers and freeing everyone to be the best they can be. By continually bringing awareness to and a platform to discuss the issue of gender inequality and implicit biases, RISE serves as a catalyst in helping to better position our employees to openly, mindfully, and effectively communicate with, advocate for, and empower each other professionally and personally. What started as a way to make sure all employees were given equal coaching and opportunities for career growth has grown to also celebrating the diversity each of us brings to the table and championing the idea of truly listening to and learning about each other. The tragic death of George Floyd and too many others coupled with the Black Lives Matter movement reminds us that we still have much work to do, and we are committed to doing that work.

James Tinker: As a business, we have always wanted to be enablers of change, and we’ve driven that in a number of ways. Firstly, we close all offices on election days, so our teams can exercise their democratic rights to have a voice. Secondly, we’ve created additional leave time for team members to take time off and participate in organizations or movements that are looking to effect positive change. Finally, we will take on a pro bono account in each office every year (voted on by the staff), to support one of the organizations that they are active with, and where we can make an impact. Ultimately we want to do all of these things to drive real change instead of just paying lip service to it.

Eugene Lee: As an organization that was founded by a Black man, we take diversity, inclusion, equity and opportunities for all very seriously. We continually strive to improve and set higher goals than required and those that are above industry standards. Even beyond that we also look to support the development of new talent and give opportunities to those that previously would not have a chance to enter into the advertising and media industry. All these have been efforts for us before the Black Lives Matter movement, but that movement has emphasized the importance of our efforts. 

Jose Ferriera: We’ve always had a core commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality. We think hiring and encouraging different voices makes us a better agency. One that is best able to offer the dynamism clients ultimately want. Our efforts are part of an obviously much larger social movement, and we continue to strive to live our values daily. 

Seth Gordon

Seth Gordon: I’m very proud of how our team at EVERSANA ENGAGE and EVERSANA has embraced the diversity and equality challenges facing our nation.

When COVID-19 began, EVERSANA began weekly updates from our CEO, Jim Lang, to give an update on the business. When the social justice challenges began to arise in the summer months, the leadership team, including Jim and our general counsel, Franco Spraggins, hosted an entire update dedicated to why this topic matters at EVERSANA. They spoke about how discrimination and hatred have no place in our organization and how we’re committed to a diverse culture of inclusion.

But it wasn’t just words. Following that discussion, the company embarked on an effort to bring diversity and inclusion into our everyday working world. The company began an Unconscious Bias training, which all employees have been encouraged to participate in, where they learn how to identify and overcome biases. 

EVERSANA also created an eighth cultural belief based on employee feedback. Our beliefs are the core purpose of all we do, and through an employee-led initiative, in which many members of our ENGAGE team participated in, we launched our eighth culture belief: EMBRACE DIVERSITY. 

Chief Operating Officer and Culture Champion Megan Jones noted that we continue to look for ways to have a diverse, inclusive work environment that reflects the communities we serve and our clients. 

Mario Muredda: The Black Lives Matter movement and the heartbreaking societal events of 2020 have shocked us as people and professionals into accepting a very harsh reality: systemic bias exists in our cities, in our industry, and even at our beloved agency…and until we acknowledge it, talk about it openly, and commit to taking real actions to change that bias, it will not change. So we’ve acknowledged as a leadership team that our agency is not diverse enough, and that we must do better. We’ve learned that much of the work we do – while gripping and engaging – does not often enough respect and reflect the diversity of the audiences it is meant to serve, and that must change. And while we know that the health disparities Black Americans face are very real and run very deep and are largely addressable, we as a leading healthcare agency have not done enough to address them with our clients. So we are taking action. We’ve committed to diversifying our workforce. We’ve removed matched experience requirements from our job postings and hiring criteria. We’ve built a health disparities assessment and discussion into each and every one of our brand assignments, creative briefs, and strategic processes. And we’ve partnered with our clients to reinvent our joint creative processes to ensure that the work we do together reflects the communities it is meant to serve. But we’re not done yet. We know that this will be an ongoing process of learning, courageous truths, and reinvention and we are committed to doing the hard work to make a difference, and our clients are right there with us.

Robin Shapiro: TBWA has always considered itself a collective. Partnership, collaboration, and a radical openness to different ideas and experiences are in our pirate bones. So several years ago we embarked on a very purposeful journey to supercharge diversity, equity, and inclusion with a special emphasis on the inclusion because it’s where most diversity efforts fail. It’s not enough to recruit strong diverse talent because we know that if a person doesn’t feel comfortable at work, they’ll leave. So we work hard to create and sustain a culture in which everyone is able to bring their best self to work every day. If our focus is purely on the number of diverse candidates we bring in, we miss the opportunity for positive, lasting change. To that end, we have created a group called the Change Ambassadors. It includes a mix of leaders, levels, and departments across all business units. We’ve also developed a five-year plan that we’re in the midst of rolling out that includes initiatives such as #blackhealthnow. We launched BHN during Black History Month in February to highlight, educate, and spur action around health disparities in communities of color. In its eighth month, this platform continues to grow in its impact. We have had over 50,000 views on our livestreams and 2M impressions on Twitter. Recent topics include:

– To Trust or Not to Trust: The COVID-19 Vaccine and Black America

– Protecting Black Babies: Improving the Mortality Statistics

– Diabetes in Crisis: A Conversation With the CEO of the American Diabetes Association

Ken Begasse Jr. : First and foremost, it brought conversation, understanding and action. Everything we need as a society and a business to encourage growth. At our agency, it brought new voices into our DE&I community and it elevated our commitment to continue to reflect diversity and inclusion throughout our staff at every level. Admittedly, we can do better. So, we have revamped our recruiting efforts to identify ways to debias interview methods and broaden our reach into institutions, career groups and organizations with a more diverse talent pool.


4) Which healthcare topics would you like to see addressed by the U.S. government and politicians after the 2020 election results?  

Jay Carter

Jay Carter, Executive VP, Director of Business Development, AbelsonTaylor: The way that I read the tea leaves, there’s not going to be a lot of successful legislation in the next two years, as it’s highly likely that the Georgia runoffs will result in a Republican Senate. That means that only the highest priority issues will get addressed. Everybody that votes is unhappy with prescription drug prices, so I suspect that a bipartisan approach might have success… but I’m not holding my breath. I hope and expect the Biden administration to do whatever it takes (think Presidential Executive Orders) to insure orderly and risk-tiered administration of the millions of vaccine doses that ultimately the Fed will have purchased.

As for what I’d like… As a human being, I would like to see the portability of insurability and the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions be sustained. I think that will happen, based upon the recent commentary by conservative members of the Supreme Court. I’d like for the Hill to stop rattling sabers about removing deductibility for prescription drugs. I believe that Americans have a First Amendment right to understand the opportunities (and risks) afforded to them by our pharmaceutical industry. Truthfully, that’s a lot to ask for, but the government is supposed to work for us, right? 

Dan Sontupe

Daniel Sontupe, Managing Director and Associate Partner, The Bloc ValueBuilders: Well, it’s November 18 and we have one president-elect and one sitting president who is refusing to leave office. General healthcare topics are really falling on deaf ears today. There is only one topic on everyone’s mind. How do we get through this COVID-19 pandemic? Will the vaccine really be available soon? How will it be available for the general population? 

Eventually, we will get through the pandemic, but how will pre-existing conditions be handled? What is the Supreme Court going to do about the Affordable Care Act? How will the issues about systemic racism in healthcare be handled? Some people in government think the only thing they have to do in healthcare is simply make price transparent. Yes, that is a great first step, but you know the old adage: if you have to ask what it costs, you can’t afford it. Our healthcare should not be about price (price should be completely transparent); healthcare needs to be about compromise and best-in-class treatments. One of the biggest issues we have in healthcare is that the concern for price still trumps (sorry) value. Our healthcare system needs to put value on a pedestal. We need to invest in the best outcomes and the best partnerships and ensure that all stakeholders in healthcare are incented to work together vs fight each other. Imagine how great healthcare would be if providers, payers, and manufacturers were all incented to work together. If a hospital were better off using a drug than performing a surgery. Can we
legislate putting the patient first instead of the price? I’m sorry to say…I do not think we can, because I am not sure the U.S. government or politicians can come together enough to put anyone other than themselves first.

David Bowen

David Bowen, Ph.D., Practice Lead, Policy & Advocacy, Klick Health: After the elections, the three highest priority issues in health are COVID, COVID, and COVID. Rarely does a single issue so dominate the landscape – except that COVID is not really a single issue. The new Administration and Congress will face three phases in the COVID response: immediate, mid-term and long-term, all of which pose different challenges.

In keeping with Klick’s mission of improving health and our work with healthcare providers, innovators, and governments to help fight the pandemic, we hope that the United States will implement an effective, three-phase response to control the COVID pandemic and save lives.

Immediate: The U.S. has been less effective than most other nations in responding to the COVID pandemic. The day President-Elect Joe Biden takes office, he will put in place already developed plans for more coordinated testing, ramped-up production, and more control measures to help stop the spread of the virus. These can be thought of as protective measures until the cavalry — in the shape of new vaccines – arrives to provide more transformative help.

Mid-term: Once vaccines begin to be broadly available, the policy challenge will be to ensure their efficient, equitable and swift distribution. Depending on the exact characteristics of the vaccine(s) approved, that effort may involve unprecedented efforts on ultra-cold chain storage and other logistical challenges. Like a decisive campaign in a war, successful vaccine rollout will begin to stem the tide of the pandemic and allow us to move to defeat the virus, or at least battle it into retreat.

Long-term: The effects of the pandemic will be profound and will require significant policy responses. Many who have been affected by COVID will carry long-term health consequences. These need to be better understood and addressed, if possible. Substantial numbers of Americans have lost healthcare coverage and need viable options for receiving care. The pandemic is also changing the structure of healthcare, and policies need to keep pace, by facilitating telemedicine and other distributed systems of care. Facing those challenges will be the work of many years.

Michael Banner, Managing Partner, Moon Rabbit: We now have the technology and tools to improve the healthcare system exponentially through personalized healthcare solutions. I’m not just talking about the common thought that Personalized Health means right drug, right patient. I’m talking about reducing time to diagnosis, better disease prevention, not having to wait until diseases progress before taking additional action, and bringing drugs to market and expanding labels more quickly. There are many companies investing heavily in the area, but to fully realize its potential will require government policy and investment to create a common infrastructure so we all get the most of these solutions.

The opioid epidemic seems to have fallen off the radar in DC since the last election. Sure, there was some investment and some states have even passed opioid-antagonist co-prescribing laws, but it isn’t close to solving the problem. As a result, the problem has worsened with deaths in 2019 at an all-time high, and 2020 is tracking to be still even higher. We need serious legislation and investment to effect change, including rethinking how we view and treat people with substance abuse disorders. 

Gretchen Eberhart

Gretchen Eberhart, Executive VP, Director of Strategic Services, CDM Princeton: We are in one of the most exciting times to be working in healthcare, with advancements in science, technologies, and innovation, transforming the world unimaginable just five years ago. The work we are doing should be about trust, hope, and science. This shouldn’t be debated. We have to get back to a place where we trust our experts, believe in the science, and offer hope that a better life is possible for patients.

Wendy Blackburn: Biden’s administration has their work cut out for them with the pandemic now reaching new heights, and no doubt COVID-19 will be, appropriately, their key focus from day one. But the pandemic is not the only health-related topic churning on The Hill – issues such as drug pricing, the ACA, DTC advertising, Medicare, Medicaid, and health disparities and inequalities are all top of mind. 

Questions and concerns surrounding drug pricing aren’t going away. With Biden at the helm, the Affordable Care Act will likely remain or expand – and that means more Americans’ healthcare will be covered – which is good for everyone. But pandemic-related job losses have left some 14 million Americans without health coverage, so I’d like to see the industry address pricing concerns. Some of that is education, some is fixing the system, and some is – yes – lowering drug prices. Although the pandemic has made the public much more aware of the drug-development process, unfortunately, that new understanding will not translate into increased comfort levels with drug prices.

Kelly Wilder

Kelly Wilder: Given that PrecisionValue has been living and breathing all things market access for nearly two decades and the national dialogue is also well primed to listen to issues of systemic inequity in all sectors, including healthcare, it will be important to address the continued challenges with health equity. These efforts can focus on foundational issues, from improving access to quality food in disadvantaged communities to integrating social determinant of health as a part of the standard of care. Preventative care, cost of care, and care management support could significantly reduce challenges within minority and low-income communities while improving overall outcomes. These population health initiatives are central to our expertise and support the growing demand for life science innovators to develop and execute programs that support the promise of and shift toward value-based care. 

While we seek support from legislators for the future state of healthcare through preventative measures, it is also critical that we adequately manage the current state of the changing healthcare landscape. Effectively planning for coverage and reimbursement for novel therapeutics that either support ultra-orphan populations (eg, spinal muscular atrophy, Hemophilia A, etc) or address long-awaited new entrants to impacting large populations (eg, Alzheimer’s disease) should be central to health policy discussions. 

It is clear that we can continue to expect life science innovators to advance healthcare in substantial and meaningful ways for years to come. Our Precision teams are well equipped with the market insights and expertise to support the successful commercialization of these novel therapies, but it will be critical that Global HTA authorities, US legislators, and policy makers are ready to ensure appropriate access to patients and families who need these advances. 

Jose Ferreira

Jose Ferriera: The biggest issue likely to be resolved in 2020 and early 2021 is the ACA – will it be enhanced by Congress or be repealed or struck down through the Supreme Court? The law was passed 10 years ago and has grown in popularity throughout its existence. However, we may now see substantial changes to the law, which will have a domino effect in all areas of healthcare. The ACA when passed caused some market disruption and, in hindsight, has been objectively successful, while these upcoming changes, one way or the other, will also cause significant market disruption.

