Healthcare, Digital Marketing and Market Access Strategy - John G. Baresky
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Clinical and Commercial Healthcare News Blog
Healthcare Medical Pharmaceutical Directory.com
Healthcare Industry Commentary
Market Trends...
  • 2020 sees new business models through ongoing mergers & acquisitions of healthcare provider and payer entities
  • Clinicians demanding more of digital technology ( artificial intelligence, imaging, clinical analytics, mobile, telemedicine, Internet-Of-Things (IoT) ) to enhance care despite its complexity and costs



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...A healthcare marketing resource for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, healthcare provider organizations, medical software and technology firms, patient care programs and service companies spanning a global community of users from 50+ nations...


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Healthcare, Digital Marketing and Market Access Strategy - John G. Baresky

HOW CAN HEALTHCARE PROVIDER ORGANIZATIONS KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO TO NEW APPS?

by John G. Baresky on 09/18/20

New healthcare apps overwhelm the market

The shelter-in-place and social distancing elements of the pandemic escalated the growth trajectory of healthcare mobile applications around the world. Smartphones have more than proven their usefulness prior to COVID-19 and now developers continue to churn out new health and wellness apps daily. 

Numerous technology companies have recognized these opportunities and invested considerable staff, financial and technical resources to pursue the enormous commerical opportunities involved. They have committed themselves to the health and wellnes sector with their advanced and convenient to use software applications and devices from Amazon, Apple, Google and others. 

Healthcare provider organizations have followed suit by developing numerous applications supported through various digital means to demonstrate their ability to innovate, account for tech-friendly consumer needs and compete against other patient care providers. Some are merely "mobile friendly" to enable patients to access website resources more easily. Others are more sophisticated and specialized -many with unproven ROI track records.

A lineup of patient care and consumer health & wellness app examples:

Patient demand continues to encourage more customer-centric mobile apps that help with a myriad healthcare tasks:

 

  • Schedule appointments with clinicians at medical groups, hospitals, health systems, specialty practices, urgent care centers and even retail pharmacy clinics
  • Virtual apppointments (telehealth and telemedicine) conducted in a "Facetime" setting between patients and clinicians
  • Prescription refill requests at retail, mail order and specialty pharmacies that also include deliveries
  • Exercise and activity fitness trackers abound that span smartphones and wrist-bound wearables
  • Numerous apps focused on specific healthcare conditions and patients including asthma, diabetes care, heart health, oncology

 

Healthcare provider organizations reap the benefits or shoulder the burden from the apps they develop

Apps are a great way for healthcare provider organizations to extend their care and promote their services. It's an opportunity to generate data that a consumer or patient can benefit from whether it's for their eyes only or if the data is also shared with their clinicians. Depending on the level of clinical involvement and patient data capture nuances involved, medical professionals are being reimbursed by commercial and government payers for this additionl patient care support. 

Considering the array of care even modestly sized medical groups offer, hospitals and health systems deliver an even greater abundance of patient treatments that apps could be developed for. 

The benefits of apps are attractive but there are immediate and ongoing costs to provide them. Once apps are developed they need to be sustained through upgrades as enhanced accuracy, improved technology performance, privacy, security standards and threat levels change. Healthcare provider organizations have to consider the cost, time and technical resources necessary to develop, launch and manage apps their own apps through the duration of their clinical and technical lifecyvle. 

Questions for healthcare providers to ask themselves in advance of developing new apps

The increasing use of healthcare apps is going to continue by consumers and patients. Healthcare provider organizations need to evaluate what opportunities suit them and their patients best in terms of care and cost. 

Key considerations for medical care providers to be informed of when assessing the development of a new app:

 

  • What is the estimated numer of consumers or patients that will benefit from it?
  • Is the critical medical need involved for the app at a high enough level to warrant its development costs and use?
  • Are there free or low cost apps already available in the marketplace that provide comparable data and care support for consumers, patients and clinicians to use?
  • Can the clinical, financial and technical elements requirements to develop and support the app be sustained by the healthcare provider organization's resources?
  • Is there an application the healthcare provider organization already has that can be enhanced with additional features to avoid having to develop an entirely new app?

 

The future holds greater opportunities for patient care innovation

Technology continues to outpace itself as smartphones, fitness trackers and highly portable FDA-approved medical devices become more sophisticated and less costly. Remote patient monitoring, telehealth and telemedicine are additional catalysts in creating more demand for apps by consumers, patients and medical professionals. 

Moving forward, healthcare provider organizations need to carefully think about where they deploy their resources to be certain they are allocating them to support the care needs they can best serve and rely on other stakeholders to account for the others.



 

 



MERCK INVESTS OVER $1 BILLION IN SEATTLE GENETICS PARTNERSHIP

by John G. Baresky on 09/14/20

Merck continues its aggressive 2020 business strategy with landmark Seattle Genetics collaboration

Through a major clinical and commercial initiative focused on the development and marketing of oncology therapies Merck (MYSE: MRK) is investing heavily in a partnership with Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN).

Kenilworth, New Jersey based Merck is acquiring $1 billion of Seattle Genetics’ stock at a 30% premium based on its current share price. Merck is also committing over $600 million in funding to help develop  Ladiratuzumab, a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that Seattle Genetics is working on with the intent for it be approved by the FDA for use in oncology. Merck and Seattle Genetics are intrigued by the possibility the novel mAb could be paired with Merck's blockbuster Keytruda oncology drug as a co-therapy in breast cancer treatment and perhaps others.

In addition to the investments in Seattle Genetics' stock and Ladiratuzumab, the agreement includes the rights for Merck (who is committing up to $200 million in this arrangement) to market Tukysa (a Seattle Genetics mAb that is already FDA approved for use in treating breast cancer) in global markets. Merck will commercialize Tukysa in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

All in, the strategic partnership with Seattle Genetics may push Merck's financial commitment to over $2 billion if certain product development and approval milestones are met that are additional elements within the collaboration deal.

Merck is undergoing a major corporate transformation

Merck emerged from 2019 on a positive note and has not taken its sights off of achieving significant planned and unplanned 2020 goals involving partnerships, new product launches and major business unit divestitures.

In less than 1 year Merck has undertaken a series of impressive actions that continued even as the pandemic unfolded: 

  • In December, 2019 Merck received approval for Ervebo, the world's first Ebola vaccine approved by the FDA and CHMP
  • Merck's first major move in 2020 occurred in February when it announced plans to develop an entirely new company through a spinoff of several product franchises joined together as an entirely separate enterprise
  • The company sold off its StayWell business unit to WebMD in March
  • In April Merck's clinical and commercial partnership with AstraZeneca launched Koselugo (FDA approved to treat Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1)) and the same collaboration earned a new prostate cancer indication for its jointly developed Lynparza therapy in May
  • Merck formally entered the battle against the coronavirus in May when it launched a COVID-19 initiative that encompasses the development of an antiviral and 2 vaccine candidates plus the acquisition of Themis Biosciences
Merck will be a different and even more competitive global pharmaceutical leader in 2021

Looking ahead, Merck's 2020 plans will put it into a new position among global pharmaceutical leaders. Its ventures with Seattle Genetics and AstraZeneca look promising and its corporate spinoffs will allow for even more focus on the development of advanced therapies. Patients and clinicians have truly realized the benefits of Merck's ability to drive innovation in medicine as have Merck's stockholders. As 2021 approaches, even more strategic changes can be expected as Merck pushes forward.

 


HEALTHCARE PROVIDER ORGANIZATIONS INTEGRATING TELEHEALTH IN BUSINESS AND MARKETING STRATEGY

by John G. Baresky on 09/07/20

Telehealth is becoming a competitive edge for medical groups, hospitals and health systems

The benefits of telehealth for patients are well publicized. Healthcare provider organizations that rushed into telehealth as a way to continue patient care at the onset of the pandemic are now capitalizing on telehealth as a way to improve their bottom line. While telehealth, remote patient monitoring and IT technology requires financial investment, clinicians and provider organizations are realizing they can increase revenue streams and wield telehealth technology as a competitive asset.

Clinical and commercial drivers of telehealth and telemedicine adoption and enhancement across the healthcare industry:

  • Expands the reach of specialists to treat more patients that are geographically dispersed in metro, rural and remote areas
  • Appointment cancellations are less frequent which reduces gaps in billable hour income
  • Patients and clinicians have flexibility to schedule appointments outside of standard facility operating hours
  • Increased revenue streams through combining telehealth and remote monitoring capabilities
  • Facilitates collaboration between clinicians and other healthcare provider organizations for advanced patient care issues including emergency care
  • Greater commercial and government payer recognition and formal reimbursement guidelines are in place and being enhanced to reflect the unique aspects of telehealth care delivery
  • Extends the reach of care which supports patient retention and continuity of revenue streams
Upcoming telehealth developments to look forward to

Telehealth is still in its infancy but it is growing up fast. Consumer wearables from Amazon (Halo), Apple Smart Watch and Verily Life Sciences (Alphabet/Google) and other companies is increasing in accuracy, sophistication and reliability. These can support the telehealth formula that relies on higher grade FDA-approved medical device patient monitoring resources more specifically focused in telemedicine.

The need for better broadband internet access for rural patients is being addressed. Limitations of technology use for persons without Internet who may only have mobile phones or do not have a comfortable level of experience with technology are also being recognized as areas in need of improvement. 

Provider organizations, technology companies plus municipal, state and federal authorities are more aware of what technology can and cannot do in terms of telehealth and telemedicine. They are working on reducing the gaps wherever possible and supporting viable solutions that are not technology-centric to continually improve patient care.

Telehealth has transformed the future of healthcare 

Investment in technology, training and administration are necessary to orchestrate this permanent addition to the traditional patient care offerings provider organizations have offered for years. It is going to be a necessary and important financial commitment for them to make. This has to be reflected in better reimbursement and the ability to offset the expenses of telehealth with the savings realized from it.

By demonstrating a high level of patient care and cost effectivness with telehealth/telemedicine, healthcare provider organizations can establish and promote their expertise

Moving forward, patients and payers are going to expect telehealth to be provided at a high level of performance in terms of outcomes, patient experience and cost efficiency. Medical groups, hospitals and health systems that are strategically integrating telehealth and telemedicine into their mainstream patient care models can outdistance their competitors. By promoting their proficiency in its use and achieving high patient satisfaction levels, they can effectively differentiate themselves from other providers. This positions them to build their reputation and generate more revenue.


 

HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY SLOWLY REGAINING STRENGTH

by John G. Baresky on 09/04/20

Select healthcare sectors increase hiring

According to the latest Federal jobs data and Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, August numbers showed modest improvement in specific healthcare provider organization categories. Hospitals added about 14,000 new jobs and physician offices filled roughly 27,000 positions. Home health contributed 12,000 new hires and the dental care sector did its part by adding a robust 22,000 workers. Other sectors across the economy showed promising jobs growth as well. Within the healthcare sector, the nursing home and long term care sectors continue to suffer as admissions are down and a higher number of patients are treated via telehealth and remote monitoring (a trend which may last for a while).

COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandates and other public health restrictions hit many healthcare provider organizations harshly and unexpectantly late in the first quarter of 2020 through end of the second quarter. The rapid expansion of the pandemic and shortage of PPE was a double whammy followed by a plunge in the performance of the economy.

Promising indicators for healthcare product manufacturers

The increase of hiring across hospitals, physician practices and dentist offices may also signal an increase of procedures. Pharmaceutical, medical device and other healthcare product manufacturers dependent upon outpatient and inpatient surgical cases have lost revenue during the pandemic as various procedures were delayed or cancelled. As we approach the front edge of the 4th quarter, any pickup in business is welcome.There is likely pent up demand for procedures to be completed due to the slowdown earlier in 20 or in regards to elective surgeries, complete cancellations.

As people seek to optimize their medical and pharmacy benefit expenditures based on deductibles they have met or knowledge of higher out-of-pocket costs facing them in 2021, there could be a moderate surge in the volume of procedures to close out the year. Such a trend will be hugely welcomed by clinicians and healthcare product manufacturers. The clinicians will appreciate the income and the healthcare product manufacturers will closely monitor the lowering of inventories.

Looking ahead to 2021

For those manufacturers that have introduced new products in 2020, a return of activity will revitalize their marketing and sales teams to close out the year on a positive note and go into the new year with renewed purpose. Companies with plans to launch new products in 2021 will be in a much better position to gain early traction if medical care activity is on the increase. Best case scenarios between now and the end of the year involve the approval of one or more COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 antiviral therapies to amplify the clinical and commercial recovery across the healthcare industry.

LEADING RETAILERS SPEARHEADING MASK REQUIREMENTS NATIONWIDE

by John G. Baresky on 07/21/20

Privately-owned and publicly held retailers supporting mask requirements nationwide

Appliance & electronics, clothing, grocery, mass merchandisers, pharmacy and other retailers are requiring customers to wear masks on their premises while shopping. Their actions embrace the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They bring an extra measure of protection and safety to those persons in municipalities and/or states that do not have mask restrictions in place.

Some have exceptions for children and for those persons that have pronounced breathing difficulties while wearing masks.

Mask requirements in place regardless of metropolitan or state requirements

While several states do not have mask mandates, these retailers are still requiring consumers to wear masks in their facilities. By having universal mask wearing requirements across their stores, they protect their employees who are also wearing masks as well as customers.

This is a list of retailers with mask requirements that is steadily growing:

  • Albertsons (plus all subsidiaries Jewel, Safeway, Vons, etc.) - NYSE: ACI
  • American Eagle – NYSE: AEO
  • Apple - NYSE: APPL
  • Best Buy - NYSE: BBY
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club - NYSE: BJ
  • Costco - NASDAQ: COST
  • CVS - NYSE: CVS
  • Dierbergs Markets – privately held
  • Kohls - NYSE: KSS
  • Kroger (plus subsidiaries Dillons, Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter’s, King Soopers, Marianos Ralph’s etc.) -  NYSE: KR
  • Publix – privately held
  • Schnucks Markets – privately held
  • Starbucks (at company-owned stores) - NASDAQ: SBUX
  • Target - NYSE: TGT
  • Walmart (plus subsidiary, Sam’s Club stores) - NYSE: WMT
  • Walgreens (plus Duane Reed-branded stores ) -  NASDAQ: WBA

Summer of 2020 has been challenging to manage for retailers

While numerous communities and states had shelter-in-place mandates and other rules such as mask requirements enforced earlier in 2020, many of these have been rescinded. Retailers want their employees and their shoppers to be collectively protected. The ongoing expansion of the list is good news that multiple stakeholders across the United States can play a leading role in the efforts to defeat COVID-19.








HEALTHCARE MEDICAL PHARMACEUTICAL DIRECTORY: 7 NEW UPDATES

by John G. Baresky on 07/09/20

Visit the Healthcare Medical Pharmaceutical Directory homepage for updates on these and other topics:

  • 2020 A Robust Year For Contract Research Organizations (CROs)
  • AbbVie's Two New Oncology Partnerships
  • Centene's Strategic Acquisition of NextLevel Partners
  • National Urology & Oncology Practice Formed By Healthcare Private Equity
  • Merck's Triple Threat COVID-19 Strategy
  • UnitedHealth Group Collaborating With Microsoft
  • Eli Lilly's New Oncology Product Retevmo Earns Trifecta Of FDA Approved Indications

 

MID-YEAR HEALTHCARE DIGITAL MARKETING CHECKUP

by John G. Baresky on 07/02/20

For many companies, 2020's marketing and sales goals as well as their strategies drastically changed between March and May 

Now that we are officially in the second half of the year, it's time to conduct a simple but definitive assessment of digital marketing strategies and tactics. In-person meetings, medical conferences and other close personal contact venues for marketing and selling pharmaceutical products, medical devices, diagnostics and clinical services have evaporated. Digital marketing resources have already been widely recognized by many companies as the go-to method to effectively communicate with customers and patients. 

