Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Tech trends, opportunities, and woes
By Maria Fontanazza • [email protected]
In what areas do you anticipate technology making the most significant strides next year?
Tim Hawkey, Chief Creative Officer, AREA 23, An IPG Health Company: The area of technology that is going to make the most significant strides in 2023 is the application of AI- based art generation. We’re all hearing about the text-to-image (TTI) platforms Dalle2 and Midjourney. They’re popular but they’re closed systems. The more recent open-source release of the Stable Diffusion platform is going to have a much bigger impact. Since the release of the Stable Diffusion model, there have been scores, if not hundreds, of new applications based on the open-source model. The technology is in the hands of the public and the public is having fun with it. Everything from consumer facing web UIs, to more complex video animation, to AR and VR integration, to much-lauded advancements in trainable diffusion models that put the ability to train the model directly into the hands of the average Jane.
So my predictions for 2023… at a minimum, we’re going to see text-to-image graduate from being a novelty to being a true production tool. Yes sure, that means using TTI imagery for client campaigns. Beyond the minimum, we’re going to see more advanced applications of TTI… AI animations and 3-D VR integration being the first two to hit the main stage. And beyond that it’s fun to imagine how far this can go, especially as the efficiency of the models and our computing power increases. With both of those factors in place, we’ll begin to see more real-time responsive TTI experiences take hold, with consumers using natural language to direct their surroundings and experiences. My message to the industry? Don’t fight it. AI isn’t the enemy, it’s a tool, and if you learn to use the tool, it will never “take your job.”
Mike Myers, Managing Director and Partner, CrowdPharm: Apple’s push, along with the efforts of many others, will move wearable health technologies to a central role in patient care and monitoring.
Todd Greene, VP, Digital Strategy, Brick City Greenhouse: Measurements and integration are the two areas that will make the greatest strides in 2023.
- Decision-making: I believe the most significant strides will not be in the technologies themselves, but in the strategies, thoughtfulness, and measurement that go into technology decisions. The healthcare industry already has an abundance of technologies we don’t use, don’t use effectively, or have not figured out — and plenty of other technologies that we lean on only by habit. 2023 will be the year that we hold ourselves accountable for asking the right questions of technology — both during planning and in the aftermath of completion.
In 2023, I see more healthcare organizations documenting and debating their legitimate reasons for investing in specific technologies. Will they formally decide whether they are willing to invest in risky technology with the potential of losing (yet learning), or will they prefer to be followers who utilize proven technologies that are less risky?
Both approaches are legitimate depending on an organization’s overall position in the marketplace. And in 2023, the C-suite and investors will become even more vested in calculating and proving the ROI in these expensive and risky technology decisions.
- Embedded tech: The next area of innovation I see making strides in 2023 is an extension of the importance of strategy and ROI. I anticipate that more healthcare organizations will ensure that new technologies become embedded within the products and services they are already tracking consistently. We are seeing this take off in devices that connect a patient’s real-time usage and vitals to caregivers and HCPs. We also see that customer service teams are utilizing the plethora of back-end AI and curation technologies to help facilitate conversations with their most important audiences.
Brian Stack, SVP, Digital Lead, Brick City Greenhouse: I feel that the refinement of social algorithms, like the way TikTok is approaching its customers, is going to pave the way for better definition of niche targets and seamless penetration into the rare-disease world. Furthermore, with Elon Musk looking to change the Twitter advertising model, we can see him adapting to our industry formats to try and take some of healthcare’s ~$15 billion in digital ad spend.
Shawn Lee, Associate Director of Data Science, AbelsonTaylor: Cookie-less alternatives to third-party tracking cookies are constantly evolving, evident by the multiple delays Google has provided for phasing out third-party tracking cookies in the Chrome browser. Ongoing pressure from government regulators and publishers will accelerate Google’s development and implementation of its cookie alternatives over 2023 and 2024. Advancements in machine learning, a core technology enabling Google’s recent cookie alternatives, will also improve the effectiveness of these cookie-less technologies over the coming years and aid in bringing these technologies to the forefront of digital advertising.