Seth Gordon: I believe we will see movement on the following policies post-election:

• The Affordable Care Action (ACA), which stills sits in limbo, awaiting a Supreme Court decision

• Pharmaceutical pricing, either with regard to international reference pricing or interchangeability of biosimilars

• Expansion of Medicare and Medicaid eligibility, coverage for new digital health technologies tools

• Funding of value-based care models

Brenda Aske: As an oncology-focused agency, we’re thrilled by the deep connection our new national leadership has with oncology. Joe Biden spearheaded the Cancer Moonshot and spoke of its mission to “eliminate cancer as we know it” at ASCO in 2016. Kamala Harris’ mother researched hormone receptors and their role in breast cancer. 

While cancer can strike anyone, certain groups suffer disproportionately. We hope the new administration encourages more research, increases opportunities for more people to access clinical trials, and advances opportunities in health equity to reduce the disparities in outcomes. 

Sharon Callahan: We’d like to go back to making it easier for people to enroll in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces. We think that’s good for public health, and good for many Americans. Given the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we foresee this happening. We’d also like to see a better job of advertising and informing people about their coverage options. We’d like to see the reversal of some policies in Medicaid that have made it harder for people to enroll, such as work requirements. 

In terms of legislation, the Biden/Harris administration has indicated that they’re not going to go for a sweeping change of the system, and instead will likely build on existing law. If that’s what they do, we’re hoping for more generous subsidies, particularly for middle-income families. The deductibles for many people in the marketplaces are bigger than they can afford, and drug prices– whether in ACA plans or employer plans – are a real issue. Some movement there, including the possibility of Medicare drug price negotiation, will most likely be on the table as ways to improve affordability and access.

Additionally, we would like to see more of the public-private partnership, cooperation, and collaboration that is yielding effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time. We were encouraged that 2020 saw a record number of new drug approvals. So we would like to see continued governmental agency support that accelerates innovative new treatments.


5) With an exponential increase in telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you see the role and impact of telehealth playing out in the years ahead?

Roshawn Blunt

Roshawn Blunt, Managing Director, 1798 (a Fingerpaint Company): From February 2020 through the end of April 2020, one estimate suggests that telemedicine grew from less than 1 percent of primary care visits to nearly 43.5 percent. With telemedicine’s current trajectory and rapid adoption rate, it has the potential to redefine how healthcare is delivered. Physician adoption of the technology was born out of the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, both patients and providers quickly identified that virtual services are a way to deliver and receive primary and specialty care for acute and chronic conditions while protecting patients and healthcare workers. Those pessimists who were skeptical of this technology may eventually have to add telemedicine to their care offerings because patients are becoming more accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides, and payers appreciate the efficient services that can be provided to patients.

So, what is the future of telemedicine?

The Virtuous Cycle

Telehealth was first recognized as a reimbursable service by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and became eligible for Medicare fee-for-service payment beginning in 1999. The situations in which it could be reimbursed, however, were limited. As a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services added 135 services that could be paid when delivered by telehealth, including emergency department visits, initial inpatient and nursing facility visits, and discharge-day management services. And now CMS is proposing to permanently allow some of those services to be completed by telehealth, including home visits for the evaluation and management of a patient. Similarly, before the pandemic all states had some form of Medicaid coverage for services delivered via telehealth, but reimbursement and regulation policies varied widely. Further, 43 states and the District of Columbia have laws that govern private payer reimbursement of telehealth. Some laws require reimbursement be equal to in-person coverage; however, most only require parity in covered services, not reimbursement amount. Not all laws mandate reimbursement.

The more payers embrace reimbursement for telehealth and thus communicate with its contracted providers and patients that virtual services are allowed and reimbursed at the same level as in-person services, the more telehealth use will increase. Because telehealth offers more access to primary care physicians and specialists, chronic diseases can be better managed or prevented through preventive care, significantly decreasing both the rate of these diseases and their costs to the healthcare system. It’s a virtuous cycle. The more reimbursement for virtual services, the greater their use and the bigger the reductions in healthcare costs.

Technological Innovation 

Since telehealth is still in its infancy, it’s likely that new technology will be introduced in the market to further support diagnosis and treatment of patients. There is a national waiver in place that allows the use of non-HIPAA-compliant platforms for communication; however, HIPAA-compliant approaches are critical. The advances in the tools that support patient care will be accompanied by advances in data security that should benefit patients. Because information is stored digitally, the cybersecurity industry will continue to focus on the medical field. The innovations made to strengthen digital security overall should benefit all people.

Support for the Independent Practitioner

Medicine has increasingly become a business. The rise of providers selling practices to hospitals as well as newly minted physicians electing to join integrated health systems rather than open a practice exemplifies the challenges practices have to remain viable. The rise of telehealth may help providers, especially those in specialties in which there is a shortage, attain and maintain financial stability for themselves. If location does not matter, then having a brick-and-mortar location may not matter. And this then benefits patients by giving them access to a larger network of doctors.

As the telehealth industry continues to grow, it will begin offering more services and technology, benefiting both doctors and patients.

Debbie Renner, CEO, SSCG Media; Jeff Persinger, Chief Data Officer, Omnicom Health Group and CEO, BioPharm Communications; Christina Kim, Executive VP, Data Analytics, Omnicom Health Group: COVID-19 has permanently changed how patients will engage around health. Telehealth has gone from being an innovation to a necessity, and at its best, it delivers an intimate and often enhanced patient experience. While it has taken a global pandemic to really push for this modernization in care delivery, there’s no going back. We see a hybrid future of patient care through both live and virtual visits. 

Debbie Renner

Although the transition to telehealth was abrupt for HCPs (who had little time to identify the right platform to use), we anticipate this stabilizing as platforms evolve to meet demand and HCPs have time to evaluate long-term solutions. Currently we’re seeing (and working with) a mix of dedicated telehealth platforms, EHR systems, video calls on mobile, and video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and WebEx.

And while HCPs have valid concerns about their ability to successfully treat patients virtually, 82 percent of HCP respondents to SSCG Media’s September MAPMD study reported they’re being proactive in planning for the next wave of the pandemic, and will be using telemedicine to navigate it. Seventy-eight percent of HCPs also plan to further increase their usage of telemedicine, but this varies by specialty and type of visit. Our data show that for almost half of HCP respondents, telemedicine will account for up to 25 percent of their patient appointments – with 24 percent anticipating follow-up appointments and refill requests being handled virtually. 

It’s worth noting that we’ve seen some interesting data among cancer-treaters in particular: oncologists say they’re more likely to reduce their number of live patient visits, and use telemedicine for up to 50 percent of patient visits. Our survey also indicated that telemedicine will likely reduce overall appointment times for oncologists at a higher rate than with other physician specialties. 

Given all of this, sustained reimbursement parity for in-person and virtual interactions will be absolutely essential for widespread acceptance of telehealth long after the pandemic is behind us. However, we believe it is only a matter of time. 

Jeff Persinger

Greater interconnectivity, remote working/living situations, and improved technologies will continue to accelerate the adoption of telehealth. Estimates for growth in global telehealth range from $40 billion today to $155 billion in 5 years, with the United States contributing a sizable chunk of that increase. As patients and HCPs become more comfortable with the medium – and as the technology improves – we can expect to see use expanding. We’re already witnessing customized telehealth solutions that address the unique needs of specialties. There are still barriers to overcome, such as connectivity issues in non-urban areas, but as these challenges are addressed, we expect to see even more growth. 

Greg Novello, Executive VP, Strategy, McCann Health Managed Markets: At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth use in the US grew significantly as providers and patients shifted to virtual care. Peaking in mid-April, telehealth accounted for almost 70 percent of total office visits. However, just a few months later, telehealth utilization has declined (although still higher than pre-pandemic rates) as more patients and providers shift back to in office visits. Though patients are feeling increasingly comfortable returning to in-person visits, the spike in telehealth has created a canvas for innovation and utilization in the future.

Telehealth will become a more accessible and routine care offering that will span across the entire patient care continuum and will have an impact in several key areas: 

Preventive care will expand, including greater access to primary care providers, as well as specialists and support patient care in an agile, timely and cost-effective manner.

Greg Novello

Behavioral health will be managed much more via telehealth and include important areas such as mental health (eg. depression, anxiety), addiction and nutrition.

Remote patient monitoring will expand and play an important role in population health management. This is especially true among the elderly/Medicare population with chronic and co-morbid conditions. With recent expanding coverage for remote patient monitoring, this area is ripe for growth.

Telehealth platform interoperability will enable the integration of clinical data and patient generated/reported data to optimize clinical decision making. 

Care coordination will evolve with the expansion of telehealth, connecting providers with patients, as well as with other providers. This real time connection among the full care team will generate optimal holistic care.

However, as we move out of the pandemic, several uncertainties still remain that will influence the evolution of telehealth: 

Payer coverage (commercial, federal, state) – How will access and coverage of services evolve? How will it compare to during the pandemic public health emergency?

Provider reimbursement – How will provider reimbursement evolve? How will it compare to in-office visits?

Patient cost sharing – What will the patient’s financial responsibility be?

Telehealth certainly is poised to change the traditional health care model and redefine the way health care is delivered in the future. As we move forward, stakeholders will sort through the landscape dynamics and further define the optimal roles of telehealth.

Erica Rivera

Erica Rivera, VP of Engagement Strategy, AbelsonTaylor: COVID taught us that telemedicine and telehealth (and teleworking, teleschooling, telesocializing, etc.) was possible when the pedal hits the metal. It also reignited the house call of old into a new modern house call that allowed us to have meaningful conversations with our doctors without putting ourselves at an exposure risk. It will be difficult to put this genie back in the box. Once we get a taste of a more efficient way to do things, our tendency is not to go backward. 

Patients expect more today than they ever have. Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we can expect more flexibility from our healthcare providers than we have seen in the past. Telemedicine prevalence should encourage patients to make appointments that have previously been an inconvenience and to maintain the correct care regime with their physicians. Telemedicine can reduce the difficulty for patients by allowing them the convenience of more easily booked appointments without significant waits, remove the travel time associated with in-person visits, and ideally eliminate the long in office waits before the appointment starts. The drudgery of routine appointments can be turned into a more streamlined and overall efficient experience. 

When you apply the opportunities telemedicine provides to those living in rural, under-served communities – where patients are vying for limited doctors and long journeys to the office are a significant hurdle – we should expect overall more positive outcomes as a result. The ability to use telemedicine to deliver primary and specialty care, as well as addiction counseling to this community in creative need cannot be underestimated. Taking this a step further, remote monitoring allows doctors a way to teach patients how to care for themselves and then see that take effect over time. 

Boris Kushkuley, Executive VP, Multichannel Marketing & Consulting, Intouch Group: The pandemic has provided an opportunity for a lot of new patients and physicians to experience telehealth. Payors finally became open to reimburse virtual visits at rates comparable to in-office visits. Telehealth is clearly here to stay, driven by the shift to digitization of healthcare-delivery workflows. Apps, online appointment scheduling, digital intake forms, SMS reminders and EMR systems all lend themselves as a foundation for heavier use of telehealth.

Telehealth visits peaked in April accounting for 33 percent of all visits, but, by October, that percentage dropped below 10 percent. Both patients and providers are starting to recognize that the convenience that tele-visits provide often is being offset by the inability to perform additional examinations or tests. 

Neha Thakur

Neha Thakur, Senior Consultant, Fishawack Health: The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is the acceleration of digital tools and technologies to improve the experience of patients and healthcare professionals, with 60 percent of patients revealing they would like to keep using virtual solutions in routine practices.

In the past, the industry was skeptical of these innovations. However, the pandemic has proved that telehealth can drive meaningful relationships and improve treatment and care. 

The use of digital therapeutics to manage patients during the pandemic, combined with record investment in digital health start-ups and regulatory changes in digital medical devices, all point to long-term widespread adoption of digital health. 

Telehealth and digital health tools are also being used in clinical trials, although the infrastructure must be improved for this trend to take hold. 

However, after an initial surge in telehealth appointments, numbers have stabilized, suggesting a ‘hybrid’ model of digital and face-to-face solutions will emerge in the future. 

Life sciences companies have a huge opportunity to provide new tools and services that add value in the patient journey, ranging from support services that identify clinics, to help self-administering medication, and technology that ensures the delivery of prescriptions on time. 

Even though there is a desire to utilize telehealth, there are still some key challenges that need to be addressed. Firstly, the ability to expand telehealth is limited to the tech-savviness of the patient. Secondly, there will be a need to understand how to manage and store the huge inflow of data. Thirdly, payers will need to determine reimbursement for telehealth. Finally, regulatory changes will be required to manage data privacy concerns across networks and states. 

However, the main driver of success will be dependent on whether the technology adds value. Developing rich insight and conducting scenario planning will be crucial to predict where telehealth services are needed and what the appetite is for digital innovation. An impeccable user experience and engaging educational materials are also vital for ensuring healthcare professionals and patients can easily access the technology. 

Transparency around data privacy and the efficacy of the technology is vital. In the UK, there is real distrust of the National Health Service (NHS) COVID-19 contact tracing app, with 60 percent of mobile phone users saying they do not trust the government with their data, and many saying they do not think the technology works. As a result, only 10 million people downloaded the contract tracing app out of a population of 59 million. People across Europe and the U.S. have echoed this sentiment, proving that trust is key to the success of these tools. 

David Cherry

David Cherry, SVP, Director of Customer Experience, Biolumina: In oncology, we see limited impact from telehealth, now and in the years ahead. After an initial spike of telemedicine visits in Q2 2020, the specialty has largely returned to in-person visits. According to recent IQVIA data, less than 5 percent of oncology patient consultations in September 2020 were conducted remotely.

For oncologists, disease and patient management in many cases requires bloodwork, infusions, and other diagnostic and treatment techniques that do not translate well into a virtual space. While cancer patients are generally at greater risk of more grave health impacts from COVID-19, oncologists have generally managed this risk by changing office visit protocols (eg, limiting the number of patients at any one time) and restricting non-patient visitors, rather than moving to telemedicine.

In other specialties we’ve seen significantly greater adoption, and even within oncology there is (and will continue to be) more telehealth visits taking place, but we do not see a widespread shift to this platform in this specialty.

