Category Archives: social media

image of youtube logo with a pharma symbol ona tv

YouTube and Pharma

Founded nearly ten years ago by two fresh out of college graduates who met while working at Paypal, YouTube is the result of their capitalisation on the problem of video sharing online (as in there was none), seeing a gap in the market and filling it.  A year later they were acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in Google stocks (clearly they filled the market gap successfully!). Today, YouTube has more than 1 billion unique users a month, watching 6 billion hours of video, while 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

Valuable information

There are thousands of pharma videos on YouTube, from CSR and HR videos to MoA videos and patient stories. But what value do these videos provide to viewers (media, healthcare professionals, employees and prospective employees, patients) and what value do they provide to the pharma brand? Videos are costly to produce, and many times, a large budget is spent on production, but nothing is spent on promotion.

Upload it and they will come doesn’t work for YouTube videos, it’s better to spend less producing a few videos, which are promoted and tested before more videos are put into production. Test, measure and learn is definitely a concept that should be applied to YouTube content creation, to improve the ROI, watch time, and sharing of valuable video content.

Social first

YouTube was one of the first social media platforms adopted by Pharma; it’s a safer way of getting information into the public domain (comments can be switched off, reducing regulation/administration) making it a more viable option than other social media channels.

But what makes content successful for pharma on YouTube? As with any content, the human element, drawing on people’s own experiences or ability to empathise with the people on screen can have great success. Think of how many times you’ve hit the ‘like’ button because you’ve related or empathised with the content in front of you?

One example is Johnson and Johnson who launched a channel called JNJ Health with the tag line ‘videos about health, family and social responsibility’. Not just bringing you technical explanations of how devices and drugs work, Johnson and Johnson have gone the extra mile by bringing the viewer stories from real people with real problems, showing their side of the story. Stories like these are not just important to patients and relatives but also to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, helping them to understand the patient journey, not just the clinical facts or what text books tell them.

Heads or tails?

However, on the flip side of the coin it’s also essential that heartwarming stories do not cloud the facts. Boehringer Ingelheim has done this with great success; creating videos that relate directly to how a condition can affect someone physically through to videos presenting the process of researching and developing new compounds.

They also create content specific playlists for key events in the healthcare calendar. Take the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual conference for example, for two years running BI have had a playlist created of all the key information so that healthcare professionals who may not be able to attend are able to watch, or for HCPs who were there, they can watch again later.

This was particularly important for BI in 2013 to support their presentation of significant clinical data to oncologists. Using this method helped to make sure that everyone got the message about key developments, not just the conference attendees. Debbie Denison, Head of Marketing for Nitro Digital, says: “We found that HCPs and media engaged with patient stories and MoA videos in pretty much equal measure. YouTube is a valuable asset for pharma brands to use during major conferences. Promoting the individual videos and playlists extends the reach of key messages and video content is often much more engaging than text!”

In bed

Youtube particularly works for campaigns focussed on a particular subject. For example the ‘In Bed Story’ from Bayer (with Pharma Digital Marketing), used animation to follow the patient journey of a man called Dennis who had Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Following Dennis from the initial embarrassment he felt about having ED through to finally making an appointment to see his doctor, meant that they could effectively address questions men have and dispel any common myths. Their target audience was 40+ men, who they found spent more time on video sharing sites than any other sites. The aim was to improve the amount of time men take (typically 2 years) before going to see a doctor. Their campaign was so successful it was award winning, scoring the Healthcare/Pharma award and Grand Prix award at the Revolution Awards.

Risky business

A careful balance is needed for pharma and YouTube. Firstly, sub brands of the same company developing their own channels, essentially driving valuable views to potentially the wrong material, or creating an extra hurdle in the user journey can tip the balance. This can, in some cases, delay or prevent the success of the video/channel, sometimes significantly. However with the right name for the channel or the right targeting you can also tip the balance in your favour.

A second issue is not staying on top of the information you have given. If the information is old or inaccurate, this could be potentially damaging for your reputation, which is a key component of gaining and keeping customers and advocates for your business.