Is your company doing enough to outpace the competition and if they are, is it sustainable through the end of the 2020? 

Now is the time to address the present and future of your digital marketing resources and how they are deployed to engage customers and generate sales to close out the year with profitable sales results. 

A few simple questions coupled with data should help determine the actions necessary to propel your organization through the end of the year:

  • Are the sales numbers (volume, margin, etc.) ahead of goal, on track or behind; do the figures call for sustaining or improving their performance through the end of 2020?
  • If you asked Sales how your company's digital marketing could better support their efforts, what are the top 3 recommendations they would share with Marketing?
  • Based on the feasibility of their suggestions, is your digital marketing budget enough to meet 1, 2 or all 3 of their recommendations and if not, where can funding be allocated from and which one of their requests is most impactful to get underway immediately?
  • If you strictly evaluated each of your digital marketing instruments (e-commerce, email marketing, PPC, social media and other digital promotional elements, etc.) based on budget versus ROI, which ones are clearly outperforming the others?
  • What is the weakest digital link between your company, its product franchises and its most important customers and what is the cost and time required to strengthen it?
  • What is your primary competitors' key strength(s) in digital marketing and how do your digital strengths and weaknesses compare to them; what is the optimum strategy and action necessary to leverage your greatest digital strengths against their digital weaknesses?
  • If your company has recently or is about to launch a new product, service or program what would your customers say is the best way to introduce it to them digitally in light of COVID-19 and is your company following their advice?
  • Are there any digital marketing initiatives planned for 2021 that you can afford to moved up into 2020 to have a greater impact this year and gain early momentum into 2021?

Realistically determine how fast your digital marketing strategies and tactics can pivot based on the answers and the data

As you assess the answers you have collected and interpret the associated data involved, determine which solutions can be realistically implemented in a reasonable amount of time. It is important to avoid churn at this critical point in 2020. 

If you can exceed or meet your goals by year-end or at least profitably outperform your competitors, you will be better positioned to advance into 2021.

AKILI INTERACTIVE LABS ENDEAVORRX IS THE FIRST FDA APPROVED VIDEO GAME

by John G. Baresky on 06/24/20

A breakthrough ADHD pediatric treatment option

EndeavorRx has earned U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactive treatment disorder (ADHD). It is the first FDA approved digital therapeutic software in the format of a video game that is available by prescription only. EndeavorRx was developed by Akili Interactive Labs.

EndeavorRx is indicated for pediatric patients ages 8 to 12 years old with primarily inattentive or combined-type ADHD who have demonstrated an attention issue. The approval is based on its ability to improve attention function as measured by computer-based testing and is the first digital therapeutic agent intended to improve symptoms associated with ADHD.  The product is designed for use as a component of a patient care program that may involve healthcare professional-directed therapy, medication, educational programs and other support that address symptoms of the disorder.

EndeavorRx has also been approved by European regulators through Conformite’ European (CE) Mark certification. 

Akili’s unique technology is at the center of EndeavorRx’s success

The creation of EndeavorRx was based on Akili’s Selective Stimulus Management Engine (SSME) proprietary technology. From the start, EndeavorRx was designed to focus and activate neural networks in the brain responsible for cognitive function. It delivers combined special sensory stimuli and motor challenges that center on activating neural systems associated with attention functions. It is also fortified with adaptive algorithms to customize the treatment experience based on each patient.

A technotherapeutic breakthrough

A video game therapeutic option to help treat ADHD (or any patient care issue for that matter!) will be welcomed by healthcare professionals and patients. It not only augments existing ADHD treatment options, it provides an interactive experience for patients to have a role in caring for themselves. 

Another important attribute in any prescribed therapy is patient adherence. EndeavorRx will be able to not only administer the treatment but also record patient interactions with the program to verify compliance and provide data-driven insights at to how the patient interacted with it. This will help parents and clinicians get a better idea of how well a patient is engaging the program. Data can also serve as building blocks to further enhance the product.

An important milestone reached by the FDA

The FDA continues to evolve as the healthcare industry continuously innovates. Every drug therapy, medical device and other products subject to FDA approval have their own nuances and complexities. By reviewing and approving EndeavorRx, the FDA achieves a breakthrough as a progressive organization that provides an objective evaluative forum dedicated to safety and efficacy that embraces entirely new approaches to advancing patient care.

Akili Interactive Labs has accomplished a remarkable achievement

Founded in 2011, Akili Interactive Labs is based in Boston, Massachusetts. EndeavorRx is the first product the company has launched that has earned FDA and CE regulatory approval. Akili has a distinguished and diverse lineup of organizations that are involved in its success. Some of its supporters and partners include Amgen, Autism Speaks, Canepa Healthcare (funding), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pfizer, PureTech Health (funding), San Francisco VA Medical Center, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and University of Washington.

 

 

EPIC SYSTEMS SIGNS MAJOR EHR DEAL WITH BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD HEALTH CARE SERVICE CORPORATION

by John G. Baresky on 06/17/20

Epic Systems and Health Care Services Corporation Launch A Breakthrough Electronic Health Record Initiative

Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) is developing an electronic health record (EHR) information platform with Epic Systems that will form a patient/member data network with its five Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plans. It is described as “a secure, interconnected and efficient health system and information exchange between insurers, providers, and patients.”

Based in Chicago, HCSC is one of the larger BCBS holding companies in the nation

HCSC operates five BCBS plans:

 

  • Illinois
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

 

Better patient care and member services with better quality healthcare data and plan performance

The proposed platform will better integrate patient data from healthcare provider organizations like hospitals, health systems, medical group practices and other point-of-care sites with the payer/insurer members' plan data. The goal is to accelerate the secure sharing of patient healthcare and cost information between medical professionals and their organizations with the patient's BCBS plan administration by using Epic Systems EHR technology.

This will reduce claims processing errors while enhancing medical and financial reporting. Costs will be reduced and the conduit between plan member/patient, medical provider organizations and BCBS will be more efficient.

Epic Systems is a leading contender in the EHR data marketplace

The arrangement between privately-held Epic Systems and BCBS is highly strategic. Epic Systems has typically centered its sophisticated EHR programs with users in hospitals, health systems and other larger patient care provider entities. By partnering directly with large scale managed care organizations like BCBS plans, Epic Systems branches out of its traditional market sector. It is an admirable and effective brand extension strategy.

Epic Systems' largest competitor, Cerner, will soon likely develop countermeasures

Epic Systems primary rival, Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN), will be seeking ways to counter this competitive threat as will the distant 3rd largest EHR company Meditech. There is no doubt Verona, Wisconsin-based Epic Systems is contemplating how to quickly and successfully replicate this business arrangement with other BCBS plans across the nation as well as with other managed care organizations –potentially Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Molina, UnitedHealth Group/Optum or other payers. 

Cerner, headquartered in North Kansas City, Missouri, is a well-established and savvy EHR technology leader. It has the necessary resources to drive innovation and strong relationships across the healthcare industry to support a more robust customer strategy transformation.  

A PROFILE ON GILEAD SCIENCES AND REMEDESIVIR

by John G. Baresky on 06/03/20

Gilead Sciences is becoming a household name

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a lot of new things to everyday life like personal protection equipment (PPE), work from home (WFH), telehealth, social distancing and other elements. It has also put the spotlight on the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Typically vilified by the media, these organizations are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the research and development of products to combat COVID-19. 

One of these lesser known companies to the general public but well respected in the healthcare and biopharmaceutical community is Gilead Sciences.

Key facts about Gilead Sciences:

  • The firm was founded in Foster City, California in 1987
  • Its stock is traded on NASDAQ: GILD
  • The company generates over $22 billion in annual sales
  • Roughly 11,000 persons are employed by the organization
  • Its product portfolio is diverse but centers largely around these categories of medicine: cardiovascular, hematology/oncology, HIV/AIDS, inflammation, respiratory and liver disease
  • The portfolio's top selling products include Biktarvy (bictegravir, emtriciabine and tenofoviral afenamide), Genvoya (elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, tenofovir alafenamide) and Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate)
  • Its experimental drug, Remedesivir has been given emergency use authorization (EUA) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19 patients

Key facts about Remedesivir:

  • The agent is still considered experimental, it does not have  established safety or efficacy for the treatment of any condition, it has not completed a successful clinical trial and been officially reviewed by regulating authorities
  • It is an antiviral drug whose development began based on research started in 2009
  • Also known as GS-5734, it is  a nucleoside analogue pro-drug based on a synthetic molecule in the antiviral class of medications targeting RNA synthesis
  • The product has shown in vitro and in vivo activity against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) viruses (which are also coronaviruses) in the laboratory setting and has shown some activity against COVID-19
  • It is an injectable therapy although Gilead Sciences is exploring other formulations for the drug including inhaled powdered forms
  • The product is being further evaluated as a tandem therapy against COVID-19 with Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY) Olumiant (baricitinib) and with Cytodyn's (OTCMKTS: CYDY) leronlimab -a monoclonal antibody mAb that is still is development
The global pharmaceutical industry is confronting the COVID-19 challenge

There is an array of companies driving hard to develop effective solutions against COVID-19. Antivirals, hyperimmune globulins, vaccines and other approaches are being thoroughly explored. Gilead Sciences is a global leader in biopharmaceutical product development and commercialization. Its proven clinical research attributes and established financial resources make it a strong contender in any market it chooses to compete in. Let's hope the promise that Remedesivir holds turns into a winner for Gilead Sciences and the global healthcare community.


COVID-19 BLOOD PLASMA THERAPY OPTIONS ARE PROMISING

by John G. Baresky on 05/28/20

Blood plasma therapy innovation driven by academic, healthcare and technology enterprises is confronting the COVID-19 challenge

Multiple clinical research initiatives are underway to learn more about the potential of blood plasma as a therapeutic approach to combat COVID-19. A pivotal assumption is a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 has produced antibodies to it. By using plasma from these patients and introducing it into patients who are critically ill from COVID-19, the plasma will fortify their systems with antibodies and provide them support to survive COVID-19 as their own immune systems develop COVID-19 antibodies.

Two clinical strategies are involved in COVID-19 blood plasma therapy

While there is differentiation between researchers and healthcare provider organizations exploring the attributes of COVID-19 blood plasma therapy, there are two approaches that presently have the most traction: 

  • One option is to transfer the blood plasma from the recovered COVID-19 patient to the ill COVID-19 patient by direct transfusion 
  • A second option being assessed is to collect the blood plasma from recovered patients and process it to create hyperimmune globulin that can be administered via IV transfusion to patients 

Timing is important. Medical professionals and researchers are most interested in the blood plasma from discharged COVID-19 patients within two months of their recovery as the presence of COVID-19 antibodies are likely at their peak.

Each COVID-19 blood plasma strategy has solid merit to further explore

The direct transfusion route is a simplistic approach however the hyperimmune globulin could treat a wider number of patients by producing more doses. Other hyperimmune globulin therapies that have been developed include:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) (typically for use after bone marrow transplants and solid organ transplants)
  • Hepatitis B (HBV)
  • Rabies
  • RhoD (typically administered to prevent hemolytic disease of newborns or "HDN")
  • Tetanus
COVID-19 blood plasma solutions offer promise but more research is necessary to make the most of it

Wide support for further COVID-19 blood plasma therapy research stems from an array of medical professionals, healthcare provider organizations, information technology firms, government agencies and managed care organizations/payers.

These are some of the leaders providing funding, clinical, technical and other resources to drive insights and positive patient outcomes from blood plasma therapy solutions:
  • Anthem
  • Biomedical Advance Research And Development Authority (BARDA)
  • CSL Behring
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • LabCorp
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Microsoft
  • Takeda
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
Resolving the COVID-19 pandemic demands more than one approach

The complex and dangerous attributes of COVID-19 requires it to be medically approached in more than one way. Not all treatment options may perform effectively in all patients and some solutions may be more easily developed and manufactured at scale to treat more patients sooner. 

Thankfully, there are numerous entities embracing the challenge and driving hard to develop novel solutions spanning oral antivirals, blood plasma-based therapies, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), vaccines and other medicines to overcome the COVID-19 global pandemic.

 

MODERNA COVID-19 VACCINE TRIAL REPORTS PROMISING RESULTS

by John G. Baresky on 05/18/20

Initial evaluation results of COVID-19 immunization are good


Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA)  is the first company to provide Phase 1 clinical trial results of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Founded in 2010, Moderna has a contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop and manufacture a SARS-CoV-2 immunization. BARDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The trial was launched at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

Key details from the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial include:
  • The trial patients were males and females ranging in age from 18 to 55 years
  • Clinical results indicate the vaccine produced antibodies in 45 out of 45 trial patients 
  • Three different strengths (25, 100, 250 microgram doses) were featured in the trial and all performed well 
  • 3 groups of 15 each were administered one of the 3 strengths twice that were spaced 28 days apart
Moderna's proposed COVID-19 vaccine is unique

  • The Moderna COVID-19 trial vaccine is based on genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) produced in a lab that instructs human cells on what kind of antigen to create that will trigger an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. If the complete results of the Phase I results are satisfactory, the evaluation will progress to a Phase II trial that may encompass approximately 600 adults during this summer.

NOVARTIS LUNG CANCER DRUG TABRECTA (CAPMATINIB) EARNS FDA APPROVAL

by John G. Baresky on 05/09/20

Tabrecta is a highly specialized oncology therapy

The oncology portfolio of Novartis (NYSE: NVS) continues to expand with the FDA approval of Tabrecta. The FDA made its decision through its accelerated approval process. Tabrecta is indicated for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with METex14. Only 3 to 4% of lung cancer patients have this diagnosis but up to now there were not any targeted therapy or other treatment options available for it.

Tabrecta is an oral MET inhibitor for adult patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors have a mutation that leads to MET exon 14 skipping (METex14) as detected by an FDA-approved test. 

An important attribute of Trabecta's is that it is approved for first-line and previously treated patients --regardless of prior treatment type. This greatly reduces any issues with managed care organization (MCO), prescription benefit management (PBM) and specialty pharmacy formulary rules and prior authorization requirements. Novartis will benefit from more direct and streamlined market access for the product as will oncologists and their patients.

It is available by prescription only and comes in 150 mg and 200 mg strength tablets. Oncologists will be embracing this unique and valuable treatment option to better care for this group of patients.

Incyte is the company that originally developed Tabrecta and Novartis licensed the rights to it

Novartis has exclusive global rights to Tabrecta and based on its commercialization success will be paying Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY) a milestone fee of $70 million. Moving forward, Incyte is in line to be paid an additional 12% to 14 % of net sale royalty fees of Tabrecta by Novartis. 

Incyte was founded in 1991 in Palo Alto, California and is officially headquartered in Alopacas, Delaware. The company generates about $2.16 billion in annual sales. Novartis is based in Basel, Switzerland; established in 1996 it produces about $48.7 in yearly sales. 



 

CONTINUE TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL NURSES DAY 5/6 AND NATIONAL NURSES WEEK 5/6-5/12

by John G. Baresky on 05/08/20

Celebrate National Nurses Day 5/6 and National Nurses Week 5/6-12! 

Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors or co-workers that are Nurses and gratefully acknowledge their profession!

There are several primary nurse designations including:
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Nurses may possess these and other certifications that enable them to care for a wide variety of patient types in numerous care settings: 
  • Basic Life Support Nurse
  • Certified Hemodialysis Nurse
  • Certified Pediatric Nurse
  • Certified Peritoneal Dialysis Nurse
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Emergency Room Nurse
  • IV Therapy Nurse
  • Medical-Surgical Nurse
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse
  • Oncology Certified Nurse
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support Nurse
  • Perioperative Nurse
  • Pharmacology Nurse
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Public Health Nurse
  • Surgical Nurse
  • Wound Care Nurse 

National Nurses Week ends on a celebratory note, May 12th is the 200th anniversary of the founder of modern day nursing Florence Nightingale's birthday. 

