As COVID-19 continues to expose inequalities in healthcare, the medical community is looking at all facets of research and clinical trials to address issues of diversity, understanding, and representation. W2O sponsored a panel with MM&M, “From Barriers and Bias to Better: What it Will Take to Create More Diverse and Inclusive Clinical Trials” to tackle these topics, with speakers Megan Claire Chase, Dr. John Stewart, and myself.

This conversation felt particularly timely and poignant, as our nation is in the midst of grappling with systemic racism and how it’s permeated every facet of our society. As many of us unfortunately know, healthcare is not immune to racism and bias.

During our panel, we discussed the “how” behind bridging the representation gap in clinical trials, from this, three key themes emerged:

1. Patients need to be seen, heard, and believed in order to build trust

In order to address issues of representation and inequality in clinical research, patients (particularly underrepresented patients) need to feel seen, heard, believed, and understood. According to Megan Claire, 5 things are needed to start the conversation and ignite action: (1) see us, (2) listen to us, (3) be present, (4) believe us, and (5) include us.

“If we don’t have those steps happening, it’s going to be really difficult to reach the Black community and POC to even consider clinical trials as an option,” Megan Claire said.

2. Doctors and the medical community need to meet patients where they are at

During our discussion, I pointed out, “We need to figure out where the individual patients sits and we need to meet them where they are.”

The medical community needs to have honest and digestible conversations with patients in order to meet them where they are at and build a trusting relationship. By using understandable terminology, taking the time to thoroughly explain conditions and information, and being present in conversations, medical professionals and clinical research teams can meet patients where they are at and build relationships from there.

3. Medical community and clinical research teams must understand the unique healthcare needs of different communities

Not only is it important for clinical research teams to understand the medical needs of a community, but they also must understand how those connect with other community healthcare needs (i.e. the social determinants of health).

“We need to have a clinical research workforce that is diverse [because] the data show that patients trust people who have similar experiences to them,” noted Dr. John Stewart.

Each community and each individual patient is unique, and in order to repair the disparities in clinical trials, the clinical research community must begin with transparent conversations to build trust with patients and meet their diverse needs.

We, as healthcare professionals, have a long way to go to achieve health equity, whether it is equal representation in clinical trials or access to care for all. As a community of dedicated problem-solvers, I challenge us all to leave the world a healthier place than we found it…for all.

Missed the presentation? Register to view the free recording.

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As Americans continue to confront the realities of racial injustice during an unprecedented global public health crisis, communicators are being called on to bring relevant information to the public. As part of this action, W2O participated in a panel at PRWeek’s Convene event, discussing lessons for the communications industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the confrontation of racial injustices in the United States, which undoubtedly go hand in hand.

“Successful crisis communications must take on a level of cultural competence unlike ever before,” said Parris Bowe, Managing Director at EGAMI Group.

During our discussion, we considered communications as the new health imperative. From this, three critical themes emerged:

1. Data can be our most powerful tool in our quest for equity

As health inequities across the world continue to be exposed amid the current pandemic, communicators must ask hard questions, challenge the ways we’ve always communicated, and engage with both purpose and empathy. We have never had access to more information, more sophisticated data, and more tools to help us understand where gaps persist and how we can bridge them. Our industry can use these insights – from social analytics to real-world evidence to public health data – as a force for a new level of visibility and change.

2. Collaboration is the new “innovation”

“One of the silver linings of what’s happening right now is that the lines between competitor and partner are being blurred. Individuals and companies are coming together to see how we can get solutions to people faster,” said Amy Atwood, Head of Communications at Takeda’s Vaccine Business Unit. During this unprecedented time, collaboration is essential for the common good. As communicators, we must look for ways to partner in both conventional and unconventional ways. When we do this and communicate effectively, real innovation is born, enabling us to be a catalyst for change and drive real impact.

3. Relevance (vs. reputation) powers change

I noted, “Our counsel needs to be as dynamic as the environment we are living in.” In today’s world, relevance – the intersection of what the outside world cares about and what companies want to put out into the world – is the price of entry. Relevance is not easy and doesn’t just happen organically. Being relevant starts inside companies and is reflected in their external communications and partnerships with other businesses, which now more than ever need to mix empathy with real action and accountability that is quantifiable. Organizations must work together to figure out how they can adapt, listen and be actively engaged stakeholders offering novel and measurable solutions.

The public is looking to organizations to show how they are striving to make a difference for those affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice in the United States. Communicators have a role to play, and organizations must step up because communications is a health imperative.

See the full take on the panel discussion here. Registration is free but required with a valid email address.

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This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASCO launched its first 100% virtual meeting platform. Given that ASCO is the largest annual oncology meeting in the world, the organization decided it was imperative to prioritize the dissemination of critical updates on scientific advances in cancer treatments, allowing its members online access to presentations they would normally travel to Chicago to see.

It was easy to anticipate how oral sessions and poster presentations would take place in a virtual format. However, it was difficult to know what sort of sponsorship platforms or collaborative environments would be made available in lieu of an exhibit hall, where one-on-one engagement has traditionally been a core part of an attendee’s experience.

ASCO ultimately rolled out the parameters for virtual exhibits: a landing page with a list of corporate logos, with each sponsor provided a preformatted page that included space for a hero image, descriptive text, embedded videos and externally driving links.

Virtual Exhibits and sample Platinum Exhibit Page provided by ASCO

ASCO’s approach to virtual exhibits gave companies only limited opportunities to build new relationships and networks. This meant companies would have to go well beyond the ASCO tool to create their own immersive online hubs.

Industry was up to the task, experimenting with a number of approaches. The web experiences developed by exhibitors fell into three main categories:

  • Congress portals
  • Interactive exhibit booth renderings
  • Links to existing sites or PDF resources

A few exhibitors, including Eisai Oncology and Pfizer Oncology, combined approaches.

So, what worked and what didn’t? Time (and analytics) will tell what kind of traction these promotional efforts garnered. In the meantime, it’s worth examining how well the exhibitors pivoted from a live experiential UX approach to a web UX approach.

Well-designed congress portals were among the best examples of successful adaptation.

Novartis ASCO congress portal, desktop and mobile

Novartis, BeiGene and Eisai, for example, drove visitors to an online environment that made clear statements about their commitments and key messages, while prioritizing user experience for both desktop and mobile.

As a large percentage of virtual congress material will be accessed by mobile devices,  responsiveness, legibility and mobile-user-friendliness are critical for a successful solution.  ­

BeiGene congress portal included links to abstracts and poster presentations

Several companies, including Advanced Accelerator Applications, opted to create a virtual booth – i.e., a rendering of an exhibit booth, either static or navigable, with hotspots around key content areas.

Advanced Accelerator Applications virtual booth, desktop and mobile

Most virtual booths had separate promotional and medical experiences, with hotspots driving to either videos, light-box pop-up info, or downloadable PDFs. In a few instances, exhibitors leveraged existing interactive experiences from their booth, such as quizzes.

While virtual booths initially sound like the most logical approach (after all, this is a virtual meeting with virtual exhibits), they pose difficult UX challenges (e.g., load time, message legibility and mobile adaptation).

The third approach taken by exhibitors was to simply use the page provided by ASCO to post links to existing websites and downloadable PDFs.

Merck and AstraZeneca opted to use the ASCO-provided page to drive traffic to existing sites or resources rather than develop bespoke corporate congress portals

This more conservative approach is understandable, given that we don’t yet know how effective ASCO’s platform is in driving visitors to company pages. Any user would require a minimum of three clicks to land on an exhibitor-developed online environment – not exactly the best scenario for minimizing bounce rate.

It is likely that virtual congresses are going to be around for a while, if not indefinitely. ASCO was a great opportunity to experiment and better understand what it really means to “go virtual.” Companies that invested resources upfront will likely need to do less scrambling later for the numerous future virtual congresses to come.

