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Has Medical Storytelling Been Canceled?: Q&A

Blog Has Medical Storytelling

Below are the answers to your pressing questions from our recent webinar with MM+M: Has Medical Storytelling Been Canceled?

We all understand the need for bite sized content today. But data needs to be accurate and tends to be lengthy and detailed. How do you propose we break up scientific data?

Arun Divakaruni, CEO
There’s a fundamental difference between the clinical data that a sponsor generates to support the approval of a particular product and the sort we use to support scientific and medical storytelling. The purpose of a clinical trial is, within the context of a study, to disprove the null hypothesis of the trial. Meaning, to show that a drug, medical device, or another sort of intervention has statistically reliable information to support regulatory approval. That is a fundamentally different question than how do I incorporate this into my practice?

If you're a clinician, you're saying to yourself “I know the FDA or other regulatory body has determined this product possesses a sufficient risk-benefit profile to be used in the clinic, but how do I incorporate this product into my practice?” Ultimately, those of us in healthcare marketing are trying to figure out how to make the case for our client’s product over all the competitors. But beyond that, we need to figure out how to take the information doctors need to know to implement it into their practice and break it down into ways that are easy to understand.

To approach this, we have to start with the question: who does this scientific advance apply to in the broader sense? Is it for X disease, X type of patient who has failed on other therapies and now needs a new one? Then sequentially break it down from there to give the most relevant content at the particular time. There are a lot of ways that we can use user behavior data, and how they're interacting with other content on certain channels to figure out where they are on the spectrum of adoption and give them the right information at the right time. This is guidance is vague because we must narrow it down to a very specific therapeutic area, given the options available to a doctor. For example, to draw out some very clear and contrasting clinical situations, there may be areas, let's say in third-line solid tumors, where there are one or two therapeutic options, and a doctor just needs to know that there is something approved and available for this. That's very different than the first-line setting in perhaps a dermatological condition, where there may be a dozen different options.

It's really important for us to be able to take the clinical story, keep true to what our obligations are from a regulatory perspective, and give doctors that information on the channels where they want it. The key is customization, and the data and analytics will help us be able to figure out the right channel mix, the right story to give them, and ultimately, what will change. Have them consider and have that conversation with their patient, that there may be a different option for that.

What is the foundation of creating a digital ecosystem connecting peers either regionally or nationally?

Greta Rybicki, Vice President

The foundation of any ecosystem is strong analytics and understanding your customers and where they are. Connecting peers regionally and nationally can look a lot like leveraging influence mapping—looking for consistent and similar behavior, for example, their writing behavior, and the patients they see. This is all dependent on the therapeutic area and then also on understanding how that therapeutic area might look to experts.

Some of the disease states we've worked in have really strong national specialists that have an overarching influence on HCPs within that specialty. Other disease states are a little bit more regional-focused. They might have regional centers or regional referral bases that influence treatment and patient management behavior within that disease, and it can be different from region to region. In those instances, you might elevate regional influencers and establish a more regional connection. Once you have a really good understanding of who's there, where they are, and what they need, you can partner closely with marketing and analytics to map it all out.

You start by asking: Where is everybody? What's unique or similar about them, and where might there be levels of influence? Then you start building, identifying key areas where you might employ certain stories and educational points, delivered in both traditional channels like a webinar or a broadcast and new media or physician social, where a higher level of individualized targeting might be available. This ecosystem is also crucial for the sales representative to pull through, as we provide guidance for them for pulling the right level at the right time in conjunction with the ecosystem. It’s important we leverage all the tools we have. We’ve made a lot of great progress with our partners in breaking down those silos to create a fully integrated customer experience and ecosystem that is driven by a strong understanding of where our customers are and what they want.

Finally, the idea of the ecosystem across the hub, particularly in the next-gen type of medical education ecosystem, is where the story arc or the narrative arc lives because you have so many vehicles of communication—from live to virtual, for example. If you have a common message and you have a common branded theme that works across each ecosystem touchpoint, you're going to reinforce your messaging, whether it's regional or national. This way you can continue to bring your branded content to life.

You talked about a content ecosystem, that's NextGen in medical education. Are there any touch points within the new ecosystem that are more important than the others? Anything that should be prioritized in our 2022 plan?

Arun Divakaruni, CEO

It’s not the case that one is any more important than the other. Rather we have to map the story to the platform. Put a different way, how do we use all these platforms together in a way that makes the most impact? For example, look at how you consume information in your personal life, and map the analogs to how you consume that information in your professional life.

We have platforms like Facebook, which are frankly de facto information outlets. They talk a lot about newsfeed, and that's what platforms like Doximity talk a lot about. They’re about providing a constant source of information. You can also think of a platform like Epocrates that gives information at the point of care in real-time. That's what Twitter does. Likewise, you look at Instagram, a visual platform, and there's a platform right now called Figure 1 that communicates medical information visually.

How do you orchestrate a campaign around a single user across these multitudes of platforms? Imagine a hypothetical situation where you provide may be brand agnostic disease information on a platform like Doximity. When a doctor comes into their office, and pull up their feed, they're looking to see and consume information. Then at the point of care, you have a targeted campaign that gives a product monograph on Hippocrates when they're actually using that platform to look at it. Then likewise, when they go home, or they're on the train back from the clinic, that can bring that a bit more to life, visually, using a platform like Figure 1.

There are a number of different platforms out there It’s not necessarily the case that one is more important than the other. It's about orchestrating the experience that someone has with the information, whether branded or unbranded, about the medicine, device, or intervention you want to raise awareness about.

There's been a ton of change over the past 16 months. There’s a famous quote from Jeff Bezos who said: “I very frequently get the question: "What's going to change in the next 10 years?" And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one. I almost never get the question: "What's not going to change in the next 10 years?" And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two—because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.” In our world, what are some of those things?

Arun Divakaruni, CEO

What's not going to change is that we're all human beings and human beings throughout the history of our species have communicated information through stories. This was true thousands of years ago, and it's true today. The channels may have changed, but we're people and people learn from stories.   

Patrick Kelley, Chief Creative Officer

In our world of medical education, we need to make sure that our research is showing the scientific data that our target HCP needs, are looking for, and that we are putting it in a relevant storyline. By humanizing and making the data relevant, we can begin to build a larger story. That’s something that has remained consistently true in all that we do and in every type of communication. The change has been in the communication vehicles.

The biggest thing we’ve learned is that the conversations don't go away, and they don't die down with an HCP, they actually have to increase, and we actually have to begin to look at these channels and use a more conversational tone, and create more personalized, intimate, bite-sized content that is scientifically relevant, but also relatable. In other words, the importance of good medical stories and communication hasn’t gone away, but how we deliver the content and facilitate the conversation has changed drastically. 

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