The Digital Health Coalition is a nonprofit think tank that “was created to serve as the collective public voice and national public forum for the discussion of the current and future issues relevant to digital and electronic marketing of healthcare products and services.” DHC’s Summits, held several times a year, bring together healthcare thought leaders in marketing to discuss the latest in research, news and innovation.

The Fall Summit was held at Sanofi, in Bridgewater, NJ. Following are some of the highlights of a session packed with excellent presentations and discussions.

  • Pharma 3D. Published earlier this year by Google, Wharton and McKinsey & Company, this e-book (whose full title is Pharma 3D: Rewriting the Script for Marketing in the Digital Age) discusses the need for pharma marketers to rethink how they discover behaviors and decision-making influences, and how they design and deliver experiences. (And, full disclosure, it includes a case study from Intouch!) As McKinsey’s Brian Fox explained, today’s world is “forcing the metabolic rate of decision making to move up.” Now more than ever, the importance of agile methodology in boosting an organization’s speed can’t be understated.
  • Insight from outside pharma marketing. We heard from experts about the regulatory market, the entrepreneurial world, and connecting with online patient groups to get additional viewpoints.
    • While most movement in Washington is awaiting November’s election results, expert Dale Cooke noted that, regardless of the results, pricing will continue to grow as an issue. He also pointed out that the FDA will hold information-gathering hearings on off-label promotion the day after the election. However, as he noted, a similar initial meeting on social media led to the release of guidance five years later, so we should not expect any immediate changes from the agency.
    • Jon Cooper, founder of, spoke to us about the stages of entrepreneurship as he’d experienced them, and discussed a variety of concepts, from A/B testing to seeking minimally viable products that can remove some of the risk from innovation, whether working alone or “intrapreneurially,” inside a company.
    • Patient-group expert Nan-Kirsten Forte of Healthline reviewed findings about online support groups (members tend to skew pharma-friendly, female and “activist” and seek experts). Her colleague Dante Gaudio also pointed out that, “the line between mobile and desktop has gone away … we don’t think mobile versus desktop now; we think digital, and mobile leads that.”
    • Sanofi’s Tom Feitel spoke about his background in “Imagineering” and explained how empathy is core to any successful innovation. “If you can’t get in their shoes, you can’t unlock something really great,” he said.
“The line between mobile and desktop has gone away … we don’t think mobile versus desktop now; we think digital, and mobile leads that.”  – Dante Gaudio
  • Data, mobile, video and programmatic. It’s no surprise that the hottest topics in pharma marketing made an appearance in many of the discussions.
    • Lou Sanquini of Aetna’s population health arm, Healthagen, explained how collaborations between pharma and health systems, integrated delivery networks, or accountable care organizations can help pharma by sharing data on local patient populations and targeting patients that are most likely to benefit from brands.
    • New Solutions Factory’s Jeff Greene focused on mobile and reviewed several case studies, including Text4Baby, Figure1, and Glooko. “Forget a pill-plus strategy,” he said, “It’s time to think of an app-plus strategy.”
    • Shannon Gallagher of Crossix offered data on the “compelling case for mobile advertising,” pointing out that while only 15% of publishers in a digital campaign are mobile, these publishers serve 50% of impressions.
    • Julie Cain and Jody Scharfenberger of PatientPoint explained the increasing importance of beacon technology and outlined how beacons could be used to provide exactly the right messages to a consumer, walking us through the journey of a mom taking her child to the doctor and then the pharmacy.
    • A panel on social video featuring Katie Collins of Twitter, Bhavin Vakani of YouTube and George Alafoginis of Facebook, and moderated by DHC’s Mark Bard, was a highlight of the afternoon. They discussed the “explosion” of online — particularly mobile — video, both on-demand and live.
    • And finally, Chris Neuner of PulsePoint and Bill Jennings of PageScience reviewed the growth of programmatic advertising — particularly in health –– from $370M to $27B.

The Digital Health Coalition Summits are known for being informative, innovative and productive, and this one was no different. We were glad for the chance to attend!