A blog powered by Aptus Health, offering points of view on the changing world of healthcare.

Evolved Targeting: Artificial Intelligence and The Birth of Smart MCM

Brad Davidson, Phd., Medical Anthropologist and Senior Strategy Consultant, Aptus Health

You know you’re getting old when what was once science fiction is now coming up in 2017 brand planning discussions.

There’s been a lot of chatter around the concept of “Artificial Intelligence,” or AI, in the news recently—and also among pharma marketers, in terms of the role AI may play in healthcare. Like very few other technical, hard science concepts, AI has captured the imagination of the general public, sparking robust discussions around the ethics, impending virtues, and potential disasters of “machines that can think independently.”

But what is AI, exactly? And how can we, as pharmaceutical marketers, harness it meaningfully and appropriately…today?

Computers that think
The term Artificial Intelligence originally meant something like “a complex machine that could think.” In short, a created human brain, one that could learn, problem solve, grow, and (heaven forbid) gain awareness of its own existence.ai-1

That’s why it makes for such good t.v.

But today, that definition and expectation of AI has evolved to something more practical. What we have come to focus on are “discrete problem solving machines that can learn from their own experience”—a machine that can play chess, and get better at it, or a set of algorithms that can predict with increasing accuracy purchasing behaviors, based on previous predictions, which were in turn based on lots of input data (that a human first assembled).

Now it’s starting to sound like something less like an existential threat to humanity and more like something that could reasonably support multichannel marketing efforts.

Adding the science of algorithms to the art of marketing

Of course, computers work in a very specific way: any computational solution requires data as input, a series of algorithms (fancy word for computer code) to analyze that data, and some kind of output, whether that be a chess move, a diagnosis, or a set of ads sent to an individual who seems on the verge of purchasing more camping gear (don’t ask). The algorithms that work on one set of data rarely, if ever, work without editing on another set of data, to solve a different problem.

If AI has come to mean a “problem solving machine that can learn as it goes within a very specific context,” then we have a ready-made use for AI in creating integrated multichannel engagement plans.

Our ability to meaningfully connect the various touchpoints we have at our disposal with which to communicate to our audiences (face to face, virtual, non-personal, passive digital like websites, etc.) has somewhat eroded, because there are just so many to choose from, and so our multichannel plans have become an exercise in educated guessing (at least when compared to the purchasing algorithms used by, say, Amazon). They needn’t be.

Applying intelligence – artificial and real—to multichannel engagement strategies

Our task, when applying AI to creating integrated channel plans, is actually relatively simple, conceptually speaking: we only need to create a set of algorithms that will take the input we provide (in this case, channel usage, observed impact of usage, typical patterns of interaction between the channels, meaning, what interactions with what channels lead to further interactions with different channels…), and use the output (a series of findings about what channels pair together best for most measurable impact) to guide our channel plans.

The subtle variations within the question are nearly infinite: do primary care physicians use the same channels, in the same way and in the same order, as specialists? Does this pattern change depending on the category, say, CNS versus diabetes? Does the number of available therapies change our basic algorithm? Does the modality, or cost, or side effect profile of the drug or intervention change how the healthcare provider learns about or seeks for answers about the therapy itself? The list, potentially, is long.

But as a first step, we know what we want to do. We have the data and we have the desired output (a data driven, targeted multichannel engagement plan) to help our newly minted algorithms produce usable solutions that get better at creating impact the more iterations we create and study.

Key takeaway: Aptus Health has evolved to the point where this first step is a reality, and generating results. So while we will all be watching to see how elements of AI such as augmented reality and advanced analytics transform how health and life sciences companies connect with HCPs and consumers, the future, in the form of an AI-driven channel planning function, is already here.

Posted in Blog

4 Key Takeaways from Digital Pharma East

The 2016 Digital Pharma East event recently wrapped, and now comes the fun part – putting all those big ideas into practice.

Fittingly, the theme of this year’s event was “Truly Embedding Digital Across Your Enterprise,” drawing hundreds of attendees representing both pharma and product and services providers (including several Aptus Health folks and our customers). Many of the conversations that took place on stage and off underscore the projects we’re working on with our clients.digitalpharma-east2x

Here are just a few of the key themes we heard, and our take on addressing them with solutions that exist today:

Posted in Blog

From medications to end-of-life, HCPs find value in sharing their most challenging patient questions

It’s a well-established fact that healthcare providers (HCPs) often struggle to keep up with the enormous amount of content that emerges every day from the annals of clinical literature. But there’s another category of medical knowledge that is just as important, and perhaps just as challenging to address – the questions that patients bring to their clinical visits.

A recent segment on our web and mobile communities invites HCPs to share some of the tough questions that their patients have been asking– from health concerns triggered by the media to those that are more philosophical in nature.

Hundreds of members of the community posted examples of patient questions that have them stumped, and responded to their peers’ dilemmas with their own advice and real-world examples. We also asked four of our expert faculty to share their wisdom, based on their respective areas of expertise.