Thirdly, just because a video is posted on YouTube it doesn’t mean that it will become an internet sensation. The video still needs to be marketed and people still need to be told about it, so using other social elements to enhance the message is a great way to do just that. Promoting videos through social channels and YouTube paid ads is a great way to do that. The information should also be timely and with purpose, not just for the sake of posting.

phone displaying Figure 1

It Figures

Following recent developments in healthcare and technology (everyone’s getting in on it lately!), it’s no surprise that a new photo sharing app dubbed ‘Instagram for Doctors’ has been a great success, and is set to be rolled out across western Europe.

Figure 1’ is a medical photo sharing app that brings healthcare professionals (HCPs) together in a global online community to discuss and share medical images of patients (with their permission). HCPs can add cases by uploading photos, as well as make use of the reference image library, search images by anatomy or speciality, and join in discussions.

The app was founded by Canadian Doctor Joshua Landy, MD, who says: “We developed Figure 1 so members of the healthcare community could share images, knowledge, and clinical insight with each other, while safeguarding patient privacy.”

The idea is so simple it’s a wonder nothing like Figure 1 has been launched before. The only services close to what Figure 1 offer require subscription fees, whereas previous methods of file sharing between HCPs, such as email and post (yes, they still use post!) have proved inefficient and slow, while other digital sharing methods, like MMS or WhatsApp, raise security concerns. These older methods still only allow a few to access few images, but with Figure 1 an entire library and forum of over 50 million uploads is available at your fingertips, as is the collective knowledge of thousands of HCPs.

Co-operative Community

Figure 1 is free and currently available in North America, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, with plans to expand quickly.

While anyone can download the app, only verified HCPs (who go through a rigorous identification process) can upload photos or comment on them, ensuring helpful and significant discussion from qualified participants. HCPs are also advised to notify their employers and patients they’re using the app, and both HCPs and patients have to sign a digital consent form before any content can be uploaded.

Figure 1 makes for an excellent medical educational tool for students and qualified HCPs alike. It’s about making useful, real-life medical images easily accessible in a digital community that cares. HCPs can now not only get a second opinion but a third, fourth, fifth, etc. It’s a big breakthrough in harnessing the power of digitisation and social media for medical benefit, something the industry is notoriously slow to pick up on.

So, surely a hub of shared medical expertise can only mean good news?

It would seem not. As with any digital sharing service there are  privacy concerns surrounding Figure 1, particularly as the data being handled is both medical and personal.

However, Figure 1 was actually borne out of security concerns for other sharing methods. Dr Landy saw that doctors and medical students were using smart phones and social media to share information about patients in way that didn’t protect patient privacy or store the records securely.

“Tens of thousands of times a day patient records and educational images are transferred from healthcare provider to healthcare provider,” Dr Landy says. “We were thinking of a way to try and preserve and protect that information in an archive that’s searchable and useful.”

So for Figure 1, security is paramount.

First things first – they safeguard patient privacy. All patient identities are obscured automatically by the app with face detection software, and HCPs can further obscure images if needed, for example to cover other identifying marks like tattoos. With each upload, users can choose whether to share with the entire community, a specific group or just one or two colleagues. Finally, all photographs have to go through a moderation process before they are published.

The company also operate a ‘no secrets’ policy. If you don’t keep any secrets you can’t lose them, so the app doesn’t store or access any patient records whatsoever.

However, online medical data breaches do happen, and it’s not like they’re anything new.  Just earlier this year saw the second largest medical data breach ever recorded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, where a network server hack resulted in 4.5 million individuals being affected. 2013 saw the third largest, which still affected over 4 million people.

However, these cyber-attacks are usually carried out to get patient information, like name, address, contact numbers, payment info, etc. – that can be used for fraud and identity theft. Figure 1 doesn’t store any personal information or anything useful to others though, unless you happen to really like pictures of skin diseases and x-rays.