Prodeep Bose

Prodeep Bose, Executive VP, Growth and Innovation, The Bloc: April 2020 saw a 4,500 percent increase in telehealth claims compared to a year ago. The most dramatic increases were seen in gastroenterology, rheumatology, immunology, and, interestingly, orthopedic surgery. While we wait to see the outcomes and quality measures related to the massive adoption of telemedicine, it’s quite clear that the acceptance and support for telemedicine (with parity reimbursement in many situations) represents a belief that it is just as good as in-person medicine. And this lays the foundation for a new role for telemedicine beyond the consult.

I believe that we will see a dramatic shift towards remote medicine when two things happen: one, telemedicine starts to integrate with remote patient monitoring and digital therapeutics to dramatically improve outcomes due to the synchronous connection between a condition and its management, and, two, board certifications to practice in specific states start to evolve to a network certification model. This would mean that a doctor in India could be a certified physician supporting remote consults for US-based patients. This would have the potential to solve the unsustainable projections of US healthcare costs.

The impact of a technology is rarely limited to the domain of that technology itself. Just as texting and emojis have changed the syntax of our language, telemedicine perhaps holds the keys to better global healthcare by creating a marketplace of technology and talent that can replicate the efficiencies of the complex supply-chain models that have shaped high-tech industry.

Maureen Hennessey

Maureen Hennessey, PhD, CPCC, CPHQ, Senior VP, Director of Value Transformation, PRECISIONvalue:
When managed care infrastructure and processes were in earlier stages during the 1980s, I led teams to develop strategies for better clinical and less costly outcomes. We introduced the concept of telehealth, when the term wasn’t yet understood, developing strategic innovations for telephonic outreach, later combined with e-health, crisis management, and home visits. Employing quantitative and qualitative data, we transformed outreach strategies, identifying “windows of opportunity” and “windows of vulnerability” that employed clinical and messaging tactics which strengthened connectivity with patients and their support networks. These innovations garnered recognition from eValue8, NCQA, and the National Academy of Medicine for reduced hospitalizations, improved patient safety, and enhanced consumer engagement. 

Alternative payment models (APMs) are increasing and evolving, driving greater practitioner accountability for managing cost and quality. I expect that telehealth, with demand accelerated by COVID-19, will be further adopted by APMs as a way to efficiently engage with patients, advancing individual and population health. Factors that will drive adoption include: 

Patient-centricity – patient expectations for convenient, “point-of-care-everywhere” options

Bridging the digital divide – efforts in states and cities to expand broadband access for all families to promote health equity

Clinician inertia – look for reimbursement policies, rates of reimbursement, and patient and clinician ease of use as influencers of adoption

Public and private payers, including employers and risk-bearing entities – will drive payment rates and policies, and as even more data is gained, ROI and patient care experience will be drivers with potentially more targeted segment growth, and practices to limit fraud, waste and abuse

Health systems – are prioritizing easier patient access in 2021 innovation plans; their success at combining “hi touch” with “hi tech,” with patients as co-designers, will impact adoption and market differentiation

M&A – beyond the $18.5B Teledoc Health/Livongo deal, more M&A are anticipated, as companies seek to expand offerings, functions and telehealth support services, and further shape the market

Bundling of offerings – as entities expand their telehealth offerings and functionality, look for new alliances and product (therapeutic and device) distribution channels to also influence growth

Strategic alliances among established entities, entrepreneurial innovators, policy makers, quality and clinical leaders, and patient advocates will sustain telehealth adoption, if they’re successful at facilitating safe, secure, and seamless connection and care throughout the patient journey, and demonstrating its value.

Julianne Dunphy

Julianne Dunphy, PhD, Director, Medical Strategy and Solutions, Cambridge BioMarketing: Telehealth/telemedicine is not a new thing. It’s been around in some form or other for almost a century. We have seen advances in technology, established models of acute care, extensive literature on the value of telemedicine, position papers and training tools, and centers of excellence with prominent telemedicine programs. And yet, owing to a multitude of barriers and resistance, telemedicine hadn’t widely taken hold in everyday clinical practice. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the medical field’s hand. Necessity demanded immediate accommodations and catalyzed the adoption of telemedicine at unprecedented levels. 

What will happen to telemedicine once the pandemic is under control? As lockdown restrictions relax, so too does the mandate to stick to virtual visits. This will lead to the return to a more conventional model for a large proportion of healthcare delivery. In many cases there is no substitute for in-person interactions or making physical contact to examine or diagnose a patient, not to mention performing necessary procedures. Nevertheless, telemedicine is here to stay. In fact, its adoption was already on a rapid rise before 2020 according to the American Medical Association’s Digital Health Study (2019). Hybrid healthcare delivery is likely; in particular, the potential for enduring use of virtual visits may be borne out in remote management of chronic diseases. 

The pandemic nudged along a growing wave of innovations in remote monitoring and reporting. Mobile health technology will increasingly facilitate partnerships with physicians and other providers. We’re going to see new alliances among companies in different sectors and novel ways to use remote testing and monitoring in unusual settings. There is great promise in using remote and mobile technologies to bring better healthcare to underserved populations.

That said, there are still many barriers and issues to overcome. Broader acceptance and persistence of telemedicine hinges on medical, policy, business, privacy, and regulatory factors. It’s also essential to remember that telemedicine fundamentally relies on modern information and communication technology. More equitable access to high-speed internet, something tens of millions of Americans live without, will mean greater ability to realize the true potential of telemedicine.

Mark Pappas

Mark Pappas, Senior VP, Innovation, CMI/Compas: Prior to the pandemic, from a media perspective, brands were hesitant to get involved with telehealth as it was a new channel that was pretty much unexplored. Fast forward 6 months and telehealth is the new normal. While many practices are opening up, many people are now still having their HCP visits facilitated through a variety of video applications ranging from Teledoc to Doximity Dialer to FaceTime. While usage has increased exponentially, the ways for brands to get involved with messaging around telehealth sessions is still evolving. In the years ahead, telehealth is not going anywhere, and providers will continue to innovate to separate themselves from each other. Branding opportunities will continue to evolve and will be a necessary touchpoint for the foreseeable future. 

James Tinker: Telehealth has been a standout success story during the pandemic, and the integration of telehealth into workflows and systems has been fantastic. Ultimately, it’s hugely important, and there will be a long-term role for it. There will always be situations where patients – for a number of reasons, from access to transportation to time to family support – can be better supported in this remote manner. That said, for me at least, there is still a huge importance in the human relationship between an HCP and a patient, the benefits of having staff (eg nurses, technicians, etc) to continue conversations after the specialist and answer questions in-person. So yes, it will continue to play a big role – and it will be very valuable there – but I don’t see all healthcare shifting to this model immediately.

David Stemler

Kristen Gengaro | David Stemler| Deepa Patel: The sustained, post-pandemic increase in telehealth adoption is pretty clear at this point. What’s less clear is who and how. In terms of “who,” I think we are very soon going to see new entrants competing with the Teladocs of the world, especially the big tech guns such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple. With that competition will come the seamless integration of other technologies, optimized functionality, and data-driven learning – the “how.” 

It’s not hard to imagine a world of digital doctor appointments in which waiting rooms are run by chatbots, algorithms are listening to anonymized conversations in order to optimize treatment protocols, and Zocdoc-like ratings can be shared instantly to an even broader social network. But that expansion will, as it always has, come with increased scrutiny, especially as it pertains to health records. Whoever wins the day in telehealth will need the ability to protect user privacy amidst an explosion of adoption and a major increased need for connectivity. 

JD Cassidy: The impact of telehealth is identified as one of the top 20 trends (A New Era of Home Diagnosis) in our annual 2021 Trends Reports. Healthcare appointments are down in nearly every category. Patients are avoiding care – from the emergency room to their general practitioner’s office – to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19. But those precautions can lead to late diagnoses, exacerbations, and so many health worries. Home diagnostics and self-monitoring are standing in the gap, with big anticipated growth in categories ranging from ADHD to colonoscopy and cholesterol to HIV. This big next step past Dr. Google is set to give patients and families interesting new ways to explore their hunches and start important conversations with their providers. You can read more about this trend at trends.health

Eliot Tyler | Deb Deaver | Dina Peck | Tom Galati: Telehealth platforms are not new. However, prior to COVID-19 they were used on a small scale, and the restrictions limited how telehealth could be used. HCPs also had limited incentives to adopt the platforms. Now, telehealth has been accelerated, and restrictions are less of an issue. While the technology isn’t perfect, significant investments are being made to enhance the experience. In fact, virtual visits are expected to make up 20-30 percent of future patient interactions.

In the years ahead, we expect that telehealth will be fully integrated into patient care. As we think about the totality of the patient experience, it isn’t just about the video call. It is also about everything that happens before and after that interaction, which ultimately drives to better health outcomes. With a mix of in-person and virtual health appointments, patients will be better able to track their health and provide information to their HCPs in real-time. For high-risk patients or patients living with pre-existing conditions, telehealth can help focus on preventative care instead of reactive care. 

The telehealth trend is exciting for many reasons. Our Telehealth Task Force is already helping clients make use of telehealth to nurture more frequent and more productive patient engagements. Perhaps most inspiring about telehealth will be its ability to allow patients in underserved communities to connect with specialists they would previously not have had access to. In some ways, an increase in telehealth engagements will enable more equal health – connecting patients with the best physicians regardless of where they live, and ideally making appointments more affordable.

Seth Gordon: COVID-19 has helped us embrace digital technologies like telehealth more than ever before. Everyone – from elementary students to grandparents – within weeks became experts on “connecting through Zoom.” 

Leana Wood, managing director of Business Development, stated, “I think this bodes well for the future of telehealth and presents tremendous opportunities for HCPs to connect with patients in new ways. Every patient has unique circumstances, and during the pandemic, America’s elderly population may have higher risks in leaving their homes. We worked with one of our clients to quickly implement and mobilize a telehealth program that allowed dermatologists to diagnose melanoma remotely. We facilitated Zoom calls with the doctor and had genomic testing kits with step-by-step instructions delivered directly to the patient’s home. We were able to provide a safe diagnostic alternative to one of the deadliest cancers. Together, we deployed an awareness campaign to bring this innovative and alternative solution to these at-risk patients.” 

In many ways, the pandemic has broken down barriers that were once thought impossible to overcome. We’re pushing ourselves to adapt and develop new solutions that may ultimately and permanently enhance patient care. 

Deb Goldberg

Will it ever replace the value of healthcare delivered in person? Absolutely not. But for some conditions and symptoms, telehealth will continue to be a safe, efficient and impactful way for doctors and medical teams to stay connected with patients.

Deb Goldberg: It’s hard to imagine a positive aspect coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is a silver lining. This pandemic accelerated the need for our industry to adopt and advance technologies and innovations such as telehealth. As we set our sights to a post-COVID-19 environment, I am hopeful we continue to advance our thinking and push these innovations to the next level.

Eugene Lee: The normal nature (Moore’s Law) of continual technology improvement would have made an impact on having telehealth be a part of care for the future. I believe that the pandemic has officially solidified that future and accelerated it forward. Moving forward, I believe telehealth will be a standard option for care. Being able to extend care options and provide quality care in mobility challenged, urgent and/or distant situations is a good thing. 


6) Some health experts expect patient engagement technology will be the most competitive technology in 2021. Which are the patient engagement technology trends to watch moving forward?

Alexandra Charge

Alexandra Charge, Senior VP, Product Offerings and Marketing, Clinical Trials Solutions, Hū (a part of W2O): 2020 has proved the undisputed need to evolve patient engagement through technology. The disruption of face-to-face interaction caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic resulted in increased use of digital health solutions such as telemedicine, mHealth apps, sensors, etc. In 2021, we expect these technologies to drive greater access to clinical trials and increasing opportunities for diversity in participation. 

Patients now demand so much more, and their voices as the health consumers impact many aspects of medical care, including clinical trials. There is an expectation from regulators and patients that there is more co-participatory involvement in end-to-end drug development – but historically, the ease of acquiring and applying large representation has been challenging. By enabling greater use of digital technology platforms to connect with, engage, and co-design with a large volume of online participants, we expect patient engagement to improve significantly.

Franklin Williams, Senior VP, Digital Experience, The Bloc: In 2020, patient engagement technologies took a leap forward, not only from a technology perspective, but from a population adoption standpoint as well. The numbers associated with remote care are staggering, as are the figures around healthcare apps that promote better health; however, the overall patient engagement landscape remains fragmented and security remains a concern. 

With the increase of engagement tools available for patients, it will be more important to create consolidated platforms that can act as the hub or center of a patient’s healthcare experience. Simply tracking or reporting on patient health will not be enough. Instead, pulling disparate data feeds together to create a dashboard of personalized health will need to occur to help make patient engagement technologies even more useful in the years to come.

Franklin Williams

Along with data consolidation, data security, especially of healthcare data, continues to be a major concern for patients and should remain a focus area for engagement technologies and platforms. The adoption of engagement technologies continues to be linked to the trust they can establish between themselves and the patient, and this trust comes from transparency. As these technologies continue to progress, transparency in data collection, transmission, and processing will help to increase the comfort of the patient and overall adoption of new technologies.

Finally, data integration and security will still fall short if they are not tied together by a thoughtful and easy patient experience. Those patient engagement technologies that focus on creating personal, bespoke, healthcare journeys for their patients will further differentiate themselves and move forward as frontrunners in this market.

Taking these three areas into account, in 2021, I see the emergence of technologies that open themselves to integration and the further emergence of platforms that become the bridge for those data streams and help drive uniformity and normalization of patient data. With an overall focus on interoperability, data security, and patient experience, I expect there to be a continued trend toward the democratization of personalized healthcare.

Rob Zand, Senior VP, Experience Strategist, McCann Health New York: Through FutureScape, our proprietary tool for gathering and analyzing trends, we have identified three key trends in healthcare innovation with regard to patient engagement:

1) The ever present yet invisible health monitor

Rob Zand

Health innovation is going where the patient is, embedding itself into everyday items and consequently making it easier and easier for patients to stay updated on their current health and wellness. The obvious example is the continuous improvement of the Apple Watch – its latest version incorporates both the simple (i.e. a hand washing timer) and the advanced (a blood oxygen app), but it is hardly alone. Amazon, with its Alexa device, is making drug information more widely available. In particular, we are inspired by the company’s partnership with First Databank, which is making common drug interactions, as well as pricing information, accessible by voice command. If it’s an object that patients use frequently, we expect to see an added health aspect, particularly one that can capture data. 

