Category Archives: UX

Wouldn’t it be nice if Blockchain really worked?

It looks like Big Pharma will finally hop on the blockchain bandwagon pulled by the cryptocurrency train, or will they? This read offers a fresh look from the customer’s perspective to help you stay focussed on outcomes when you’re shopping for blockchain as a service (BaaS) providers.

The possibilities for virtually distributed ledgers (what blockchain boils down to) seem promising: Identify and trace certain prescription drugs. Eliminate counterfeiting and other types of fraud. Track drugs through the supply chain. Prevent patients from participating in multiple studies simultaneously. But will blockchain really live up to the hype? Or will it stall on the peak of inflated expectations (autonomous vehicles, anyone?)

Source: Gartner, Inc.

If you ask me – It depends. If it’s accessible, easy to understand and robust to operate, I’ll use it. Otherwise, it’s either a classic car or I wouldn’t spend a penny (although it looks like any industry using transactions is most likely to be disrupted by blockchain, so I’ll save my pennies).

So join me on a journey back in time to study three technologies that equally started off as innovation triggers, find out why they went through the lows of disillusionment, and learn what it takes to properly introduce blockchain for health and life sciences.

Late check-in

Let’s start out with something trivial. Have you ever tried and succeeded in making a doctor’s appointment online? It really looks like the hotel reservation paradigm has found its way into healthcare. You know, where the common misconception is that the booking agency forwards your details to the hotel (which they do) but you still have to fill in the form with a ballpoint pen upon your arrival no matter how late.

Same at the doctors. Although I’m equipped with a digital ID issued to German citizens by the local registration offices, I still find myself undergoing interrogation as if I was applying for a loan each time I enter the practice. And even though I got myself an electronic smart card reader for my Mac I still can’t use it, for they had added another variable that is missing from my first generation ID card. Bummer.

Say cheese

Second example: QR-Codes. You know, the type of matrix barcode (or 2-D barcode) invented for Toyota in 1994 to track auto parts on a factory assembly line. When the first iPhone came out in 2007, someone had the brilliant idea to put them into a magazine -next to a substantial manual of how to install a QR code reader- so that people could jump to a website by taking a picture with their phone.

© Twitter

It’s ten years later and you see QR-Codes on billboards all over the subway. If you’re like me, however, you probably wonder why anyone would install an app, dig her phone out of the bag, reach across the wagon and take a picture of a chess pattern instead of just looking up the freaking audiobook/shoes/drain cleaner… (insert an item of choice) on Amazon. It wasn’t until recently that Apple ships a QR code reader with its native camera app. Oh, and ‘QR’ stands for “quick response” – just in case you wondered.

Hall of fame

The third example is a quick one. HealthKit. Having meticulously tracked every breath I took, every move I made, every step I took over the course of a whole year, I just found out in May that I lost half of my health data when I switched to my new phone last Christmas. How on earth could I expect that it was stored in the cloud?

Apparently, the merits of data regulations went so far as that none of my data was stored at all, at least not outside my phone. I was supposed to make a backup in iTunes and restore it from there, which of course I never do because, you guessed it, my data is in the Cloud.

Well, at least my all-time high score from Super Mario Run in December is still there.

So what’s the point?

In the first example (making a doctor’s appointment) I faced a very reasonable challenge but the healthcare system didn’t provide me with an accessible solution. In the second example (QR-Codes), the solution was there but it wasn’t designed with the user’s experience in mind. And in the third example (HealthKit), the solution was very comfortable to access and a breeze to use, but data storage wasn’t very robust.

If it’s accessible, easy to understand and robust to operate, I’ll use it.

Last time I checked with my client, blockchain was all about personal wallets and private ledgers (running the infrastructure for a full-scale blockchain operation is quite expensive, or so it seems). And then there were plans for having a shadow database just in case the distributed ledger got corrupted. Didn’t occur all that robust to me.

But then there are people that will tell you that problems such as making a doctor’s appointment online, decoding information from photographs, and managing health data in the cloud could actually be solved by using decentralized structures.