Corina Kellam, EVP, Leads Experience & Innovation, Ogilvy Health: Congresses are back and more tech-heavy and impressive than ever before, and hybrid is where everyone should be focused (as most clients are). Digital pull-through is just good ROI, and the tech side of both experiences is critical. The hybrid Congress work we’re doing in our Innovation Lab blows me away, and some of the partnerships we’re starting to explore and budget in for next year are even more exciting.
John Fitzpatrick, SVP, Omnichannel—Digital & Interactive, PRECISIONeffect: Technology has been the backbone of innovation in almost every industry for decades. It’s given us smarter websites, chatbots to talk to, voice commands to listen to us, and artificial intelligence generating its own insights. But the amazing byproduct of all technology is data. Data supercharges omnichannel. Look at what Amazon, Starbucks, and Target do on a daily basis. First, it’s about collection — that means identifying, collecting, or purchasing customer data to help us understand our customers better and what their unique preferences are. Secondly, and most critically, data gives us the means to make change happen — by analyzing and optimizing with actionable data, we can make both manual and automated improvements to our marketing efforts through media, digital properties, and also rep engagements. Data drives omnichannel and with it all the power to improve medical communication across all audiences.
Ken Winell, Executive Director, Consulting, Greater Than One: We see technology accelerating in the following areas in 2023.
- Composable architectures: The ability to use microservices, API, cloud and headless (MACH) solutions will allow businesses to move away from more monolithic tools, and will provide greater flexibility for adding/removing functionality as needs of the business shift. For example- a large biotech opted to use a headless CMS solution for their enterprise, which allowed them to distribute content from a single source into multiple areas including website, emails, banner ads and social media, etc.
- Immersive experiences: We anticipate several new AR/VR/MR headsets to be available during 2023 in addition to Meta’s Oculus Pro (Hololens, Apple, Google, and others) and we are encouraging our clients to start thinking about developing in areas such as In Office Patient Engagement, HCP Education and enhanced Virtual Congresses. Tools like BioDigital Human and Soul Machines will help accelerate these immersive experiences. Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage?
- Remote monitoring and EHR integration: Coupled with wider adoption of telehealth, the ability to connect biometrics such as smart watches, glucose monitors etc. directly into a patient’s medical records (Epic etc.), will yield a new opportunity to use AI and predictive analytics for improved patient outcomes.
Toby Katcher VP, Video Investment, CMI Media Group: In actuality, the impact of digital health goes beyond its scope. Collaboration among stakeholders such as providers, payers, regulators, and researchers serve to connect the online patient experience with personalized services. Overall, innovations in digital health will lead to more effective treatment, earlier disease detection, and more transparent regulation.
Brian Wagner, VP, Product Strategy, CMI Media Group: A key area for all marketers, not just those in the healthcare vertical, is the demise of the tracking cookies. There are many potential solutions being explored. However, only time, industry piloting and adoption will help ferret out the most efficient options. What is exciting is the way this issue is being tackled, from so many different points of view. Perhaps there will be a universal ID of sorts, but it will be interesting seeing the diversity of solutions that bubble up. Stay tuned, our history of digital marketing is happening now.
Jacob Harrison, Director, Ecommerce, CMI Media Group: Backend updates by e-retailers will be the biggest change in 2023. Walmart, Target, etc., continue to open new fulfillment centers to get products to consumers faster. Walmart, for example, will use nearly 5,000 stores to act as direct fulfillment centers. That means a consumer of our products could receive products within hours of their order. This will enhance the consumer experience and drive increased sales if we can effectively partner with these retailers for FBM/FBA (fulfillment by merchant, fulfillment by Amazon). Omnichannel technologies are going to continue to be a bigger part of the “ecommerce” space. The ability to do more than buy online and pick up in store will become more apparent in the next year. There will be an opportunity to show an ad online and reminder at checkout in store. There will be room for marketing within a retailer pharmacy and then driving online retargeting for further information. This evolution will have to be mindful of PII, but it drives opportunity for cross channel marketing and sales.