 




WALGREENS DIVIDEND: A WALL STREET WINNER

by John G. Baresky on 05/03/20

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Nasdaq: WBA) continues its commitment to consumers, patients, the healthcare industry and investors

The Walgreens’ board of directors recently announced a quarterly dividend of 45.75 cents per share, unchanged from the previous quarter and an increase of 4 percent from the year-ago quarter. The dividend is payable June 12, 2020, to stockholders of record as of May 20, 2020.

Financial performance of Walgreens is largely unmatched in the healthcare sector

Founded in 1901, Walgreens (Walgreens Boots Alliance) have paid a dividend in 350 straight quarters. This translates to over 87 years of rewarding its investors. What is vastly overlooked in the healthcare commercial sector and investing communities is Walgreens has increased their dividend for 44 consecutive years.

Walgreens well ahead of other pharmacies and retailers to embrace the COVID-19 challenge

Walgreens is one of the few pharmacy and retail store companies that was readily able to support patients from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Coronavirus testing expansion has now rolled out to 49 states plus Puerto Rico; the company anticipates weekly testing volume to reach 50,000
  • The company has over 7,300 drive-through pharmacies so patients can conveniently pick up their prescriptions without leaving their car
  •  In addition to prescriptions, more than 60 additional products can be picked up via the drive-through pharmacy windows
  • 78% of the U.S. population lives within 5 miles of a Walgreens store
  • On-demand delivery service from more than 7,000 stores nationwide
  • An enormous online e-commerce presence featuring thousands of products
  • Launched in 2012, Walgreens immunization services is a recognized wellness leader and offers more than 20 different vaccinations for adolescent, adult, senior and travel medicine patients 
Partnerships a pivotal element in Walgreens strategy

The COVID-19 testing program Walgreens has launched is through an agreement with LabCorp (NYSE: LH). Walgreens also has strategic collaborations underway with Kroger, McKesson, Microsoft, and Prime Therapeutics.

 

OPTIMIZE E-MAIL MOBILE MARKETING INITIATIVES FOR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS

by John G. Baresky on 04/26/20

There is limited access to many medical professionals and other healthcare decision makers due to COVID-19 restrictions 

Digital marketing has taken on new priority in driving healthcare sales as hospitals, health systems, professional buildings, medical practice groups, dialysis clinics, surgery centers, pharmacies and other medical facilities are limiting access to "patients only" due to COVID-19 issues.

Mobile marketing is an essential go-to pathway to reach healthcare professionals and medical administrative leadership

The role of mobile marketing and e-mail marketing as a digital marketing tandem is expanding. For healthcare product and healthcare service companies communicating with doctors, nurses, pharmacists and clinical or organization administrative leadership, it needs to be effectively orchestrated to account for costs, commercial effectiveness and customer engagement.

Email marketing opportunities via mobile have advantages and challenges 

Email marketing is an optimum way to engage healthcare customers. It is important for healthcare marketing professionals as well as digital marketing and advertising agencies to deeply optimize email marketing strategies and tactics for targeted medical desktop and mobile phone user respondents.

Use this checklist of pivotal elements to fortify email marketing initiatives deployed via mobile:

  • Be certain speed is maximized for landing pages, downloads or website forwarding

  • Minimize all steps necessary for the audience to register for a download or to subscribe
  • Optimize images so they are clear and position well within the confines of mobile displays
  • Streamline and format all content carefully so it can be rapidly comprehended via scrolling
  • Bullet points are an ideal way to feature key concepts, attributes, value propositions, deliverables, dates and costs
  • Campaign calendar management needs to be on point so targeted audiences receive emails at appropriate times and at the right frequency to increase engagement --while minimizing opt-outs!
  • A/B testing of email subject lines and critical content must be exercised with precision to save time and money while increasing the value of data and how it is applied to improve campaign outcomes
  • Target your healthcare professional and administrative audiences appropriately, be certain what you are offering specifically aligns with their interests and needs otherwise you are in effect spamming them and their opt-out will prevent further opportunities to engage them
  • Be cognizant of your competition, they are jockeying for position in the digital space just as you are, take all measures to distance your digital marketing initiatives from them and disrupt the competition with more effective and innovative measures

 

 

HEALTHCARE MARKETING: LEARN WHY MOBILE APPS FAIL

by John G. Baresky on 04/15/20

Mobile apps are no longer a slam dunk success in healthcare


Marketing mobile applications aligned with healthcare used to be an easy win. Adoption and use would climb with every upgrade and this produced more opportunities to generate user data as well as a channel to market products and services to the users. Healthcare and other industries are discovering the emerging issues and obstacles with mobile marketing and healthcare apps. There is much more critical thinking performed upfront to prevent misfires in healthcare marketing and mobile app initiatives.

7 reasons healthcare mobile applications fail
  • It's getting more difficult each day to earn an icon spot on a user's phone. Medical professionals, healthcare executives and consumers are much more selective now. The impulse trigger to automatically download an app or engage an offer has been modestly blunted and almost leans towards apathy.
  • The competition is fierce. The medical and business community plus households are presented with a storm of apps, offers and other messages each day via their phones. Unless an app is truly dedicated to niche purposes, there is overlapping competition that new apps must hurdle to get into place on a phone and even then there position is far from secure as rivals enter the space.
  • Poor strategic decisions upfront launch the development of apps that get user buy-in and use but don't generate revenue. The user sticks to the pure utility of the app but doesn't act on any features that enable the developer to earn more revenue from it. The developer is now stuck with maintaining an app that generates a lot of data that may or may not be useful nor is the app positioned well enough that an upgrade will automatically turn things around.
  • The design of the mobile app is outmaneuvered by a wearable option. Given that wearable technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, they are getting a piece of the mobile action. While some wearable and phone apps can be considered a tandem, this is not always the case. Even if they disparate, a user may prefer what the wearable does for them in terms of utility, data, display, mobility or other factor that the mobile app can't duplicate.
  • The app is feature rich and/or feature poor. It may do a couple of things really well and miss their mark on others so much that the app is abandoned even when there is not another one available from a rival. If the app can't seamlessly deliver well on all of its features tech-savvy users may find it unforgivable and give it the heave-ho. On the flip side, fickle users may find it has too many features and determine that it's too complicated and decide it's not for them. Even the simplest app with the highest expectation can fail based on poor integration of user experience and design concepts.
  • Clumsy upgrades are another main reason why apps fail. Users get in a groove on how they use their apps and when changes are not well thought out, users abandon ship. Developers believe what they are doing will make their app easier to use or provide even more value through new uses and features. What happens are the "enhancements" disrupt the user's comfort level enough that they decide to figure it out later and never use the app again or just decide they automatically don't like it and jettison it from their phone. 
  • Standards change and present apps don't measure up. If a healthcare app can't meet the standards of what a clinician requires or what has changed on their end that mandates a new level of performance, data management, security or other benchmark, apps become obsolete quickly. The tough part is if it's a sweeping change that is required due to organizational or regulatory decision makers, the app will be abandoned en masse even if users are reluctant to part with it.
Healthcare mobile apps requires strategic forethought. 

Don't be discouraged by the challenges involved with developing and launching mobile apps. First, take comfort your competitors may be making these mistakes and you can learn from them at their expense.

Second, the challenges cultivate focus and purpose. By thoroughly vetting the promise of a mobile app upfront, you position yourself for success which typically saves money along the way. The funds you save can be used to promote the app, put towards other healthcare marketing initiatives or be put right to your organization's bottom line. 

Finally, mobile apps reflect the healthcare industry we work in. Healthcare is driven by innovation, cost control, performance, technology and satisfaction. A slip in any of these categories means there is an opportunity to re-up your game and quickly prove yourself worthy to customers that value your organization and its app. When these happen to your competition, it educates you and your organization to avoid the same issue,







GOOGLE LAUNCHES COVID-19 COMMUNITY MOBILITY REPORTS

by John G. Baresky on 04/06/20

Alphabet/Google introduces a new resource to generate further insights about COVID-19 

Google has developed an intriguing tool for consumers, healthcare professionals, researchers, government and other stakeholders to benefit from. Called the COVID-19 Community Mobility Report, it features data compiled by sourcing location information collected from Android mobile phone users around the world. 

The purpose of it is to correlate the concentration of people in different areas in relation to COVID-19 and lockdown regulations or shelter in place guidelines. It is a handy accessory to other COVID-19 mapping and tracking data resources such as the one from Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center or the World Health Organization's Coronavirus COVID-19 Situation Dashboard.

Large scale worldwide data collection and insights

Mobile data from 131 nations is covered in the reports. Data from China and Iran is not featured as that information is blocked in those nations. 

Google has clearly communicated privacy is paramount

Google has made it a point to communicate the focus of the report is centered only on geographic location data. Personal identity and other data from users is not shared in any way within the reports. Plus, only data from Android users who have activated the Location History setting on their phones can be featured in the data profiles.

COVID-19 Mobility Reports provide insights into locations of special interest

The data featured in the reports is at least 48 hours old. Of particular interest are the business and consumer centers, transit hubs and other locations frequented by people and at what times. These may include inner city business districts, office campuses, shopping centers, hospitals, pharmacies, parks and other recreation areas. 

This helps to provide insights as to the compliance of populations in lockdown or shelter in place nations, regions, states, cities and suburbs. It also helps to keenly illustrate concentrations of people and the correlation to a rise or fall in COVID-19 cases depending upon when the virus first presented itself in patient cases.

Google's plans for COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports

Based on feedback from multiple stakeholders, Google may add or revise certain data currently featured. This is something new from Google and there are numerous ways it can be applied now and moving forward to better understand how COVID-19 spreads and how quickly it peaks and drops. 

It is also valuable to know about the effect social distancing has on reducing the ability of the virus to propagate. In the future, these types of data sets can be aptly generated when new pandemics and other large scale medical emergencies erupt.






$1.5 BILLION: WALGREENS EXPANDS DIGITIZATION PARTNERSHIP WITH TATA CONSULTING SERVICES

by John G. Baresky on 03/28/20

Walgreens and Tata: a 10-year $1.5 billion deal

2020 is a pivotal year of transformation for one of the world's largest healthcare companies, Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ: WBA). The company has announced it is widening the scope of its partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and accelerating the innovation behind its global IT strategy. The $1.5 billion deal allocates a massive portion of Walgreens IT operations to TCS paid out over a 10-year time span.

Based in Mumbai, TCS (BSE: 532540, NSE: TCS) is a recognized leader in business solutions, consulting and information technology services. Founded in 1968, TCS employs over 420,000 associates.

How Walgreens and Tata Consultancy Services will work together

The Walgreens global IT organization will center on initiatives aligned with improving digital resources and services based on business platforms. TCS will provide dedicated managed services comprised of application infrastructure resources, IT operations, security and other advanced support.

TCS will be implementing an array of technology strategies, applications and tools. This includes artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, software engineering and cloud computing. The goal of the program is to put the already highly sophisticated Walgreens IT infrastructure ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and performance. This will reduce costs while improving productivity and ROI.

2020 is a year of transformation for Walgreens

In 2019 Walgreens shared that it was considering options to take the organization private and announced it was pursuing major technology improvements and cost cutting measures to improve the company's balance sheet. Walgreens has several strategic alliances already underway with Kroger, McKesson, Microsoft and Prime Therapeutics. 

While it remains to be seen what direction Walgreens will take in terms of its public versus private corporate status, the organization continues to forge ahead as it always as an industry leader and respected competitor.

So far in 2020, Walgreens has: 

  • Hired Dr. Kevin Ban, M.D. as Chief Medical Officer
  • Promoted 28-year Walgreens' veteran Richard Ashford to President
  • Launched delivery services in 15 major U.S. cities coast-to-coast
  • Inked a $1.5 billion deal with a Tata, a global leader in IT and digital services

Walgreens continues to build its success

Founded in 1901 and based in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Walgreens is ranked at number 17 in the Fortune 500, it operates more than 14,000 stores and has over 400,000 employees. The company has paid shareholders a dividend for 85 straight years. Its new deal with Tata signifies just part of Walgreens ongoing commitment to earnings and competitive growth through transformation in the new decade.





3 COVID-19 OPTIONS: IMMUNIZATION, MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY, ANTIVIRAL

by John G. Baresky on 03/17/20

COVID-19 is a worthy opponent for the world's healthcare community: medical professionals and the pharmaceutical, diagnostic, medical device and technology companies that support them

There is an array of organizations deploying substantial clinical, financial and technical resources to develop a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Different approaches are being explored as COVID-19 is a new and complex threat. Although it may share similarities to other viral pathogens, its unique characteristics, unknown biological attributes, contagious mobility and varying impact on individuals makes it an unwieldy foe to weaponize bioscience against.

A shared challenge to mitigate or eliminate the threat of COVID-19

Medical professionals, hospitals, health systems, universities, research institutions, government laboratories, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are hotly pursuing a victory against COVID-19. Their playbooks include conventional vaccine development, use of biological therapies including monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) as well as basic and advanced antiviral medications. 

Experience and education fueling the effort 

Those working on an answer to COVID-19 are applying their experience and knowledge based on past and ongoing threats including Cholera, Dengue, Ebola, H1N1, H5N1, H7N9 Hendra, HIV, Herpes, Marburg, Measles, MERS, Mumps, Nipah, Polio, Rubella, SARS, Typhoid Fever and Zika. The clinical researchers and healthcare data scientists plus medical professionals working with patients and healthcare authorities are sharing their knowledge and learning on-the-go.

$50 Million From The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

The lineup of clinical intellect is impressive; the amount of support from governments and even private citizens and charitable groups is admirable. A leading example of enormous generosity: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $50 million to 12 pharmaceutical companies to advance COVID-19 research.

Immunizations: the ideal long term solution to COVID-19

A vaccine to prevent COVID-19 or assertively mitigate its ability to cause significant illness is a perfect solution but challenging to come by. It has to be evaluated for efficacy as well as suitability for mass production. A pathogen like COVID-19 will likely require millions of doses of a vaccine to protect those at risk. 

Once a vaccine candidate clears those hurdles a manufacturing facility has to be identified that can produce it and additional test batches produced to assure quality standards are met. The creation of a new vaccine can take considerable time, funding and other resources.

Exploring a COVID-19 solution based on mRNA characteristics

CureVac, BionTech, Moderna are three companies with an even more exacting strategy to developing an effective COVID-19 immunization. Their development experience and focus centers on messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutic dynamcis that align well with the characteristics of COVID-19. 

An added plus to this approach, depending on the final formulation if found to be effective, is that the approved candidate could possibly be ramped up for mass production in a short amount of time.

This is a list of leading firms engaged in the development of a COVID-19 immunization:

  • BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX)
  • Clover BioPharmaceuticals (Privately Held)
  • CureVac (Privately Held)
  • Fosun Pharma (OTCMKTS: SFOSF)
  • Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD)
  • GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK)
  • Inovio Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: INV)
  • Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)
  • MIGAL (Research Institute)
  • Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA)
  • Pfizer (NYSE: PFZ) – partnering with BioNTech and Fosun
  • Regeneron (NASDAQ: RGN)
  • Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY) – partnering with Regeneron
  • Takeda (NYSE: TAK)
  • VIR Biotechnology (NASDAQ: VIR)

Monoclonal Antibody versus COVID-19

Another approach is the potential of Regeneron’s Kevzara (sarilumab), a monoclonal antibody, against COVID-19. Kevzara is an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist. Kevzara is presently indicated for severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA). IL-6 could be triggering the overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of patients who are critically ill with COVID-19. 

Regeneron and Sanofi are partnering to manage clinical trials of Kevzara and closely study the ability of an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist to combat COVID-19’s effects. The use of mAbs is also being explored in the treatment of Ebola virus and Malaria.