The only data attached to the image is the user who uploaded it – the HCP. This one factor has still raised concern, GP and author Dr Ellie Cannon says that while she thinks “it’s potentially really useful to share photos with medical students and other doctors,” she feels that there’s an obvious “potential pitfall” in the confidentiality, and that despite patient anonymity, “uploading from a certain doctor may go some way to identify a patient.”

However, Dr Landy claims that “Legally, we found that identifying the doctor does not identify the patient.”

Given that some members of the public will happily expose their strange ailments for the world to see on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, this may not be a great concern to a lot of patients. Nevertheless, Figure 1 looks pretty fool-proof. The company maintain that patient privacy is as much a priority for them as it is for HCPs.

The Bottom Line

Figure 1 offers incredible potential for sharing knowledge and creating new bodies of information globally, all stemming from a simple photograph. As most uploads are typically more complex cases that call for outside input, there’s an abundance of interesting and rare cases that many HCPs might otherwise never see. Getting a global discussion going on a unique case could contribute to huge developments in various medical fields.

The app store page is full of gushing reviews touting its educational potential: “Hands down one of the best apps I have on my phone. App is well put together and there’s never a shortage of fascinating cases. I learn something new every time I’m using it!” Although a fair amount of users do warn not to peruse the feed whilst eating.

On the whole, Figure 1 could greatly contribute to the promising outlook developing in the unfolding healthtech revolution.


HxRefactored Health and Digital Conference – Brooklyn, New York

HxRefactored by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0

HxRefactored by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0

A few subway stops away from the bustling city streets of the Ultra Health Technology office in Soho was the HxRefactored Conference, hosted by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0 held in the Marriott in Brooklyn, New York. Two days of workshops and sessions centered on UX, design and development. This conference was to be about the collaboration and integration of designers and developers. Typically these attendees would be in conferences dedicated to their specialization; the hxRefactored took on the challenge of bridging this gap.

Half of day 1 was focused on workshops for Gamification and user-centered design (the cost of the workshops were incremental to the attendee ticket pass to the conference); day 2 was a full day of the typical panel and presentation sessions.

Most of the sessions were broken out in 1/2 hour segments which created a bit of a rush to go through meaningful content and Q&A. The Q&A really drove the conversation and prompted a greater depth of detail on the topics. It was mostly through the question and answer element that attendees had an opportunity to vocalize what really interested them. Plus, time allocation to go to the next session didn’t really exist. You had to plan ahead. It was reminiscent of SXSW in that an attendee had to make difficult decisions about session attendance – a lot of conflicts.

The sessions were categorized so that an attendee would know the broad scope of what would be presented; i.e. Design Behavior Change, Design Vision and Innovation, Development Unstructured Health Data. While helpful, the separate pathways on the surface could be seen as a diversion from the original scope of integration. It was through the content of the presentations where the true blending occurred and topics were not defined so narrowly by their path in a majority of the cases.

The entire conference focus, as driven by both the session topics and the audience questions, could be summarized as follows:

  • Wearables (notable interest across many of the health conferences)
  • EHR (electronic health records; a surprising focal point through many of the sessions)
  • Health apps (beyond the usual tracking and stats)
  • Food (sustainability and health-oriented)
  • Process (testing methodologies and case studies were prevalent)
  • Government support and impact
  • Patient-focused (keen interest in making technology that appeals to the patients)
  • Security

Day 1

On Day 1 the first sessions opened after the workshops events and I kicked off the conference by attending the Healthy Design for People session with Elizabeth Bacon from Find Wellness and Lorraine Chapman from Macadamian . They had a full hour with Q&A which allowed for some very insightful approaches to the UX and testing process. The key messages were that you “don’t need a ton of data points,” “quick and inexpensive” can still bring about some important outcomes and iterative, lean methodology is the way to go. This is something we fervently believe and put into action every day at Ultra Health Technologies, so it was easy to agree.