Christine Mormile, Director, Media, CMI Media Group: The technology around how doctors and patients communicate at point of care is continuing to evolve. There is increased desire to message both HCPs and patients before a telehealth visit and several solutions are entering the market offering that solution. Improvements also continue to progress within the exam room through HIPAA compliant translation services, which will help combat language barriers as doctors are seeking to educate their patients.
Kristofer Doerfler, Director of Innovation, CMI Media Group: It will affect various sectors differently, but I expect the rise and power of data-enabled decision making will continue to make significant strides. As people become increasingly comfortable in digital environments and technology continues to improve data capture capabilities, personalization in healthcare and media is becoming paramount to proper consumer relationships. Expect more discussions around data sovereignty and how best to capture value from data without harming personal privacy.
Bryan Roman, EVP, Creative Technology, GSW/Syneos Health: As artificial intelligence (AI) and automation continue to evolve and blend into our daily processes, we’re going to start seeing some huge shifts in how content is created. The combination of low-to-no code production and AI-generated content means that much of the lower level “hands on” work from the past can be automated. This is a massive benefit to creative and strategic agencies, as we can put more emphasis on ideas, products and strategies. What does this all mean for content creators? We believe there are three primary areas where we’ll see the most significant changes.
- Quality over quantity: The days of producing large quantities of low-quality content are coming to an end. With automation, it’s now possible to produce higher quality content at a fraction of the cost. This means that content creators need to focus on quality over quantity. The currency of ideas and original thinking will carry even more value.
- Niche down: The ability to target specific audiences with hyper-personalized content will become more and more important. This means that content creators need to niche down and focus on creating content for specific audience segments.
- Get comfortable with change: Automation and AI will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. This means that marketers need to be comfortable with change and be willing to experiment with new platforms and technologies.
An immediate action for all digital marketers is to make sure our teams are prepared to learn and act quickly, and pivot often as the landscape will continue to evolve in front of our eyes. Those of us who ride the crest of this next tech evolution will reap the benefits of better client relationships, better business results and future-proof of our profits.
Kam Taitt, Senior Vice President, Account Services and Media Strategy, Peregrine Market Access: Artificial intelligence (AI) has evolved past the test and learning phase and is being utilized more and more because of its incredible predictive capabilities. Healthcare providers (HCPs), researchers, manufacturers, and formulary decision-makers are tapping into the technology because of its ability to analyze large data sets and find patterns — making the process to find insights, collect data, and make informed treatment decisions more streamlined.
Another way that the HCP decision-making process will become more efficient is through wearable technology and wireless monitoring devices. Both of these will make strides next year because when digital technology is paired with a medical device and an easy-to-use app, patients are empowered to be more active players in the management of their conditions.
Telemedicine should also continue to have a significant and expanded presence as it continues to demonstrate utility and convenience in a busy world. With insurers inclined to cover it, patients becoming more comfortable with it, and more providers offering it, telemedicine/telehealth is likely to become even more integral to our healthcare system. This bodes well for improving access to care and making it more efficient and affordable.
As with anything in healthcare, technology is only as good as we make it and improve upon it. If we use it in an integrated fashion, ensuring the data it produces are connected to medical records and the communication surrounding it is strong, then telemedicine will become more mainstream and a force for positive transformation.
Marcin Bogobowicz, EVP, Technology Services and Operations, Klick Health: The pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital in many aspects of people’s day-to-day lives, from grocery shopping, to how healthcare professionals communicate with their patients, to how they both access and consume information. Long gone are the days when patients had to wait for their next doctor visit to get their lab results. That information is now at the tip of people’s fingers through digital platforms. And follow-up appointments can be taken from the comfort of their own homes through a video call–versus spending valuable time in the waiting room.
Technology will continue to be vital in ensuring that experience becomes more seamless and streamlined, leveraging data, machine learning, faster computing power, and more reliable internet connection to create a more tailored experience for both patients and healthcare professionals.
The advances in miniaturization of diagnostic hardware, more reliable collection of data, and advances in machine learning algorithms will continue to make it easier for patients to track more of their day-to-day data, providing a larger diagnostic data set for healthcare professionals for earlier detection of any onset conditions.