One of the main lessons learned from ASCO 2020 is that virtual exhibiting bears little resemblance to traditional physical exhibiting. The rules of engagement are different. What drives someone to enter a booth from the aisle is different than what motivates a user to click through and engage with a website. The core principles of web interaction are simply different than those of physical experiential design.

We expect that, moving forward, congress organizers will apply learnings from these early days to improve the engagement platforms for their exhibitors and sponsors, while exhibitors will be looking to push the envelope on new platforms of virtual engagement that fulfill their needs for customer engagement, awareness and education.

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

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The idea of moving scientific and medical conversation online is not a new concept. Indeed, when the online world began to open to a broader swath of people in the early 1990s, one of the first uses brought people together around various health topics.

But in the new COVID-19 era, consuming scientific and medical data virtually is not a novelty. It’s not even one of many options for accessing information: it’s become the only way. With major medical congresses, such as ASCO 2020, going completely virtual, it’s critical that we re-think not only the end of the process – the presentation or the publication – but indeed the entire span of how we think and talk about research.

It means understanding usability, optimizing for data-sharing, and analyzing each decision and each channel to make sure that the right stakeholders are getting the right information.

Planning for the Future Now

The best way to ensure virtual dissemination of data is to plan from the beginning!

During the publication planning process, we should incorporate virtual distribution into the plan for seminal data releases as they are developed for both congress presentations and more finalized manuscripts.

A successful publication plan will consider secondary congresses with unique, specialized audiences to maximize the reach of the data to all interested clinician types, payers, and patients. Important considerations can include how the timelines for development may be impacted, what additional resources (graphic design, digital expertise, IT) may be needed, and which key stakeholders may need to provide feedback.

Virtual—What Does it Mean?

The concept of virtual can mean a lot of things to a lot of different folks, so it’s critical not to use the word as shorthand or stay at a superficial level. The same goes for “digital.” Some people associate those concepts with social media while others might think of any electronic communication as falling into those buckets.

Virtual data dissemination, done right, is about multiple channels, many with significant overlap. For every effort, we need to specify what those channels might be,  including webinars, social media, email, PDFs, websites (eg, company, congress, database), pre-print libraries, for starters. And we need to be specific about how we can use them to highlight the right virtual data, at the right time, to the right audience.

Speaking of the right audience, it is important to think about how doctors, patients, and pharma companies are viewing and consuming virtual data, with the days of only abstracts, congress booths, congress posters/presentations, and manuscripts a bygone era.  So, how can we leverage virtual dissemination of data to extend the reach and life of these traditional channels, especially in the new era of virtual congresses?

  • Our Old Friend, the QR Code! In years past, QR codes in the corner of a poster would take the view to a website or link to the poster PDF. That, in the virtual and digital world, was always redundant and the subject of some mockery. But in the new normal, there is potential here. What if scanning our QR codes linked us out to a mini, poster-specific website that included more interactive content, such as a podcast author narration of the poster, a video abstract, an interactive/animated mechanism of action, a graphical abstract, an infographic, a lay summary, and an expert video commentary? Couple the virtual extenders with responsive web design, and then, the data can be viewed properly on a myriad of different devices!
  • Sharing is Caring. Another important consideration for virtual data dissemination is how the data will be shared through different channels after its initial release. By its very nature, virtual data are more enduring once shared. Take the graphical abstract mentioned above—we should consider how we optimize it for shareability across multiple platforms (e.g., email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube) wherever we and our audiences my share it.
  • Analytics to Measure … With extension of data from the traditional formats into the virtual realm, we can embrace the expansion of our metrics to include so much more than a journal impact factor! Moving into the virtual space allows us measure things, such as number of site hits, shares, time spent viewing data, location of viewer, and device type.
  • … And Analytics to Manage. Of course, having metrics for metrics sake doesn’t really help anyone. Deriving insights from these metrics with appropriate healthcare analytics is key to understanding how virtual data dissemination can be optimized for the future. For example, where are the data being shared (e.g., platform), how are the data being shared over time (e.g., just around a congress), and what parts of the data are being viewed and for how long (e.g., survival vs safety) can continually inform how to best optimize virtual data dissemination.

So while COVID-19 may be forcing us to adapt, dissemination through virtual channels can help maximize the reach and impact of medical and scientific data.

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

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This year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting was already destined to be different because of COVID-19, but nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis added another dimension to the conversation.

Attendees at the ASCO virtual conference shared thoughts and personal stories about racial injustice. However, discussing cancer on social media at this moment in time was questioned by some.

Huge contrast in twitter feeds this morning. The oncology cheerleading doesn’t feel right,” Dr. Deanna Attai wrote on May 30. Dr. Cary Gross asked whether ASCO would be issuing a statement “calling out racism, committing to equity?

Conversations during the three-day meeting did indeed include health equity. Other major themes included the intersection between cancer and COVID-19; several promising therapies; and the need to work together to fight cancer – for all people.

Health Equity

Incoming ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, M.D., announced in a May 25 interview that her theme for the year would be “Equity. Every patient. Every day. Everywhere.” She said she chose to highlight the issue “because health care equity is at the forefront of everything we do at ASCO.”

More than 200 ASCO sessions or posters delved into the issues of racial inequity and access to care, according to analytics we gathered from a search on “disparities” and “diversity” in the meeting content. One such session pointed to significant disparities in the treatment of early-stage anal cancer, a highly treatable cancer; a large study showed African Americans did not get treated as soon and had worse overall survival rates than white people. Another session focused on the relative lack of palliative care provided to people of color.


The novel coronavirus pandemic spurred a flurry of new research and discussion. COVID-19 patients with cancer are at an increased risk of dying within a month, according to one study. HCPs were intrigued by the impact of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin on mortality among cancer patients with COVID-19. And because chemotherapy within three months prior to a COVID-19 diagnosis is associated with higher mortality among thoracic cancer patients, another study showed, HCPs noted they are going to be careful initiating chemotherapy treatments of COVID-19 in cancer patient during the pandemic.

Promising Therapies

Lung cancer research sparked the most conversation, driven by several clinical data virtual presentations focused on specific subpopulations, including patients with KRAS and HER2. A late-breaking abstract featuring AstraZeneca’s ADAURA trial evaluating Tagrisso in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) drew attention given the overwhelmingly positive results.

In other cancers, notable research included early data on a number of potentially promising therapies, including:

 Working Together

We were encouraged to see the oncology community come together for the greater good.

The most-shared link on social media throughout the meeting was for Conquer Cancer – the ASCO Foundation, which provides support for cancer care teams and patients during and after the pandemic.

As the conference concluded Sunday amid continued cries for racial justice, the oncology community was left with this challenge: To hold ourselves accountable to advance the ideal of health equality and participate in these vital discussions. We need greater diversity in the ranks of health care providers and researchers – both in oncology and other areas of medicine – and we need to work toward health care access for every American.

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

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The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference usually begins – unofficially – with the announcement of a large acquisition, getting people talking about the big deals they expect in the year ahead.

This year was different.

Instead of a mega-buyout, the announcement that started the chatter was an upstart venture-backed company, EQRx. The company – which didn’t even have a presentation slot at the meeting – isn’t aiming to cure cancer or leverage CRISPR. Its business goal is to disrupt the industry by unleashing cheap me-too drugs with the goal of lowering drug prices.

That a pricing-focused start-up dominated the pre-JPM conversation was a tell-tale sign of a big shift in how the industry is looking at pricing and access. Because it wasn’t just EQRx that was talking about the topic. A steady stream of stories covered industry executives’ thoughts on why the cost of drugs remains high for patients and what can be done about it.

These included various views on prescription drug insurance structures with significant patient cost sharing, who reaps the value of drug rebates negotiated in contracts with middlemen pharmacy benefit managers, and the practice of price mark-ups by hospitals.

Talking about pricing can no longer take a back seat. Every company’s perspective on how to limit the impact of drug pricing on patients and society must be at the heart of the story that company tells investors, healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers, business partners, payers and voters. It is the now most meaningful part of how a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts are seen by the public.