Regeneron’s and Sanofi’s exploration is based on the initial signs of success another IL-6 receptor antibody, tocilizumab, had in China against COVID-19. While tocilizumab is still being assessed, China added it to their formal COVID-19 treatment guidelines.

Tocilizumab, developed by Chugai, is marketed as Actemra by Genentech/Roche in the United States. Actemra has four FDA approved indications: moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, giant cell arthritis, Polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

A monoclonal antibody agent effective against COVID-19 would be a welcome answer. They are complex therapies to develop and produce but if highly targeted could bring about the desired results no matter the cost.

Antiviral Medications versus COVID-19

Flu, herpes, HIV and other viral pathogens have large patient populations. They have fostered the development of numerous brand and generic formulations of antiviral medications plus more in pharma pipelines or castoffs from earlier clinical failures against other viruses. 

New, old or on the clinical trial scrap heap, there is great potential to align them with COVID-19 to find selections most likely to demonstrate efficacy at a therapeutically acceptable level against it. By inhibiting a viral pathogen's ability to replicate, they slow or stop its progress and enable a patient to better withstand and outdistance its effects.

An antiviral product or a combination of therapies including an antiviral agent, could be a solution to COVID-19. Presently, a combination of a protease inhibitor, Prezista (darunavir) and cobicistat (a pharmacokinetic enhancer), are being evaluated in tandem against COVID-19. Remdesivir, an investigational nucleotide by Gilead, is an example of another antiviral treatment pathway being explored.

Johnson & Johnson has issued a warning regarding use of Prezista for COVID-19. The product was used for treating SARS patients; while SARS and COVID-19 have some similarities, the differences between the two mean Prezista may not be effective against COVID-19. 

Data that may indicate its effectiveness against SARS does not convert to efficacy against COVID-19. This is an instance where close clinical study of an agent like Prezista and any adjunctive therapies used to treat COVID-19 is required to confirm level of effectiveness.

Just as with vaccines and mAbs, an antiviral therapy solution must demonstrate efficacy and have the right attributes to be mass-produced then facilities and production processes come next that are rigorously fortified with quality reinforcements.

This is a list of leading companies that develop, manufacture and commercialize antiviral products:

  • AbbVie (NYSE: ABV)
  • Arbutus Biopharma (NASDAQ: ABUS)
  • Aurobindo Pharma (NSE: AUROPHARMA)
  • Bristol-Meyers Squibb (NYSE: BMY)
  • Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD)
  • GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK)
  • Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)
  • Merck (NYSE: MRK)
  • Roche (OTCMKTS: RHHBY)
  • Sino Biopharmaceutical (HKG:1177)

Summary

Vaccines, monoclonal antibodies (mAb) and antiviral therapies are just 3 of the options being explored to find an effective agent to deploy against COVID-19. Upfront experience and analytics in qualifying and identifying options is part of the process, critically assessing their activity and outcomes is the next step. It's still too early to tell which of these 3 or other routes to a solution will emerge as the first primary contender.

These approaches, along with many others, are making progress towards an answer to this global threat.The discoveries and advancements made along the way are the building blocks for future healthcare breakthroughs.

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Week Of 1/28/2018
6 Options To Improve Healthcare Content Marketing Performance


Quality Healthcare Content Can Be Invisible To Search Engines And Millions Of Viewers; sometimes even the best healthcare content can’t be found. Quality healthcare content requires significant time, financial and technical investment to develop. Even with solid expertise and considerable resources, the highest quality material can be seemingly ineffective as search engines and audiences stream by it. Sometimes it’s understandable based on sheer volume of healthcare / non-healthcare content uploaded to the Internet each minute, the enormous number of venues where content is shared and even the most seemingly unique healthcare topics already having well-placed quality content published. It’s time to assess your options to give you and your content the attention and ROI it deserves.


Verify Technical Attributes Are In Place And Functioning Properly

  • Be certain the digital framework of your healthcare content is optimized; key considerations include:
  • Get on Google’s good side and equip your website with HTTPS
  • Stay on Google’s good side by making your site mobile-friendly
  • Eliminate redirects
  • Mend broken links
  • Use social sharing buttons
  • Assess and deploy reasonable ways to cultivate backlinks
  • Submit an updated sitemap to key search engines
  • Optimize site performance with better page speed
  • Delete or revamp out-of-date or presently irrelevant content


No matter how good your healthcare content is, even the best needs to have a sound technical operating base and supporting cast to reach full effectiveness.


Revisit Keyword Selection


Keyword research, especially when it’s being revisited, can be tedious but well worth the effort. Seek out those keywords with high profile but low competition and repopulate your content accordingly. Be certain your content is appropriately worded and aligned with the specific healthcare audience (clinician, consumer, commercial, etc.) perspectives in mind. For some, this means rewriting the entire work but this is not always necessary and it will serve you and your ROI goals better if you learn to keyword-smith proficiently.

Fortify it with additional key supporting facts / current trend details to establish credibility and enrich your keyword volume. This may be sourced from KOLs / Influencers or medical references. The highly specialized rhetoric of healthcare offers unique combinations of vocabulary to effectively optimize content if you invest time, research and creativity.


Consult Your Repurposing Strategy

When you are creating content, always have alternate methods in mind to share it further apart from the original format / placement of it. Assess your repurposing options and strategically deploy your content in another format or venue. If you do not have a repurposing strategy, chances are you have quality content that’s languishing and capable of generating more ROI.

Paid Search

Some promotional funding can go a long way in helping languishing content get on its feet. Be sure you have adequate of finances available to do it. Before launching a campaign, be certain the content you are promoting is at it optimal best and designate KPIs and other goals to measure effectiveness and ROI. A great way to cultivate organic reach is to boost traffic streams via paid search strategies and facilitate audience notoriety / sharing to carry it forward.


Redefine Your Topic

This requires additional research, time, financial and other resources. Re-think the content and the healthcare audience you are seeking to reach. Narrowing the focus may make it appealing to fewer viewers but may reward you with better engagement. Hopefully it’s not a complete do-over but sometimes it’s necessary to effectively reach your original audience or a subset of it. One of the positive aspects of healthcare is its complexity and the multiple perspectives various stakeholders have in it. Realign your content with a niche strategy in mind to drill down to those personas and audience sectors it matters to most.


Strategically Utilize Social Media

Depending on the healthcare topic and audience, some mainstream social media options may provide your content with some lift. Unfortunately, quantity does not immediately result in quality ROI. Take it a step further; identify ways to share your carefully crafted content in the narrower social media venues preferred by your prime healthcare targeted audience for greater effect. Always be prepared with a strategy to take your content to the audience and once they have it, be certain they circle back via links or other channels and easily share it with peers.

Revenue-effective ROI is challenging to achieve for many healthcare marketing initiatives. Even the most established brands have to maintain constant vigilance and commit substantial resources to be certain the high ranking they enjoy continues to stay aloft. A combination of these options will increase the opportunities for you to improve your healthcare content marketing performance and meet those KPI / ROI goals you are driving towards.


WEEK OF 1/21/2018
8 Actions Improve Healthcare Email Marketing ROI


54% of marketers say building engagement is their top priority with email marketing according to Ascend2 …

While numerous digital communication and promotion options exist, email continues to be one of the most preferred channels to promote brands and generate sales. Despite the demise of email marketing forecast years ago, it continues to be an attractive and effective tool in engaging audiences. Its performance and utility intrigues marketers and at the same time challenges them and their audience based on sheer volume and content relevancy. These are 8 action items to gain critical advantages in your healthcare email marketing and sales initiatives.

Security / Privacy

All email marketing initiatives need to consider security and privacy — especially in healthcare. Be certain security updates in your systems and applications are up-to-date and installed as soon as possible when they become available. Take maximum precautions to ensure your audience and your organization are as protected as possible. Likewise, always be cognizant and fully compliant with any privacy standards which apply. Security and privacy issues are at the forefront of our Internet society and their significance is highly magnified in the healthcare sector.

Key Performance Indicators ( KPIs ) / Sales Goals Attainment

Sales goals and KPIs for healthcare email marketers are the equivalent to weather and crop reports for farmers. These should always be monitored closely and continually reassessed. Even if your lead generation, direct sales or other benchmark goals are being consistently surpassed, be certain they aren’t reaching a point of a “comfortable” plateau — the forerunner to potentially dropping. Always seek alternatives to further uptick performance. While some may consider these options to be “on reserve”, they can also be under-served leads which the competition captures before you do.

… Based on insights from MarketingProfs, 15% of marketers surveyed say their companies still do not regularly review email opens / click-through rates; only 23% say they have uniformly connected website / email for tracking what happens after a click …

Sharpen Segmentation

Continue to slice and dice your email marketing database to further define targeted healthcare audiences and subcategories within them. The respective customer personas in the subgroups offer prime opportunities to fine tune targeting, focus content and increase engagement. Reassess how you are segmenting your customer database resources to devise new engagement opportunities.

Deeply defined subgroups enable you to connect with new audience members or those in which you were not successful with through earlier attempts. You could end up sending less emails and be rewarded with better sales results and ROI based on efficient persona profile development and optimized database drill downs. It is important to be aware your company and its offerings, the subcategory members and / or the healthcare marketplace may have changed. New developments on either side always warrant updated considerations to revisit audience subcategory email database opportunities to maintain customer connections and generate sales.


Automation


Review what processes and tools you are using to develop and implement your email campaigns. Familiarity with a routine / email marketing tool may lead you to overlook better methods or platform technology to use. You may not be recognizing existing or new features your platform has which can make your life easier and email marketing efforts more effective.

There may be better platform options available to execute email marketing campaigns. New platform technical features enabling you to execute more options could deliver more for less. Carefully evaluate your current processes and setup; changes in procedures, utilization or technical resources can lead to significant operational, sales and ROI improvements.


Benefit From Opt-outs


Don’t abandon opt-outs as “lost causes” and leave it at that to move onto others. Use opt-outs to critique campaigns and deliverable details including targeting, frequency, content, touchpoint features, offerings, and other variables. Your targeted audiences are already receiving emails based on personal / professional communications; email marketing messages pile on top of those — no matter how earnest and legitimate your outreach is, it is still fighting for attention. Healthcare, among other characteristics, is a clinical, financial and technical marketplace; there are many stakeholders which share the same customers your email marketing and sales initiatives are targeting.

… Based on information from Yes Lifestyle Marketing, Click-to-Open rates are declining; average click-to-open rate (CTO) is 8.9 percent, a 13 percent drop YoY resulting in a 22 percent drop over the last two years …

Sizable audiences segments are opting out merely to reduce clutter. Opt-outs are a great way to objectively learn to re-focus your campaign strategy. They also cultivate the importance of offering other ways for the audience to stay engaged with your company through social media or website follows and other sign-up opportunities which may start with an email but continue on in other digital venues. Be certain your content features these touchpoint features and channels to provide your organization and the audience ways to continue to be connected outside of the email realm.


Double Up On Focusing Content And Offerings


The healthcare industry is continually changing. Develop and share content specifically relevant to your healthcare audience aligned with current events, new developments and your products / services. Use them to make the connection between the industry, the customer and your company; position your offerings as timely solutions to their needs.

Trending topic examples can be aligned to numerous healthcare industry sectors (health system, PBM, MCO, etc.), medical specialty (anesthesiology, cardiology, obstetrics / gynecology, etc.), condition (acid reflux, asthma, hypertension, etc.), payer (Medicaid, Medicare, DHA/ TRICARE, etc.), professional (health system CFO, CIO, CMO, etc.) or other defined interests. As healthcare assertively evolves; wide and narrow audience segments value timely updates enabling your company to be recognized as a front runner with answers to their challenges triggered by industry change.

Change Up Your Approach

A good healthcare email marketing strategy does not always include an offer, sale or other promotion. Informational content can be shared with your targeted audience and lead to sales without a “pitch”. The content can demonstrate your organization’s leadership / knowledge in a particular area; it is important to established positive notoriety, professional credibility in the healthcare sector.

Review the last 6–12 months of emails your organization has shared with a particular segment; if they are all “pitch-focused” with diminishing returns, it’s a good indicator you are fatiguing your audience and need to change up content to more effectively engage them. There is always a strong push for more sales and it’s easy to overlook redundant approaches which audiences will eventually associate with spam. Choosing a “non-pitch” approach to change things up is a good consideration. Personalize messaging whenever possible to reinforce audience engagement.

…The top email providers are Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, GMX, Zoho, iCloud, AOL, Elude according to MUO…

Mobile

Mobile-friendly campaigns are part of successful healthcare email marketing strategy formulas which can also enhance non-mobile venue engagement. Content should be easily viewed / scrolled, quickly understood and acted upon through touchpoint features. Fortify your email / digital marketing with trigger email features pivoting on audience interactions is an example. Maximize quality design and content attributes to minimize steps and optimize messaging so processes are convenient for the audience to respond to favorably which increases direct sales, lead generation and other revenue-positive engagement opportunities.

Moving Forward

These 8 actions are only the beginning. Connect them with your present and future healthcare email marketing initiatives to build engagement, sales and ROI. The more effectively your email marketing is executed will not only strengthen your position but also provide more encouragement for your trusted audience to disregard those from competitors.



WEEK OF JANUARY 7, 2018
Healthcare Becomes Largest Employer Sector In The United States

Based on an article in The Atlantic and GAO statistics, the healthcare industry is the nation’s largest employer –surpassing even retail. This represents challenges and opportunities for many stakeholders. Here are 7 considerations regarding the ever-evolving healthcare sector with consumer, commercial and clinical perspectives in mind:

1. Government is the primary payer in the United States; spanning Medicaid, Medicare, DHA / TRICARE and other programs / sources of reimbursement; less companies feature retiree health benefits for workers --increasing reliance on government funding support

2. The aging population in the United States is a key factor in the healthcare industry job boom

3. As a quarter of the workforce will be older than 55 by 2025, a significant number of persons, both caregivers and non-caregiver workers associated with healthcare, will be key elements in the employment sector 

4. Traditional healthcare roles largely centered on Nurses, Doctors, Pharmacists; new positions have evolved (typically referred to as “Care Extenders”) and they include Nursing Assistants, Physician Assistants, various Therapist and Aide specialties

5. Nurses, Doctors and Pharmacists can consider an expanding multitude of their own specialties / sub-specialties as additional academic credentials and certifications are available and required

6. For health insurers / payers, existing and new caregiver specialties each need their own billing / reimbursement assignments which create their own financial and data management growth requirements and challenges

7. Healthcare product and service marketers, healthcare management (hospital / health system, group practice administration, etc.) and other stakeholders need to account for the growing complexity / expansion of organizational staffing structures, specialties and roles associated with patient care

WEEK OF 12/31/2017
Hospital / Health System Mergers Of 2017

There were scores of hospital / health system mergers and acquisitions in 2017. Even smaller deals involving 2-4 hospitals will have huge importance within their immediate metropolitan areas whereas the larger deals will have metropolitan, regional and even national impact. Non-Profit and For-Profit hospital / health system sectors had significant activity; Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania experienced the most transactions...

…UNC Health Care and Carolinas HealthCare seek merger to form 50+ hospital health system … Ascension acquiring Illinois-based Presence Health, a 12-hospital system … Catholic-sponsored SSM Health buys four hospitals from Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes … Hackensack Meridian Health and JFK Health merge to create 16-hospital system in New Jersey … Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives combine to form hospital chain spanning 28 states ... Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care deal will create $10.7 billion two-state health system … Ascension Health-Providence St. Joseph Health merger encompasses 191 hospitals / 27 states (annual revenue of $44.8 billion) … With acquisition of IASIS Health Care; Steward Health owns 36 hospitals across 10 states… Cooper University Health Care, Lourdes Health and St. Francis form 3-way health system merger … HCA Gulf Coast buys 4 hospitals from Tenet … Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health merge to form largest health system in South Carolina … Baptist Memorial Health and Mississippi Baptist Health System plan to merge ...