Technology evolution and focus on security and privacy of personal data will be paramount in putting the control of health and wellbeing in the patients’ hands.
Gail Flockhart, Chief Commercial Officer and President of Marketing, Fishawack Health: In the world of healthcare marketing, if the previous few years have been focused on data collection, connection, and coordination, 2023 will be about harnessing multiple data sources and turning them into actionable insight.
Data-first strategies will need to be powered by platforms that can deliver modularized content to targeted segments using real-time optimization and messaging orchestration. The good news is platform technologies have evolved at pace with industry needs, resulting in multiple options for solutions. The model of multiyear, large-scale enterprise platform rollout projects has given way to specific and integrated tools being deployed relatively quickly and continuously evolved. The exciting part is the immediacy of results that can be achieved through smart use of analytics — across a range of areas from optimizing healthcare professional or direct-to-patient campaign development to patient identification and activation.
Both further up the commercial chain and further down the adoption funnel, the use of digital health technologies in clinical trials and day-to-day life to record biomarkers, symptoms, motor skills, exercise, heart rate, and more will continue to increase as biopharmaceutical companies partner with technology firms specializing in device and app development. These partnerships and innovative technologies will lead to accelerated trials, deeper patient adherence, and overall better health outcomes.
David Windhausen, President, EVERSANA INTOUCH B2D & Chief Technical Officer, EVERSANA: The ever-increasing demands of consumers for personalized, value-driven engagement, across the digital continuum, will continue to place pressure on pharma marketers to create modern experiences that provide better outcomes in the healthcare space. When you add the additional drivers and external factors of conflict across the world, challenges in the continued move into a global economy, and increasing government oversight on privacy and rising cost of healthcare concerns – just to name a few – the ability for pharmaceutical manufacturers to meet this growing demand for personalization in product and service seems almost too daunting to overcome.
However, there is a formula for breaking down the needed business transformation to be prioritized in order to affect the ongoing evolution required. It really does come down to our ability to think about and leverage data in a holistically different manner than before, to use data to gain a true understanding of the personalization required of consumers across our stakeholder groups, to craft and deliver value at the scale and speed to meet the timing of the demand, and, to gain insight and measurement which will allow us to continue to evolve at ever-increasing speeds.
How do you anticipate the increasing emphasis on data privacy and protection to impact the industry?
Toby Katcher: As in many areas of healthcare and life sciences, COVID-19 has taken its toll on data privacy. To respond quickly to COVID-19, the life sciences industry has had to overcome historical concerns and accept some data privacy risks introduced by new technologies and improved health data sharing. There will be increased interest in technical tools and functions that help manage sensitive personal data to enable remote management of data privacy regulations in partner environments. Data must be managed consistently and responsibly, including an approach that uses masking and anonymization as a minimal starting point. The industry needs a clear process and a strong approach to help validate third-party compliance with privacy and data governance standards.
Jacob Harrison: PII continues to be a growing concern across e-retail/ecommerce. As e-retailers begin to explore marketing based on disease state inferences, as well as contextual advertising based on the consumer shopping journey, there is increased concern by the consumer as to the ability to keep their information private. This will drastically slow opportunities and create a need for beta testing with key partners. I am looking to create long-lasting partnerships with those partners to help work through the logistics of how to market effectively while maintaining trust with consumers.
Kristofer Doerfler: There is a subtle revolution happening in data privacy as companies such as Meta and Google reckon with new demands for greater privacy and Apple, Microsoft, and many upstart companies build their reputations around it. Arguably the greatest need blockchain seeks to solve is data privacy, and it is also one of the greatest obstacles to a consumer-safe metaverse. There will be more tools for people to take greater agency over how their data is being used, which will slowly shift the balance of power of data ownership back into the hands of individuals. As healthcare digitizes its potential connections with media and advertising opportunities increases, which creates a need to handle information very sensitively to avoid violations of consumer privacy.