To be sure, no company should make its presentation at J.P. Morgan solely about pricing and value. The industry’s lifeblood remains innovation, and the promise of the next cure is what keeps the biopharma industry moving forward. But companies that cannot or will not speak clearly and proactively about value risk their reputation, and that is a trend that will remain for the foreseeable future.

It is imperative that biopharma companies start taking the following approaches:

First, they must make proactive pricing ideas, solutions or frameworks a component of their company narrative. Rather than pointing to problematic structures elsewhere in the system affecting cost, biopharma must focus the story on what they can control. One size does not fit all, so companies should think about how pricing/value solutions can fit  their own specific situation, needs and story. There is reputational high ground open for the taking for those proposing proactive solutions.

Second, both technology and operational innovation are vital in any truly innovative industry. Companies must elevate communications around creative approaches to pricing or contracting to meet the demand of external audiences who are hungry for novel solutions. Innovators innovate, both in the laboratory and in the marketplace. And while many companies are great at talking about scientific breakthroughs, they must not miss the opportunity to apply the same focus to storytelling about their business models and pricing.

In the receptions I attended, the chatter often revolved around how the JPM buzz was muted this year. But to complain about the lack of the big-bang deal was to miss the real buzz: that we’re headed to a new future in the way companies use patient access to frame their mission, gain competitive advantage, and become part of the larger healthcare solution.

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Each January, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference brings bankers and executives to San Francisco to announce innovation, make deals and attend the many events that connect media with healthcare, digital health, biotech, pharma and technology investors.

Over the past six years, W2O has hosted an exclusive luncheon during the J.P. Morgan conference to facilitate game-changing discussions about the digital health space. This year’s event featured an all-star panel of industry leaders, who discussed key trends and important signals about the future of healthcare.

Looking back over the great discussions had and information shared, three trends stood out.

1. Collaboration fuels innovation.

J.P. Morgan has expanded from its roots of a couple hundred analysts and investors in biotech and pharma to more than 15,000 attendees. It now spans start-ups to global titans across the healthcare landscape, enveloping artificial intelligence, gene editing and bioengineering, behavioral health, telemedicine, data analytics and digital health.

With this growth, new and interesting partnerships are emerging as organizations across the ecosystem explore how to speed drug development, reduce costs and deliver a better patient experience and better care.

For Stacy Feld, Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation her touchstone comes back to answering the right science and clinical questions that benefit consumers. During a panel focused on investment, she remarked, “The best innovations and the best ideas are just as likely to come from outside as they are from within Johnson & Johnson.”

2. Patient-centricity has new relevance.

Tying into the trend of greater collaboration, we also heard more from audiences on how they are putting patients’ needs first.

At the W2O Digital Health Luncheon, Harlan Levine, M.D., president, strategy and business ventures at City of Hope, remarked, “To get great treatment for cancer today, you really do need to treat the person as the consumer for personalized medicine.” His organization’s strategy is to employ a consumer-focused, digital approach to oncology to create a personal blueprint for every cancer.

On the payer side, organizations are focused on giving patients more choice, making accessing care easier. As Bryce Williams, vice president, lifestyle medicine at Blue Shield of California, noted, “If you really believe in empowering members, you give them more choice.”

3. Data privacy and protection concerns are still unanswered.

We know patient data drives innovation. But, despite efforts to connect, analyze and activate this data, serious concerns remain about how data is being protected, how it’s being used and who has access. With more traditional technology companies making serious inroads into health, a lack of transparency has created deep skepticism around data use without strong privacy and consumer protections.

Many consumers may not be aware that their data may be already being used. As to who is responsible, Mona Siddiqui, the chief data officer, Office of the Chief Technology Officer at U.S. Health and Human Services, commented, “Consumer education is important, but the onus is also on organizations to make sure they’re as transparent as possible around the use of our data.”

As we face the year ahead, these issues will continue to be challenges as we work to better serve the disparate needs of patients and stakeholders. As we come together to make care more affordable and accessible to more people, it is exciting to see the new partnerships, policies and solutions develop to take healthcare – in all its forms – to the next level.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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W2O recently hosted our second annual, Marketing Science Summit. The purpose of this event is fairly straightforward: to create a space for pioneers in the market research, social analytics and digital marketing fields to share the latest trends in marketing science, with a focus on the healthcare and tech industries.

From leveraging to data to the evolution of AI, there were plenty of key learnings from this year’s summit. I summed up the five that stood out to me below.

1. In healthcare, we’re dealing with data that isn’t really clean, nor does it connect easily.

Liz DeMatteis, Chief Marketing Officer, Aetion made a great point about this notion. She highlighted that the quest should not be perfect data, but rather the perfect understanding of the imperfections of the data. Imperfect data can still be used to fuel effective decision making

2. There have been significant advancements in Artificial Intelligence over the past decade.

From robotics to voice recognition, AI has continued to rapidly develop according to Tom Mitchell, E. Fredkin University Professor of Machine Learning and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. What we always wonder about is whether or not those advancements will slow? The reality is that the advancements in machine learning and AI are only going to accelerate the continued innovation in these areas.

3. Digital data can be used effectively to understand physician behaviors.

We can all agree that digital and social information serves as a really effective data source. However, in order to truly understand physician behavior, we need to triangulate multiple data sources. Audun Utengen, Chief Executive Officer of Symplur noted, it’s important that we don’t overly rely on a single source of data when we’re making decisions.

4. Usage and data collection is still in its infancy.

We still have varying stages of maturity with data, the data doesn’t always connect very easily. Additionally, we consistently are getting more and more data, there are new decisions that can be made with the data, there is new legislation and other key factors. Once we solve one potential issue another pops up, so it’s important we work together to solve these challenges.

H/T: Joerg Corsten, Global Medical Information Leader of Roche

5. Data can fuel creativity.

We at W2O talk a lot about following the data to get to the point. While we advocate and practice for data driven creativity, one point that’s worth accentuating is that data is a guide, it isn’t a vice. Thank you Ellen Gerstein, Director of Digital Content, Pfizer and Mary Michael, Vice President, Patient Advocacy and Stakeholder Management of Otsuka, for highlighting that point.

That’s a wrap for the 2019 Marketing Science Summit! Thank you to our speakers and attendees for making this event a success, we look forward to seeing you next year.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Analytics pages.

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For those that haven’t heard about HLTH, a 6,000 person conference that promises to “Create Health’s Future,” it feels a little like if SXSW, ASCO and HIMSS decided to have a baby. The innovative event does a good job of mixing large, well-established companies like Optum, Aetna, CVS Health, Amazon, Walmart, Pfizer, Lyft and many more with hundreds of players from the digital health/startup ecosystem. HLTH also features numerous media outlets, government officials, academics and even celebrity billionaires like Mark Cuban.

What’s important about this two year old event founded by CEO and Chairman, Jonathan Weiner (he also founded well known global events, Money20/20 and Shoptalk) is that it combines companies that are well established players in health with those who are laying the foundation for a new future. For at least now, the event boasts a thousand CEOs (many are from the startup world), which obviously helps bringing a number of important players in the healthcare space to the event.

While I didn’t get to attend all the sessions, I was able to get enough of a taste of the content to see some key trends emerge.

1. Data is more critical to healthcare now than ever.

This may sound like the biggest “no duh” ever but what I found exciting is that a lot of the right people are starting to pay close attention to it. This includes the FDA, large pharma companies like Pfizer, Google (shocker), 23andMe, Walmart and numerous payer/providers.

Clearly the head of Google Health, David Feinberg, struck a chord with his quote about putting a search bar on top of electronic health records (my tweet capturing his sentiment garnered 17 retweets and 60 likes as of this writing). One of the bigger surprises to me was Principal Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, Amy Abernethy, announcing that the FDA would soon be ingesting data via an API versus PDF forms during a fireside chat with healthcare reporter, Chrissy Farr of CNBC. This is a far cry better than faxes that were once the medium of choice but hard to believe that the government is just getting to this point now in 2019.

