Driving Digital Innovation

By Tina Okun

What are today’s biggest barriers as healthcare companies adopt and integrate social media?

Depending on who you ask, you’ll likely get a different answer. Some point to the cultural readiness of the organization. Others blame a structure that creates silos between different divisions. Still others bemoan an inability of regulatory and marketing functions to work with a common sense of purpose.

Earlier this month, the Digital Health Coalition held its spring members meeting at the ePharma conference in NYC. At the event, the DHC took some of these perceived barriers head–on. What became clear: some companies (or at least some forward-thinking folks at those companies) know what CAN be done to clear some of those hurdles.

During a lengthy session on improving the medical, legal and regulatory (MLR) review process, Preeti Pinto, from Preeti Pinto & Associates, Stacy Reese from Shire, Philomena McArthur from Janssen and Ilyssa Levins from the Center for Communication Compliance, provided  recommendations that marketers, regulatory staff and communications professionals can do to speed the time to approval for digital projects.

As a DHC board member, I’ve heard a lot of great ideas over the past few years about what companies can do to enhance their digital prowess. However, the ideas presented by Preeti, Stacy, Philomena and Eloisa really stood out.

Stacy and Philomena represented what is right about regulatory leaders. Both described how they work closely with their colleagues in marketing and communications and endeavor to say “yes, if … ” rather than “no, because … ” when presented with new, previously untried, ideas.

Ilyssa, however, really challenged the group. She posited that one of the major issues that stymies innovation is a lack of alignment between different functional areas – that regulatory, compliance, legal and marketing teams may not necessarily use a common language or have a common sense of purpose.

To address this, Ilyssa proposed what she described as a set of “alignment objectives” that marketers, communications professionals and regulatory and legal staff can use to bring all the process gatekeepers into alignment. A collection of some alignment objectives are included below:

Level 1

For Companies that are just beginning to use innovation digital tools for communications.

  • Agree on a super-ordinate goal for digital engagement so that it is not about “my process” or “your process” but about desired outcomes; put the focus on the higher collaborative purpose
  • Recognize that digital does not exist in a vacuum and spell out all considerations: legal, medical and compliance requirements; product attributes/history; company standards; process requirements; etc.
  • Tackle myths and misperceptions about one another’s value which could negatively impact progress, and address these prior to embarking on programming

Level 2

For organizations that are more digitally savvy.

  • Ensure team members have firm grasp of regulatory fundamentals to reduce number of non-compliant marketing materials developed by agency/marketing
  • Understand what non-negotiable, non-compliant elements must be filtered out of digital recommendations before submission
  • Articulate the value of early concept reviews determine specific parameters for their use and prioritize areas of disagreement relating to claims with the greatest potential risk

Level 3

For companies that have programs in place but need to demonstrate value and success of those programs.

  • Develop a protocol for analyzing proposed digital campaigns using a ROI mentality so the question gets asked: will it cost us more to develop the idea for compliant execution than we would gain in sales impact?
  • Establish and adhere to business rules on relevant issues (e.g., social media commenting and sharing; generic name inclusion for scrolls; SEO key words/linking)
  • Make it easier to understand “how” digital tactics might work by developing mock sites to demonstrate basic functionality of digital assets

These are just proposed alignment objectives – designed to encourage MLR and marketing teams to discuss how they can better work together to achieve their goals.

There were other, similar ideas also discussed at the meeting. The point is, that sometimes there are simple things communications professionals, marketers, regulatory personal or other professionals can do to improve how they work with their colleagues and together help advance the adaptation and use of digital tools to achieve the goals of the organization.

The DHC has focused, for several years, on trying to create research materials, checklists, and other resources that companies can use to move from traditional marketing and communications models to ones that effectively use digital tools.

After the panel, we broke into workshop group, one of which was charged with developing additional alignment objectives that the DHC could pull together into a comprehensive list. Other groups had similar objectives to focus on. Hopefully, the workshop will result in other, simple materials the DHC can produce that its members can use to customize for their own organizations.


About Marc

Social Media Advisor to SmithSolve

Marc Monseau - SmithSolve guest blogger

Marc has spent almost 20 years devising new ways to reach and influence people through digital channels. As the co-founder of Mint Collective, he supports SmithSolve with social media marketing and communications efforts, helping to identify credible approaches to reach and engage online audiences. Marc brings a deep knowledge of pharmaceutical communications and marketing, having launched Johnson & Johnson’s official blog, its first Twitter account and Facebook page. He also developed the company’s social media policies and is often interviewed about social media strategies. Marc’s background includes healthcare reporting for Bloomberg Business News and serving as an analyst for a London-based market research group.

“SmithSolve’s ‘surround sound’ approach to communications involves using different tools, technologies or approaches to reach and connect with people. To find a relevant and credible voice in today’s rapidly changing world, a company must have a social media plan, as well as solid structures, systems and processes in place to support it.”

~ Marc Monseau