2) The rise of the data intermediary

Problem: the inability of patients to fully leverage the health data their wearables generate because there is too much of it or it is unactionable. Solution: digital health companies that develop technologies for patients, then collect and analyze the data with patients and work with their doctors. Two recent examples:

– Arine expanding their medication optimization pilot in Oklahoma, bringing their AI-driven treatment plans to more individuals through a virtual pharmacy (the pharmacy looks at all medications that the patient is taking and identifies any harmful interactions)

– Omada Health’s digital diabetes prevention program helping tracking Nebraskans with diabetes to offer support and coaching. Beyond augmenting the doctor, these efforts engage patients in specific geographic areas of need, expanding a doctor’s office radius. 

3) Increased data sharing and peer interaction

One area where COVID-19 has impacted innovation directly is in the creation of virtual spaces to replace or augment engagements that used to happen in the physical world. Doctor patient interactions have changed with the broader adoption of telehealth appointments, yet these engagements are in their infancy, and today represent the all too familiar video conference. We are watching for laser focused start-ups to begin to replace the loss of in-person examination and sampling with more sophisticated remote monitoring tools. Seeing a patient virtually, in their personal environment has given doctors greater context. The incorporation of observed data will take this to the next level.

Gary Scheiner

Gary Scheiner, Executive VP, Executive Creative Director, CDM Princeton: For the past year, more than 49 percent of Google searches performed ended without a click as the search giant continues to favor “featured snippet” results. A snippet is a short summary of the content of a website that appears embedded at the very top of a search result list. As snippet prevalence grows, users may no longer even explore the first page of search results. Brands with modest SEM budgets must compete for real estate on the first page of search results. This can be a sizable challenge when educating and engaging with patients about conditions in crowded product markets. As brands vie for over market share, a laser sharp focus on snippet schemas can help new entrants hack their way to dominating search results and digital share of voice. 

David Sakadelis, Senior VP, Technology, Heartbeat: With market size estimates ranging in the tens of billions, it’s no surprise that patient engagement solutions will continue to be a competitive area for technology. The power of this tech solves two major issues: supporting overwhelmed docs during patient visits and creating more personal experiences between visits to foster greater consistency of care. 

What’s this look like? Conversational interfaces like voice and chat that “push” information over the traditional static website and app “pull” models; greater use of true AI to surface crucial patient details and the latest clinical data to the HCP at the time of care; more connectivity with these systems and smart health devices; and lastly, a reliable and safe way to secure this data and interop between platforms and providers along the way – possibly through a blockchain.

You can imagine how such systems could provide HCPs with contextually rich information within their EHR systems at the moment of treatment, and how patients could be offered easier access to relevant disease state information during online touchpoints, creating richer, more personal experiences for both audiences. After all, if Amazon can get to know me and predict my shopping behaviors, shouldn’t my healthcare provider, my insurer, and my system of care do the same for my healthcare needs?

David Windhausen

David Windhausen, Executive VP & President, Intouch B2D (a part of Intouch Group): Our expectations for the delivery of personal value from the brands with which we choose to engage as consumers continues to grow; this trend is also true as we become patient-consumers within healthcare. As such, we have come to expect our needs will be more readily understood and met with each interaction as we take the next step on our own personal healthcare journeys. The currency of customer experience in this new age is data. Data will be the primary driver for the creation of patient engagement technologies that deliver continued advancements in relevance and value.

The first area of impact on patient engagement will be the continuing move toward holistic personal health management ecosystems. Examples of innovation in these areas are Amazon’s recent overtures into the healthcare marketplace with Amazon Care, Haven and the acquisition of Pillpack. Disruption in this space is likely to come from players outside of the current healthcare landscape who already have a head start on the adoption and maturity of their digital acumen, a large captured user base, and the cash on hand to pursue innovation and cost savings simultaneously.

The success of these new patient engagement models will depend highly on the use of data within the second area of impact, the enablement of AI and machine learning. According to the market research report “Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Market by Offering (Hardware, Software and Services), Technology (Deep Learning, Querying Method, NLP, and Context Aware Processing), Application, End-User Industry, and Geography – Global Forecast to 2022”, published by MarketsandMarkets™, the use of AI and machine learning within the healthcare space is poised to become an $8 billion dollar industry by 2022. The use of AI and machine learning within healthcare has a wide range of potential impact – from enabling research and clinical trials to the creation of new tools and services that provide a deeper level of individualized personalization.

The continued rise of AI and machine learning in healthcare will also be a primary driver for advancement in personalized treatment plans. Predictive healthcare will be at the forefront in addressing issues of patient access and adherence, especially in light of the new landscape of healthcare post-COVID19. Integration of predictive models across a patient’s healthcare journey, from their doctor, to Rx, to disease state management will open pathways for personalized tools and trackers that will drive better individualized patient outcomes.

Leslie Rotz

Leslie Rotz, Director, Digital Strategy & Operations, MedThink Communications: Patient engagement technology can satisfy a multitude of needs. It can empower patients to take control of their own care; assist HCPs in making data-driven treatment decisions; consolidate telemedicine into a user-friendly, streamlined format; and impact patient outcomes through assisting in product development.

Digital therapeutics (DTx) and complete disease management systems can meet many of these goals. A combination of FDA-approved software products and mergers within the pharmaceutical and technology spaces in 2020 is spearheading competition in that space. 

In addition to this, 2020 saw the evolution of virtual clinical trials. COVID-19 has required the industry to change its processes rapidly and could very well be a tipping point for the future. According to GlobalData’s Pharma Clinical Trials database, COVID-19 has disrupted more than 1,200 clinical trials worldwide. Adding a telemedicine capability to these trials could allow clinicians to evaluate participant well-being and complete assessments remotely, where appropriate. Participants also could use telemedicine to connect with clinicians or other trial investigators to address any questions or concerns, likely improving engagement and retention.

John Deely

Eliot Tyler | John Deely, Executive VP, Digital Experience | Todd Weinstein, Senior VP, Digital Strategy & Analytics | Patients & Purpose: The patient engagement technology trends that we’re watching closely revolve around mobile, wearables, artificial intelligence, and data. These technologies, when combined, provide sophisticated tools for patients to engage with their healthcare providers in a more convenient way than has been possible until now. 

Mobile devices and wearables continue to get more advanced, miniaturized, connected and affordable year after year. Industry research shows that the wearable technology market was valued at $16 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $52 billion by 2022 and mobile has seen significant growth as well with nearly 28 percent of all Americans using mHealth apps in 2017 and that number is expected to rise to 40 percent by 2022 especially with COVID-19 affecting doctor visitation.

 Artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to help patients, HCPs and companies get better, more real-time, actionable insights. Specifically with AI, we’ve seen usage of this technology increase ROI and adherence rates within patient CRM programs to 5:1 whereas traditionally they were at only 2:1. Our own experience with AI has been extremely successful. This year we launched the Ella the Jellyfish Alexa voice skill to engage and help children living with a very rare type of epilepsy. We see the success of this early pilot as extremely promising for the role AI can play in supporting patients with many other conditions. And with more people staying at home because of COVID-19, we foresee an acceleration in AI adoption in 2021.

 We also see remote monitoring and digital therapeutic platforms advancing rapidly to help manage and predict health outcomes, alerting people of potential risks and when to see an HCP. Data show that the global digital therapeutics market size was valued at $2.88 billion in 2019, and is expected to reach $13.80 billion by 2027 which marks significant growth in distance-based care that doesn’t always require a doctor to be physically present. Remote monitoring, combined with telehealth, holds the promise of leading a paradigm shift in patient care.

Todd Weinstein

But beyond the technology, we eagerly anticipate patient engagement technologies such as patient portals and secure messaging platforms to become much more modern and user-friendly to equal the customer experience of services such as Seamless, Uber, Apple, and Amazon. We believe that ultimately, technologies and platforms that put the patient experience in the center will win. An example of this is Amazon, which purchased PillPack for $1 billion and launched Haven Healthcare, which is looking to disrupt the healthcare system. Furthermore, Amazon has loaded its conversational AI Alexa system with healthcare skills, such as notifications when prescriptions need to be refilled and information on a user’s blood sugar levels.

Erica Rivera: I am most interested in the intersection of the many wearables that are capturing and transmitting data and then turning those into usable ways for our physicians to better guide our health and lifestyle choices. Personally, I have been wearing a Whoop fitness band since late Spring 2020 after seeing reports of the early detection properties it was providing for patients with COVID. Unexpectedly it has caused me to change my behaviors in order to boost my daily recovery score while maintaining high daily strain – all in the quest to drive my fitness forward. It is a shame that the data I have coming to me isn’t transferring to my physician and allowing us to better guide my slide into mid-life aging! The blend of wearables with AI holds the power to capture and crunch data in a way that could cut down on unnecessary doctor visits, deepen the engagement and the time I have during appointments and potential ID concerns before we even know to have them. We need to get these out of the hands of the super-nerds or fitness geeks only and push for more mainstream utility. It could be that Amazon’s Halo is going to do just that.

Mark Pappas: Health-focused wearables will be the technology with the most patient engagement. If sales numbers are any indication there is no slowing down in this market – especially in a COVID-19 world where there is an elevated interest in health and wellbeing. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, Apple Watch shipments were up 20 percent reaching close to 14 million watches sold. Apple, Samsung, and Huawei all saw triple digit increases in their wearables sales in Q4 2019. With the new Apple Watch 6, Apple is bringing a pulse oximeter and a host of other vitals measuring metrics to the masses. Seeing companies like Apple and Amazon released health-focused wearables and Google purchasing Fitbit shows that this is already an uber-competitive marketplace with no signs of slowing down. 

Seth Gordon: Patients expect every organization to have an “app for that,” where you can tap to have your profile updated and your items delivered with the click of a mouse, a swipe of a phone or a command to a home assistance device such as Alexa, notes Taegan Grice, managing director, Creative, EVERSANA ENGAGE.

We are in an era of convenience, and as consumers we expect timely and accurate responses to our needs. Patients expect access to information and even physicians at their fingertips. We must understand what they need and tailor our solutions accordingly, so we’re not just adding to the noise but instead adding value to their lives. 

Those organizations that succeed in the future understand this and will be able to create seamless experiences for patients in a safe, secure manner.

We continue to see machine learning and AI-powered technologies fueling this patient engagement trend, helping put patients first. We expect to see an increase in wearable technologies to help patients with adherence and engagement. At EVERSANA, it’s intentional that at the middle of all our services is the patient. We must always keep this focus.

Michael Banner

Michael Banner: We all know that for years, patients have wanted to be more engaged in their healthcare but early attempts failed because they didn’t consider the user experience at all. It was all too cumbersome and the information wasn’t personal enough. Now we are seeing a much greater emphasis on UX and making exchange of information more relevant to each patient. For example, an app in development that includes weekly vision tests for macular degeneration, pushing results to care teams to review and monitor but importantly also pushing pertinent content and information specific to the patient and his/her context based on the test results and history. The importance of UX across the industry right now is paramount, which is why we have built teams dedicated to that within our agency.

Maureen Hennessey: One of the problems we faced in pioneering telehealth tactics was when to stop the messaging interventions. With limited resources, long-term outreach and messaging was unsustainable. But now, we’re facing the realities of vaccine and medication hesitancy. There’s the realization in the public and population health spheres that our population-public health messaging and interventions must be sustainable for the long term.

So, the main trend I see that differentiates the managed care and population health era from the era of pandemic and infodemic care is the constant and more sophisticated application of public health messaging. On the scale of Lady Bird Johnson’s “Make America Beautiful Again,” campaign, Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, a new campaign must be launched to build consumer/patient trust in the efficacy of vaccines and medications.

I expect omni-channel patient engagement campaigns supported by the public and private sectors and trusted messengers, leveraging amplifying technologies, patient co-design, analytics, precision messaging tailored to individuals’ and families’ priorities and goals, and harnessing mobile and remote technologies with behavioral technologies like crisis management, social networking, and positive psychology. These campaigns are imperative to tackling the current contagion of misinformation and disinformation impeding an effective public health response and sowing confusion and distrust. Finally, the lessons we learn during this endeavor will be applied to future public health emergencies, and to chronic disease management.


7) What are more creative ways to foster the connection between brands and their audiences via digital channels?

Carolyn O’Neill, Chief Creative Officer, Centron: Over the past year of distance existence, we have all had a deep appreciation for our digital connectivity. The truth is, we also face a collective cultural spamming. More than ever, creativity must get beyond brand (and agency) centricity to deliver content that is meaningful to customers and allow them to engage on their own terms and own time—even if that means getting eyes off the device. Keeping things simple and digestible, utilizing print and audio channels, and creating experiential, tactile touchpoints cannot be underestimated. 

We are also seeing customers crave authentic connection and personal engagement. In finding new ways to produce content, we’ve leaned into the constraints and created work with a deeper level of realism and authenticity. We also believe in nurturing the creativity we’re all applying in our lives, for example, facilitating “DIY” and self-directed content creation efforts we’re seeing in from sales representatives. 

Ultimately, we are finding creativity is about embracing our clients’ departure from “business as usual” and finding the inspiration and opportunity in the unexpected.

Susan Perlbachs

Susan Perlbachs, Chief Creative Officer, Intouch Group: I am thrilled by the impromptu connections forged by “fast-vertising.” Fast-vertising has become increasingly valuable in social media, allowing companies to gain connections and relevance by leveraging pop culture trends. Until recently, my favorite example was Aviation Gin running their Peloton holiday spoof within 72 hours on social media, generating tremendous discussion and brand recognition. But since Nathan Apodaca’s viral TikTok video circulated, I’m singing “Dreams” on the Ocean Spray train … or skateboard. That video brought so many of us joy during the discomfort of 2020. And Ocean Spray played it perfectly. They let the video ride the viral wave, then gifted Nathan with a new truck and truckload of Ocean Spray products – going viral themselves and scoring time on primetime national news. It was a feel-good connection in a year where there were few to be found. 