WEEK OF 12/25/17
Healthcare Product Manufacturer Mergers Of 2017

Look for these 2017 merger and acquisition deals to have even more impact in 2018 on the rest of the healthcare industry. There will be competitive countermeasures in the form of additional mergers and acquisitions in the sector as well as new contracting arrangements impacting patients, clinicians, hospitals / health systems, payers, GPOs, PBMs and other stakeholders. Seven of these deals were over $5 billion dollars...

… Johnson & Johnson’s $30 billion takeover of Swiss pharma firm Actelion … Gilead’s $12 billion acquisition of Kite Pharma … Abbott finalizes Alere deal for $5.3 billion … Reckitt Benckiser Group acquires Mead Johnson Nutrition for $17.9 billion … Sanofi picks up Protein Sciences with upfront payment of $650 million … Cardinal Health acquires Medtronic business unit for $6.1 billion … Teleflex buys Vascular Solutions for $1 billion … Hologic acquires Cynosure for $1.7 billion … Stryker purchases Novadaq for $700 million … Allergan completes deal to buy Zeltiq Aesthetics for $2.4 billion … Integra Lifesciences buys J&J’s Codman Neuro business unit for $1.05 billion … Gilead purchases Cell Design Labs for $567 million … Takeda acquires Ariad Pharmaceuticals for $5.2 billion … Stryker picks up Entellus Medical for $662 million … Boston Scientific snaps up Symetis for $435 million … Mallinckrodt buys Sucampo Pharmaceuticals for $840 million … Becton Dickinson buys C.R. Bard for $24 billion …

WEEK OF 12/18/2017
Ascension And Providence St. Joseph Health forming mega-merger…

In mid-December, 2017; two major hospital systems were in merger discussions which would create a new leader in U.S. hospital ownership totaling 191 hospitals. Non-profit Ascension, based in St. Louis, Missouri and non-profit Providence St. Joseph Health, headquartered in Renton, Washington, would create a new mega hospital entity comprised of 191 hospitals across 27 states.

Ascension already easily ranks as one of the largest health systems in the nation. Its staff includes 150,000 associates and 36,000 providers. They operate 2,500 points of care including 141 hospitals and over 30 senior living facilities spread across 22 states and the District of Columbia.

Providence St. Joseph Health is a sizable health system entity with 50 hospitals and over 825 clinics. Their facilities are located across 8 states. The organization employs about 111,000 staff members.

…According to hospital / healthcare consulting firm Kauffman-Hall, “Transactions among larger and like-sized organizations are rising as health systems across the country look to build scale and new capabilities for an uncertain healthcare environment”…

If the two entities combine, its annual revenue is estimated at $44.8 billion. The next largest competitor would be HCA. Presently, HCA owns 177 hospitals which generate roughly $41.5 billion in annual revenue. The new tandem would have considerable leverage in negotiating with insurers and medical / pharmaceutical product manufacturers as well as being a competitive force against other for-profit and non-profit healthcare provider organizations. It would also be able to establish a fortified healthcare marketing brand across multiple medical specialties and consumer / patient health services.

The proposed Ascension and Providence St. Joseph Health merger caps off a year of extraordinary large scale health system deals conducted by Steward Health Care, Advocate Health, Aurora Health Care, Dignity Health, Catholic Health Initiatives, UNC Health Care and Carolinas HealthCare System and others. They impact for-profit and non-profit health system organizations and span metropolitan as well multi-state regional geographic areas. As clinical, technical, financial and competitive changes continue across the United States, the wave of mergers and acquisitions across the healthcare provider organization sector (which includes hospitals, practice groups and specialty providers) will be an ongoing process representing challenges and opportunities.


WEEK OF 12/11/2017
Five Winning Healthcare Content Marketing Practices

…The most successful healthcare content marketing strategies embrace the concept of relentlessly jockeying for position when it comes to audience engagement, search ranking and ROI…

Healthcare And Technology Compete Against Themselves Everyday…

Healthcare content marketing is a never ending race. Healthcare and digital technology are two industries which literally outpace themselves with innovation. This tandem of change represents challenges and opportunities for healthcare marketers to consistently go the distance with their content marketing initiatives.

Commit Your Content To The Audience

The healthcare audience consists of a variety of stakeholders. There are significant differences between communicating with clinicians, healthcare administration, patients, consumers and other audience sectors. Don’t hesitate to develop two distinctly different communications regarding one healthcare topic to engage specific audience stakeholders effectively. Fine tune your messaging accordingly so it is appropriate for the persons you seek to engage. Furthermore, the wrong language may mislead your audience which is something to avoid at all costs when it comes to healthcare.

…Details from Pew Research shows 74% of internet users engage social media with 80% of those users focusing on specific health information -plus nearly half of them are searching for information about a specific physician or other type of clinician…

Help Google Help You

Healthcare content has an enormous global web presence. Be certain your content is strategically well-written and search friendly. Key words are good, long-tail key words are better. Views don’t matter unless they are from the persons you are targeting and hope to further engage. Take a little more time to craft your healthcare content so it can be found by those it matters to most.

…Spinning Out Of The Curve…

Practice Good Form

Be certain the format of your content / text is laid out cleanly and well organized. It is always courteous and digitally important for your content to be easily read; now more than ever mobile viewing needs to be accounted for. Carefully evaluate and confirm your healthcare content can be easily read whether it is displayed on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. As time goes on, don’t forget Google will either reward or penalize your healthcare content ranking based on its mobile-friendly attributes.

….Based on research from Wolters Kluwer Health…

72% of doctors access drug information from smartphones
63% of doctors access medical research by tablet
44% of physicians communicate with nurses and other associates from smartphones

Be Time Sensitive

Throughout history, healthcare has been an industry driven by change. Therapies, treatment guidelines, procedures medical technology and regulations are continually evolving at a rapid pace. As you develop your healthcare content’s conversational dialogue, factual details and other elements, be certain what you are communicating and how you are wording it is accurate and up-to-date.

…As you charge late in the stretch to the finish line…

Spur Your Content To Stay On The Move

The better the content is, the more audience members are likely to want to share it. It is important to reinforce its portability. Make sure your healthcare content can easily be sent on its way between audience members. By doing so, your audience will grow accordingly and so will your ROI.

…On average, healthcare marketers spend 23% of total marketing budget on content marketing initiatives, compared to 31% percent for all marketers according to the Content Marketing Institute…

There are numerous contenders in the healthcare content marketing digital space. To be successful, it is necessary to have a consistent and effective strategic stride to move ahead of the competition. These five concepts will bring your marketing goals, objectives and ROI across the finish line.

Week Of 12/04/17
CVS Health Proposes To Acquire Aetna: Eight Fast Facts

An innovative and competitive move if the debt load can be effectively managed. The healthcare industry continues to evolve; business models within the sector are changing and propelled by large scale merger and acquisition initiatives…

The proposed CVS Health / Aetna deal combines two healthcare industry leaders with wide and deep reach across commercial and consumer business sectors nationwide. Both organizations are well-established and as a combined tandem, represent a significant competitive threat to Centene, Cigna, Express Scripts, Fred’s Pharmacy, Humana, Kaiser, Optum / UnitedHealth Group, Prime Therapeutics, Rite Aid, Walgreens-Boots Alliance, Walmart and select Blue Cross Blue Shield plans (CVS Health recently formed a strategic alliance, IngenioRx, with Anthem, the largest BCBS affiliate).

Eight Fast Facts…

CVS Health will pay about $69 billion for Aetna; Aetna stockholders will receive $207 per share, $145 in cash and $62 in stock
Aetna, based in Hartford, Connecticut, was founded in 1853; CVS Health, founded in 1963, is headquartered in Woonsocket, Rhode Island
Roundly calculated figures reveal CVS Health employs about 158,000 persons; Aetna has over 49,000 employees
Within the latest Fortune 500 rankings, CVS Health is listed at number 7; Aetna is placed at number 47
CVS Health produces over $146 billion in annual sales; Aetna’s annual sales exceed $63 billion
CVS Health operates more than 9,700 retail stores (including more than 600 pharmacies within Target stores) and is one of the leading pharmacy benefit management ( PBM ), home infusion and specialty pharmacy companies in the United States
Aetna is a global organization which includes Coventry Health Care and Continental Life Insurance; it offers conventional and consumer-directed health insurance comprised of medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, long-term care and disability plans
The CVS Health and Aetna deal needs to be approved by regulators; either the U.S. Department of Justice ( https://www.justice.gov/ ) or the Federal Trade Commission ( https://www.ftc.gov/ ) will review their case

The CVS Health / Aetna deal is also viewed by some as a preemptive move in anticipation of Amazon’s still unfolding entry into the healthcare sector. Optum / UnitedHealth Group has already undertaken an assertive strategy to diversify its business model through strategic acquisitions of physician practice groups. These include buying Surgical Care Affiliates ($2.3 billion) and DaVita’s medical group ($4.9 billion).

Antitrust concerns are paramount for acquisitions in the healthcare provider and healthcare insurance sectors. Regulators will carefully assess the proposed arrangement from multiple perspectives. If approved, CVS Health and Aetna will be busy with executing integration initiatives to optimize the combined attributes of their new company.

To finance the deal, CVS Health reportedly plans to issue $44.8 billion in new debt plus $21 billion in new equity and deploy about $4.1 billion of cash on hand. Cost cutting and other financial belt-tightening measures will get underway quickly if regulators grant their approval; these will challenge the new company to effectively compete while equally meeting customer service and shareholder expectations.

Undoubtedly, CVS Health / Aetna competitors will be assessing their business models and strategically evaluating their merger & acquisition options moving forward.

Week Of 11/26/17
CVS Healthcare Reportedly In Advanced Discussions To Acquire Aetna

CVS Health, the retail, mail order, specialty pharmacy, home infusion and PBM healthcare services conglomerate is reportedly in acquisition talks with health insurer Aetna. Such a deal would reach or exceed $66 billion dollars.  

...CVS Health and Aetna executive leadership have not officially commented on any details regarding a potential merger – acquisition deal...

...Just months ago, Aetna's proposed deal to acquire rival health insurer Humana fell through due to regulatory / antitrust concerns...

CVS Health has been on a roll. It just recently entered into an agreement with Anthem, the nation’s largest Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate comprised of 14 BCBS plans. CVS Health will be Anthem’s PBM partner. The deal is especially lucrative in that it allows for CVS Health to enhance the position of its Minute Clinics as a healthcare provider for Anthem members. A frequently overlooked detail is CVS Health owns / operates the retail pharmacy units within Target stores; these total over 600 locations. Anthem’s present PBM, Express Scripts, will no longer be Anthem’s PBM partner effective January, 2019.

...CVS Health ranks at number 7 in the Fortune 500, Aetna ranks at number 47...

An acquisition of Aetna by CVS Health would fortify CVS Health’s position as a provider and payer, a business model option currently being hotly cultivated by UnitedHealth Group and its Optum unit. It would also help CVS Health defend its business against potential incursions by Amazon as it seeks to widen its reach into the healthcare industry. It is reported the CVS Health / Aetna deal would be formally announced as soon as December, 2017.

Week Of 11/19/17
Amazon Web Services ( AWS / Cloud ) In Talks With Healthcare Data Giant Cerner


…Based on insights from management consulting leader PwC; “Amazon does have expertise that makes it a natural candidate to look for ideas that would reform the U.S. health care industry as it tries to control costs”…

It is no secret Amazon has been diligently expanding its presence in the healthcare sector. Their activities include obtaining pharmacy wholesaling licenses in at least 12 states and expanding the number of medical products well beyond those typically found in the medicine cabinets of consumers worldwide. Over the Thanksgiving week word was out that Amazon and Cerner were in latter phases of discussion regarding more advanced initiatives involving Cloud and healthcare technology applications.

Amazon and Cerner have worked together on other healthcare data management / storage deals in the past. This new arrangement may involve more access to advanced analytics related to population health with an emphasis on medical data insights to improve care and lower costs. For Amazon, a clinically strategic arrangement with Cerner would expand its presence in healthcare. It potentially would engage hospitals / health systems, health insurers / managed care organizations, medical researchers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and other healthcare entities where deep analytics, patient care, treatment costs, healthcare outcomes, healthcare records ( EHR / EMR ) and other big data management capabilities are highly valued.

…Based in North Kansas City, Missouri, Cerner is a global healthcare information technology company generating over $4.5 billion in annual sales with more than 20,000 employees…

…Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) unit is generating almost $5 billion in quarterly revenues…

Healthcare is a privacy, data-driven and precision-based industry. While Amazon has excellent data security and broad analytic capabilities, they do not have these attributes recognized and established in the healthcare community. They have made deliberate steps to change this including fortifying its AWS services to meet HIPAA requirements and secure protected health information ( PHI ). Collectively, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon SQS, AWS Direct Connect and AWS Database Migration Service are HIPAA compliant.

Cerner, founded in 1979, has a proven track record and positive reputation in the healthcare industry. Cerner’s HealtheIntent software platform is a heavy hitter in population health management. As a tandem, Amazon and Cerner have better potential to effectively compete against some of the other unique healthcare initiatives underway at Epic, Google, IBM / Watson, Meditech and Microsoft / Azure.

Looking ahead, there is an array of options and strategies for Amazon and Cerner to consider. Amazon’s master plan for the healthcare industry is difficult to decipher but clearly they are approaching the sector from multiple angles. Cerner can continue to amplify and enhance its present offerings and develop new ones with Amazon as a resource partner. There is a reasonable fit for each as they seek to grow taller and wider within the healthcare space. The innovation they can bring would undoubtedly benefit multiple stakeholders in the medical community and pose a serious threat to competitors.


Week Of 11/5/2017
Mobilize Your Mobile Healthcare Marketing

Mobilize Healthcare Marketing And Sales ROI…

With much of the globe accessing the Internet for information from mobile devices, mobile marketing is a critical element to consider in effectively engaging customers and driving sales. Clinicians (nurses, doctors, pharmacists, researchers, KOLs, etc.), healthcare administrators, risk management, purchasing professionals, patients and consumers rely on mobile devices to readily access information.

…According To Google…

1 out of 20 searches is related to healthcare
More searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 nations including the U.S. and Japan
49% of B2B researchers using mobile devices for product research do so while at work
About 50% of B2B queries today are made on smartphones

Effective mobile marketing is never fixed in place, it is readily responsive to customer, marketplace and your company’s changes. It is a component of your overall brand, social media and healthcare digital marketing strategy. The world is more likely to have a mobile device immediately accessible to them instead of a computer; aligning and exploiting mobile venues can directly contribute to larger profits and brand stability. These are key elements in an effective mobile healthcare marketing strategy…

Start With Regulatory, Legal, IT…

During the initial phases of a mobile healthcare marketing initiative or with established, ongoing mobile marketing activities, consistently consult your medical / regulatory and legal units. Their input is critical. They can provide you with the guidance / boundaries needed and help you avoid developing / changing something they cannot approve. As new initiatives are being developed, they can be on the look out for recent clinical or legal changes impacting them.

IT is just as critical especially if you are partnering with outside vendors. Mobile marketing content and associated digital assets need to be assessed by IT to be certain they can be optimally supported and as secure as possible. Across the board, mobile marketing endeavors must conform to regulatory, legal and technical requirements.

KPIs, Goals / Objectives…

Define your KPIs, goals and objectives from the start, they need to be scaled and planned according to budget, staff and technology resources. If your organization is trying to break into wider scale mobile marketing initiatives and / or experiencing significant challenges with specific brands or market sectors, these sales gaps are a great place to focus. Consider addressing the gaps with specific mobile-friendly initiatives to sharply focus resources and strategically engage customers. For new or established offerings supported by mobile initiatives, be certain you have a duration point in mind to support them financially / technically for short or long term deployment based on the agreed upon your KPIs, goals and objectives.

