How the pandemic inspired pharmaceutical marketers to target doctors in innovative ways
When a new treatment for prostate cancer is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it is especially relevant to a small group of oncologists. And for about half a century, drug companies have left it up to representatives to make in-person sales calls to tell them about it.
But now, like a vaccine in the arm, the pandemic has given pharmaceutical marketers a new incentive to use digital advertising to influence which drugs doctors prescribe – even when patients are in the room and doctors. view their digital health records. And when these patients fill their prescriptions, the data on those long receipts stapled to their drugstore bags tells these drugmakers whether their influence campaigns have led to a prescription and drug purchase. But with digital health data and targeting, there is a risk to privacy and implications for drug costs.
“We are now entering a world where over the past 18 months the client, hospital or hospital doctor has recognized that reps add little value but maybe not so much,” said said Ritesh Patel, chief digital officer at Ogilvy Health, the healthcare agency of the Ogilvy group, which works with drug and medical device manufacturers such as Pfizer, Novartis, GSK and Novo Nordisk. Meanwhile, Patel said, increased competition between drug makers – “You can now have 10 products for a specific disease” – is pushing pharmaceutical brands to find other ways to influence doctors, for example by through targeted advertising on their work platforms.
Two key factors spawned what could become a more sophisticated era of influence of hyper-targeted digital pharmaceutical brands on physician drug decisions, according to Patel: 1) Pressure from the Affordable Care Act to keep records health care systems are digitized; and 2) the realities of the pandemic that have prevented drug sales representatives from visiting doctors’ offices and hospitals.
“Warming up the market‘
At the end of June, Ogilvy Health’s point-of-service division launched a strategic partnership with Doceree, a company that offers demand-side and sell-side advertising technology to target pharmaceutical brand messages directly to specific physicians based on their needs. identifiable physician codes and their healthcare platform. login data. This, in addition to other data showing their medical expertise, prescription history, and even whether they prescribed a competitor’s drug a while ago to a patient still in the room. The companies have spent the past year working together to develop complex business rules in the advertising system to target display ads, pop-up text blocks, or other messaging formats to physicians in electronic health record systems.
The presence of ads within these systems is not new, but the targeting and measurement capabilities are. Through partnerships with a network of electronic healthcare platforms and insurance and pharmacy data brokers, Doceree (pronounced as “doc-care”) can target advertisements based on prescription history a doctor and seeing a patient’s health records. with a particular disease and uses a prescription platform to write that patient a script for a specific drug.
When another advertising agency working with pharmaceutical brands tested Doceree’s programmatic advertising system earlier this year, the goal was to target a few hundred glaucoma surgeons with ads promoting a new one. medical device that should be approved by the FDA shortly thereafter. “Warming up the market is important,” said an executive at the agency, who wanted to contact “key leaders” to test the product. The executive declined to reveal details of the test results or whether the agency will try the system again.
Ogilvy Health uses the Doceree service in conjunction with its own data and targeting capabilities which could determine whether a physician is in a particular hospital at any given time, or whether they often refer patients to certain specialists. “We take a lot of other parts and put them together,” Patel said.
Measure the “script lift”
To detect when a doctor has just used a health platform to prescribe a particular drug, Doceree uses web crawlers that examine information, including the national drug code associated with the prescription. “When the doctor writes this code and goes to the next line, it’s kind of a page refresh,” Harshit Jain said, doctor and founder and CEO of Doceree. When the page refreshes, an ad for a competitor’s drug might be triggered, for example.
But another part of the draw for drugmakers is the ability to measure not only whether their ads inspired doctors to prescribe, but whether people actually filled those prescriptions. Doceree also has partnerships with data providers, including Komodo Health and Symphony Health. These data providers provide insight from insurance and health insurance claims and drugstore purchase data to show how advertising campaigns affect what’s called ‘script lift’ – by measuring the number new prescriptions or by assessing the number of physicians who are new prescribers.
Earlier this month, Doceree’s competitor, DeepIntent, announced that it had obtained a patent for its DSP’s ability to connect actual clinical data with ad impression data to measure and optimize live campaigns and measure the ‘impact on prescription performance measurements.
Risks beyond patient privacy
Of course, health data and targeting almost automatically raise privacy issues. “We never touch patient data,” said Jain, who said that Doceree’s ad targeting system and data usage was HIPAA compliant. For example, he said, if the ads are targeted when a doctor writes a prescription, the patient’s information is not visible to the system at the time the ad is targeted. He added: “The majority of our [electronic health platform] partners are connected platforms and we only communicate with doctors connected on opt-in platforms.
Since Doceree maintains relationships with multiple electronic health record platforms, it’s unclear what terms these systems require patients or their physicians to agree to. A platform partner, Office Ally, enables Doceree to target ads to physicians using its practice and prescription management tools as well as to patients based on patient diagnostic codes when they check in using digital tablets before a doctor’s visit. When patients agree to receive a voucher for the purchase of a drug based on their diagnostic code, “they agree to be notified; there is also potential for a clinical trial if there is a rare disease, ”said Brian O’Neill, CEO and founder of Office Ally.
Targeting physicians in digital point-of-care environments raises serious privacy concerns, said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a non-profit research organization that focuses much of its work on health privacy problems, including medical identity theft.
While Dixon said the specific privacy implications of the partnership and the capabilities of Doceree and Ogilvy Health were unclear, there is a risk of a HIPAA regulatory violation if a patient’s insurance code or other data associated with his electronic health record is exposed to an entity such as a business ad, or if payment information such as credit card data is associated with a state of health of a patient, she noted.
“We need to get medical, legal and regulatory approval for everything we do with our pharmaceutical customers before we can run any of our programs,” Patel wrote in an email to Digiday. “Our programs have undergone extensive privacy reviews with our pharmaceutical customers and we are very careful and diligent to ensure that we do not violate any of the rules that protect patient rights and privacy.”
But there are other implications that go beyond privacy, according to Dixon. “One of the very important considerations here is: what does advertising directly in an EHR system do about the cost of health care? ” she said. “If doctors get ads for a drug that costs 15 or 30 times the price of a generic, what does that have to do with the cost of health care? This is a question we really have to answer.