Health lab – bringing innovation to our digital communications – part 2

Leigh Householder

GSW Worldwide

In the second part in her two-part article, Leigh Householder continues to discuss how innovation in digital pharma marketing can be found within the organisation.

(Continued from Health lab – bringing innovation to our digital communications – part 1 )

#3 Connect good things.

Finish this sentence: I need another website like I need a ___________ .

The explosion of channels and proliferation of digital media we’ve seen over the last decade have left most of us feeling hyper-connected and overwhelmed with information. We don’t want more opinions and websites to read, we want a clear path to the most relevant, credible, right-for-us stuff.

That’s a big opportunity for creating a better interface. One that doesn’t start with building more stuff but instead finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.

How the lab has tackled it: Sometimes as a patent defense strategy, sometimes as a clever evolution, the lab is great at pairing things we need more of together. Whether it’s a statin with a diabetes drug, an antihistamine with a decongestant, or even energizing vitamins with chemotherapy, the lab knows how to combine things to help them serve people better.

What marketing could borrow: Pharmaceutical marketers generally have great perspective and a strong sense of skepticism. We know what’s out there and what’s worthy of our trust. We could use that POV to curate great collections, to point people to the resources that would help them most.

Think about the “pick of the week” cards at Starbucks™ or the app store iTunes® made just for physicians. How could we build similar connections?

#4 Be a good host.

Patient satisfaction is becoming a big metric in health systems. It’s emerging at the intersection of two trends: the advancement of formulas for reimbursement and the growth of competition for patient loyalty.


“Finish this sentence: I need another website like I need a ___________.”


The result is innovation in the design and management of patient experience, a simple term for a complex series of clinical and non-clinical interactions that each person experiences differently in each hospital.

Planning for these experiences is much more challenging for healthcare than it ever was for Nordstrom or Disney™ or Nike™. because people are often at their most vulnerable when receiving healthcare and require more personal time, more advocates and more care than a consumer of any other product or service.

How the lab has tackled it: Now we’re talking about a different kind of lab – one focused on people, not pills. These labs exist in hospitals around the country, including the Mayo Clinic. There, they cleared an entire corridor to build an experience lab designed to empower clinical teams to act like a design shop. They interview and shadow patients, brainstorm with abandon, and engage in rapid prototyping.

The hands-on view of the real patient experience has helped them launch a number of industry-leading innovations, including self-service kiosks for check-in.

What marketing could borrow: This is where it gets really hard. Where we have to rethink everything about how we market to people. If we learn from the lab, we can make an essential shift in how people use marketing, recasting its role from earning attention to truly offering something valuable.

At a consumer level, companies like Nike™ have been brilliant at being good hosts and building real experiences. Marketing and product are so seamlessly blended that it becomes hard to know which is which. Is Nike+ a product, a service, or marketing? What about its app or dashboard?


“Patient satisfaction is becoming a big metric in health systems.”


We’re starting to see those kinds of experiences in healthcare. At the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, RFID-enabled identification badges are worn by all patients. They hold information on each patient’s favorite colors, music, and vacation spots, as well as the items critical to fostering a smooth process like billing, pharmaceutical, scheduling, and doctor information. Once a patient walks through a door, the RFID reader identifies the patient and alerts a concierge who immediately greets them and directs them to their next appointment. Each room automatically responds to that patient’s preferences – dimming lights, changing music, even displaying custom images inside testing machines.

What more can we build to truly change the interface?

Back to those two pharma executives – the ones who hide their business cards at cocktail parties. They’re exactly the type of people who can help us change the interface to reflect the innovation engine inside the pharmaceutical industry.

To do it – to really change – we all have to adopt three new beliefs.

1. Take off the black hat. Pharma is not the bad guy.

We are changing the world. It’s an awesome responsibility and one we ought to recognize and respect.

2. Keep it off. Marketing isn’t the bad guy either.

Here’s the truth: Most of us could be living better lives, healthier lives. The biggest competitors most of our brands face aren’t other brands – they’re lack of knowledge, lack of motivation and inaction. Marketing is what changes that. It connects busy physicians and people in need with life-changing solutions. It helps people commit to life-improving choices.


“Planning for these experiences is much more challenging for healthcare than it ever was for Nordstrom or Disney™ or Nike™”


3. We can change the interface. Getting a big new idea through the system can seem daunting, if not impossible. Creating the business case, the compelling experience, the can’t-miss storytelling around a new technology, a new tool, a new market is harder here than it is anywhere. But we cannot let business challenges defeat us. There is nothing smart, dedicated people cannot change together.

This article is an overview of a talk I gave at eDTC Revolution earlier this month. Is it a feel-good message designed to make you feel better about what we do every day? Hell yes it is. But it’s a lot more than that. It’s a call to action to make what we do for people in real life as meaningful as what we create for them in our labs and of course help show how to get there.



About the author:

Leigh is a digital strategist at GSW Worldwide and managing director of iQ, the agency’s innovation lab dedicated to how technology advances can benefit the future of healthcare marketing.

She has worked at a number of leading advertising agencies in Chicago and Columbus, including Sard Verbinnen, Albert Frank, Eyewonder and national branding firm, Ologie. She’s delivered meaningful brands and successful campaigns for a range of clients from well-known financial brands (PNC, Nationwide) to category-leading retailers (Bed Bath &amp, Beyond, Big Lots) to national associations (American Medical Association, American Lung Association) to universities (The Ohio State University, Hartwick College).

In 2011, Leigh was named a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring. Deep in the art of digital community construction and stewardship, she has spoken about trends and social media at national and regional conference for PRSA, AMA, ACUHO-I, American Society of Association Executives, Digital Pharma, Ohio Grantmakers Forum, and others. She contributes to many publications, including MedAdNews, PharmaVoice, PM360, Financial Times, Marketing Vox, DMI Review, The Social Path, AdWeek, and Business First.

How can marketing change motivation?