Spotlight interview: 15 minutes on digital in medical communications

Written by Gemma Allen on Thursday 5th December 2019

Gemma Allen, Head of Digital Communications, OPEN Health takes 15 minutes to answer some key questions on digital in medical communications

1. How have digital elements in medical communications evolved over the last 5/10 years?

In 2009 Apple invited a rep from LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company on-stage to demonstrate how a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose monitor synchs up to a diabetes management application running on the iPhone. This was the beginning of the biggest revolution in digital healthcare - the focus on the smartphone as a medical device, health tracker and patient support companion.

The launch of the iPad quickly followed in 2010 and created what is now “a ubiquitous tool” for field force teams to communicate medical information to HCPs. This has allowed the industry to communicate more complex information in a more engaging way.

Also, the role of the healthcare professional is changing with people being more informed about their health through the use of Search. Access to health information on the web as a consumer, patient or otherwise, has hugely changed the way the industry communicates medical information to healthcare professionals, patients and the general public.

2. What are the benefits of using digital in medical communications?

I think there are multiple benefits:

  • Simplifying complex information - through data visualization and multi-layered digital tools we can communicate a more powerful story - you can delve into the details and contextually navigate in different directions based on the person you are talking to which is a huge benefit in medical communications
  • It’s trackable - we can understand what people are looking at, how long they are looking at it, and when they are accessing it. This means we can iterate and improve on what we provide, based on those metrics.
  • Personalisation – we can provide information that is more relevant by understanding who they are, which hospital they work in, which country they are in - that only improves efficiencies in terms of information exchange.
  • Globalisation – having access to information through the web and access to other people who are experts from around the world - particularly important in rare diseases.
  • Increased reach - Digital projects also offer a unique opportunity to reach a much broader audience in a more targeted way and we help our clients cascade their medical education to a boarder audience.
3. What are the challenges around including digital elements in medical communications projects?

Compliance is an obvious one – it’s always been a challenge to get “sign off” for digital projects, and these processes need to continue to evolve as quickly as the digital technologies.

Often teams do not have access to the relevant expertise to make informed decisions on risk - this impacts projects and can cause errors. At OPEN Health we provide training and guidance to signatories on how to compliantly review digital projects in an efficient way.

4. What are some examples of exciting digital projects OPEN Health Medical Communications is working on?

There are so many! Rare disease is an exciting focus for OPEN Health at the moment - it has a real unmet need for patients who are affected with these conditions. There is a huge opportunity for digital projects to make a difference here and we are helping companies to use digital to reach rare disease patients and help educate HCPs on how these patients can be identified. We also build HCP communities to help them to share expertise on how to manage these unique conditions.

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is a big buzz word in the tech industry right now and we are using this technology to support HCPs in decreasing workload, making more informed diagnoses and analysing complex clinical data.

5. What is the future of digital in the medical communications space?

Personalisation is still just beginning to be fully capitalised on in pharma so we expect this to be a continuing trend. As technologies and teams get more sophisticated it creates a better experience for the user. You can send a communication to a HCP, ensuring it’s personalised for them by displayed relevant information about the hospital they are working in or the field of research they are focusing on, for example.

Virtual conferences are something OPEN Health is exploring. We can imagine an era where HCPs and experts spend more time engaging with each other and less time travelling on planes reducing air pollution and connecting on a virtual scenario.

Voice activated technologies are something we will see more of in the next year or so. It will be exciting to see how we will use Alexa or Google home assistant to improve patient experiences and support patients to take their medications. We expect these will support people to access health data and it will be important for us as an organisation to inform our clients and HCPs about how they can be involved in designing all of these, so they are medically accurate and valuable to patients.


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