March 21, 2019

Digital Health Coalition Moves Innovation Forward at East Coast Summit

Photo of the Digital Health Coalition logo

As part of its commitment to keeping our industry up to date, the nonprofit Digital Health Coalition (DHC) organizes events to drive discussion around issues relevant to the digital marketing of healthcare products and services. Last week, Pfizer graciously hosted the first DHC Summit of the year at its world headquarters in Manhattan. Themes of the day centered around innovation, customer experience, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and social media.

Intouch Solutions is a proud sponsor of the Digital Health Coalition, so I was there to listen, learn, and capture what I saw as the most salient points of the day in order to bring them back to you. And, oh: Intouch Solutions was also a proud sponsor of a happy hour – because cocktails and conversation!

Innovate Every Day
Melissa “Mack” Mackey, formerly of Novartis and now head of Verizon’s Innovation Garage, opened the Summit with tips for driving innovation within pharma. Beyond the usual counsel like “don’t chase the shiny object,” gems of advice included:

  • Innovate every day. Even if “innovation” is not part of our job title, we should all be striving to innovate every day.
  • Categorize your innovation priorities. For example, Verizon’s innovation initiatives target about 75% existing pain points and 25% “blue sky” – i.e., unfettered creative — thinking. This struck me as something pharma could really learn from. When was the last time your teams and partners sat down to specifically discuss how to address pain points within the customer experience? Because we know that across the healthcare experience, there’s no shortage of pain points to address.
  • First, clearly define the problem. Mackey shared a quote from Albert Einstein that obviously resounded with the audience, as it was referenced often throughout the rest of the day: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
  • Don’t say no. Say how.” A great mindset for any stakeholder involved in the innovation process. It’s also a mantra I used love to hear from my favorite legal/medical/regulatory partners as well.

A More Agile Merck
Another discussion industry leaders in the room found valuable was Tricia Brown’s fireside chat. As a digital marketing leader at Merck, Tricia’s passion is focusing on the customer, and that showed through in her honest and engaging Q&A discussion.

Her team at Merck has applied agile marketing principles to the organization, driving speed and efficiency. Their focus is on the customer experience. “There’s a big difference in wanting to do a better job at customer experience and actually doing it,” she said. “You can know the customer in their treatment area, but we must think more holistically.”

Tricia shared how Merck’s implementation of the agile framework is improving the customer experience, and how that has “made a world of difference in a short amount of time,” creating “dramatic improvements in customer engagement.”

“Be open to working differently and trying new things,” she advised. “It’s not a polished business case. It won’t be perfect, and that’s OK. Leaders must think this way – make it OK to take a risk.”

What’s helped Tricia feel empowered to be a catalyst for change? “The knowledge that the customer doesn’t care about our excuses,” she said. “We must have courage of conviction and be a voice for the customer.” She also feels empowered by being a “servant leader,” working with the scrum-masters to get past the “old way” of thinking, and everyone getting “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Her final advice to all in the room was to “Be bold. Be impatient. Be persistent. And there’s strength in numbers – lean on others.”

Machine Learning With Google
Google is well known for its forays into machine learning and AI. Head of industry Manavi Menon, and account executive Carly Sousa shared a litany of Google tools and apps driven by machine learning, including:

  • Google Photos can tell, better than humans, if a photo is of a dog or a mop. (Read more here.)
  • Google Translate — one of my most favorite and useful apps — supports over 100 languages and a billion translations a day.
  • Verily is Alphabet Inc.’s research organization devoted to the study of life sciences. In health, machine learning is being applied across disease identification, personalized medicine, and drug discovery.
  • is a free, handy tool that determines the speed of your mobile website and compares it to the competition.
  • Google’s YouTube Director Mix applies machine learning to create impactful video ads with fewer resources. Users input some foundational content such as pre-approved video, images, text, and layout, and the Director Mix algorithm then spits out thousands of creative examples to target different audiences. Google shared that Abreva (GSK) and Stelara (Janssen) are using this service now, leveraging hundreds of different creative executions.
  • Finally, for more than just fun, Google’s Quick Draw neural network invites you to help the tool recognize and predict a doodle, “shared publicly to help with machine learning research.” Give it a spin if you need a brain break – it’s addictive!

Artificial Intel in Real Life
My colleagues at Intouch Solutions – SEO director Tylor Hermanson and vice president of innovation Abid Rahman — shared how they applied AI to gain some pretty impressive internal agency efficiencies.

Intouch’s SEO team stays very busy keeping clients’ websites optimized for search engines. One of the most tedious and time-consuming phases of the SEO process is keyword categorization – categorizing literally thousands of keywords by intent. For example, “what causes asthma,” “is asthma hereditary,” and “how do I get asthma” may all seem like disparate searches on the surface. Besides “asthma,” none of these searches even uses the same words. Yet they are all broadly searching for the same thing — the cause of the disease. This makes it extremely time-consuming to categorize keywords; analysts must manually review and interpret thousands of phrases to determine intent.

As Tylor noted, this keyword categorization was – understandably — easily on the bottom of the teams’ list in terms of enjoyment. And while 50% of the team’s time was spent on the task, it’s not, as Tylor pointed out, “where the magic happens.”

For several years, Intouch has been developing its own pharma-friendly AI solution, dubbed Cognitive Core™. Tylor and Intouch’s innovation team saw an opportunity to apply Cognitive Core to dramatically speed up the keyword-categorization process – without sacrificing quality – in order to gain time for strategic thinking and other more critical tasks.

Learn more about the history of Cognitive Core here, and see how Cognitive Core is working to keep pharma sales reps a step ahead.

Fast-forward to the payout, and Intouch has saved more than 500 hours in SEO keyword-categorization time – efficiencies that will improve even further over time, and which can be passed on to our clients and repurposed for more strategic thinking.

Looking for ways AI can be proven to make an impact in your own organization? In their presentation, the Intouch team recommended looking for opportunities that are R.E.A.L. – Recurring, Exempt (from risk), Agonizingly slow, and perhaps even Loathsome. The point: while some in society remain anti-AI due to the fear of it taking their jobs, it can help to look at AI, instead, as a way to take away jobs that people would gladly give away.

Attend the Next DHC Summit at AMAG in May
The next DHC Northeast Summit is scheduled for May 2 at AMAG in Waltham, MA. Watch for details on the DHC website soon!

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Image of a Quote on Big TV Screen