Blockchain in pharma

Of course, you don’t buy and use a blockchain as such. It’s an underlying technology that can be applied across all industries such as finance, supply chain management, and, well, pharma.

How it works:

  • A blockchain is a distributed (decentralised) virtual ledger in which transactions are processed, validated and recorded.
  • New transactions are bundled into ‘blocks’ which are added to the chain using cryptography so that nobody can edit or delete any data.
  • Think Who, What, and When as the type of data for which blockchain is particularly suitable, e.g. tracking prescriptions and drug regimen.

Such distributed ledgers can be used by the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors to record sensitive information such as patient health data in a permanent and incorruptible way.

Who’s in it already?

In the United States, blockchain is being tested for eliminating counterfeiting and other types of fraud for demonstrating compliance with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) to identify and trace certain prescription drugs.

In China, a new blockchain platform is being introduced which will track drugs through the supply chain and encrypt trading records, making it easier for smaller companies to access credit and reducing the time it takes for payments to be processed.

In developing countries, blockchain could help smaller retailers in supply chain management to access financing for delivered medicines that are paid months later.

Blockchain could be used to create so-called ‘smart contracts’, stored with all parties at the same time, which would significantly reduce inefficiency in the overall pharma and healthcare ecosystems where multiple parties enter into an agreement where there is potential for miscommunication and mistrust.

Also, blockchain could be a key to the management of clinical trials, where the confidentiality of patient information, and the integrity of trial data, are of paramount concern. One possible use for blockchain in this context is to create and store unique identities for trial participants, preventing patients from participating in multiple studies simultaneously.

By securely sharing information on the blockchain across trials, pharmaceutical companies will be able to access up-to-date information on trial progress and facilitate new modes of collaboration, hoping that the timeline for clinical development could be shortened.

From here

Study the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017 and you will see that blockchain, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are expected to unfold their full business potential in just a few years.

You might want to have a look at blockchain as a service (BaaS) solutions from Amazon and Microsoft Azure, or check out Oracle’s Blockchain Cloud Service, and IBM’s Blockchain Platform. To get you started, our research and development team at Nitro Digital can help you answer the exact digital marketing questions you have with blockchain and clinical trials tailored towards your specific needs.

To get in touch, reach out to us at, we would love to get your opinion.



5th Digital Pharma Advances Conference

The 5th Digital Pharma Advances Conference returns to London at the end of January and our Commercial Director Andy Stafford will be presenting both at this event and the workshop the next day. 

Attendees will get a glimpse into the future of pharma, hearing from industry leaders about digital trends, value-add services and engagement opportunities, and the technologies and innovations that will benefit not just marketing and sales but also public health.

Andy-Stafford-headshotAndy will speak on the topic Multi-channel Integration: Test & Learn To Engage In Digital.

When: 31st January 2017, 14:05-14:20
Where: Millennium Mayfair Hotel, Central London

At the workshop, Innovative Social Media, Digital & Measurement Strategies, Andy will lead discussion on the topic Let’s Improve Digital Engagement, Now. 

1st February 2017, 10-10:20
Where: Millennium Mayfair Hotel, Central London

We’ll be exhibiting at the conference on the 31st, stop by and say hi if you’re attending. We’d love to speak with you.

programmatic for hcp marketing

It’s Time Pharma Realised the Potential of Programmatic Media Buying to Reach HCP Customers More Intelligently


Programmatic is alive and well. It has cemented itself into the daily process of digital communication practices across the world and there are the numbers to prove it. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the programmatic display ad market will be worth £2.67 billion by the end of 2017, up 44% from 2016 (source: emarketer)

There are industries where programmatic has become standard practice, but there are some, such as pharma, that have been slower to adopt automated media buying to deliver their marketing campaigns. Whilst there is a lack of understanding on how the technology works, the concerns around regulatory risks have prevented pharma marketers to take a chance on programmatic technology. Adoption, however, rather than being technological or legal needs fundamentally to be focussed on customer delivery. If as a brand marketer all you want to do is deliver product messages, programmatic will not help you (for now, at least).