The other digital connection inflection point I’m hot on is addressable TV. “TV isn’t digital,” you say? I beg to differ. These days, it might even be more accurate to simply call it video. Linear TV couldn’t be optimized; it was the “spray and pray” model. But now, with addressable TV, it’s all just another screen and another channel to deliver customized content ­– which means you can forge the same connections as programmatic. One of my favorite things to let clients know these days is that TV isn’t expensive at all. We can even talk about doing addressable TV for rare disease brands – brands in desperate need of personalized, relevant connections.

Noah Lowenthal, Senior VP, Creative Director, AbelsonTaylor:

What will the 5G revolution bring?     

Fourth generation (4G) cellular network technology allowed smartphones to fully realize their potential. The ubiquitous use of mobile phones to share photos, stream videos and music from almost anywhere, the explosion of social media (including videos), ordering an uber, ordering dinner, get real-time traffic updates informed by a thousand other drivers was all made possible by 4G.

In healthcare, 4G has allowed us to securely access our personal health records from anywhere in the world, introduced health trackers, telemedicine during the pandemic, and more. 

In short, 4G transformed society forever.

Noah Lowenthal

But now, the 5G revolution is upon us with download speeds expected to blow past today’s 4G networks. This translates to the ability to transmit incredible amounts of data over the network with very low latency which, in turn, enables a virtually limitless number of secure and instantaneous connections between people, sensors, and the systems that connect them. 

Of course this will include health sensors and medical devices. It is conceivable that in ten years we may have an array of health sensors built into not just our phones and smart watches but our clothes and appliances. The bandwidth will exist to move from a passive collection model to a dynamic push-pull of information. Marketers might be able to offer real-time, location-based input to consumers as they go about their day. In the pharmacy aisle? How about a suggestion for your gout? At the restaurant? Consider this dish for your cholesterol. Healthcare connectivity will be contextual, and it will be untethered from your phone.

The low latency of 5G offers the potential to also transmit extremely important data at critically fast speeds for areas such as telemedicine at 4K or higher (is that a benign mole or is it skin cancer?) and even telesurgery (no lag between the virtual surgeon and the very real scalpel, please).

The infrastructure needed to support 5G has begun its rollout in major metropolitan areas, including within major hospital systems. Just like 4G we can expect the applications to catch up in the years to come. But if you’re looking ahead, its time to think beyond the mobile phone. Its time to think about where individuals are and what they’re doing in the moments where healthcare choices are made.

Chris Seda

Chris Seda, Director of Experience Design, FCB Health Network: As our customers, end users, and audiences adopt more and more devices, from smartphones to smart speakers, their expectations for seamless integration with their devices is only going to increase. To that end, it’s only a matter of time before users start getting bored with being served up the same content on each device, only ported over to a different layout.

Instead, imagine a digital world where you begin the morning routine by asking Alexa for your daily flash briefing, and Alexa responds with a rundown of your local news, the daily commuter train schedule, today’s weather, and some quick snippets of the newest content appearing on your favorite brand’s website, along with some cards that include the respective links.

Later, while on your daily commuter train into the city, you dig deeper with your smartphone into what Alexa highlighted earlier for BrandX.com. But, instead of just being served up a responsive website with a layout that’s optimized for mobile viewing, you’re presented with a mobile site with content that’s optimized for on-the-go viewing.

 Of course, while this kind of mobile brevity may be useful on a short commute, you’ll appreciate that an article you were interested in while on the train is programmatically featured at the top of the desktop site for BrandX once you arrive at the office.

Now, regardless of the device you’re using, the content you’re most interested in is not only optimized for a given viewpoint, but it’s also contextually relevant.

 As a User Experience practitioner—and user of multiple devices—this is one example of a useful and usable evolution of connecting our audiences to our brands. Let’s figure out the best way to tailor content—not just reorganize it—depending on what I’m doing, where I am, and how relevant it is across the devices I’m using and the digital channels I’m interacting with.

Gordon Clark

Gordon Clark, Senior VP, Group Director of Engagement, McCann Health New Jersey: If COVID-19 has shown marketers anything, it’s that digital channels, like TikTok or Veeva Engage, can rush to prominence and leave brands scrambling to catchup. The need to understand your customers, and the emotional connections they have with your brand before there’s a seismic shift in the market has never been more apparent. Similarly, the players in the healthcare space are not monolithic and have identities outside of their healthcare roles. Doctors are not solely prescribers, and patients are not solely patients, and both have come to expect that the brands they support understand how, and where, they want to interact.

P&G was able to find a creative way to foster relationships with customers by partnering with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio doing the #DistanceDance to encourage social distancing. The spot earned her a place on PRWeek’s Health Influencer 50, alongside the likes of Anthony Fauci and Andrew Cuomo – for a TikTok video. Another great out-of-category creative use of context is Progressive Insurance’s “Zoom Meeting” campaign, which was immediately relevant to millions of potential customers. Ultimately, creative connections occur when brands are present in the moments that are most relevant and important to customers.

The multi-voiced brand model has not been fully adopted by pharma but it has become essential in digital marketing. It gives brands an opportunity to reflect the tone and context of a particular channel, delivering content in a way that is acceptable to customers, while still remaining true to the brand’s purpose. Likewise, properly placing content in the right medium (eg., email vs. video vs. social) can increase the reach and impact of that content by making it more valuable to customers.

True connection comes when brands recognize the value exchange between themselves and their customers: they provide a positive customer experience and in return, they get customer loyalty. Digital channels give us 24/7 access to customers, but brands need to show up authentically and respect the context that the customer is in that moment.

Lacey Christman

Lacey Christman, Head of Creative, Fishawack Health: During COVID-19, the virtual congresses emerged as a great way to use digital channels to build better relationships between brands and their audiences. However, even the most successful moves to virtual have experienced limitations on the exhibitor websites that affect navigation, creativity, and functionality. 

In some cases, if the associations could not be flexible with what the exhibitor’s page offered and companies have had to pull out the event entirely because the MLR (medical, legal, or regulatory) teams were uncomfortable with elements displayed. 

To solve this, we created our own virtual congress platform that allowed for complete control. We wanted the space to represent the company and serve as an extension of their identity – not just an off-the-shelf option they slapped their logo on to. We examined the architecture of their campuses around the world, and we pulled elements into this virtual environment. 

The key to ensuring digital channels create a connection between brands and their audiences is affectivity. For any brand to be effective, it must first be affective – connecting with the audience on a deep emotional level. 

It was always our goal to bring the human to the virtual. We wanted our virtual congress experience to take the best of a live congress experience without trying to replicate all of it. We wanted our users to feel like they were in the space and engaging with the interactivities, as they would at a live booth. However, a three-dimensional rendering of a live booth also isn’t necessarily how users want to engage with content when sitting at their desks. 

We created an environment that the HCP could navigate as if they were walking around a booth while still mimicking the user experience of a website. It had to be intuitive, or users would feel disoriented and lost.

We also decided that, although having people populating a live booth is welcoming, impersonal avatars in a virtual booth were just sad and cluttering props. There are many ways to connect with a commercial representative or a medical affairs representative through the experience.

Finally, as great as we make our virtual congress experience, it does not matter if no one can find it – and exhibitor pages do not always make it easy. Creating surround sound through congress sponsorships and also independent drivers – emails, direct mailers – leading HCPs to the experiences is crucial.

We subscribe to the thinking that when live shows return—probably in the second half of 2021 – there will, from this point forward, be a virtual congress component happening in tandem. It’s important to ask what does that relationship between the live space and the virtual space look like? How do we continue the conversation from one to the other?

As we look to the future, our goals will be to create an even more immersive experience and finding better ways to bring in real-time human interactions. We’re excited about bringing new technology to the table, whether it’s a full-body experience at a congress, a mobile app quick-reference resource for nurses, or a custom platform solution to empower internal marketing teams to customize their content. We are always pushing ourselves to bring solutions that make connections and make life easier for our clients and their audiences.

Lisa Varshney

Lisa Varshney, Executive VP, Strategic Capabilities, Heartbeat: Over the past few years, there has been a notable shift in patients’ preferred sources for healthcare guidance – away from closed-door conversations with doctors and toward self-service “Dr. Google” research and out-in-the-open questions on social media. This year’s conflicting info around COVID-19 and general lack of in-person interaction only seemed to supercharge the social media habit, in which people are asking their Facebook friends and private groups for everything from physician recommendations to symptom questions to testing locations. 

 So much of the social landscape is still truly untapped by pharma, and brands have been mostly stifled with how to spark interest in health content and deliver two-way engagement on these platforms amidst a mountain of regulatory concerns. However, the growing prevalence of this behavior – consumers starting health conversations and engaging with one another on their own – offers a unique opening for brands to supplement and guide these discussions without ever actually owning them. To be successful, brands must create truly engaging content that aligns with the audience needs and feels native to the social platform. And then they must develop smart engagement hooks and distribution plans that spark the sharing chains.

Cassie Stox

Cassie Stox, Senior Director, Media Strategy & Audience Insights, MedThink Communications: The initial awareness between brands and their audiences is usually very concise, snappy, and attention-grabbing – but once you have made the connection, shifting to more directive, intentional, and, dare I say, “long-form” content can foster the relationship. It requires an understanding of what the audience wants and needs from the brand beyond the initial connection. Creatively, this could be through a subset of messaging specific to the HCP’s patient population or based on geography for the patient audiences. For HCPs, this could be a monthly email with content curated based on their patient population type (determined by a survey) or a podcast series that invites providers to send in recorded questions to be answered monthly by a KOL. Alternatively, creative content focused on the patient audience can be developed. Imagine creating road trip travel guides for patients with diabetes in Texas – focusing on healthy choices across top barbecue joints and points of interest where they can stop and walk to get some movement while road tripping. Once you have their attention, create interest and spark imagination to foster the connection between your brand and your audiences.

Isabella Sergio, Senior VP, Managing Director, PRECISIONvalue: Customers are having an increasingly difficult time keeping up with the market and therapeutic changes driving the increased need for product differentiation with rapid, simplified, targeted messages, real-world evidence, and product value demonstration. 

In the accelerated digitalization of healthcare, customers are seeking on-demand access and customized presentations for information and resources; they want personalized content, at the right time, on the right platform. Using digital platforms to share information where audiences are already engaged and staying ahead of the curve digitally is key to meeting customers’ needs. 


One can foster and grow a connection through staying relevant and timely in communications. We’ve recently seen that COVID-19 and social injustices have created a catalyst for change in healthcare innovation. IDNs and Health Systems are re-exploring the patient journey from diagnosis to discharge with digital and analytics overlaid to help inform customized decisions. Virtual conferences and social media have become important avenues for brands to have an increased presence with customers, as well as with KOLs offering important thought leadership on the healthcare environment. Customers also indicate they go to trusted third-party websites to obtain information, creating partnership opportunities. 

 By brands continuing to recognize and address timely issues like patient support, social determinants of health, health disparities, value-based care, and cost pressures via customized digital avenues, trust can be strengthened. Finally, giving audiences an avenue for feedback not only makes them feel valued, but provide tangible metrics and insights on how to optimize future digital engagements. 

Gary Scheiner: Our data show that people remember 10 percent of what they read, 20 percent of what they hear, and 90 percent of what they experience. At CDM Princeton our creative philosophy is built with experiences in mind. We believe every brand has a story to tell, and it’s our job to tell it in the most engaging, inventive way possible. We call it experiential storytelling and it’s at the heart of brands people care about, want to buy into, and love. We apply a unique lens to our creative ideation that considers how customers can co-create content with us and participate with the brand in engaging ways. And we seek like-minded partnerships and causes that support our purpose. 

Mark Pappas: Health and pharma brands need to look to channels that fall outside of the typical pharma space. Look to ways to engage with products and apps that are being used by your patients and physicians throughout their day. Think of apps such as Waze, Uber, streaming platforms, and voice assistants. There is a massive amount of opportunities to reach patients throughout their day across a wide range of channels that go beyond their brand.com. While pharma is playing catch up with many social channels, CMI is already taking it past the typical by launching the first branded pharma campaigns on platforms like Reddit. Search is now going beyond traditional to voice search. With the meteoric rise of streaming TV usage during the pandemic, brands need to leverage this and look at digital video as no longer a nice to have but a must. 

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga: Continue to take the conversations digitally by engaging in thoughtful dialogue on social channels and beyond. Offer up Q&A opportunities between patients/HCPs and brands in an authentic way (i.e., Facebook Live events, Reddit, etc.). Humanizing the brands by showcasing more behind the scenes efforts over this next year would go a long way. Pharma has been in the news a lot recently because of the race for the COVID vaccine, and the public is getting a look at how these companies do a lot of good – behind the scenes commercials of the scientists hard at work, etc. We should continue that momentum digitally and create ways to connect audiences to brands directly. If we think outside of pharma (Nike, etc.) and how consumer brands connect with their audiences elsewhere, we can take learnings and apply in a compliant way. 

David Cherry: The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of digital channels across every industry and with every audience. The adoption of e-commerce has moved ahead 10 years on its projected adoption curve, and healthcare has similarly looked to technology to mitigate some of the disruptions COVID-19 has had on their business. 

Second only to increased and focused patient support, innovation within our clients has been heavily focused on how we can support HCPs digitally. We have seen a massive uptake in remote details and touch points, using every approach from telephone calls, projecting PDFs in a Zoom call, to rollouts of Veeva or IQVIA’s Mobile Intelligence platform on brands that long resisted a move away from printed leave-behinds and Core Vis Aids. There have also been major shifts in permitting virtual signatures for sample shipments. And we have seen major strides in handling inbound HCP queries – call centers, chat bots, and request-a-rep functionality including “one-click” help buttons for some brands.

Boris Kushkuley

Boris Kushkuley: The old saying, “be where your customers are,” is more important now than ever. Digital gave birth to a world full of fragmented and siloed communication channels. Some customers prefer email, others SMS, while another group primarily uses dedicated apps. Moreover, the cadence and content of communication has to be brief and uniquely tailored to meet immediate customer needs. Healthcare brands need to recognize this new reality and start creating omnichannel experiences that allow both patients and HCPs to connect with the brand 24/7, be it via online chat, SMS or video call with a medical-science liaison. The technology platforms are here. It’s on pharmaceutical brands to shift from product advertisement to a service-and-support-offerings mindset. 