2. Healthcare outsiders have an opportunity to fix healthcare.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks (NBA) and celebrity judge on the television show, Shark Tank, has put together a plan on how to fix healthcare. During a highly entertaining, expletive-filled conversation with former head of Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA under Obama, Andy Slavitt, Cuban exclaimed, “Right now, healthcare is so politically charged that people aren’t trying to solve problems. They’re not even trying to identify problems. They’re trying to sell what’s most politically expedient for them.” I suggest reading FierceHealthcare’s full writeup of the session here. What struck me most about this conversation is that when people like Cuban, Bill and Melinda Gates and Mark Zuckerberg/Priscilla Chan take on a cause, things get done. I don’t know as though Cuban will solve our healthcare issues anytime soon but he’s not afraid to look at bold approaches.

3. Voice technology is going to big in health.

During one of the sessions featuring Rasu Shrestha, Chief Strategy Officer of Atrium Health, Missy Krasner, Strategic Head of Partnerships, Alexa Health & Wellness at Amazon, and Jennifer Schneider, President of Livongo, spoke about how healthcare companies are starting to create HIPAA compliant “Skills” which are like apps for Amazon’s voice controlled device, Alexa. Even though this technology is still in its infancy stage, allowing older patients to re-order prescriptions, call a Lyft/Uber to take them to an appointment, remind them to take their pills/test blood sugar levels, eat healthier, etc. will be a game changer over time. The healthcare companies that figure out how to meaningfully play in this space will be winners in the long run.

4. There are A LOT of digital health startups.

Walking through the expo floor, there were literally hundreds of companies there looking to make an impression. They ran the full gamut of wellness, AI, virtual reality, data, chatbots, etc. Sadly, many will not survive to see HLTH 2020 but this is a hot space so if you are an entrepreneur, this is a great time to focus on health.

Bringing this point home, 23andMe CEO, Anne Wojcicki, astutely noted during her featured session that “scale is critical” when it comes to the digital health space. She noted that over the last 11 years, 23andMe had amassed over 10 million customers with over 80% opting into their research panel.

5. Retailers want to bring health closer to the patient.

Head of health and wellness transformation at Walmart, Marcus Osborne, did a virtual walk through of one of their new clinics in Georgia showing all of the services customers could access. Given that Walmart is putting many of their clinics in Superstores which stay open 24/7, access to affordable healthcare is about to get a lot closer and easier. Other companies like CVS Health, Walgreens and even BestBuy are taking similar approaches to offering healthcare in store or in the latter case, creating a “Geek Squad” like offering where they could deliver services right to a patient’s doorstep.

There are at least a dozen other key themes I’ve missed in this recap but these were some of the most critical observations from the conference. To see more of the action, check out the HLTH2019 hashtag (I am proud to admit that I made it into the top 75 Twitter contributors at the event according to Symplur).

If you work in healthcare, my advice is to plan to attend HTLH 2020. It’s a great event and is only going to get better.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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If you were to ask a marketer or a communicator today to define their role you might likely hear one or all of the following responses:

My job is to protect the reputation of the company.

The primary function of marketing and communications is to build the brand

It is very important that we focus marketing and communications on generating sales

It’s all digital.  So, we must conflate several roles when it comes to translating data into insight to better connect with customers

Obviously, there are several variations within each of those statements, but if we were to simplify it even further the traditional role of marketing and communications is to protect the reputation of the company, build the brand and grow the business. This has been the case for decades, even as the number of channels they use in order to do those three things has proliferated at an incredible rate of speed.

But that was yesterday.  In 2019, the world is officially digital.  Customers and employees direct the relationship. As such, reputation, while important, is no longer the measure of organizational sustainability.

One of the reasons is that channels have grown exponentially. It is not hyperbole to say that digital media (in all formats) has fundamentally changed how we reach our customers. Not only that, it has fundamentally disrupted business model after business model. In the last 15 years, 52% of companies listed on the S&P 500 have disappeared. It is predicted that, by 2027, 75% of those companies currently listed will also disappear. One would imagine the companies that have disappeared had marketers and communicators focusing on protecting reputation, building the business and the brand, right?

So, if that’s the case, why are they no longer in business?

It’s our perspective that in a social/digital world companies that are not connecting or engaging with customers, consumers, employees meaning they lost relevance with the people who could shape the brand and move the business. As digital consumers, which is almost all of us these days, we know we are constantly bombarded with content from all sorts of companies. Keeping track of it all is next to impossible, unless what those companies are delivering to you is relevant to your interests. The companies that maintain a high level of relevance with their key stakeholders are constantly mindful of closing the gap between what they want to say and what their stakeholders want to hear.

As part of this year’s Chicago Ideas Week, we wanted to further explore this concept with two companies, Horizon Therapeutics and Walgreens, that excelled in driving relevancy with its key stakeholders. Representing these two companies were Kelly Rothschild Jansen, Director of Corporate Communications & Content Strategy for Horizon, and Suzanne Barston, Director of Digital Communications and Corporate Storytelling for Walgreens. During the session, both shared their perspectives on how each of their organizations is driving relevancy and gave tangible tips for other companies who may be just starting their relevance journey.

While it’s always difficult to distill a 60-minute presentation down to a few takeaways, there were three key themes from Suzanne and Kelly that bubbled to the surface:

Suzanne’s Key Takeaways:

  1. In order to be relevant to key stakeholders, organizations need to let of the things that could go wrong. If you are waiting for the perfect moment, you are likely missing an opportunity to test and learn what your stakeholders find relevant.
  2. Driving relevancy is about understanding the data, specifically understanding what your organization is putting out into the market versus what your stakeholders want to hear.
  3. For companies that are looking to be more relevant, it’s about identifying the intersection between reputation and relevance.

Kelly’s Key Takeaways: 

  1. When we think about driving corporate relevancy, the critical things that matter are authenticity, connection and storytelling.
  2. Organizations need to be thinking about relevance as a journey. Things like creative, bold and compelling storytelling take time to develop.
  3. If there were one key to driving to driving relevance it would be telling stories.

Walgreens and Horizon are two organizations that really understand what it takes to be relevant. If your organization is just starting its relevance journey, you would be well-served to connect with Kelly and Suzanne to get their tips!

Want to learn more about W2O? Check out our About page and Service page.

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*A Swiss Chat

As the ‘first W2O employee on the ground’ in our Zurich office, it is my pleasure to bring you up to speed with recent developments here.

The workplace opened this year, so it was important that we made our mark on the city.

To this end, in September 2019, we held our inaugural W2O EMEA Marketing Science Summit, which successfully brought together 40 of the brightest minds across science, marketing, and communications to discuss using data to market products and ideas.

My Journey to Zurich

But first, let me tell you about the route that brought me back to my country of origin. I was born in Geneva and educated in different European countries. An internship with the World Health Organization (WHO) nurtured my interest in healthcare. I started at W2O in New York then did a short-term rotation in London. Both were stepping stones to my return to Switzerland and specifically the amazing city of fondue and Toblerone – ZURICH!

With Switzerland as the global hub for many international pharma/biotech companies, it was important to establish a base close to our clients. The recruitment of Fenna Gloggner, a Senior Group Director in the Insights and Analytics practice, whose experience lies in Swiss pharma, will strengthen W2O’s links.

My Chat with Fenna Gloggner

What is your background?

Fenna: My academic background is in politics and economics, but my career has taken me firmly into the pharmaceutical world. I moved from my native Germany to the UK to attend university and became a trainee market researcher at GfK Health in London. After a few years learning the ropes, I made another move across the continent to Switzerland into a client-side role at Novartis in Basel.

At Novartis, I worked in various roles in global commercial insights, including primary market research, business analytics, forecasting, and competitive intelligence. A lot of my work was in cardiology and cardiovascular health, and I am still fascinated by the miracle that is the human heart.