Why won’t it help you?

  • Because the vast majority of medical publishers and communities do not serve programmatic advertising;
  • Because, as a pharma marketer, you are probably still too focused on marketing the product features and benefits rather than delivering value to your customers and wider stakeholders, where programmatic media can be served. 

The world has moved on from features and benefits, and you need to too. However, we are now seeing a shift in consideration taking place. We know the landscape for targeting healthcare professionals is narrow and expensive. But the modern customer journey has become increasingly complex. We live in an age where customers are always connected, engaged and want to see relevant messages. In order to deliver a seamless experience to customers, pharma is recognising that it has to catch up and embrace the shift towards customer experience and with it the latest in responsive technology to deliver on their needs cost effectively.

Marketing starts with understanding the customer, and what programmatic advertising has to offer is a rich layer of audience insight on top of what we already have. The door is open to target precisely and verify advertising exposure to a defined list of healthcare professionals, and this is what is now attracting pharma clients’ attention. It means we can reach audiences outside the standard environments whilst adding greater intelligence to the media we buy to ensure we are connecting with the right people and at the right time.

Programmatic advertising is not just about satisfying top of the marketing funnel either. The ability to build and reach new audiences, on top of retargeting existing and engaging existing customers proves the value of programmatic in delivering both top and bottom of the conversion funnel.

At Nitro Digital we believe in and champion the many benefits programmatic advertising can deliver for pharma and we have highlighted the top advantages for why programmatic buying should be integrated into pharma digital marketing strategies:

Greater transparency
Greater visibility on media performance means campaigns can be better refined and optimised. In the past, when working directly with publishers we were completely reliant on the limited insight they could provide. We now can see what is delivered, and where, whilst learning what is working and what is not.

Greater data and insights
Data is at the heart of the programmatic process. So, not only do you minimise wastage from purchased inventory by targeting the right audiences, but you are also getting greater insight to better understand your online customers. And those learnings are happening in real time, which means campaigns can be optimised throughout its duration and the value of this can also increase a return on your investment.

Improved tracking capabilities
With programmatic technology it is easier to track and analyse data more efficiently from advertising views, to interaction through to website visits and actions. Audiences can be intricately segmented, which makes targeting messages in the right context, and at the right time far more effective.

Consistency across multiple channels
Programmatic can be thought of as a centralised buying platform. What this means is that we have the ability to combine the power of data to deliver effective communications where the audiences are active – across desktop, mobile, tablet, video and social channels.

Our conclusion

At Nitro Digital we have proven the value of running programmatic campaigns for our clients in pharma. We have successfully delivered greater exposure, at lower price points to highly targeted healthcare audiences. And the quality in targeting is demonstrated in the increase in responses we are seeing. Because, ultimately, we are delivering the right message at the right time and to the right people.

Digital Customer Experience in the Life Sciences Industry

The importance for Life sciences to communicate across digital channels has been clear for a long time, but whilst the benefits of engaging on ‘social’ channels is increasing, internal company approvals for this activity is far from simple and does not seem to be getting easier. So, we would like to help you learn how you can take advantage of these channels both creatively and compliantly for brand and company.

We’ll be producing a series of content focused on social media and digital experiences that will include real world industry examples to help demonstrate that it can be done. But, before we start, we would really like to get your input into our quick social media survey so that we can tackle the key issues that you face together with our partner Zinc Ahead.

Executing across digital is no longer a box ticking exercise, it’s key to nurturing relationships and driving advocacy for you. You now need to deliver compelling experiences that make a difference to your users.

You’ll be expected by your customers to deliver compelling experiences that help bring them (and your wider stakeholders) closer online through engagement and ultimately conversation and collaboration. If you don’t, your competitors will, and as your customers flood to use online channels and rep forces are streamlined, you’ll be edged out of the conversation. It’s time to start engaging online now.