Michael Banner: What’s interesting is that there are so many new industries thriving in healthcare – telemedicine, patient engagement tech, to name a few – that simply asked the question of how can we make this a better experience for patients. So I’m not sure there needs to be more creative ways. By that I mean the more we lean into the notion that our patients are at the center of their own healthcare, the more our industry will value the relationship between patients and our brands as much, or even more, than we value the relationship between doctors and our brands. When we do that, we won’t have to reinvent the wheel on how to build strong brand relationships with patients, we already do that really well in the consumer space. That’s why our staff at Moon Rabbit consists of people who collectively know equally well how to make a brand matter to a doctor and a patient as they know how to make an athletic, technology, or FMCG brand matter to their customers.

Debbie Renner | Jeff Persinger | Christina Kim: As human beings, we crave community and connection. A positive by-product of the global pandemic is that people are even more engaged in healthcare communities and more open to fostering connections with healthcare brands than ever before.

Christina Kim

As people move beyond the current mode of survival, their recent amplified adoption of digital channels such as social media, virtual events and live-streaming, KOL podcasts and videos, telehealth, and HCP-rep virtual connect programs is expected to be long- lasting as well. We see this as an opportunity to create and foster deeper human connections between brands and patients, between brands and HCPs, and between HCPs and patients by creating real conversations, conveying empathy and transparency, associating our brands with doing good, and providing real value via digital channels.

Instead of thinking about what we do as B2B or B2C advertising, we like to think of it as “H2H” or “Human to Human” advertising. That’s the new and most valuable currency for brands. And while we have an even greater appreciation for HCPs during this human health crisis, we’re also more acutely aware that HCPs are people, too. By tapping into unique and clever datasets in ultra-creative ways to target and engage with HCPs as humans, we’re able to foster even stronger connections via digital channels.

 We also see an opportunity for greater personalization in context, content, and channels. All of these are critical components that can help generate better connection. By understanding each of these elements, we have better insight into what individual audiences need, as well as the context in which to serve up the right content by using the channels they’re already engaging in. Personalization requires continuous engagement with our customers and dynamic content that is delivered differently as they move through their journey. An important part of this is measuring what works and what doesn’t, so we stay in tune with our customers and iteratively adjust our approach based on what the data tell us.

Jose Ferriera: Video, as a medium for delivering a message and story, is still vastly under-utilized in the pharma and healthcare space. It’s clear that digital video consumption continues to grow exponentially on TikTok and other social networks, and it’s important for brands to grow their presence in this area now. 

Ken Begasse Jr.: The shift from personal to non-personal has accelerated the use of social media to engage and extend content utility, especially considering that HCPs are embracing this data and channel. We are also seeing a rise of owned portals where brands can engage with invited customers to provide a more personalized experience. One channel that has been a great boon for our clients during this time has been podcasts. They’re well received, generally easy to execute in our current situation and are fairly cost effective. They can be both timely and everlasting.

Seth Gordon: As Bill O’Bryon, the Managing Director of Digital at ENGAGE, always says, “The differentiating factor between digital and traditional channels has always been data.” It is the primary driver of more effective and satisfying connections between brands and their audience – be it consumers, patients, payers or providers. And that starts with rich qualitative and quantitative data synthesized into actionable insights.

But being data driven does not mean abandoning creative thought or innovative engagement experiences. Brands need to continue to think holistically and adopt a more fluid approach to storytelling that leverages disruptive creative executed across multiple channels and delivers the right message at the right time through the appropriate channels to provide optimal value to their audiences. 

Being responsive to individuals’ current needs and predicting future ones requires a dynamic approach to creative development that allows for real-time, in-market optimization. This is something that has been embraced for years in other verticals but is much more difficult in a regulated environment. It requires a great deal of forethought and enhanced collaboration between agency and clients to make sure that the risks are understood and mitigated through clear communication and careful documentation.

Eliot Tyler | Deb Deaver | Dina Peck | Tom Galati: Brands can truly foster more meaningful connections with their audiences by learning from the community-building aspect of social media. A mutually beneficial relationship can really help brands gain trust with the patients they serve. The P&P Social Media Center of Excellence is helping our clients nurture these social relationships by ensuring we have a clear strategy, a listening plan that informs our content, and a community manager to listen, identify, and engage with the audience. 

With an ear to the ground in social and content developed directly by truly listening to patient needs, brands can amplify their engagement with patients in their other digital channels (Web, CRM, etc.). For example, if we hear in social listening that access and reimbursement are issues, we advise our clients to more strongly promote their patient services on their website and CRM. If we see patients are searching for other patients to connect to and learn from, we advise our clients to increase digital content on UGC and patient stories.

Just a few years ago, social was considered “experimental” for a brand. But now, with over 70 percent of our brands active in social media, we see it as an incredible force to shape our patient engagement strategies across all digital channels.

JD Cassidy: COVID-19 has introduced an era of unprecedented events to industries across the globe. The key question on the minds of clients is how does engagement change in this new world? What can we expect the future to look like? The good news for clients and their brands is that staying current and engaging remains very important to the deep healthy relationships that have been built pre-COVID in the pharma industry.

Our industry has long talked about the potential of making healthcare interactions and communications more personal and useful. We’ve seen the power and performance that finding the best-fit customers, delivering person-level relevant experiences, and uniting data to drive decisions have had in other industries. Life sciences organizations are quickly moving into that world of right person, right message, and right moment to make those ongoing deep connections. 

How can we continue to improve the way we engage, support, and respond to both patients and professionals? GSW is always looking to leverage the power of data to enhance our customers’ promotional efforts. Our omnichannel marketing platform is able to combine your data with our own physician and patient databases to form an integrated and targeted communication plan. 

In addition, we’ve worked within the COVID-19 world to bring what was live experiences to life virtually. We are leveraging multiple technologies with an unbiased platform agnostic approach to create virtual experiences that prove to rival in some ways live meetings. This includes GSW handling the backend development and connectivity required to optimize and automate the right content to the right audience in the virtual world. Our deep team of customer experience experts, creative technologists, data engineers, and data scientists helps you tailor your promotion down to the individual customer.


8) How are your agency and clients using machine learning to improve business operations?

Stephanie Schulman

Stephanie Schulman, President, TBWA\WildType: There is an insatiable appetite for digital tools, including machine learning, to improve business operations because it all boils down to time. Today, agencies and clients alike are expected to deliver with the same level of quality and rigor in less time than ever before. 

We all have terrific talent, but teams often do not have enough time to fully immerse themselves in each step of the marketing or creation process. Priorities need to be decided. Choices have to be made. Identifying opportunities to automate repetitive or routine tasks enables our teams to focus more of their time on activities that require critical thinking and key decisions that shape our business. The fun part! 

There are two areas we see emerging as initial focal points for the industry:

1. Content Creation: leveraging technology to support (not replace) creative development and facilitate scalability 

2. QA and QC: opportunities to proactively identify and address brand or quality deviations within an execution as well as consistency across campaigns 

Our industry is just beginning to scratch the surface with regard to harnessing the power of technology to improve our business operations. We are excited to be at the forefront of this frontier with the development of our own proprietary technology. 

JoAnn Saitta

Jo Ann Saitta, Chief Digital Officer, Omnicom Health Group | Christina Kim: Machine learning is an underlying technology within agency workflow platforms that can analyze trends and notify teams when thresholds or issues are detected. Managers and teams can subscribe to workflow alerts, which help them take corrective actions. With sophisticated technologies and the collection of workflow data, we set ourselves up to detect trends for on-time delivery, predict impacts to potential scope changes, and resource teams to deliver on client work. Clients are using machine learning in marketing automation platforms that speed up the agency content creation and repurpose content to optimize and accelerate use across multiple channels.

Machine learning also gives us the opportunity to take repeatable business processes and automate the insights required for improved decision-making. We have employed this in our businesses to unstructured data, such as in medical journals and market research, as well as to better understand the context of language in social or other conversational mediums. We have made deliberate investments in syndicated data and are integrating this with our internal data assets to improve audience insights, channel planning, and triggered communication, among other use cases. As analytics, data, and machine learning become even more democratized, we believe that we can exponentially change how we approach marketing to deliver on the promise of 1:1 marketing.

Paul Kallukuran

Paul Kallukaran, Chief Analytics & Insights Officer, CMI/Compas: One of the most impactful tools in marketing today is machine learning that enables us to leverage complex data with hundreds of attributes to segment audiences, analyze historical behavior and predict customer behaviors when exposed to several marketing stimuli. This process enables CMI to optimize NPP spend with the right customers with the right media channels. CMI has been utilizing machine learning methods over the last several years to segment both HCP and patient audiences and to tailor messages and touchpoints based on their individual brand perceptions and educational needs. We have also used several machine learning algorithms to predict an HCP’s adoption of a product based on analyzing Rx behavior, patient claims, multichannel affinity geolocation and demographic information. Another area of focus has been developing look alike models of potential patients for a disease condition based on comorbidities and several demographic attributes. 

Adriano Botter, Digital Director, McCann Health Brazil: We’re using machine learning in a few different ways. The first is in generating insights about consumer behavior and using those insights to craft meaningful messages. For example, the more we understand about the experience of an individual patient, including how what they’re feeling affects and drives their actions, the more we can understand how they engage with their treatments, and tailor communications that takes those experiences into consideration to better reinforce a behavior. 

We also need to identify the most suitable channels through which those messages should be communicated. Our engagement plans are data-driven and performance-oriented, informed by machine learning insights. Importantly, we’re able to promote the best omnichannel experience for customers, not just at a segment level but on an individual, personalized level. We’re able to progressively create and update behavioral profiles for each individual, in real time, and then use algorithms to pick the best experience from an assortment of strategies, including statistical, machine and deep learning. 

Deepa Patel

Kristen Gengaro | David Stemler| Deepa Patel: Machine learning has proven to be the ultimate amplifier of our greatest asset: the incredible minds of our talent. To deliver better results for our clients, we aspire to find ways to create space for and remove barriers to doing the work we love. By leveraging machine learning and AI, we’ve begun to unchain our teams from repetitive, time-consuming tasks, allowing them to dive deeper into the work that is professionally rewarding and also moves the needle on our clients’ business.

But beyond creating efficiencies in our operations, these emerging platforms are helping us uncover insights we might never have discovered manually, and in a matter of weeks versus months. At a time when markets are moving at the speed of COVID-19, and speed to market translates into millions of dollars for our clients, the calculus made possible by this revolutionary approach is easy to see. 

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga: We leverage machine learning tools with our Social Intelligence efforts (i.e., Social Listening). This has allowed us to “teach the machines” what to look for from the pharma lens and thus has enabled us to act quickly to pull trends and conversations when news breaks. For example, we have been pulling COVID reports by disease state and topic areas for 7 months – as the months progressed, this process was more agile because our systems started to learn what we were looking for throughout social communities. It has been a huge undertaking that has resulted in clients understanding more about how their brands and disease state is being spoken about as it relates to COVID. 

Ken Begasse Jr.: We’ve been using machine learning for a number of years. With this experience, we’ve helped our clients make better commercial decisions relating to customer identification, behavioral insight and optimizing communications. Our Always On Human Analytics enables our team to make informed decision from large amounts of data, ensuring we build solutions that solve for the current need of our targeted customers. 

Seth Gordon: EVERSANA has invested heavily over the past year in our Data & Analytics Business Unit, led by Brigham Hyde, which combines the power of predictive analytics with AI and machine learning to drive outcomes.

Over the past six months, EVERSANA added HVH Precision Analytics, a leader in predictive analytics. Just months later, it launched ACTICS by EVERSANA, its technology-enabled solution combining predictive analytics integrated with real-time commercial services. 

And recently, EVERSANA has announced strategic partnerships with industry leaders in claims, EMR, formulary and provider institutional data to create the industry’s first single, streamlined dataset. What does all this mean?

The data and analytics platform at EVERSANA, powered by AI and machine learning capabilities, provides access to data on more than 300 million patient claims, including deep clinical depth on more than 60 million patients through electronic medical records and genomics data. 

This data is linked in our proprietary ACTICS platform to provide a comprehensive view of the patient journey and treatment pathways. 

Working with data and analytics, we can now help clients identify patients for their current and future therapies. For example, we can create models to separate non-rare disease patients from undiagnosed sufferers and then move into prediction. After a disease model is developed, EVERSANA can apply insights to the remaining population, which enables us to identify undiagnosed patients. 

For many clients, especially in the agency space, this depth of a data set is an entirely new way of analyzing how to bring therapies to market, changing for many how they operate. Client interest continues to grow as we talk about our growing data and analytics capabilities, and we expect this to continue.

JD Cassidy: We see a real opportunity for machine learning to drive patient empowerment as uncoordinated care, lack of cost-based decision-making, and administrative tasks can lead to unfortunate outcomes and higher overall costs. And the solution may take recognizable forms—we might look to utilize a virtual healthcare assistant to assist (think Cortana the Caregiver) to take on common caregiver tasks, such as coordinating routine visits (and requesting specialist referrals), integrating test results with genome and behavioral data, and recommending alternate paths to treatment. Also, a convergence of care coordination and empowerment may see blockchain technologies allow the patient to claim ownership of a portable patient record, easing administrative burden on the office while alleviating redundancy for the patient. 

Jose Ferriera: Over the past couple of years, we’ve invested heavily in innovating how we think and plan media for our customers – building proprietary tools to address the needs of our customers both in the short and long term. Within PROACT, our real-time media automation platform, we have used machine learning techniques to identify next best messages and sequences for healthcare professionals across all marketing channels. It has made our media planning and execution processes more efficient and customer centric. It has also established the model for how media in the next decade will operate. 


9) Which health technology trends and developments are currently disrupting/will disrupt the marketplace?