After 10 great years at Novartis, I felt like a change of pace, so I moved to one of my former partner agencies, HRW, into a business development role. HRW is a pharmaceutical market research agency with some very innovative solutions in qualitative research and behavioural science, so the move also gave me an opportunity to refresh my primary market research skills. I also developed a passion for behavioural science and how it can enhance product or communication strategies.

It was about a year ago that I first heard about W2O when I got chatting to Laura Mucha (W2O Managing Director Analytics) after a conference. We stayed in touch, and with every conversation there seemed to be more points of connection, so I am excited to be joining the company now.

What are you hoping to bring to W2O and in particular the Swiss office?

Fenna: I’ve been very impressed by what I learned about W2O’s digital analytics offering – a lot of things that I wish I had had access to when I was working industry-side! I think there will be a real opportunity to complement this with my experience in primary insights. My work in the past has always been at a global level, so hopefully that will be a good fit, especially for the EMEA team.

Another thing I will be able to bring to W2O is my industry experience. In addition to working client-side for the majority of my career, I recently completed an MBA in Pharma Business Administration. Studying part-time alongside a full-time agency job was an intense but very rewarding experience. I learned a lot and was able to connect a lot of dots – the programme covered everything from strategic management, finance, and pharma law to development, marketing and markets access and pharmacovigilance. A lot of things that were always a bit vague to me in terms of how the various pharma functions connect – especially outside of the commercial setting – are a lot clearer to me now. I look forward to sharing what I know and learned with anyone who doesn’t yet feel fully up to speed with what is going on inside pharma.

Finally, it will be great to have a real presence on the ground for our Swiss clients: With the office in Zurich and me working from Basel for part of the week, we will be able to have a lot of meetings face to face instead of remotely, which obviously helps with building strong relationships. For most of the local Basel clients, I can be at their offices in under 30 minutes – something that they (and I) have certainly made use of in the past…

Nina: What is your connection to Switzerland?

Fenna: A very personal one: My husband and children are Swiss, and I am a proud naturalised Swiss citizen. I have a large and wonderful Swiss extended family and we like to spend time out in nature: hiking in summer; skiing in winter. Switzerland is a beautiful country and offers a great quality of life – I still feel privileged to be able live here and hope many of our colleagues will come to Zurich to work with us and experience Switzerland for themselves.

We’re looking forward to developing our Swiss office and continuing to host the annual summit in Switzerland.

Merci vilmal (thanks a lot) for reading my blog!

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This week we’re kicking off W2O Days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (#UW2O)! Modeled after the success of our Syracuse University Social Commerce Days, this inaugural two-day event is focused on educating students about healthcare marketing and communications by connecting them with industry leaders and having some the best and brightest minds instructing them. One of bright those minds includes Hemant Shah, Director, School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In his interview below, he discusses the importance of bringing industry, agencies, and academia together, and outlines how journalism has evolved over the past 30 years.

You’ve served as the director of the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison for five years. Tell us about your approach to teaching journalism and mass communication in today’s environment?

Hemant: I emphasize that Journalism and Mass Communication is liberal arts degree, so that while we provide solid training in communication fundamentals we insist that students also develop their skills in critical thinking, careful data analysis, and innovative problem solving all with attention to ethical communication practice.

According to your bio, you joined the school’s faculty back in 1990. What changes in journalism have you seen over the last 30 years?

Hemant: Journalism today is a multi-platform, multi-media, around-the-clock enterprise these days, whether you are a print, television or strictly online venue. Not all news outlets have adapted to the new fast-paced journalism world with its changed economic model emphasizing clicks and online ads. But at its core, journalism at its best still is about  reporting facts, holding the powerful accountable and revealing the truth.

Talk about the importance of joint programs that bring industry, and agencies like ours, and academia together.

Hemant: Students get a glimpse at the “real world” of agency work in the health comm arena. Faculty who are doing cutting edge health communication work will see potential for application of their work. You will get to meet our incredible students.

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This week we’re kicking off W2O Days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (#UW2O)! Modeled after the success of our Syracuse University Social Commerce Days, this inaugural two-day event is focused on educating students about healthcare marketing and communications by connecting them with industry leaders and having some the best minds teach them . One of those minds includes Debra Pierce, Faculty Associate, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the Q&A below, she discusses her method for teaching journalism and mass communications, shares the one skill students need to have, and shares why she’s excited for #UW2O. Check out her interview.

You’ve been an instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (aka the J-School) for quite some time.  Tell us about your approach to teaching journalism and mass communication in today’s environment.

Debra: I take a professional, hands on approach in the classroom. Students are put into agency teams, where they work together to solve real life business challenges from real clients. My hands on approach includes studying recent industry case examples and the latest trends in communications. I think this professional approach has paid off for our students upon graduation; employers tell us that our students are ready to hit the ground running and make real contributions to their businesses, right out of the gates.

As someone who has worked in agencies and in-house you’ve been on the front lines of many changes in the industry.  What do you think is the biggest change that you’re trying to share with your students?

Debra: AI has already had such a large impact on the communications industry, and it is going to continue to evolve. We study and discuss how AI has helped communications so far, and how we can positively augment it going forward.

What do you think is the most important skill students need coming out of school today?  

Debra: I think employers are seeking candidates who can multi-task across a wide variety of forms of communication. Multi-tasking requires being able to work on multiple projects at once and learning how to prioritize – and how to manage upwards regarding time constraints, if needed. As to the forms of communication, being able to effectively tell a story that provides a humanizing touch is important – and students need to so that across a wide variety of media – social, web, video, long form, etc.

Talk about the importance of joint programs that bring industry, and agencies like ours, and academia together.

Debra: It’s a win-win-win, really. Our students benefit because they can learn from the best in the industry, while W20 can get exposed to the next generation of communicators from a globally recognized program like ours. Our faculty are some of the top health communication researchers in the field, as well; they get the opportunity to showcase their research, and understand how their research can best be applied to the industry.

What are you looking forward to most about this week?

Debra: I can’t wait to see the excitement percolate throughout the department – it’s going to be contagious! We have several events set up where the W20 team and our students will be getting together – interviews, presentations, and networking, for example. Our students are thrilled to learn from some of the best in the industry!

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Ready or not, here it comes. The transformative potential of data and marketing science has reached the healthcare industry and – according to what we learnt at our EMEA Marketing Science Summit in Zurich last Wednesday – we’d better shape up.

“Digital integration is the number one priority in healthcare,” came the resounding pronouncement from our keynote speaker, Dr Jamil El-Imad, Chief Scientist at It’s a sentiment that we certainly believe in.

So, in that light, what can take away from our 2019 Summit? Here are five key learnings.

  1. Connecting the Data Dots

Yes, data sources in the healthcare industry are siloed even within organizations, but that shouldn’t limit what you can achieve. Take these two innovative examples discussed at the event:

The trailblazing Swiss Brain Data Bank (SBDB) is accelerating scientific progress by enabling researchers to collaborate across digital databanks to improve diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders.

VirtaMed is transforming medical education with ‘flight simulators’ for surgeons. These simulators allow surgeons to train in a controlled, virtual environment and receive data-evidenced performance feedback. 

  1. Measure Selectively and Manage Expectations

With so much data, it’s tempting to ‘measure everything’. But this can be hugely counterproductive: it’s best to focus on actions and outcomes. Take these learnings from sport, for instance. Mo Wootten, a Sport Intelligence Analyst at UK Sports, discussed what they found from collecting sleep data. Not only was it not always useful to athletes, who already know if they don’t sleep as well before a major competition, but for some people it can be detrimental and a source of anxiety.

Jörg Corsten, Digital Medical Engagement Principal at Roche, warned against exaggerated expectations of AI and machine learning, reminding us that “we don’t have a general AI –nowhere we can just put in all the data and out comes the right answer.” Put another way, AI today resembles Siri – good at solving task-based problems – rather than HAL, the sentient AI from 2001: Space Odyssey.