We get it though, as soon as you start talking about engagement and using the words, ‘social media’ the barriers go up. Approvals can be hard, and require willpower and commitment to get initiatives through medical, legal and regulatory. This is why Nitro Digital is delighted to be partnering with Zinc, the leading provider of world class compliance for content and rich media experiences in the life sciences industry, to help our customers and the wider industry deliver innovative, exciting but crucially compliant customer experiences through ‘social media’.

Nitro Digital has been pioneering the use of engaging and collaborative platforms and communication for our clients to enhance their customer communication over the last few years, so have learnt how to help others who also want to take advantage of digital in a more engaging way to create compelling customer experiences in the new normal for web users.

So, if you aren’t sure about how to engage with your customers on digital platforms, think it’s too risky, or just cannot persuade your management to participate, then you really should take part. You might be surprised what you can achieve.

Click through to the Survey now.

Social Conferencing – Thinking Beyond Social Media Marketing

There’s no question that the powerful surge of social has conquered the marketing and communications departments of pharma companies. Social networks have become an established channel in the marketing arsenal of most pharma brands.

But what is the next stage in the evolution of using social channels or physician networks to start discussions about trial data, products, and disease awareness topics? One trend gaining more and more traction in digital communications is social conferencing. In fact, research by Frost & Sullivan estimates revenue of the global web conferencing market to rise from $1.8 billion in 2012 to $2.88 billion in 2017.

What is social conferencing?

Social conferencing is a somewhat loosely defined term. It’s commonly used to describe online communications between anything from a small to a very large number of people that include a very strong social element, typically enabled by special social conferencing software. But for marketing purposes it can be viewed quite broadly to include things like virtual events and events that build a strong socially fueled online offering around it.

Examples of social conferencing

Leading the charge, The Daily Telegraph launched Europe’s first and only virtual motor show in 2013. The show took place entirely online and featured web chats with car experts, webinars about car-related topics, virtual networking lounges for participants and virtual tours of exhibition stands. Participants were also able to vote for their favourite cars across different categories, with the winning cars being unveiled at a live-streamed event.

Looking at pharma, the ESC Congress is a good example of social conferencing. The organisers built a vast element of social around the event, including an online TV channel, ample social media activities, and all year access to digital resources – what the organisers call ESC Congress 365.

How pharma brands can leverage social conferencing

Like with so many things in the world of pharma marketing, it is once again events that offer a golden opportunity here. Social conferencing offers a unique way to enrich interaction with target groups around events. Using social conferencing software, special online chats could, for example, generate a lively discussion about trial results presented at the event. Particularly for those who can’t physically attend, virtual engagement via social conferencing with representatives at the event can be a good alternative. A complete mini virtual conference, potentially hosted on an existing website, could further serve to engage with virtual attendees.

Social conferencing techniques can also be used to assist the salesforce in their dialogue with HCPs. A good example is M3 Messages, which engages physicians through specific content seen as coming from a sales rep. HCP engagement with the messages generates data-driven insights for sales reps, who can then custom-tailor their approach to individual physicians.

In essence, social conferencing has the potential to help pharma marketers create a richer dialogue with stakeholders and engage them in a new way.

HxRefactored Health and Digital Conference – Brooklyn, New York

HxRefactored by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0

HxRefactored by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0

The HxRefactored Conference, hosted by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0, was held in the Marriott in Brooklyn, New York, just a few subway stops away from the bustling city streets of the ULTRA Health Technology office in Soho. Two days of workshops and sessions centred on UX, design and development, with the focus on the collaboration and integration of designers and developers. Typically these attendees would be in conferences dedicated to their specialisation; the HxRefactored event bridged this gap.

Half of Day 1 was focused on workshops for Gamification and user-centred 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 vocalise 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 categorised so that an attendee would know the broad scope of what would be presented, i.e. Design Behaviour Change, Design Vision and Innovation, and Development Unstructured Health Data. While helpful, these categorisations could be seen as diverting attention, 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 summarised 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

EthnographicGroup Research Studies
1:1 interviewsTask 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 healthcare professionals 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.