Roshen Matthew

Roshen Mathew, Chief Experience Officer, TBWA\WorldHealth: Over the past few years, the potential applications for artificial intelligence (AI) have been extremely exciting. The time of end-to-end diagnosis to treatment recommendations with minimal human involvement may be a few years away but it’s coming. In the meantime, applications of “narrowed AI” are disrupting healthcare right now. Machine learning is already helping to effectively detect tumors through pattern recognition and aid in early treatment response. The use of voice AI and chatbot experiences—built on rule-based systems—are also on the uptake. These tools reduce friction by helping patients and HCPs get information without enlisting the logistics of connecting with a live person for help.

The “internet of things” (IoT) has been trending toward the “internet of everything.” The proof point for this can be found in the proliferation of “connected” cloud-based services with most everyday appliances in the home and even our cars. Now we find the application of personal sensor devices connected to cloud-based service in a broad spectrum of services helping to improve health. Smartwatches can track body movement and heart rates, while sensors as small as a ring on your finger can monitor sleep behavior. We can also see connected sensing technology helping people at scale by reading and tracking environmental or communal conditions to mitigate future threats, potentially preventing pandemics altogether. 

Finally, as it continues to proliferate around the US and other countries, 5G will transform healthcare. 5G isn’t a mere step-change increase from 4G; it provides exponentially greater bandwidth (as high as 20 GBPS vs 1 GBPS with home fiber connections) as well as next-to-zero second latency and stability. It will unlock the possibility of remote surgery with specialists being able to do more than just assist from across the world. The minimal latency aspect allows for a robotic arm or appendage to move with speed and precision relative to the commands sent by the surgeon. When millimeters mean life or death, synchronizing what the surgeon is seeing on-screen or in a virtual reality interface with the movement of instruments in a remote location is absolutely critical.

Jillian Anderson

Jillian Anderson, Group Creative Director, Heartbeat: Gone are the days when a personal healthcare journey requires calendar scheduling, in-person evaluations, and a script with an expiration date. Instead, patients now have flexible options that are making health services, and especially women’s health, as accessible as your social media feed. Direct-sell companies like NURX, Wisp, My Lab Box, and Hims, have created at-home convenience for those seeking consultation on everything from standard primary care matters to sensitive sexual health concerns. With offerings primarily anchored by telehealth services, these youthful brands are evolving consumer expectations for the modern medical experience. And it isn’t just about on-demand birth control. Consumers are seeing a growing number of options for swift at-home diagnostic tests that screen a wide array of potential issues from yeast infections to hepatitis. Pharma will have to figure out how to play in this space – disease ed, partnerships, advocacy, even their own direct-selling – they will need to keep up with this growing number of social savvy consumers who have come to expect the option for quality on demand care.

Gary Scheiner: There are 3 health tech trends we’re keeping our eye on at CDM Princeton. 

1. The FDA’s Digital Health Center of Excellence. The launch of this COE shows the agency’s dedication to the advancement of digital health technology, including mobile health devices, software as a medical device (SaMD), wearables when used as a medical device, and technologies used to study medical products. Staying involved in the proposed COE ‘Collaborative Communities’ will help agencies share knowledge and experience concerning digital health advancements and promotions. 

2. 5G communications, which will offer high speed bandwidth and low latency, dropping reaction/response time to milliseconds. Some of the benefits will be near real-time monitoring for telemedicine through mobile/wearables and low-latency robot-assisted telesurgery. 

3. The virtualization of physical spaces taking hold in light of COVID-19. We believe they will likely be here to stay. From conferences to virtual doctor waiting rooms, mobile applications are now occupying these spaces. The use of apps for safety is paramount, but there is an opportunity to educate/explore “while you wait.”

Mark Pappas: The technology development that is poised to disrupt the marketplace in the near future will be the massive roll out of 5G. With the new iPhone 12 being a 5G phone, 5G will finally be put in the spotlight. One thing that cannot be emphasized enough is that 5G is much more than cell phones. 5G networks enable massive data transfer speeds, bandwidth and close to zero latency. This will open up countless new data pathways. 5G is faster than most at home WiFi speeds, opening the door for massive amounts of data. From next gen ad formats, much greater patient monitoring and a host of other networking benefits, 5G will have the biggest impact on our daily lives. 

Dr. Susan Dorfman: There’s been an awakening of the need to disrupt the way medicines are delivered and the way patients get care. We will see a lot more disruption on the pharmacy and healthcare delivery side embracing an e-commerce adaptation to care delivery. Digital platforms will move health consumers and HCPs from scheduling to visits to treatments to Rx fulfillment to reminders and checkups in a seamless and integrated fashion; and we will see more companies like Ro – founders of Roman – as virtual health and care maintenance becomes more of the norm. Our digital front doors will be open in other ways too, as Pharma disrupts the rep interaction putting greater control in the hands of the rep to create a digital surround far beyond email and live or video visits. We at CMI have been working with clients to truly build out innovative ways of protecting and enabling them for the future versus focusing just on “high shine, low impact/utility” trends. We’re looking at business goals and blue ocean opportunities as opposed to where others are headed. We don’t want to follow; we need to lead. 

David Windhausen: Data at scale will continue to be the leading source for disruption and innovation within the healthcare industry. Disruption and innovation are often driven as a result of personal experience. GoodRx, which has been on CNBC’s list of the top 50 disruptors in 2019 and 2020, is an example of this premise and the importance of data at scale. GoodRx’s CEO, Doug Hirsch, came up with the concept following his own personal experience in searching for good information on prescription drugs across the Internet. In 2011, Hirsch set out to launch GoodRx to bring transparency and affordable access to prescription drugs to the masses. GoodRx has successfully integrated with a multitude of major pharmacies and retailers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to maintain real-time data on prescription drug pricing, which is accessed and searched for by more than 17 million users per month. Using the scale provided by the success of GoodRx, the company acquired HeyDoctor in September of 2019 and launched GoodRx Telehealth Marketplace to bring the same access and transparency to online medical visits, treatments and prescriptions. The company’s foresight to jump into the telemedicine arena provided them the opportunity to roll out a free HeyDoctor COVID-19 online assessment to patients during the pandemic. The rise of organizations like GoodRx will continue to find ways of disrupting and innovating across the healthcare landscape through the effective use of data at scale.

Jo Ann Saitta: Artificial intelligence, digital therapeutics, home diagnostics, and genetic personalized medicine are truly disrupting healthcare and enabling data-driven health for patients. Industry sources predict drastic growth for the global home diagnostics market ($6 billion by 2025), the digital therapeutics market ($11 billion by 2026) and the Do-it-yourself (DIY) DNA testing market ($9 billion by 2027), showing how accessible and adopted the new technologies are for consumers. 

These technologies drastically transform gathering and analyzing information on our healthcare customers. Never before has the view into the customer’s detailed activities provided brand marketers an opportunity to analyze and build deeper, more effective patient relationships, improved decision making for healthcare professionals, and business outcomes for pharma. These opportunities will seismically change the way healthcare marketers work.

Artificial intelligence continues to revolutionize electronic health records and patient care management through predicting symptoms and proactively getting ahead of required care for patients. In some platforms, AI has been successfully used to identify near-term mortality risk in cancer patients or predict lung exacerbations in cystic fibrosis patients. This is enabling healthcare professionals to provide more precise care at the right time. Brand marketers must sharpen their understanding of real-world data and its impact on how and where healthcare professional decision-making will be accelerated. For omnichannel marketers this means more deeply integrating the electronic health platform as a valuable and insightful channel within the traditional digital ecosystem to deliver precise brand communications and patient support at the point of care. 

Co-prescribed digital therapeutics (DTx), medical grade at-home diagnostics, and wearables are being used in combination with prescribed medicines and treatments to better manage chronic diseases through remote vitals management and through self-management of side effects of cancer therapy. For healthcare marketers, it will be increasingly important to understand both the approved and pipeline digital therapeutics that exist to complement the brand. Neither can be marketed independently to healthcare professionals, but rather, they can be strategically integrated across message, channel, and content. Additionally, remote diagnostics and medical-grade wearables need to become core components in the digital ecosystems that underpin patient support and adherence programs.

The advances of genetic personalized medicine and disease management through DIY DNA will place greater demands on healthcare marketers to provide equally personalized service and align relevant messaging to customers. Access to reimbursed mutation testing (such as for BRCA and CFTR) is affecting the payer landscape. For example, some payers are covering next-generation sequencing for inherited breast and ovarian cancers to advance precise patient treatment journeys. For healthcare marketers, it will be critical to have a solid understanding of the impact of genetic testing to their own brand prescriptions and patient outcomes as they develop strategies and communication plans for payers, healthcare professionals, and patients.

Adriano Botter

Adriano Botter: 

1. More than ever, patient-engagement technology will be expanding. Big tech and health tech companies are empowering patients to take control of their health and wellness. You see this with wearables (like Apple Watch, for example) providing them their own data, or Amazon Alexa using voice technology along with AI to provide recommendations and motivations that change behavior. 

2. The “Where of Care” – health is now everywhere, assisted by technology. Telehealth is here to stay, and payers and HCPs will have to adapt by truly harnessing its use as a virtual house call and tool to expand their universe of care. You’ll see more specialists joining the platforms and use with certain patient populations for monitoring progress and adherence. I’m excited to see the expansion of virtual surgeries thanks to 5G!

3. While we won’t see AI and machine learning replacing becoming surgeons just yet, AI and machine learning technology are helping HCPs cut down time spent on administrative work like scheduling, payment collection and other tedious paperwork. By reducing inefficiencies, these technologies free up time to focus on and improve the patient experience.

Michael Banner: With various technological barriers coming down and very competent digital platforms that know how to drive consumer demand already available, combined with wearable and RPM technologies that allow us to stay on top of our health, we will see an increase over time in the use of these platforms in conditions that don’t require significant MD oversight. I’ll go so far as to predict that we will eventually see a pharma company launch a drug or device in an appropriate category without a single sales rep calling on a doctor, but rather just driving patients seeking their product to their own set of digital solutions or existing ones.

Maureen Hennessey: The COVID-19 pandemic is the health development that has most severely disrupted the 2020 marketplace, and disruption will continue into 2021. In the absence of effective, accessible and adopted vaccine(s), digital technologies have been effectively used by various countries to respond to the virus. Mobile devices, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, genomics, and apps are playing a role in contact tracing, virtual quarantine monitoring, and patient diagnosis and care. For example, Iceland has a high COVID-19 testing rate, uses mobile technology to collect patient-reported data, and combines it with other large data files including genomic sequencing data to gain relevant knowledge on viral pathology and spread. These technologies are successfully applied to other conditions, and discoveries gleaned as these technologies are adapted to address COVID-19 will be leveraged for further healthcare innovations.

Another technology with potential for disruption of care delivery is virtual and augmented reality technology, particularly helpful for individuals living with neurological and/or psychiatric conditions. The burden of neurological disorders is growing for countries with aging populations. Further, the social isolation and emotional distress associated with the pandemic have contributed to the onset or exacerbation of psychiatric conditions. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and serious games have been useful for neurological rehabilitation, particularly during COVID-19, when travel has been restricted, and have been helpful for patients living with phobias, PTSD, autism spectrum disorders, depression, and substance use disorders. Virtual reality also has a role in healthcare practitioner training, providing clinical training and experience on demand. Interestingly, it has also been used to facilitate family shared experiences to maintain connectivity, particularly important during this period of physical and social isolation. 

Seth Gordon: The drive to provide care at home, which has been accelerated by COVID-19, is being delivered by the innovation coming through digital health technologies – especially AI. 

Of course, given the great speed of technology, it should come as no surprise that the regulatory (FDA) and coverage (CMS) bodies have not yet caught up. Given the significant value available through these health technologies, it’s just a matter of time before these entities catch up. Managed care plans and at-risk providers already do get it, covering these technologies in their daily effort to improve clinical and financial outcomes.

Edward Cox, EVP of Digital Medicine, added, “I think telehealth and telemedicine are going to establish themselves as permanent fixtures in the ecosystem. But in terms of disruption, I think you’re going to see a rise of the next-generation digital therapeutic and digital medicine products come out of the market over the next two to three years. These will be products that take advantage of the new reimbursement and regulatory frameworks and also products built from inception to have the maximum impact on a pharmaceutical product. Both should be coming out into the market within this new and much more favorable landscape. I think you’re going to see well over 1 billion patients on digital therapeutics within the next few years.

Eliot Tyler | Deb Deaver | Dina Peck | Tom Galati: It’s a really exciting time to be in the health tech space. COVID-19 has forced both the health and tech industries to evolve faster than ever before. Many disruptive technologies, which have already been advancing, are now being fast-tracked due to the pandemic. 

Telemedicine is the first, and probably most obvious health technology that is disrupting the marketplace. As the technology and platforms continue to advance, telehealth will continue to move beyond the virtual visit to an experience that will help optimize and predict health outcomes. 

In our second COVID-19 POV where we discuss longer term trends, we detail the growth in voice assistant and smart speaker usage across all age demographics since the pandemic began. More people are also re-evaluating their relationship with touch technology since COVID-19 started. Hands-free voice control technology is rapidly becoming a necessity, decreasing the spread of germs and even the need to interact with others.

AI-enabled virtual assistants (both voice and text-based), smart devices, and immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are all unlocking new forms of content and touchpoints for brands and HCPs to interact with patients.

In a very different way, ever-evolving social media platforms are changing how patients are being informed about all aspects of their health. For example, the micro-user generated content (UGC) featured on many platforms has gotten younger people hooked. It’s been fascinating to see doctors and nurses deliver content to patients in a way that’s so native to the platform, as micro-UGC content blends seamlessly with viral skateboarding videos.

Kristen Gengaro | David Stemler| Deepa Patel: There are many to choose from—AR, VR, and telehealth among them. But while these will all have major implications in our marketplace, we believe that access to and trackability of prolific customer data will have the greatest amplification effect across our business.

The sophistication of information we now have access to allows for precision around high-value targets, which then informs trade-offs around brand investments. Not only can we be laser-focused with our promotional efforts, but we can also use rich personas and profiles to drive customized messaging and inspire more data-driven creative work.

In essence, we believe that the very future of our work is predicated on our ability to fully harness the power of data—upstream and downstream—to propel our clients’ business forward.