  1. Acknowledge Your Bias

Our experiences and beliefs create unconscious biases, which, in turn, shape the way we see the world. We need to remain alert to potential bias in our datasets: metrics, tools and algorithms are created by people, so are vulnerable to the same foibles and biases that affect us.

Mo Wootten shared an example from the US criminal justice system, which integrates data models to predict the likelihood of re-offending. Tellingly, the algorithms used were shown to be racially biased.

The (big) data we have access to today can help us mitigate both problems: by triangulating from different data sources and perspectives – and consciously acknowledging our own cognitive biases – we can arrive at powerful insights.

  1. Blend Data and Storytelling – but Keep it Simple

Data-driven storytelling has the power to cut through information overload. Underpinning our stories with the right data creates relevance, but it is no easy feat. As Sam Knowles, Founder and Managing Director of Insight Agents, put it: “meaningfully bringing together the fire-and-ice worlds of storytelling, data and science is an art form.”

During the summit, Knowles shared his rules for compelling, data-driven storytelling as outlined in his book Narrative by Numbers. He highlighted that it is the combination of narrative skill and intelligent interrogation of data sources that creates real impact and, ultimately, influence.

So how do we do this? By keeping our story simple, being selective with our data and tapping into emotion.

  1. Get Ready for What’s Next

Digital data is increasingly fundamental to healthcare decision-making. In medical training, for instance, some European countries already embed digital performance data generated by virtual practical tests into certification and continuous education.

But not everyone is ready to embrace our data-rich environment. For some, the integration of real-world data helps to optimise healthcare (e.g. in disease registries) but others perceive it as challenging ‘clean’ (and controllable) clinical trial data.

Data privacy is not going to go away. Leaders in our field will be those who see the upside, rather than the challenge. There is an opportunity cost of doing nothing and falling behind.

Thinking this way, we may then find there are digital solutions already doing things that seem at first impossible, like reading facial expressions without compromising anonymity and data protection. This kind of solution already exists: it is used by the SBDB to conform with data privacy legislation while enabling ground-breaking, collaborative research at scale.

The 2019 Zurich Summit illustrated that it will take creativity and courage to make the most of our data-rich environment. It is when human brains and digital data connect to tell meaningful stories that strategy-changing insights can be unlocked. As one speaker noted, “data is a servant to decision-making, it should never be the master”.

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We at W2O are so excited for our upcoming lab session at Chicago Ideas Week, on building corporate relevance, on Thursday, October 17.  We have two special guests joining our lab, Kelly Jansen, Director of Corporate Communications and Content Strategy at Horizon Therapeutics, and Suzanne Barston, Director of Digital Communications and Corporate Storytelling at Walgreens. You won’t want to miss hearing these  incredibly smart leaders share their expertise!

In preparation for the event, I talked to my colleague Chuck Hemann, Head of Digital Analytics at W2O, to delve into what makes the topic of corporate Relevance so fascinating.

Anita: I’m going to ask a super meta question. Why is W2O’s Relevance model relevant in today’s world?

Chuck: Simply put, in a social and digital age, if you are not relevant you don’t exist! More than two years ago, as we studied the legacy models that were being utilized to understand a company’s reputation, we saw a few fundamental flaws. First, those models provided little guidance to corporate communications functions that were looking to optimize their programs based on the reputation data they were getting back. Senior executives were interested in tracking progress, but these models did little to provide a roadmap for improvement. Second, and almost as important, the legacy models for reputation did little to incorporate the new social and digital reality. In the world of a 24/7 news cycle and the near endless movement of content from channel-to-channel, a company’s reputation can be altered in the blink of an eye. To not properly account for social and digital in a model attempting to gauge reputation seemed like a miss. Lastly, the newest legacy reputation model was created in 2007, and most hadn’t been altered in several years. While perpetual changes to a reputation model does not make sense, we know that new channels and new ways of impacting reputation pop up at all times. W2O’s Relevance model provides a roadmap for corporate communicators to impact their company’s reputation. It incorporates a digital and social reality appropriately and is flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing times we live in as communicators and marketers.

Anita: What have you and the W2O team learned as you’ve rolled out Relevance to clients over the past couple years?

Chuck: It’s all about engagement. We have uncovered several fascinating revelations over the last two+ years – in examining the Relevance rankings of both the Fortune 100 and the top 100 healthcare companies worldwide. First, those companies that score highly in our Relevance model do so because they have a clear message and take a stand on issues of importance to their stakeholders. Nobody likes wishy-washy communications. Second, the most relevant companies have built a strong content engine that helps them consistently get their message out. Importantly, in times of crisis these companies do not shut down their content machine. Quite the contrary, they most often continue with the same message(s) before the crisis occurred. Third, and perhaps surprisingly, is the impact search visibility has on Relevance. The companies that are the most visible in search also tend to be the most relevant. They make a concerted effort to ensure their content is found, whether or not it was directly targeted at their core audiences. Lastly, the most relevant companies take a balanced approach to their communications – meaning they put similar levels of effort into employee advocacy as they do to advocacy with other stakeholder groups.

Anita: Can Relevance be used only with companies or can brands or franchises also benefit?

Chuck: The short answer is yes – Relevance can be used for companies, brands or franchises. How the Relevance model gets used in a franchise or brand context likely depends on the age-old chestnut “Are you a house of brands or a branded house?” Either way, though, we can develop an approach to evaluate the Relevance of your company, brand or franchise.

Anita: Many companies or brands may be interested in Relevance. Are there specific inflection points that are a good moment in time to bring the W2O team in to talk about Relevance?

Chuck: Organizations and brands find themselves daily with challenges and opportunities to connect with key stakeholders. As such, while there is no best time to engage, we find companies often find the Relevance framework to be optimal during annual/semi-annual planning cycles. Its best application is helping plan your corporate communications activities moving forward. There are other inflection points, though, where a Relevance analysis would make sense. Broadly speaking, if your company has been through an event in the recent past, it would be good to run a Relevance analysis. What kind of event? Any sort of crisis, M&A activity, executive leadership change, change in the product portfolio, presence of activist investors, etc. There are a lot of applications for the Relevance framework!

Anita: How is the concept of Relevance continuing to evolve? How are you all continuing to keep it relevant (see what I did there!)?

Chuck: Relevance is always a moving target given the dynamics of business and technology. Without giving away our secret sauce, we’re looking at several things to make sure our Relevance framework continues to be actionable for our clients. They include the addition of executive thought leadership scores (we see strong impact on Relevance with active executives who carry the company’s vision externally through digital and social channels), deeper linguistic analysis to understand messaging impact, and various CSR data sources, among other things. Watch this space for further updates!

We’re so looking forward to our Chicago Ideas Week session so we can share more details about W2O’s thinking around Relevance.

Want to learn more about W2O? Check out our About page and Service page.

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Yet another HIMSS has come and gone. As promised, we took a look back at our predictions and also did a data-driven and qualitative analysis to showcase key insights and findings from HIMSS19.  The end goal being to provide valuable insights on how best marketers and communicators can optimize their efforts at HIMSS in 2020.

Qualitative Insights from HIMSS

This year, big tech and consumer companies solidified their focus in healthcare and showcased tangible products and momentum. For example, tech juggernauts like Salesforce came out swinging with hard news focused on new capabilities aimed at personalizing the patient experience and breaking down data and information silos to better connect patients and providers. Whereas Google went from glitzy main stage keynote in 2018 to in-booth demos showcasing that they are ready and able to meet providers greatest cloud and data challenges – even if they involve faxes.  For more tried and true health tech players in the space, this year signaled stiffer competition as these more mainstream brands start to show value regarding proof of concept.

In addition, mainstream media was out in full force for what I believe to be the first time ever at HIMSS.  Notable media organizations like Kaiser, CNBC, Wall Street Journal and even STAT were present and covering news from the show.  STAT even went so far as to have a daily newsletter.  To me, this signals that media – beyond Healthcare IT News, Health Data Management and Health Leaders – is recognizing that tech in healthcare is directly tied to consumer health and well-being.  What was once a massive B2B playground for health IT vendors is now a more level playing field as media makes the connection between the future of tech and a vision for the healthcare of tomorrow.