For example, to conduct user testing using a qualitative method:

  • 4-6 HCPs (consider senior vs junior levels when selecting)
  • 8-12 Consumers


Not Recommended

Ethnographic Group Research Studies
1:1 interviews Task Analysis
Diary Studies(interesting article describing this process is here:

Another key element is persona development; knowing your audience is a key variable to any successful deliverable:

  • define behavioral variables
  • map each data point
  • observe clusters
  • reflect on proto personas
  • refine, reduce, specify
  • add goals
  • flesh out presentation

I was also very impressed, as were the others in the room, with the journey mapping process. Elizabeth and Lorraine provided specific details on their internal processes to creating the optimal journey based on their user group(s).

I was originally planning to attend the Inspiration for Your App session but this became unavailable when there wasn’t a speaker available. This was a bit of a running theme; speakers had to drop out of the conference in a few sessions because of personal matters. Some managed to be covered and others became more of a generic Q&A panel session.

The last session I attended for the day was Blue Button: Working with Health Data to Empower Patients by Thomas Black, Department of Veteran Affairs. His powerful message of “Data is the lifeblood of healthcare” is hardly arguable. It drives not only the B2B agenda, but also consumers want to know their own data. They want to have a better sense of what their data means to them on a personal level. Once patients have entrusted their data to a particular insurance company or healthcare provider, their desire to switch is low. This loyalty is driven by an aversion to the chaotic idea of change.

Sessions tended to be standing room only

Sessions tended to be standing room only

Day 2

After the opening brief keynotes, HIT is a Team Sport by Allscripts (via Stanley Crane) was the first session to kick-off Day 2. The focus was mostly on the sandbox environment provided by Allscripts to the development community. This was a bit of a running theme as well in the conference; everyone now sees the vision of open collaboration with outside developers for innovation. This was discussed in the How to Scale: Building the World’s Largest (and fittest) Community with Kevin Callahan from MapMyFitness (, @mapmyfitness). We heard some interesting stats such as there had been over 15 million workouts logged in the last 30 days as of May 13th but the majority of the focus was on partnerships and development opportunities.

My favorite presentation of the day was delivered by Nick Crocker (@nickcrocker) of @myfitnesspal. My lack of love for PowerPoint presentation delivery was subdued by Mr. Crocker’s usage of the software. Minimalistic and used only to enhance the speech he was providing, we got an inside look into the daily struggle and the battle to overcome the barriers of a typical fitness app user. “Life is the barrier,” he said. “Vices, easy outs, sickness and travel.” MyFitnessPal is seeking to rise above the standard “reminder” messaging that infiltrates our current portable smartphones and make interactions be more of a “realistic portrayal of what a real human would do” such as a personal trainer or military boot camp officer might provide (yelling, and intense demeanor is optional).

Some other highlights from day 2 include an important topic that is of critical important to me, and to the presenter, Megan Grocki (@megangrocki ) from Mad*Pow on the social responsibility of the food system. Let food be thy medicine: improving healthy by fixing the food system delivered an on-point message: health deterioration shows a directly proportional relationship to the deterioration of our food systems. Regulation, reporting, access are all fundamental issues plaguing our world and we have the capabilities in the digital space to impact and influence change. Megan provided some solutions such as Kel Smith’s (@kelsmith) Aisle Won project ( connecting the providers of healthy, affordable food to people who need it.

Additionally the topic of EHR was mentioned several times; an example of this dialogue was through insights from Gregory Moore (@GJMooreMDPhD) at the Geisenger Health System on Strategies for Start-ups to Partner with Healthcare Systems. The main takeaway is that the delivery of a key, concise marketing opportunity will make or break the possibility of a partnership. Currently patient-friendly content is just not available. Patients may have access to their charts, graphs and data and can engage with their HCPs to correct inaccurate information or become more knowledgeable. Anyone that has seen a pathology report or lab test results will know that the word “complex” and “difficult to understand” is an understatement. We can do better.

There are lots of opportunities to continue to address the unmet needs of HCPs and patients in the healthcare digital space with plenty of resources at our disposal. It will be exciting to see what the next couple of years will bring in terms of innovation and advancement.