JD Cassidy: Digital therapeutics application remains one of the most compelling trends and has huge upside if it solidifies a clear place in patient treatment. There are some digital therapeutics that are being used as the actual therapy and others that help support a respective therapy. Technology is core to fuel either side, but the one that shows evidence of positive outcomes is where the money will flow for support. 

Imagine there is proof that a digital therapeutics app can treat something like depression with positive outcomes. This would have the potential to become a lead therapy born completely out of digital therapeutics. Pretty amazing. 

• On the “used as therapy” side, an app like Headspace could (and is likely in some cases) treat depression or anxiety without medication.

• On the digital therapeutics medication support side, think of apps like Glucose Buddy that closely monitor blood glucose for patients.

Either way it will be interesting to watch what happens. 


10) What are your predictions for the healthcare industry in 2021 and/or beyond?

Nadine Leonard

Nadine Leonard, President and Executive Strategy Director, Heartbeat: Buoyed by positive telehealth experiences during COVID and riding the wave of more patient-directed health opportunities, we believe the move toward online Rx experiences to obtain prescription products will accelerate. 

 For those conditions that were “retail Rx” pioneers – where companies aggregate predominately lifestyle-based generic drugs (birth control, erectile dysfunction) and then use virtual HCP visits to determine the most appropriate path forward for a given patient – we expect that trend to grow, gradually broadening the set of conditions that are less clinically complicated and where patients have become accustomed to the category such that they feel confident to be in control.

But we also anticipate a growth in tele-direct experiences – so less “retail-esque” but still patient-driven and convenience-oriented. In this model, the brand holds onto the patient interface while integrating immediate interaction with a well-trained HCP and actual Rx fulfillment – sort of an on-demand delivery model for healthcare. Contrave was first but we’ve seen other brands start to catch-on, especially for patient-directed conditions where the specific brand is desired by the patient. 

For the right brands, we are so bullish about this model that we believe in assessing this revenue-generating model FIRST, before ever modeling the size and structure of a sales force. With our ever-growing ability to precisely find our target patients and reach them through digital channels, tele-direct Rx models enable the ability to convert directly to sale. Additionally, this frictionless digital selling model immediately establishes direct patient connection, ensuring education, adherence and refill information can be communicated on an ongoing basis. 

And if we really want to think beyond, you can foresee a time in the future where diagnostics will be able to be performed remotely or via at-home kits & tools, and thus the ability for this channel to expand into far more therapeutic areas grows. So, those who move now to understand how to maximize the digital retail opportunity will not only set their brand up for success, but the future success of their entire organization.

Jared Weiss

Jared Weiss, Co-Founder, Starpower (a W2O Company): If this year has taught us anything, it’s how important health is. And, that influence is everywhere. 2020 gave us Dr. Fauci bobbleheads – and that’s something we could not have imagined in 2019. The rise of this kind of authentic and empathetic “health 2.0 influencer” will continue. These real influencers will provide critical information, education and sway public opinion – as health continues to be front and center. 

Authenticity and integrity remain vital for influencers to maintain creditability with their audiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitization and created a sea change in the way people manage their life and health, including how consumers get their information and from whom. In 2021 and beyond, we envision health and wellness brands will tell compelling stories in new ways, leveraging talent and influencers via social channels, streaming services and digital media. 

Daryl Somma, Executive VP, Executive Strategy Director, McCann Health New York: The pandemic has both accelerated and brought into stark relief many of the transformations that we had already been witnessing over the course of the last several years. Here are two:

• Keeping up with the innovation explosion 

Daryl Somma

Global anticipation for scientific breakthroughs regarding COVID-19 prevention and treatment has heightened our collective interest in innovation. Even before the pandemic, the speed of scientific and medical innovation was breakneck: the FDA has stated that cell and gene therapy approvals are anticipated to expand significantly in this new decade, estimating that they will likely approve up to 20 cell and gene therapies of the nearly 300 currently in development by 2025. With a heightened focus on the role of scientific discovery, how can we ensure that healthcare providers, patients, and the general public are able to keep up? More information does not necessarily equate to greater understanding…a fact that will increasingly put the onus on brands to focus on health literacy and effective translation of complex science in order to drive meaning and relevance. 

• Healthification of our everyday lives 

The “healthification” of our everyday lives is a trend that certainly existed prior to COVID-19 but has been greatly accelerated by it. Self-care has evolved from fad to a health imperative. Consumers will continue to navigate their post-COVID-19 worlds with a health-centric mindset, and brands should be prepared to respond in kind. Traditional health and pharma brands have an opportunity to support patients in their health-focused efforts by taking on a more holistic definition of health to provide value and meaning above the brand itself. 

Dan Schroen

Dan Schroen, Lead, Photo 51
(a Fingerpaint Company):
During the next several years, I expect to see multiple advancements in cell-based therapies, particularly the emergence of regulatory-approved, off-the-shelf, allogeneic treatments. Optimized manufacturing, logistics, and technologies will streamline development, launch, and delivery. Along with better efficacy and fewer side effects, patients, physicians and payors will expect attention to excellence in education, advocacy and communications. We can anticipate therapies employing more types of cells, against different cancers, using both autologous and allogeneic approaches. Continued focus, consistent treatment delivery, and reduced cost of care will improve the experience and value of cell therapies for patients and treatment centers alike.

Jackie DeAngelis, Executive VP, Managing Director, PRECISIONvalue: What a year to make predictions about the healthcare industry! Given the global pandemic and a monumental presidential election, I humbly predict that in 2021:

1. Healthcare will be focused on population health like never before.

2021 will be spent manufacturing and disseminating one or more newly approved COVID-19 vaccines and preventative therapies. Godspeed! Also, since people set aside their non-COVID healthcare to stay safe and preserve resources for the seriously ill, 2021 will also be a year well-spent encouraging them to go back to their physicians for preventative care and chronic disease management. The use of telehealth ramped up successfully during the pandemic as well, and is likely to become a mainstay in healthcare delivery in 2021 and beyond. Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic shined a bright light on healthcare disparities in our society, so addressing the social determinants of health that drive key differences in health outcomes, particularly for minority communities, will be prioritized.

2. The next administration will seek to expand healthcare coverage. 

Jackie DeAngelis

The waning economy, job loss and uncertainty necessitate government action to ensure that people have access to healthcare. In 2021, the government will need to consider strengthening the Affordable Care Act while preserving employer-sponsored insurance, expanding Medicaid and/or providing more public insurance options because an insured population is foundational to our recovery.

3. The march toward managing rising healthcare costs while supporting innovation will go on.

The mantra of limiting expensive treatments that do not provide value beyond cheaper alternatives will continue to drive healthcare decision-making in 2021. While enacting stricter cost containment measures due to the continued rising costs of care, payers will enter more value-based agreements with manufacturers, providing a pathway to introduce innovation such as cell, gene and biomarker-driven therapies. These arrangements will drive appropriate use of expensive therapies in populations who benefit most, while holding manufacturers accountable for demonstrating outcomes in exchange for coverage and payment.

Like most of us, I am looking forward to the New Year of possibilities, and excited to be a part of shaping the healthcare landscape.

Kate Zwizanski

Kate Zwizanski, SVP, Media, CMI/Compas: For better or worse, COVID-19 has forced the industry to rethink patient care. Like many other industries, it’s possible this will spark a transformation. Do all patient visits really need to occur in person? As long as HCPs can be compensated fairly for virtual/telehealth visits, perhaps the pandemic has proven that they can provide effective virtual care to patients and will consider a more integrated mix of in-person and virtual follow-up support moving forward. 

Kristen Gengaro | David Stemler| Deepa Patel: Many of us following the upward trends in health tech funding over the past decade might conclude that the gold rush will all culminate in the bursting of an overhyped, VC-backed bubble. There’s good reason to think so, especially given the fact that healthcare has remained largely a reactive practice in spite of a decade of cash infusion to the sector. 

That said, another result, and one we believe is finally on the horizon, is watching a few of these companies post real, hefty profits—in some cases equaling or surpassing the size of blockbuster drugs. We believe this is because the healthcare system will begin rewarding the shift toward a model that values prediction and prevention over prolonged treatment and disease management. To put it simply: Proactivity will be the new reactivity. 

Joshua Prince: Here are 12 prognostications and predictions for ’21, curated from leaders across our Omnicom Health Group agencies…

1. The new Administration will double down on the Affordable Care Act, and we’ll see Medicare expansion. Might even see eligibility age lowered to 60.

2. Copay assistance coming to Medicare—government will find a way to allow manufacturer-sponsored subsidies for medicines.

3. Science will win the battle with COVID-19. But getting people to take the new vaccines will be even harder than developing them.

4. Telemedicine is here to stay, and it will rapidly get easier and better.

5. Biosimilar legislation will live on—and likely reduce the cost of high-priced biologics.

6. More downsizing in rep-delivered content. More upsizing in data-driven, personalized delivery of content.

7. Pandemic-driven mental health issues will put a strain on school, work, and care providers. It’s a significantly overlooked side effect of the pandemic.

8. CRISPR technology will advance to commercialized therapeutics.

9. More cancer mutations—like KRAS G12C—will become targetable and treatable.

10. More large healthcare consolidations will happen, thanks to major revenue losses from COVID-19.

11. Funding for rare diseases may become stretched due to the added cost burden of COVID-19.

12. This will be a record year for drug approvals…and happily, we think this will continue.

Faruk Capan

Faruk Capan: As we enter winter, COVID-19 cases are already on the rise. Connecting with patients and HCPs in the coming months will be a first-line priority as lockdowns – which are already being considered in some major cities – become at least a partial reality again. Although telehealth use scaled back significantly over recent months, it seems likely that it will play a bigger role in healthcare again during this time, particularly with respect to mental health services. The #BLM movement has thrown racial and social justice issues into the spotlight, and those conducting clinical trials have taken notice – there are already efforts to bring more minority patients into these trials; this important step toward equality in healthcare will no doubt continue into 2021. Regardless of the outcome of the election, drug pricing and health insurance coverage will continue to be a priority, and it will be more important than ever for brands to build and maintain trust with patients and HCPs.

Craig Romanok: This is the most transformative era in science and medicine we’ve seen in over 20 years. There are currently more than 1,000 clinical trials for cell and gene-based therapies taking place. These life-changing therapies are poised to transform our industry in the next five years, with the potential to provide profound, durable, and potentially curative benefits for a variety of serious diseases. At CDM Princeton, our sole agency purpose is focused on these types of life-changing therapies by helping clients understand the FDA and EMA expedited approval guidelines and the ever-changing operational fluctuations as well as helping HCPs and patients realize the astonishing clinical benefits.

Ken Begasse Jr.: I think the healthcare industry is in for an exciting future, where finally, our scientific innovations are met with the needed advancements in the delivery of care. I feel confident we will continue to see data driven, digital experiences elevate and extend new models of care for more patients. These shifts could level the disparities in our current healthcare system and democratize care in the United States.

James Tinker: In a nutshell for me we’ll see a number of shifts driven by advances in technology, from better targeted R&D based on powerful modeling, how clinical trials are designed and executed, the increased acceptance of real world evidence in label extensions, ever-improving predictive or at least early-stage identification of diseases, and so on. It’s an exciting time. That all said, healthcare is still supremely human. I am hoping that companies can leverage everything that technology allows and continue to put the patient front and center of their plans.

Seth Gordon: Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Stefanacci, a former CMS policy scholar, noted the following: 

There will always be two forces shaping our healthcare industry: government and environment. 

On the government side, the significance of change is dependent on the ability to get legislation passed and signed into law. This process requires either partisan control or nonpartisan agreement, neither of which appear likely soon. But this does not mean the government will have no impact on healthcare, as they will exercise their ability to regulate, provide executive actions and use the bully pulpit to move their agenda in such areas of pharmaceutical pricing, value-based care and insurance access. 

Because of governmental conflicts in control and common ground, the environmental front promises to be the most impactful. Starting with market responses and reactions to COVID-19, including the production and distribution of vaccines as well as utilization of healthcare resources to prevent and treat this disease, this will shape our industry well beyond the pandemic. 

Further, the environment is responding quickly to change both in terms of innovative products/services and care delivery. We can expect more cutting-edge changes from digital health technology to genomics to AI care management. 

The prediction for the future is best summed up in a quote from Bill Gates: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” 

With this in mind, don’t overestimate the near-term changes, as they will likely not come from government forces – but also do not miss the drastic environmental changes that will reshape our healthcare industry in unimaginable ways, especially for those lacking imagination and forethought.

Eliot Tyler | Deb Deaver | Dina Peck | Tom Galati: There’s no denying that we are living in an age of disruption. Over the last several months, we’ve witnessed significant changes, including an even heavier reliance on digital. With more in-person interaction likely many months away, these new behaviors adopted during COVID-19 will certainly change the patient journey in terms of brand and patient needs and expectations. We will continue to see the rise in telehealth, the smart home, wearables, and virtual events to help monitor health and bring people together. We will also continue to see the mixed use of virtual and in-person appointments, allowing for more people to take part in clinical trials and have better (and more equal) access to providers. At Patients & Purpose, we work with and learn from patients every day. While the pandemic has challenged them and the brands they rely on, it has also sparked an amazing acceleration in the transformation of patient engagement with the healthcare system, and how patients manage and overcome their own health challenges.

JD Cassidy: For the eleventh year, Syneos Health released our very popular trend reports, read by thousands across healthcare and marketing. Over 200+ collaborators from across the global enterprise of Syneos Health contributed to the report, sharing clues, observations, and individual stories about the changing experience of health and healthcare. As we worked to understand the trends most likely to drive change in life science clinical and commercial engagement, we asked clients and colleagues to rate each of the high-level trends that we identified. With the votes in, it’s clear there are 3 places we need to start talking more about right now: 

Remote Care: What will the new best practices be for how industry can support patients and professionals connecting across distance? How can this new fluency consistently create access to trials for more patients and access to support for more patients?

Forming the Future Field: How do we empower and amplify our critical frontline teams in 2021 and beyond as access and engagement continue to evolve and change?

Omnichannel Maturity: How can we continue to improve the way we engage, support, and respond to both patients and professionals? 

For a deeper dive into these predictions and the full trends report visit: trends.health.