Define, Target The Right Audience…

It is important to determine from the onset how to individualize and prioritize customer sectors so you can focus your resources accordingly. Determine which sectors best align with a mobile marketing initiative which your organization can solidly deliver for maximum ROI. There are numerous audience / customer stakeholders in healthcare; the most basic considerations include patients, consumers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists; then there are payers (MCOs, PBMs), hospitals / health systems, GPOs, distributors, wholesalers, etc. — which ones will deliver the greatest ROI via mobile marketing? Defining the target provides the focus through which to deploy resources. It will also help determine what social media venues and mobile technical features you may use to engage them effectively.

Critically Assess Your Website…

…Google has announced their mobile-first index will be active in 2018…

It sounds backwards in a mobile-focused strategy but it’s an important basic early first step. If your website isn’t aligned with mobile; your overall digital marketing will suffer in two ways. First, instead of engaging patients / consumers, your website via mobile will irritate them and perhaps steer them to your competitors with mobile-friendly sites. Second, it is assumed Google will favor websites with mobile-endearing attributes so if your website isn’t mobile lovable, Google will eventually get around to giving it a lower ranking in search results. Brands frequently change landing pages due to new product or service launches and improvements. Be certain the landing pages are identically effective for mobile web users and traditional web users.

Consult Customers…

….Based on research from Wolters Kluwer Health…

72% of doctors access drug information from smartphones
63% of doctors access medical research by tablet
44% of physicians communicate with nurses and other associates from smartphones

…Research by Boston Consulting Group ( BCG ) reveals B2B customers are seeking the same digital experience they encounter as consumers and that mobile can accelerate time to purchase by 20%…


Consult your patient / B2C, HCP and B2B customers about their mobile engagement. Learn as much as you can from them whether you are building something new or evaluating how to make improvements to an existing mobile resource. Monitor their feedback to identify new trends and learn how their particular mobile engagement differs from others within and outside of their segment. They can tell you what was or is successful and what they deem to be valuable moving forward.

Use Competitor Mobile Marketing Initiatives As Part Of Your R&D…

Strategically assess what competitors are doing in mobile and determine if it is successful or not. Competitors are key elements of your mobile / digital marketing research and development program. If they have something successful, evaluate it and determine if you can develop something better. Be certain what they have is not only useful but has legs to go the distance. In mobile and other aspects of technology, there can be an upward, vertical trajectory quickly followed by a downward landslide of abandonment. Customer, technology, competitor, regulatory and other changes can propel engagement forward or backward quickly; be certain what you are investing in has a lifecycle long enough to meet your ROI goals.

Evaluate Mobile Marketing Initiatives In Other Industries…

While the healthcare sector has plenty of innovation underway in the mobile space, don’t confine your mobile approach to it. Look into multiple industry sectors and assess their mobile-driven marketing initiatives. Transfer their ideas, knowledge and approaches to the healthcare sector as appropriate. Commonplace strategies in one industry can be overlooked in another; transferring a proven utility customized for healthcare stakeholders can set your mobile initiatives part from the competition.

….Results Of An Indegene Physician Marketing Study Reveal…

In 2016, preferred channels were brand promotional emails, KOL webinars, HCP portals
By 2018, preferred channels will be social media, mobile apps and HCP portals
Life science digital marketing spend will exceed $14 billion by 2018

Interactive Calls-To-Action…

Take special advantage of the mobile platform and its touch screen attributes. Utilize these to develop and cultivate mobile-friendly calls-to-action. On a computer, these are not clickable; on a mobile device, the ability to click a phone number, engage an email or link is a great way to measure customer engagement and drive sales. Be certain your mobile marketing initiative pivots on these features rather than just one-way communications to cultivate more ROI-driven interactions.

To App Or Not To App…

…Based on an mHealth Economics 2017 study which surveyed over 2,000 mobile health stakeholders, there are about 84,000 health app publishers — with about 325,000 health apps available through the leading app stores…

…26% of consumers start mobile research with a branded app according to data from Smart Insights…


Be careful in what you invest in when it comes to app development. Be certain it not only works flawlessly but is also widely embraced and used by your customers. Dozens of healthcare mobile marketing initiatives pivot on apps without demonstrating meaningful or even traceable ROI performance.

The average person has 60–90 apps on their phone and regularly use up to ten. Avoid the embarrassment and waste of developing a wonderful app which your organization anticipates as the pivotal edge of digital marketing and then is panned by customers. If this happens, good luck in fighting for more digital marketing dollars in next year’s budget exercise. As for your customers, they will eventually delete your app and perhaps be less receptive to downloading another one from your company.

Apps must download quickly, have a high utility in their use and operate consistently at high speed. They require their own marketing campaign (be sure to plan this in your budget) to launch them and then ongoing promotional support to remind existing users of their presence and gain new subscribers. Apps need to be enhanced / updated periodically; be prepared technically and financially to execute this.

Mobile-Friendly Email Marketing…

Email marketing is one option to consider. Email marketing is a widely used strategy / tactic but has not become fully mobile friendly yet. Adaptations to traditional approaches like e-mail marketing must be made so customers have mobile-friendly versions with clickable links. These links should direct the customer mobile journey to access your website, converting emails into engagement / transaction pathways through the marketing / sales funnel. Maximize quality design to minimize clicks, optimize messaging so the process is convenient for the customer which will be reflected in sales and ROI.

SMS/MMS Text Subscription Options…

Texting can be touchy. Make sure in advance your targeted customers are receptive to it otherwise you may be spewing a lot of messages but still miss your ROI goals. While primary messaging is delivered very efficiently, it can be annoying. If you choose texting in your mobile strategy, do not be cryptic in the greeting / messaging; be certain your company, brand and nature of the communication is clear upfront. If your customer is interested, they will engage it; if not, they will delete it. What you want to avoid is leading the customer on and ultimately wasting their time in determining who sent the text and what the exact nature of it is.

Video Growing In Popularity…

Video has multiple communication attributes and can help effectively share more complex details, features and processes. With video, it is critically important that it is seamlessly functional and fast. If it takes too long to load or tends to have intermittent pauses on user devices, it will be abandoned by the user in short order.

…A study from Cisco predicts mobile video traffic will account for 75% of total mobile data traffic by 2020…

…Data from Blue Corona reveals more than half of all YouTube views are on mobile devices…

Video can augment the overall communication you are introducing to viewers; getting their attention and emphasizing key aspects to encourage them to further engage the content you have provided. As with the other features noted, be certain its use contributes to ROI performance.

Voice is coming on strong as well…

…Search Engine Land says 20% of search queries on Google’s mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches…
…43% of mobile voice search users do so because they say it is quicker than going on a website or using an app; ; 21% of mobile voice search users do so because they say they don’t like typing on their mobile based on information from Statista…

Technical Alignment…

Technology innovation is a friend and foe. Be certain what you develop takes full advantage of existing technology and is adaptable to future changes. If very significant technological changes are about to occur, pause your initiative and build it around the new standards for optimum performance while competitors scramble to develop re-worked upgrades on older apps. Be wary of seemingly innocuous mobile technical changes, they may impact speed, functionality and display attributes negatively which users will be quick to experience.

Be Certain You Deliver What You Promise…

Good content marketing strategy doesn’t just support customers with information and feel good reinforcement; it influences behavior and encourages customers to definitively take action in your favor. Strategic contenting marketing and mobile healthcare marketing initiative KPIs, goals and objectives are not built on the rhetoric of “back ordered”, “please hold”, “not available at this time”, “check back with us” or “maybe next month”. Be certain whatever is being promised can be provided to your customers. Customers engaging mobile prioritize and value immediacy; if your company is not prepared to provide them what they have requested based on the content you have shared with them, they will be disappointed and likely disregard content you share with them in the future. Depending on what your mobile marketing initiative involves; these considerations may include care, service and product deliverables:

account management
appointment times
clinicians / care providers
customer service
product inventory
proficient order processing
reliable data / reporting
technical support

Continually Evaluate And Refine…

Keep your healthcare mobile marketing initiatives on the move:

Be certain to develop quality content with a mobile perspective in mind
Leverage data insights platforms and analytics; simplify reporting to consistently assessing progress according to your KPIs, goals and objectives
Whenever possible, fortify your mobile initiatives with two-way engagement attributes to embrace your audience / customers while collecting valuable data from their interactions
Collaborate unilaterally with your expanded teams (brand management, digital marketing, product management, marketing communications, IT, outside vendors, etc.) to prioritize aesthetic, technical and UX changes to improve mobile ranking, user experience and ROI
Both mobile and desktop are essential so do not abandon desktop; a great deal of mobile engagement leads to desktop in the buyer / user journey

Don’t Stand Still…

Just like the healthcare industry, mobile and the digital realm runs on perpetual innovation. It is important to continually assess mobile marketing effectiveness as change is always underway. Be certain your KPIs are still relevant and accurately measuring your progress towards meeting the goals and objectives you defined. Monitor managed care, clinical, technical, financial, legal, competitive and user factors in the effectiveness of your mobile marketing actions. By keeping your healthcare mobile marketing initiatives aligned and ahead of changes; it continually optimizes ROI and outdistances competitors in the long run.


Week of 10/29/17
Healthcare Digital Marketing / Social Media Marketing Course Correction Strategies

Healthcare digital marketing and social media marketing strategies are complex and inherently challenging to effectively manage.

They require close alignment of significant staff, financial and technical resources to achieve maximum ROI. Upon reaching prime level of performance, the new challenge is maintaining productive results, breaking through plateaus and cultivating further growth. By carefully accounting for close and distant key elements in your digital / social media marketing strategy and tactics, you can avoid running aground and keep your initiatives productively underway.

Amazingly, just one variance across the balance and execution of the resources and / or the marketplace can trigger efficiency leaks leading to a drag and downturn of performance:

Consumer / patient / professional social media preferences change
Competitors launch assertive, novel strategies temporarily or permanently disrupting established success
Provider, regulatory, payer positions pivot in another direction
New and established products in the market rise or descend as threats

These and other changes can always be expected to occur. Even the most well-planned and successful initiatives can flourish and then flame out. They can be impacted by a singular, seemingly small-scale development which turns into a series of consecutive unmet challenges. By identifying changes as they occur and assessing what their ripple effect can be, course correction strategies can be developed and executed to remedy issues and sustain momentum.

Check your bearings…

As changes occur in various sectors, this digital / social media marketing strategy cross reference can be a helpful compass. It is important to anticipate changes accordingly and respond quickly to unexpected ones to realign digital marketing strategies and tactics, along with the complete brand strategy, to maintain alignment with the marketplace and your customers:

Sustain and continue marketing / sales momentum
Unbalance competitors with quick and effective response to their threats
Maintain steerage of digital marketing / social media effectiveness to remain in constant contact with pivotal customer segments
Continue alignment, leadership position of responsiveness as marketplace changes continue to occur

Chart Your Course…

By cross-referencing key elements in your healthcare digital / social media strategy in a depth chart, you can move up and down the scale to determine which will need to be maintained, changed or monitored more closely as changes occur; depending on your healthcare enterprise, these elements can be used for pharmaceuticals, medical devices, clinical programs / health services and other offerings or you can develop your own matrix:

Digital / Social Media Marketing Elements

website
social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo, YouTube, etc.)
dark social (especially link sharing pathways)
mobile marketing
email marketing
inbound / outbound marketing strategies
consumer / patient / advocacy group disease-focused venues
healthcare professional dedicated venues / medical specialty — focused associations
audience social media and app migration trends
SEO, SEM
technical developments (Google search algorithms, smartphone platform changes, new apps, etc.)

Brand Elements

indications / therapeutic area(s)
targeted patients / consumers
targeted clinicians (nurses, physicians, pharmacists)
medical specialties
brand / product life cycle phase (launch, 2–3 years old, established, mature, approaching generic)
competitive threats
primary, secondary, tertiary salesforces connected to product / service
non-digital / social media marketing initiatives (print, broadcast, etc.)
annual plan goals / objectives
budget

Marketplace Channel Elements

conventional primary care
hospital / health system
ancillary sectors (dialysis, home infusion, long term care, surgery centers, etc.)
pharmacy (retail, mail order, compounding, institutional, specialty)
distributors, wholesalers, medical suppliers

Managed Care / Market Access Elements

reimbursement
pharmacy benefit / medical benefit coverage
DHA / TRICARE
GPO
MCO (BCBS, health insurance plans, etc.)
Medicaid
Medicare
PBM
340B
regulatory (Federal, State, FDA, FTC, etc.)

Depending upon which element(s) change, move up and down the depth chart to assess overlapping effect and determine what adjustments can be made strategically, technically, financially to correct your course.

Are the changes only in your Digital Marketing / Social Media Marketing Elements or in one of the lower tiers and rolling up into them?

Too often, corrective actions are taken within the scope of the immediate challenge and address only one element and not the others. Although it is not immediately perceived and it is presumed core strategies remain intact, effectiveness begins to erode:

Digital /social media marketing effectiveness is less effective as it has not been adjusted although key elements below it have been
Digital / social media marketing effectiveness is less effective as it has been adjusted but one or more of the contributing elements has not

Sailing Ahead…

Healthcare digital / social media strategies and tactics perform in a fluid environment. If they are not swimming in the currents customers are in, they will eventually be sailing away from them unless accurate and quick corrections are made. Using cross reference methods as a compass to maintain your healthcare digital / social media marketing initiatives helps them stay on course now and over the horizon. 

WEEK OF October 22nd, 2017
Centene Corporation: Bucking The Trend

Over $40 billion in annual sales…

Centene is a unique managed care conglomerate based in St. Louis, Missouri which has quietly grown into an industry leader. Founded in 1984, Centene has over 30,000 employees and generates over $40 billion in annual sales. Their book of business is about 12 million members located in 28 states; a large number of them are covered via government-sponsored health plans. Centene’s many accreditations include NCQA, URAC and Phase III / CAHQ Core.

Specialized markets, services and plans…

Centene is well known in Medicaid and Medicare markets. Their Medicaid business unit supports TANF, CHIP, foster care, ABD and long term care markets. Centene’s Medicare business is centered on Medicare Advantage dual-eligible special needs and Medicare — Medicaid plans. Centene’s health insurance marketplace unit (HIM) offers benefits through which some members qualify for government subsidies; these benefit programs are marketed via their Ambetter plans. In addition to these areas, Centene operates in an array of other specialized markets; this is an overview of their key business units:

Casenet: population health and care management software
Celtic: commercial insurance for the uninsured
Centurion: correctional systems healthcare
Evolve: supplemental health benefits, administrative support
Health Net Federal Services: military and veteran communities
LifeShare: integrated long term care
U.S. Medical Management (USMM): integrated home health care

Significant risk management business challenges…

Much of Centene’s business is considered to be more complex to administer with potentially lower revenues when compared to conventional health plans and market sectors. In many cases, other insurers have reduced focus in these segments to avoid the burden of complex benefit management tied to government funding. They equate this business equation with higher operating costs, lower premiums / margins resulting in less revenue / profit. Various insurers including Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana, UHC and a number of others have business in these areas but limit the scope of their exposure. They prefer to allocate organizational resources to more traditional, profitable health insurance offerings and customer segments. Centene successfully engages government-sponsored healthcare and other non-mainstream markets as a routine, well-executed core strategy of their business model.

A growing organization...

Centene has been able to grow organically and through a series of strategic acquisitions. Their latest expansion purchase is sizable. In September, 2017, they announced their acquisition of Fidelis Care (New York State Catholic Health Plan) for $3.7 billion. In 2016 they completed their deal to buy Health Net for $6.8 billion.

Centene’s empire, based on servicing less traditional healthcare market sectors, continues to pursue business and grow where other companies failed to meet their goals. In 2018 the company projects to do business in 3 additional states (Kansas, Missouri and Nevada) by offering plans on those states’ health insurance exchanges. Centene seeks to expand its business in several states including Florida, Ohio, Texas and Washington next year. As other insurers reduce or entirely exit Obamacare markets, Centene sizes up those gaps as opportunities, strategically develops benefit plans to introduce to those areas and then has an effective go-to-market strategy to launch and promote their offerings to consumers and other stakeholders.