Lastly, people were excited about the promise of AI again. There seemed to be much less trepidation and fear associated with AI. Given the focus on data liberation at the big event, AI innovation seemed natural fit for mainstream discussion. After all, to derive insights from data you actually need to be able to access and share the data. Clearly, it’s a good time to be an AI company in healthcare.

Data-Driven Insights for HIMSS 2020

Many of the predictions shared by influencers in advance of HIMSS19 were spot on. As expected, AI (#AI was second most used hashtag at HIMSS), patient experience, patient care and cloud were all big topics of conversation. Other notable topics of conversation that weren’t high on our radar but stood strong at HIMSS were value-based care, Internet of Things, augmented reality and virtual reality. These are the topics and technologies that people were excited to see and experience while in Orlando.

Other key data-packed takeaways to help you plan for HIMSS 2020:

  • Conversation on Twitter peaked on Tuesday – plan your social content pre- and early-stage at the conference. Conversation grows crowded and then drops quickly as you hit the mid-mark during HIMSS week.
  • Top media included Healthcare IT News, Healthcare Finance News, Mobihealthnews and Physicians Practice – most these media properties are HIMSS-owned but Physicians Practice is notable and should be considered a target for news and subject matter expert one-on-ones. Also, the HIMSS social media ambassador program is changing. We are interested to hear more details on just that.
  • Your booth and paid presence matters at HIMSS, still – “Booth” was the most common one-word term. The fastest way to cut through the clutter is to put smart dollars behind marketing at HIMSS and to create an in-booth experience that is engaging and forward-looking (see Nuance.) Also, if you have the money, get your experts on the stages and podiums that matter most to your organization. It’s worth it.

With the breadth of new health tech and digital health events, there are an array of ways to spend your marketing and communications dollars.  And while events like HLTH and CES offer interesting takes on tangential topics and trends, the reality is that HIMSS remains the largest health IT show in the world.  It’s the one place where each and every facet of healthcare is connected for a few short days – and it’s a space that is changing more rapidly than ever.  That change and innovation at the intersection of healthcare and technology is critically important for each and every one of us who is or will be reliant on our healthcare system and the people behind it. And so while HIMSS is massive and an investment, it’s necessary and important – for the future of healthcare and for the brands driving this change day-in and day-out.

Research and contributions for this post were provided by Lauren Walter, Research Manager at W2O.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our Analytics and Healthcare pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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Last night, I addressed the San Francisco chapter of the Healthcare Business Women’s Association (HBA) on trends and insights related to diversity and inclusion coming out of the 37th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, which took place in the city earlier this month. This was especially meaningful to me as I recently was selected to sit on the HBA’s Global Board of Advisors. This is a huge honor as HBA is dedicated to improving gender parity to achieve meaningful progress for women in business and optimize the benefit to business.

As the founder and CEO of W2O, one of the things I’m most proud of is our dedication to gender parity at all levels of the firm. It is without a doubt the reason for our continued growth and success.

In sharing insights on JPM 2019 – the annual conference that brings more than 9,000 healthcare investors, media and business development teams together for five days – I based my observations on presentations made by more than 450 executives from the world’s leading drug and biotech companies, who set the tone and expectations for performance over the year to come.

I’ve been attending this conference for more than 20 years and have witnessed an incredible amount of change in the industry. This year, my three main takeaways were:

  • Companies are positive about business in 2019.
  • Pipelines are a priority.
  • Margin expansion and investment are strategic imperatives.

Having said that, I focused my remarks last night, not on financial forecasts and outcome predictions of failures and success, but on what makes a business successful from the inside out. Additionally, in partnership with my W2O colleague, Senior Director of Analytics, Meredith Owen, I talked about how to leverage W2O’s analytics capabilities to measure and model just how critical it is to have the right balanced workforce where everyone’s ideas are heard and people can reach their full potential regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The W2O Healthcare Relevance Index is an annual report that looks at approximately 60 Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare industry and applies a proprietary analytics model to determine the relevance of organizations on the topic of diversity and inclusion. In this age of social and digital, Relevance is the new Reputation. If your organization is relevant, it’s engaging with key stakeholders on terms that are mutually beneficial. The outcome impacts sales, profitability, recruitment, retention, innovation, leadership and valuation.

The 2019 W2O Healthcare Relevance Index includes the following topline findings:

  • Healthcare organizations are not making the progress necessary in diversity and inclusion as demanded by key stakeholders.
  • Diversity and inclusion must be a CEO mandate. (My experience alone reinforces that notion.)
  • Employees are moving the dialogue to diversity and inclusion and signaling its importance to their productivity.
  • Innovation remains an elusive elixir as we heard at JPM 2019. Yet, a remedy is about adding new and different voices to ideation.
  • Diversity and inclusion is not a communications problem but an organizational issue that must be addressed at the C-Suite level. Commitment to change is key

As I shared with HBA, my mother shaped my thinking with regard to diversity and inclusion at a very young age. She was the CEO of a business and was very successful breaking all kinds of barriers at the time and instilling in me a belief in a better approach and system based on the human spirit and ideal. It’s how I ultimately built my firm and why dialogue, discussion and debate rule, and why multiple voices are respected and heard.

As we look at the healthcare industry in 2019, one could argue that things are moving in the right direction regarding diversity and inclusion. But, there needs to be a sense of urgency. A commitment that accelerates improvement.

To that end, all of us must voice our opinions and challenge the industry to do better. Our collective futures depend on it!


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, go to our About or healthcare page. 

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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Leaders Addressed the Latest Issues, Trends and Tech During W2O Group’s JPM19 Digital Health Luncheon

An impressive array of healthcare experts braved rain, flight delays, and travel headaches to participate in W2O Group’s 5th Annual Digital Health Luncheon, held in partnership with Squire Patton Boggs at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPM19). The luncheon explored new approaches and vexing challenges across healthcare today – from data sharing hurdles to driving behavior change and supporting an aging population.

How critical is data liquidity in healthcare? According to Mona Siddiqui, Chief Data Officer, Immediate Office of the Secretary at HHS, it’s truly healthcare’s gold. “(Our) vision is to have a department that is more evidence-based. Where policy making, decision making and the ways we think about resource allocation are all grounded in data,” she explained.

The first panel after Siddiqui’s keynote, was focused on how healthcare can better enable our aging population. By 2035 the 65+ population will outnumber those who are 18 and under so how can we help America age well? “At the end of the day, the same tech that empowered the internet will be the same technology to empower seniors,” explained Aashima Gupta, Director, Global Healthcare Solutions at Google Cloud. So what trends are making headway in the aging space? According to Wen Dombrowski, MD Chief Convergence Officer at CATALAIZE, empathy, voice user interfaces and self-driving cars are top of mind.

Panelists agreed that it’s all about simplicity for both seniors and their caregivers when it comes to leveraging technology as an enabler. “We have a design problem, not an innovation problem. You don’t want to be cared for, you want to be enabled by technology,” concluded Chetan Parekh, Associate Brand Director & Innovation Portfolio Leader at P&G Ventures.

Another pressing issue that was discussed at the event was best practices for driving behavior change in healthcare. Despite the recent focus in this space, Ben Wanamaker, Head of Consumer Technology and Services at Aetna, believes more must be done. “The health delivery system is not well organized. There are very few standards, as if our brain is not part of our body,” he explained during the second panel. George Savage, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Proteus Digital Health, believes we’re hitting a tipping point, not because people like change, but because as an industry, we have no choice.

Ben Hwang, CEO of Profusa, agreed, noting, “most of the value creation around behavior change in healthcare is in chronic (care). How do we bring health front and center to the individual?” Ashwini Zenooz, MD, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Global Healthcare & Life Sciences at Salesforce, believes that to truly make people change, we must focus on making them feel encouraged during every touchpoint of the healthcare experience.