It’s another great example of how we keep our HCP community active and engaged, and highlights the opportunity for our clients to leverage this community to engage their target audiences in high value content that supports better clinical decision making.

Here are just a few of the featured questions and excerpted responses.

Posted in Blog

If you’re not priming your market for biosimilars, who will?

Steve Smith, PA, MDE

As the biosimilars market heats up—and with the FDA likely to approve more of them for the US in coming months—the market will be challenged to achieve widespread physician adoption. Meanwhile, news of the FDA’s draft guidelines that exclude safety and efficacy information from biosimilars’ labels suggests that doctors may have to do their own research to ensure they’re prescribing the best and most effective choice for their patients.

To better understand how significant these obstacles may be—and the opportunities for effectively addressing them—we reached out to our digital healthcare provider (HCP) community after the FDA approval of the first biosimilar for the U.S. The insights they shared offer pharma companies that are either releasing or bracing against the introduction of a biosimilar to their branded drugs a clear roadmap for targeting, engaging, educating, supporting, and ultimately influencing physician behaviors around these new therapies. For example:

Posted in Blog

Life sciences marketers speak: why pharma needs to make digital house calls

“There often isn’t time during the daily schedule to sit down and read a whole journal or even a whole article. With this format, I can review topics I’m interested in whenever I get a break between patients, over lunch, or any other time I have a moment I don’t want to waste.”

–Member of our web and mobile physician community

Clearly, today’s healthcare professionals are hungry to connect – with their colleagues, with the latest clinical information, and with trustworthy, high-value content on relevant therapies and treatments.

Two new industry whitepapers—MM&M’s Communicating with the Connected Clinician and eyeforpharma’s Customer Experience and Beyond: Why Digital Changes Everything—explore some of the trends and opportunities life sciences companies have to meet healthcare professionals in ways that matter to them, through resources they’re already using—from online communities to Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and mobile devices. Industry experts from organizations including Bayer, Teva, IMS Health, Novartis, Takeda, and others share their perspectives on areas in which pharma marketers might want to double down on their integrated digital tactics.

Posted in Blog

Creating a better new-to-brand patient experience

By Robert MacMillan, VP of EHR and Innovation

“My doctor told me I have [condition] on Thursday and gave me a prescription but I haven’t gotten it yet. If I don’t get the meds what’s the worst that will happen?”

That’s how one member of our online health community, MedHelp, described the trepidation around getting started on a medication. It’s an unfortunate yet not uncommon attitude shared by many people who face long-term therapy.

Providers perceive the barriers of starting patients on a new medication, too – from ensuring fulfillment of that first script to the ongoing support that helps address patient concerns. In fact, a recent survey of nearly 300 members of our digital physician community sheds light on key drivers of providers’ prescribing decisions, as well as some of the perceived barriers that their patients have around their care plans.

Posted in Blog

Digital communications—not just for whitespace anymore

By Brad Davidson, PhD

There is a belief among many healthcare communications and brand managers that multi-channel marketing (MCM) is a substitute for human interaction—and a poor substitute at that, one whose relevance was forced upon the industry as a direct reaction to the rise of “no-see” physicians. This may have once been true, especially at the beginning, when the loss of access started accelerating and digital was still in its infancy (or at least, toddling along).

We started, as do all industries undergoing massive technological, administrative, and social changes, by adaptation-by-analogy, or what can be termed the “faster horse” syndrome: for doctors to whom we could no longer provide an in-person detail, we created e-details; for audiences who no longer went to congresses, we created virtual conferences. Taking these one-to-one conversions from face-to-face to digital were, almost always, seen as a step backwards. Digital communications, at the beginning, were something we settled for when the real McCoy wasn’t available to us.

That thinking is obsolete. Digital has changed how we—and that includes physicians—communicate.


Posted in Blog

Real-world engagement just got real: Leveraging consumer data and location-based signals to drive qualified reach at scale

By Patrick Aysseh, President of Tomorrow Networks (a division of Aptus Health)

Why did a generation of kids want their MTV? At the very basic level, it was the exposure to new, easily digestible content — whether you were a metal-head, into new wave, or a music newshound — 24 hours a day.

Of course times have changed over the past 35 years and the way many Americans engage with media has changed too. Digital — and more specifically, mobile channels — have captured the attention of nearly every generation, giving us virtually any kind of content we need, in the format we value, whenever and wherever we want it. We don’t have to be tethered to a TV or computer (or the living room of that friend who had cable TV back in the 1980s) to engage deeply with content that offers incredibly in-the-moment relevance. And collectively, we’re engaging with mobile longer and more frequently than through other channels.

Savvy advertisers are taking advantage of this trend. In fact, recent U.S. ad spending reports  suggest that $69B will be spent in digital advertising (excluding video) in 2016. About two-thirds of that spend — that’s $44 billion — will be mobile. According to the report, by 2020, mobile ad spend will be on par with television advertising budgets.


Posted in Blog