Moving ahead…

Centene’s ongoing growth is impressive and it appears to be well-positioned to continue the trend. It has built up considerable administrative, clinical, financial, marketing, operational and sales experience over the years with successful results. Risk management is something they take in stride. This enables it to accurately assess difficult markets and develop viable health insurance and other solutions for consumers plus additional customer stakeholders. Their tolerance for unconventional markets and higher risk is greater because that is their specialty; they assertively manage this business to their advantage.

New or established competitors find it challenging to perform at Centene’s level given the markets they have to play in. Centene is ranked 66th in the Fortune 500 and 27th in Fortune’s 100 fastest growing companies. As medical and pharmacy costs increase, marketplace needs change and healthcare insurance industry churn continues, Centene has a promising future ahead.


Week Of October 15th, 2017
IngenioRx: Anthem and CVS Health Join Forces

IngenioRx — A Business Climate Changer…

The recent announcement of a partnership between CVS Health and Anthem is a significant development. Anthem is one of the largest managed care organizations in the United States. CVS Health is a coast-to-coast healthcare conglomerate comprised of retail / mail order / specialty pharmacy, home infusion, PBM and other clinical, commercial healthcare units. The combination of these two entities provides them formidable competitive and organizational advantages. Scheduled to begin formal operations in 2020, their contract agreement is for 5 years.

Express Scripts Explores A Different Path…

Anthem’s present PBM is Express Scripts. Express Scripts and Anthem were not able to come to an agreement to extend their exisitng contract. Express Scripts recently acquired a medical benefits manager (EviCore Healthcare) for $3 billion to offset the loss of Anthem at the end of 2019 and to diversify their business model beyond pharmacy-centric healthcare industry sectors. There is also speculation Express Scripts may have also done this to avoid being acquired by Amazon who is expected to launch healthcare-focused business initiatives, including pharmacy services, in the near future.

Anthem is the largest Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate; it operates plans in 14 states. The Anthem / CVS partnership will have its own business unit called IngenioRx. While CVS has its own PBM (Caremark), IngenioRx will be a separate unit and have its own management team and pursue business in other states beyond the 14 in which Anthem is established.

AllianceRx Walgreens Prime…

The IngenioRx partnership is similar to one already underway between Prime Therapeutics and Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) known as AllianceRx Walgreens Prime. It was introduced in 2016 and is a long-term strategic alliance comprised of a retail pharmacy network agreement and a combination of the companies’ central specialty pharmacy and mail service businesses. It is a collaboration of the nation’s fourth largest PBM owned by 14 leading Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans (none are part of the Anthem organization) and one of the nation’s largest drugstore / pharmacy services providers.

United HealthCare / OptumRx And Catamaran…

In 2015, United HealthCare (UHC) acquired what was then the 4th largest PBM in the nation, Catamaran. Catamaran in many ways resembled Express Scripts including its penchant for driving growth through continually acquiring smaller PBMs and other specialized companies to fortify specific business units within it. UHC integrated Catamaran into its internal PBM unit OptumRx.

Each of these PBM arrangements is enormously significant. They impact a large portion of the population in the United States and have pivotal influence on pharmaceutical and other healthcare product manufacturer marketing, sales and market access strategies. Express Scripts is by far the largest independent PBM. It will be interesting to see how they align the existing pharmacy benefit and the new medical benefit capabilities to operate independently and individually moving forward.

Forging Ahead…

For now, the CVS / Anthem duo will be busy maintaining, growing their existing businesses and making extensive preparations to migrate the Anthem business from Express Scripts at the end of 2019. For other healthcare industry competitors in the marketplace with substantial interests in the pharmacy business like Aetna, Cigna, Costco, Humana, Rite Aid, Walmart; they will closely scrutinize their existing business models and marketing strategies to determine what they need to change to remain competitive and get maximum value from pharmaceutical and other healthcare product manufacturers.

Some of the larger health systems marketing their own medical / pharmacy plans may be impacted by these large collaborative agreements. If Amazon is indeed moving forward in the healthcare sector with pharmacy-related programs, they will need to strategically account for them as well. Healthcare industry business models continue to evolve; hybridization is an ongoing trend with wide reaching business to business, healthcare and consumer / patient impact.

Week Of October 8th, 2017
California Regulations Drive Up Costs

On Monday 10/9, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to report certain price hikes for prescription medicines. In the United States during 2016, brand pharmaceutical prices rose almost 13 percent on average. Generic pharmaceutical product prices increased by an average of roughly 0.32 percent. Specialty pharmacy pharmaceutical products (injectable therapies, biologicals, etc.) increased by an average of about 8 percent.

The rules are being put in place to provide more visibility to drug manufacturer pricing practices. The legislation (known as “SB 17”)requires drug companies to provide a 60-day notice if their prices are raised over 16 percent during a two-year period. Added measures to the legislation include the requirement of health plans and insurers file annual reports outlining how pharmaceutical costs affect healthcare premiums in California.

A Wilderness Of Exhaustive Complexity

Brand and generic pricing models are not simple. Starting with the basics, drug makers have to account for R&D, manufacturing and commercial support costs plus competitive measures, marketplace trends and contracting strategies to devise wholesale acquistion cost (WAC) for a product -its published “list price”. Once the pharmaceutical company engages the actual marketplace to sell a product; original WAC pricing is significantly transformed through an array of discounts, rebates, chargebacks and other contract agreement features. WAC is a manufacturer’s list price of a drug when sold to a wholesaler; then typically a 20% mark-up is applied to the manufacturer’s price which results in the average wholesale price known as “AWP”. SB 17 focuses on WAC pricing, not AWP pricing.

WAC is at the top of the pharmaceutical pricing funnel but once product pricing winds its way down in a particular channel’s contracting process; it is drastically different by the time it is tied directly to provider, payer and / or patient product acquisition costs. Contracting strategies impacting the original AWP are aligned with specific healthcare sectors. These include group purchasing organizations (GPOs), managed care organizations (MCOs), pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), retail / mail order / compounding / specialty pharmacies, Medicaid, Medicare, 340B, DHA / TRICARE and others. Drug wholesalers and distributors each have their own way of contracting with pharmaceutical manufacturers and then apply different pricing / margin management / incentive formulas to their respective customers. AWP is diced and sliced differently once it travels into various healthcare industry business channels. A single contracting / pricing formula cannot be devised for use within a single or across business channels; each one operates differently to accommodate customers, align with class of trade and be in compliance with regulatory / reimbursement standards.

Whether it’s a direct sale from the pharmaceutical manufacturer to the point-of-care provider and / or through the wholesale / distribution supply chain, another series of variables comes into play including: national drug code (NDC) number, active ingredient, original or repackaged product, brand or generic status, formulation, route of administration and package size.

Digging down further in the details about package size alone represents its own pricing challenges. Depending on the unit volume of a container, the number of containers sold in one package and / or case, pricing is also differentiated. This can apply to pills, capsules, vials, pre-filled syringes, IV products and other formulations.

Procurement practices by purchasing / finance units along the way have an impact on final pricing. Depending upon how much of a particular product is distributed / administered / dispensed, pricing is impacted. Bulk quantities typically have better pricing and buyers may prefer them if their organization goes through a lot of the product or they may use less of the product but still choose to buy the bulk quantities to save money. Depending upon the organization, this can be a good practice (buying drugs at low prices) or a bad practice (outlaying funds and not converting the inventory back into cash fast enough).

Buyers also contend with the particular contract arrangement they are purchasing the drugs through as rebates, chargebacks and other incentives come into play. Other considerations include competitive measures between manufacturers, changes in formulary, brand / generic status, clinician preferences and product availability. These factors span all categories of pharmaceutical products and need to be accounted for in purchasing decisions. Based on these variables and AWP, the relevancy of WAC further erodes.

A Gold Rush Of Controversy

There is well found criticism of the legislation as it looks and sounds good to the media and consumers (i.e. voters) but falls short of accounting for the true complexities involved. While it puts a spotlight on pharmaceutical company pricing, it fails to address the pricing practices of wholesalers, distributors, health systems, pharmacies, PBMs and other stakeholders through which pharmaceutical products change hands. Another consideration is the premiums health insurers and MCOs levy on their memberships in relation to medical loss ratios (MLRs) and other risk management variables. To what extent are premium and copay increases attributed to rising drug costs versus the profits of health insurers and managed care organizations?

In the case of the California legislation, the requirement for health insurers and MCOs to file annual reports regarding the impact of drug costs adds to their operating costs. They will need to setup and manage ongoing streams of pricing data and other information to be compiled, analyzed and submitted to the state. Likewise, pharmaceutical manufacturers will need to account for these reporting requirements by developing tracking, analysis and compliance measures which will require data, staff and financial resources.

For state government, they will need to develop their own management processes requiring staff, IT and budget resources to manage the reports being submitted by dozens of pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurers and MCOs. It is widely recognized administrative costs play a tremendous role in the spiraling expenses of healthcare; the requirements of SB 17 significantly contribute to the administrative burden for government, health insurers, managed care organizations and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Stake Their Claim

The pharmaceutical industry delivers enormous value in minimizing the impact of acute and chronic health issues which can include the avoidance of costly medical procedures and constant professional care. While its profits are scrutinized, it is equally important to recognize the high cost of doing business in the healthcare product manufacturing sector. Complex research and development initiatives have staggering costs. Manufacturing, quality control, commercialization, legal fees and other factors all contribute to pricing considerations. It is also important to note pharmaceutical pricing and contracting practices are not essentially in the pure interest of profit. They are also in place so manufacturers can assertively compete against each other which helps to lower prices.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have numerous options to choose from to minimize scrutiny of pricing practices beyond disclosing WAC. Pricing and margin advantages can be shrouded in contractual arrangements between GPOs, PBMs, MCOs and other business partners which are well within compliance and legal requirements. Other states have deployed or are in various stages of passing legislation similar to California’s so some drug manufacturers have already voluntarily committed to specific price increase limits on an annual basis. Price increases at the maximum level below the reporting requirements implemented across a series of calendar intervals are fair and reasonable options drug companies will consider regarding California and those states with similar requirements. Pharmaceutical companies still have the option to raise prices at their own discretion above the 16 percent over a two-year period threshold, routinely report it and be in compliance with the California laws. It may also encourage them to spike prices in a single year and revert to considerably smaller price increases in subsequent years.

Looking ahead, pharmaceutical companies may also choose to launch products with significantly higher WAC prices in the future. This will give them more room to maneuver with customers through various contracting arrangements. If the goal is to eventually limit pharmaceutical price increases through government price controls, WAC at launch will be a paramount starting point for pharmaceutical manufactures to introduce a new product. It may potentially trigger a trend in higher than normal drug prices for new and conceivably better pharmaceutical products moving forward as drug makers strategize they need to make more money out of the gate versus increasing profit gradually over the lifespan of a product. Pharmaceutical manufacturers may also be encouraged to acquire others to widen pipelines and portfolios of established products to make up for the loss of per product margin.

Will More Regulation Provide A Positive Payout?

Lawmakers, industry stakeholders, clinicians and patients / consumers are seeking a middle ground. Ultimately, it is higher care at lower cost. It is clear the State of California government and dozens of other state governing bodies want to do more to reign in healthcare costs. Political leaders want to be recognized and re-elected. Merely by introducing such legislation, politicians can claim they are taking action on behalf of their constituents. If states enact measures that are not well-conceived and administered, they generate bureaucratic waste, cultivate complexity and drive up costs for multiple stakeholders including government, health insurers, MCOs, pharmaceutical manufacturers, providers and ultimately patients / consumers / voters.


Week Of 10/1/17
Steward Health – A New Contender

Largest Private For Profit Health System In The United States…

At the close of September, 2017, Steward Health announced it had completed another hospital / health system acquisition and this one has particular significance. Its buyout of IASIS Healthcare now makes it the largest private for-profit health system in the United States. Steward Health, based in Boston, Massachusetts, picked up Franklin, Tennessee-based IASIS Healthcare for about $1.9 billion dollars. The deal was originally announced in May, 2017 and is now completed.

Expansive Organizational Reach…

Deals of this magnitude cumulatively impact the national healthcare provider landscape. Steward gains 18 hospitals primarily in the south / southwest; Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and Texas. They are now the operator of 36 hospitals distributed across 10 states. It also gets ownership of a managed care business operating in Utah, Arizona and Massachusetts. The IASIS Healthcare acquisition immediately follows other Steward Health deals involving the purchased of 8 hospitals in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Business Impact…

Steward Health will now be competing against a variety of new and established health systems across its marketplace coverage. The IASIS acquisition takes them further west than they have ever been. Their organizational size will provide them additional negotiating leverage against health insurers, group purchasing organizations and healthcare product manufacturers. For healthcare product manufacturers like pharmaceutical and medical device companies, Steward has much greater prominence in their business and marketing plans.

There is a great deal of M&A activity in the hospital / health system sector across the country. Tenant Health has been seeking to divest some of its hospitals and numerous organizations including Ascension, HCA, OCF Healthcare, Paladin, SSM Health, UPenn and UPMC have been seeking to expand their hospital / health system holdings. Some other proposed deals have been scuttled due to regulatory 
limits but they have not been enough to blunt the overall trend.

In addition to acquisition activities, a number of health systems have merged as well including Baptist Memorial and Baptist Mississippi, Geisinger Health System and Jersey Shore Hospital, Greenview Health and Palmetto Health plus a tri-combination merger of Cooper University Health Care, Lourdes Health and St. Francis Medical Center. Based on the ongoing hospital / health system M&A activity that shows no sign of slowing down, it can be presumed Steward Health will maintain its M&A momentum as the wave of consolidation continues.

Week Of 9/24/2017
The Horsepower Behind Healthcare Mergers Acquisitions

Giddy Up For A Deal

The healthcare product manufacturing sector as always been a changing landscape of new and old firms impacted by mergers and acquisitions. Biotech, pharmaceutical, diagnostics, medical devices, supplies and other producers have travelled the M&A range. Over the last 3 years, a remarkable run has established itself in healthcare M&A activity. A combination of conditions, resources and triggers has proven to be a catalyst for healthcare product manufacturers to charge ahead with merger and acquisition strategies.

Margins

Continued pressure on margins by managed care, regulatory agencies and patient / consumer advocate groups are having an impact. They help to drive healthcare product manufacturers to widen product lines to add revenue streams. If per patient / per unit income is less, increasing sales volume gets more consideration. Having more products to sell increases sales and provides bargaining leverage which are a tandem to drive sales and increase revenues despite margin pressure.

Diminishing Returns / Damaging Effects Of Continual Cost Cutting

Detrimental effects of relentless cost-cutting measures are more apparent. There is only so much out-sourcing, budget slashing and other “optimizing” measures can achieve until they have a corrosive effect on organizational effectiveness and deliver less return on the bottom line. It becomes necessary for companies to bolt on assets (which they seek to make more profitable through reduction of redundancies once deals are completed) to acquire additional capabilities and lines to sell. As more companies demonstrate their ability to outdistance competition through innovation in an increasingly technology driven business world, cost-cutting in many ways is a lower-tier option; the favorable strategy being M&A and innovation as an optimum tandem as long as debt loads can be optimally managed and reduced.

Plug The Revenue Leak

Blockbuster products are harder to develop and technology reinvents higher standards and levels of performance across product sectors. To engage more difficult patient types / diseases, therapies are more complex and challenging to develop. High margin niche products deliver good income but treat fewer numbers of patients. Technology and material advances can quickly render existing medical devices obsolete. Pipeline candidates don’t make it to the approval stage or are outdated before they are launched. Meanwhile, established products reach the end of their patents or fall out of favor with clinicians and contemporary care standards. Acquiring another company’s products and their pipeline buys time, widens / refreshes lines and hopefully provides new products to introduce.