The event concluded with a conversation with Marcus Osborne, Vice President, Health & Wellness Transformation at Walmart. The two discussed Walmart’s new legacy in the healthcare space with Marcus noting, “historically we have not viewed ourselves as a healthcare company. Historically we’ve viewed ourselves as (a company) taking care of people.” This framework of thinking has inspired Walmart’s recent moves in the healthcare space and continues to guide Marcus’ predictions around the future of health as the consumer is made priority number one.

Despite different companies, perspectives and experiences, all speakers seemed to agree that for real change to occur across the healthcare ecosystem, two key things are required:

  • Innovative and easy-to-use technology; and
  • A consumer-first mindset.

For more information on W2O Group’s 5th Annual Digital Health Luncheon, held in partnership Squire Patton Boggs, check out #W2ODH19 via Twitter. Curious what happened last year at the 4th Annual Digital Health Luncheon? Check out last year’s recap here.

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Earlier this week, crowds of excited journalists, brand reps and PR folk descended on Las Vegas for the annual celebration of technology and innovation that is CES. We were there, and saw lots of demos, gigantic booths and overwhelming displays; and some unexpected and quirky products. We at W2O looked high and low to find what we think will be the most important topics for you as you look to the next few years:

Autonomous Transportation

Watch out for news from the sky coming to a smart city near you, but it isn’t just drones this year. The Bell Nexus is an all-new hybrid electric aircraft designed to be an ‘urban air taxi’ as soon as the early 2020s working with companies like Uber to ease congestion and speed travel. On the ground, Mercedes showed off a prototype modular system with different pods using the same chassis, while Aptiv offered autonomous Lyft rides for attendees to and fro. BMW, Audi and others showed off their AD partnerships with tech companies like Intel and Bosch (respectively), with vehicles loaded up with 360 AR entertainment systems from partners like Warner Bros and Disney. When you don’t have to drive yourself, you’ll have plenty of time and space to enjoy all kinds of work and entertainment options!

PCs are Back?

After a multi-year streak of declining or flat sales, many analysts are predicting that 2019 will be the first year to see Y/Y growth (though small). Security improvements, along with Windows 10 performance improvements and supply availability driving reduced cost have finally broken the dam on companies holding back on refreshing their inventory. Additional improvements in laptop screen quality, battery performance, 5G and network improvements, voice and biometrics and other form factor changes will delight users that have grown accustomed to tablet use. We saw loads of great, high-end product launches from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, Sony and others, as well as Chromebook-style updates for less expensive models.

5G is Everywhere, Again

It’s the announcement that we’ve heard before, but this time it’s being put into our devices – and cars – and towers – and everything else. 5G, the promise of faster networks and deconflicting traffic, has been all the rage, but hasn’t come to life just yet for 99% of the world. This year, we are watching for devices to become equipped with the ability to work on the network, signaling that reality is just around the corner. Development sandboxes from Intel and Verizon as well as development kits indicate that it’s safe for organizations to start planning for integration.

Voice Control + Personal Assistants

We had a chance to check out cute and cuddly robots as well as industrial ones, but the improvements were really in increased integration for voice commands with smarter responses and more helpful utilities (aka just a little smarter). Personal assistants, both virtual and robotic are maturing in skill set and utility and are beginning to offer real value to users of all kinds. Users are increasingly comfortable with voice commands and the devices becoming easier to manage, integrating with personal assistants in new ways. No major announcements are expected this year on the voice front, though Google and Amazon both made some incremental updates and integrations with transportation (Alexa on bicycles) and physical devices (Google Home has over 30 languages).

Folding Screens

Have you ever wanted more visual space on your mobile device or laptop, but still wanted to fit it into your bag? The new generation of strong-but-flexible folding screens promise just that, with mobile devices that you can expand and contract, as needed. This may be one of the more high profile announcements of CES, but it isn’t quite ready for primetime just yet. However, the implications for incredible user experiences is truly exciting and makes this one a space to watch.

So How Does all of this Apply to Healthcare?

As with any trend, we believe you need to start with your strategy first, and then the right solution for your audiences will be evident. The technology above might be right for your audiences in health facilities, practices or at-home care with telemedicine. Improvements in AI, networking, security, wearables and voice control will continue to change how care is delivered to patients within facilities, as consumers, and for systems as organizations, but it’s never a one-size-fits-all. Some of the interesting digital health previews included ‘powered suit’ body-sized wearables that help with physical therapy and provide feedback that teach patients how to rebuild strength, even scaling down to ‘power gloves’ for arthritis. We saw backpacks that let the hearing impaired experience music and biofeedback wearables that improve quality of life through sensing what patients can’t – helping with Afib, Diabetes and other chronic conditions.

And finally, integrating user data with AI from systems, plus other personal historical information and context to enable better and more insightful recommendations for every patient or user. Whether the personal data comes from the individual only, or is blended with data from other blinded medical records and macro data from all available trend data, that information adds invaluable detail and reference to enable better solutions for all patient challenges. We expect to see interesting announcements from organizations large and small detailing how to connect data with real patient challenges in the rest of 2019, so watch this space for more!

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, go to our About page. 

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On the eve of our 5th annual Digital Health Luncheon at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, we had the opportunity to sit down with Tony Scott, Former Federal Chief Information Officer and Advisor at Squire Patton Boggs. Tony shared his views on some the hottest topics and trends taking shape at the intersection of healthcare and technology.  He also touched upon some of the critical conversations that we’ll be discussing live on Monday, January 7, at our annual Digital Health Luncheon…

Top three technologies with promise in healthcare for 2019?

  1. 5G networks
  2. Network enabled personal health devices (IoT)
  3. Telemedicine as a service (remote diagnosis, consultation, etc.)

The biggest challenges you see for the healthcare industry in 2019?

One of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry in 2019 is the ongoing digitization of the healthcare ecosystem, and the disruption that will continue to occur as technology upends traditional methods and practices. Every aspect of the healthcare ecosystem is still very early in the digitization journey, and as we’ve seen in other industries, the evolution can be very hard – especially for traditional players. I expect to see new ecosystem players emerge who will challenge incumbents. The new players will share a common DNA of low cost, no legacy overhead, a strong digital and data foundation, and a passionate focus on a unique value proposition, and a propensity to leverage (outsource) everything else.

What role do you see emerging technologies playing in driving behavior change? And where do you see the most promise for technology?

Emerging technologies – particularly 5G mobile networks combined with even more powerful mobile devices – will help revolutionize the healthcare ecosystem across the board. Behavior change will come about because these technologies will help make the transfer of information and access and use of information more friction free. Once adopted, this will create an environment where no one will want to go back to the old way. We’ve seen many examples of this in other industries. For example, why go to the bank to deposit a check, when you can simply take a picture and send it to the bank. Better yet, eliminate the paper altogether and do a digital transfer of funds.

There is great deal of promise for technology in the fight against cancer and other chronic diseases, as well. I expect to see more and more effective treatments and better and more timely ways of doing diagnosis as the result of a better understanding of the data around the specific disease itself. And, more and more of this will be personalized to the individual.

What do you see as the most promising technologies to empower seniors?

I think 5G networks and powerful mobile devices (that are easy to use) along with an increase in the number of network connected devices, (IoT) hold great promise. As the population ages, these developments will enable healthcare ecosystem players to digitally scale to meet the needs of aging consumers and should also help to lower costs.

How do you see major tech and consumer brands changing healthcare in the near- and long-term?

It is clear to me that the major tech and consumer brands/platforms have a current challenge in the sense that they are generally struggling with significant security and privacy challenges. That said, I believe these challenges will be addressed, and I predict that consumers will, over time, come to rely on these tech and consumer platforms for an increasing amount of information regarding healthcare, and for the delivery of healthcare where that is possible. This could be very disruptive for established healthcare players.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.