Sean D’Evelyn, Ph.D., Health Economist, Peregrine Market Access: Historically, data privacy and protection has been a hodgepodge of federal and state laws that have made compliance a bear and the landscape quite challenging to navigate. The American Data and Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), if passed by Congress and signed into law, would be a step forward in establishing a national framework. This would provide some relief to the status quo of having to handle data differently based on varying state regulations. However, for the life sciences industry, ADPPA could mean additional restrictions and closer scrutiny of consent and how data are collected and/or shared. Additionally, the rise of telehealth and digital technologies (e.g., wearables and health apps) and associated data-sharing add new layers of complexity. Regulations need to be carefully crafted to protect individuals and their privacy without stymieing the development of these digital technologies that could meaningfully improve people’s lives.
In spite of these challenges, our already highly regulated industry is well versed in data privacy and the protection of personal and health information (e.g., HIPAA), and therefore is in a better position than many other industries to navigate these new data privacy and protection waters. Whether or not ADPPA becomes law, the lifesciences industry would be well served to take a broad, global view of these important issues. Implementing safeguards, standards, and systems that are grounded in security and risk management and that span the continuum of care would be a good place to start.
Subu Desaraju, Head of Data Strategy, Analytics & Insights, Klick Health: Privacy is paramount for consumers today and especially so in our industry. Data breaches and privacy lapses in recent years have heightened consumer privacy awareness and concern around how firms are collecting and utilizing Personal Health Information (PHI). While there is a punitive cost businesses have to bear for data fumbles, the real cost comes in the form of the loss of consumer trust and loyalty.
To retain consumer trust and loyalty in the face of heightened privacy awareness, healthcare brands will need to build “privacy by design” into their business operating system in three key ways.
First, they will need to implement rigorous governance around data processes–not only in terms of how and where PHI is being collected, connected, nor utilized but also how this data can be quickly removed or transferred at an individual’s request. Consumer consent and control of data that’s being collected and utilized are at the very core of privacy regulation.
Second, healthcare brands will need to ensure that they are thinking privacy first when designing and delivering consumer experiences, with features such as multi-factor authentication along with anonymization and tokenization of PHI. Companies will need to mitigate risks by collecting only the data that is essential and ensuring that this data is encrypted in motion as well as at rest. In addition, as a best practice, they will need to employ data clean-rooms to match or link PHI and non-PHI data across multiple sources for analytics, as well as activation of experiences.
Third, healthcare enterprise teams will need to accelerate investments in identity and access management practices. About one third of breaches in recent years have been attributed to insider threats. Businesses will need to ensure that data sets are available to only those who need them and institute ongoing monitoring, as well as auditing of data access to ensure security compliance.
Brands and businesses that embrace “privacy by design” by instituting rigorous data governance, data security procedures, and internal auditing will retain consumer trust and loyalty. And if breaches do occur, they will need to take swift and decisive action in reporting incidents transparently and fixing the root causes of the breaches. When done right, data privacy and protection can become a source of competitive differentiation and advantage.
Todd Greene: To be honest, I don’t anticipate much additional impact. I believe there is a sort of quagmire in the current gray area around privacy and protection that has little room for change. Sure, for advertisers, first-party data has, and will continue to become, more important and trustworthy than third-party data. But cookies are a drop in the bucket of data that we have at our disposal.
And at this point, HIPAA and COPPA are nearly 30 years old. State Data Breach Notification Laws are 20 years old. During the 2016 election, we reached a sort of peak awareness of how our data can be used by bad actors, with the 2018 GDPR and California’s 2020 Consumer Privacy Act becoming culminations of that in some ways.
Consumers have reached a plateau of fear and numbness that has resulted in a necessitated trust in the technologies they use. Patients and HCPs read headlines about data breaches every week. They have mailboxes filled with “privacy updates” and web browsers filled with cookie popups to decline or accept. One day they see “Do Not Track” ads from the iPhone, and the next day they see Apple Watch ads where data saves someone’s life by automatically calling 911 with their location.
Their helplessness, combined with the value and convenience of data usage (who is willing to uninstall their GPS app or choose faxing medical records over email or upload?), has drawn data concerns to a digital brick wall. What choice do we have as patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and consumers as a whole? Do any of us read the multiple pages of fine print and privacy updates? Do we even skim the cookie choices on each website we visit?