Growth By Acquisition Strategy

Some established and new healthcare product manufacturers are relying much more on buying other companies and investing less in traditional internal research and development. Their research and development initiatives literally center on finding embryonic and startup firms with novel product concepts. These companies can be invested in as satellite research and development units and funded as appropriate depending on progress and promise of product approvals.

Come Buy Me ( CBM )

A variation of the Growth by Acquisition Strategy is the “Come Buy Me” (CBM) business model strategy. CBM organizations make a series of small acquisitions which are usually focused in select healthcare sectors for example dermatology, respiratory, lab diagnostics, etc. As a cluster, the company establishes a market presence within the particular medical sector. Collectively, the products produce more impactful revenue and with launches, the company further establishes itself as a proven entity within the specialty.

The CBM continues to ratchet up its growth through incremental product launches and additional deals. The strategy is to build up enough of a profitable portfolio of products and market presence that another company seeking to have a wider footprint in the sector for long term growth acquires them. The goal is not to build a dominant entity in the sector, the goal is to assemble a group of sector products under one organization which can be sold as a bundle to enable another company to quickly widen market presence.

Competitive Threats

Even established healthcare product companies historically adverse to mergers and acquisitions are engaging in them to blunt competitive threats. Other companies accelerate their market presence and product line heft through acquiring other companies and quickly scale up to become assertive challengers to sector incumbents. Conversely, to prevent challengers from penetrating a long-held sector or invading a new one that an established product company is just beginning to enter, they conduct an acquisition to firmly entrench themselves in the new sector, fortify their position and disadvantage competitors.

Private Equity

Healthcare has always been a popular playground for private equity (PE). They can take large and small companies private and with a variety of options available to them, either retain them as cash cows for other deals, sell them to other PE companies or re-launch them into the public sector again. They are strategically savvy enablers of M&A activity in the healthcare industry.

Favorable Financing

Strategically creative and assertive lenders, large cash reserves and solid stock performance build corporate confidence in exploring their M&A options. Investors are seeking more from their holdings and companies have to find ways to satisfy them. They can choose to build themselves up further through acquisition or have a “going out with a bang” sale to another company.

Technology

In pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare supply manufacturing, technology can be a difference maker. Technology driven insights, processes, and production capabilities are critical contributors to competitive performance. Healthcare product producers can buy a competitor using these advances and apply them to their own commercial operations; they can also choose to acquire the companies developing these resources. There is always the option to develop these advantages internally but there is not always time or the appropriate mix of staff, finance and IT to generate productive ROI quickly from them.

Saddle Up

Depending on the company, any combination of these conditions, resources and triggers can result in the undertaking of a merger and acquisition strategy. They have a wide ranging effect on patients, consumers, providers, public / private investors and various commercial entities. Market conditions can change rapidly and reverse the trend; companies then choose to rein in their merger and acquisitions activities. Large or small, mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare sector are an ongoing and eventful ride.


Week Of 9/17/2017
A Deceptively Unique And Effective Healthcare Broadcast Ad / Digital Marketing Strategy
Two-Screening Strategy Scores Points During Super Bowl 51…

A new NFL season is underway but a quick look back is warranted at how last season ended with a Super Bowl upset and a deceptively unique and effective broadcast ad / digital marketing strategy was executed. A regional building material and supplies retailer and a Pittsburgh-based ad agency successfully deployed a two-screening strategy during Super Bowl 51. They effectively combined brand identity, a “customer journey” of sorts and broadcast advertising with digital marketing attributes and contemporary TV audience viewing habits. For healthcare industry and other marketers, it is an optimum model to revisit and compare against existing TV advertising and digital marketing activities to develop more impactful and measurable marketing initiatives with greater ROI.

Understand Two-Screening Behavior…

Two-Screening is the act of watching TV while also engaging another digital device; frequently a mobile phone, or tablet. Viewers tuned into TV programming are dividing their time between the TV screen and the screens they readily control in their hands. Two-screening is controversial and here to stay. While television ratings are based on the number of viewers and audience demographics associated with the featured programming shown, two-screening diminishes true rating performance. While the ad is shown at the ideal time coupled with the programming most closely aligned to the audience being targeted; audience members can make a choice of watching the ad or catching up with text messages, emails, their social media accounts or other options through their mobile phone or tablet. A report published by Accenture in 2015 estimated about 87% of consumers used a second screen while watching TV. 84 Lumber and Brunner, their ad agency, developed a two-screening strategy to work in their favor.

Understand Two-Screening Technical Enablement…

Displays in mobile and other devices are excellent. Batteries and wireless are constantly improving, devices don’t have to be constantly tethered to a cord to recharge; great wireless / wifi eliminates the need for them to be latched to a cable. Downloading and viewing is almost seamless, the speed / consistency of displayed content is virtually real time. To add fuel to the fire, some consumers are using their phones and tablets to control their TVs, making two-screening all the more an integral part of the TV viewing experience.

A Contributing Driver Of Two-Screening Behavior…

Advertisers and networks seek to cultivate more revenue by featuring multiple clusters of ads over the course of an hour. The clusters of multiple ads encourage viewers to look at something that specifically interests them until the featured programming content resumes. Commercial breaks trigger consumers to reach for their mobile phones and tablets where they control content they prefer that is accessed, scrolled, swiped in seconds. The longer the commercial break, the more deeply engaged the two-screening audience is with the content shared from the device in their hand. The customer has a choice of journeys, why not encourage them to choose the journey your brand offers? Based on these challenges, healthcare and other industry marketers with heavy TV ad spend need to be more innovative in how they can effectively span broadcast and digital venues and generate measurable ROI; a strategy that embraces two-screening may be a viable option.

Profile Of 84 Lumber And Their Ad Agency, Brunner…

Founded in 1958, 84 Lumber is a privately-held retail building material supply company. 84 Lumber is based in 84, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh). Brunner was founded in 1989 and is a privately-held, independent agency headquartered in Pittsburgh. Brunner has worked with a number of notable brands. For both firms, it was their first Super Bowl ad.

How 84 Lumber And Brunner Developed And Executed Their Two-Screening Strategy…

When the ad was reviewed by Fox, the network televising the Super Bowl, some of its content was deemed “controversial”. The content was then partitioned, some to be featured via broadcast and the remainder via digital. The broadcast portion began the journey / pitch and then guided the audience to go to their website to view the outcome. Based on the rumored “controversial” content, there was already a media buzz about the ad prior to the Super Bowl. The story content on the broadcast side was compelling enough, however; for a large number of viewers to follow through on their own via their mobile phones, tablets to experience the rest of the commercial.

Impact…

Once the ad aired, within one minute following its showing the 84 Lumber server experienced more than 300,000 hits; excess volume had to be routed via paid social to YouTube (the enormous surge of traffic was one thing 84 Lumber and Brunner had not fully accounted for in their technical preparation). Despite the other advertising candy the Super Bowl is known for and of course the game itself, a sizable viewing audience immediately opted to further engage the brand via digital. YouTube, featuring the broadcast ad and the digital extension, continued to experience high traffic navigating to the 84 Lumber content for days. 84 Lumber and Brunner masterfully executed a two-screening strategy to their advantage; bridging unique, story-based content from the broadcast space to the digital space where the audience could purposely engage the messaging further and also be measured accordingly by web analytics. What are some of the takeaways for healthcare and other industry marketers to consider?

Get More From Broadcast Television Advertising And Digital Marketing…

For healthcare and other marketers investing millions in television ad development, testing and deployment; two-screening is a growing part of the challenge when it could be part of the formula. Audiences migrating to non-TV network provided programming are challenging broadcast advertising strategies even further. A deliberate strategy to take advantage of the two- screening audience can enable marketers to get more ROI from their broadcast and digital marketing budgets along with collecting ongoing valuable data. With a structure of quality content, an effective segue and knowledge of audience viewing habits, they can convert the two-screening threat into a competitive edge.

There are significant details involved with direct-to-consumer advertising on TV. Scenarios, aesthetics, animation versus live action, written / voiceover messaging (including the required fair balance rhetoric) all have to be accounted for within a 30-second space –-60 seconds is a luxury but sometimes used if the budget is right, the product is at launch, under competitive siege or especially complex. Imagery and messaging must be powerful enough to steer the patient journey in the direction of the call to action, i.e. “Ask your doctor if __________ is right for you”.

Considerations…

Why should the patient journey with your brand end there when it maybe more impactful / measurable by continuing at the brand’s website?
How can the audience’s recall be more effectively reinforced to “ask their doctor”?
How many times and at what cost does it take for 30-second ads to have measurable impact?
How can the consumer / patient be technically enabled to share the ad’s information with family members or friends?

Know your audience…

An effective two-screening strategy purposely develops compelling content and deploys the broadcast ad with an integrally effective segue guiding the viewer to the website for the rest of the story. Based on Accenture’s data, there is a good chance overall audience members will have the second screen device within easy reach to do just that. Depending on the desired audience sector targeted, market research will need to assess what their viewing habits are and their propensity to be “two-screeners”. If the greatest portion of the desired audience is typically without a second device, the two-screening approach is not an effective strategy or the ad can be designed to effectively deliver the brand message via broadcast while somehow accounting for two- screeners as well to garner their engagement on the digital side.

Two-Screening Advantages…

Healthcare marketers can effectively span broadcast and digital venues

The TV portion of the ad is not over-burdened with encapsulating the brand experience from start to finish

By aligning TV ad times with website visits, the immediate response to ads can be assessed

Further audience insights on the extent of two-screening and their use of devices, locations, etc. can be cultivated

Website engagement will reveal further insights on the audience and their particular interests in the brand and the information provided in the digital realm

Web content, optimized with sharing features, can enable the audience which originated on the broadcast side to propel the digital content through social sharing to a secondary audience and so on without having to pay for more ad time and result in even greater overall ROI

If engagement is lower than expected despite being positioned with the intended audience, explore the reasons why; is the content not compelling, the segue not well communicated or is the ad already a two-screening casualty and not being viewed by as many audience members as anticipated?

How To Plan A Two-Screening Initiative…

Carefully interpret industry data on audience mobile, tablet usage and TV viewing patterns and conduct your own research initiatives as well; this knowledge is pivotal for a successful two-screening strategy

Develop detailed budgets in advance, initiating an effective two-screening initiatives may require more financial resources than originally anticipated

A two-screening strategy requires more preparation and resources to effectively execute plus its novel approach should be reserved for high priority use; examples include A) new product launch or new indications B) countering an assertively potent competitive threat C) new campaign for an established brand D) special televised event sponsorship

Establish goals and objectives on the broadcast side and digital side to individually and collectively measure effectiveness and ultimately ROI

Test story concepts, account for the patient journey, test content, test the segue from broadcast to digital, test effective continuity on the digital side

Pilot the two-screening approach with a miniature budget and targeted audience to fine tune and scale up

Account for all medical / regulatory requirements on the broadcast and digital side

Be certain website capacity is able to easily accommodate surges in traffic

Verify the broadcast and digital content is well assimilated and viewed via mobile and tablet screens

Maximize social sharing technical attributes; make it easy and encouraging for the broadcast audience who travelled to the digital realm to share the brand experience with others digitally

As audience groups continue to migrate to new digital / social / streaming venues, develop modified two-screening strategy options accordingly

Closely monitor ad fatigue; determine ways in advance to produce new digital experiences for the broadcast audience to segue to in the future

An Innovative Healthcare Broadcast And Digital Marketing Strategy…

A successful two-screening initiative is much more than a request to “visit our website”. It’s an integrated content and technical strategy to embrace a broadcast audience and comfortably transport them from their living space to the brand’s living space where they can spend longer, more meaningful time than just 30 or 60 seconds with your brand. They can explore the brand experience at their leisure; share it with family members and friends while determining what their next steps are.

Follow the customer / patient journey map…

In many ways the two-screening strategy can align well with today’s digital consumer and their respective patient journeys. It is imperative to know where and how you can align your brand strategy to it first before you invest in deploying it. As audience preferences change and technical innovation provides them with more routes and destinations to choose from, follow their map and modify two-screening strategy accordingly; stay ahead of the customer journey and your competitors.

Week Of September 10th, 2017
Healthcare Digital Marketing Organizational Effectiveness:
Put Five Ducks In A Row

Digital marketing initiatives are a mainstay action in healthcare industry commercial organizations. On the surface, they are aesthetically engaging and smoothly functional. Underneath, there is a wide array of organizational, financial and technical resources deployed to develop and deliver them. How these goals and assets are shared before digitalization of business concepts occurs can make a tremendous difference in the overall customer experience, a company's competitive advantage and ROI. By having their ducks in a row first, organizations can have the fundamental elements aligned to develop and launch deeply successful healthcare digital marketing initiatives despite ever-changing marketplace undercurrents.

Leadership Commitment

• Consistent forward-thinking by present and future senior company executives to fund and optimize healthcare digital marketing initiatives as something as integral as managing payroll

• Realization by upper management that digital marketing is never completed; changes in technology, regulations, information sharing practices, marketplace forces and social media fluidly impact each customer segment and respective customer journeys

• "Be in it to win it"; outdated, under-funded approaches are quickly revealed to customers by who else but competitors seizing the opportunity to better align with customers with more strategic, assertive deployment of digital marketing assets

Customer Connection

• In concept, the company understands the importance of reaching out to customers and with equal or greater importance; learns how customers reach the company and its products / services through their journey and make decisive buying decisions

• Healthcare digital marketing is complex; to what degree can digital marketing initiatives / customer focus overlap before they are dilution occurs and separate initiatives to be developed?

• Which digital marketing customer segment (consumer, patient, nurse, physician, pharmacist, payer, institution, trade partner and other entities) and respective initiatives provide the greater ROI?

Integrated Marketing / Brand And Digital

• Brand and digital marketing units must share common goals and objectives otherwise they separate to serve their own agendas and become jointly dysfunctional; they should be equal stakeholders in how customers perceive, engage and choose the company's offering and the overall customer experience

• Effective brand and digital marketing teams interoperate as a multidisciplinary business unit; they are an integral hub with direct conduits to sales, managed markets, market research, trade relations, regulatory, corporate communications, IT 

• A primary, binding objective of the integrated marketing units is equal improvement of ROI and the customer experience 

Technical Resources

• Technical resources will be continually assessed, upgraded, discontinued or changed out due to innovation, improved cost efficiencies and impact on the strength of maintaining the optimal customer experience and ROI

• Internal (company stakeholders) and external (outside vendors) must be synchronized in technical approach otherwise a gap in resource ROI will emerge and widen -degrading focus, eroding customer experience and ultimately running up costs

• Brand and digital marketing teams, along with multidisciplinary counterparts, take ongoing technology changes in stride; maintaining focus on customers and business goals while effectively rotating tires on a rolling carload of technology innovation 

Partnership With Sales

• No matter the level of "feel good" factor, uniqueness of approach or messaging, level of detail or volume in content, digital marketing initiatives must be steered in the direction of the company's bottom line and ultimately sales

• Sales is a beast, the "Transactionator", which must be well fed; if it goes hungry, it weakens and so does the company that surrounds it; digital marketing initiatives must contribute to feeding the Sales beast

• Brand and digital marketing teams, with their multidisciplinary stakeholders, need to partner with Sales and be certain the content generated and delivered contributes to a positive customer experience resulting in actions taken to generate sales

Strategically developed and deployed healthcare digital marketing initiatives are a mainstay in cultivating revenue regardless of competitive, technological or marketplace change undercurrents. . Uncoordinated efforts clutter customer perception, deplete resources and dilute organizational focus. By collaboratively defining, aligning and supporting their ducks in advance; organizations avoid swimming in circles while maximizing customer experience and ROI.