And as an industry, we have an ethical responsibility to not take advantage of this trust.
This is where healthcare advertising and communications can play an important role. The industry is deeply ingrained in following HIPAA guidelines, abiding by cybersecurity laws, and hiring an army of security and data experts. We just need to make sure that those patients, caregivers, payers, and HCPs who are concerned and worried about their privacy are aware of the work and investment our industry is making to their privacy and data security.
Brian Stack: I have a slightly different take on the issue when it comes to web behavior. The increase of data privacy is going to have a significant impact on our industry — specifically from a targeting perspective. Customers right now are somewhat blind to what goes on “under the hood” of a browser and how cookies and advanced targeting work. When consumers at scale change behaviors by not accepting cookies, and using browsers like DuckDuckGo, our industry will find it slightly harder to find and message to certain stakeholders.
Mike Myers, Managing Director and Partner, CrowdPharm: The “no tracking” push that has been occurring along with Apple’s no tracking efforts will tremendously impact digital media and social targeting efforts. Marketers will need to get smarter and, in some cases, revert to “old school” approaches to targeting and engagement.
Shawn Lee: Online advertising is evolving away from the carte blanche tracking of users to a more balanced approach aimed at respecting user privacy while still enabling businesses to effectively target customers. While some browsers such as Safari and Firefox have blocked third-party cookies by default for years now, Chrome, which maintains almost 65% browser market share, has still clung on to the technology.
This is changing, however, with the Google-led open-source Privacy Sandbox Initiative. This initiative has had some rocky beginnings, with its earlier effort to replace third-party tracking leading to pushback from industry and privacy groups over its intrusive nature, compelling Google to switch methodologies in 2022. Chrome’s market dominance will likely influence other browsers to adopt the standards proposed in the initiative.
Corina Kellam: We’ll obviously all do as much as we can for as long as we can within what’s allowed, pivoting to the partners and platforms that give us the best performance.
But there is no doubt that zero party data is a golden ticket, long term. And you just won’t get those sweet self-selections without phenomenal content. Solid content strategy and UX sets the foundation, and it needs to be brought to life by compelling creative. We’re launching a handful of extremely robust client projects in 2023 that either feed a zero-party data ask or serve as the reward for that engagement. Just offering drip emails isn’t enough anymore – you need gamification, real-time polling, exclusive content, community, or something truly special.
Gail Flockhart: Data privacy is a right that has quickly moved from “awareness” to “actionable.” Current and upcoming data privacy laws such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) VCDPA (Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act), and CPA (Colorado Privacy Act) have fueled a movement where individuals are taking action to protect their personal data. They are demanding their right to privacy and protection while being more selective about when, where, and how they provide their data. They also want clarity about how their data will be used.
While the right to privacy is top of mind, the public also wants access to information and services specifically tailored to their individual needs.
The industry now finds itself in a juxtaposed position of balancing its end-users’ privacy with the expectation of delivering targeted, digestible content and experiences. On one hand, the industry has an enormous, mandated responsibility to put processes and safeguards in place to protect privacy in accordance with the privacy acts. However, those providing solutions need to be able to cut through the noise to meet their audience’s need for information.
Solving this challenge will result in new ways of thinking and new approaches to navigate this confluence and potential conflict between the right to privacy and the desire for connected experiences.
David Windhausen: For pharma marketers, the continued move to better leverage and use data has never been more of an imperative (and will never be less of an imperative in the future than it is right now). Data privacy concerns are changing the landscape of how we can use data to better target customers. To ensure better data privacy, we must address how we can acquire more first-party data; the data and insights which are created by the things we are doing directly with our customers, not first-party data, we must address the value we are creating and giving in return for our customers entrusting us with more insight into their personal needs.
A great first step for pharma marketers is for us to do a bit of reflective evaluation of the data sources which may already be at our disposal, identifying the unique insights and capabilities those sources may give us to create valuable opportunities for our customers, which will, in turn, give us the opportunity to capture more data in the future. And the flywheel begins to spin.
|Maria Fontanazza is the director of content, Med Ad News and PharmaLive.com.|