Are glimpses of “normalcy” slowly starting to find their way into digital and social media? While brands are finding innovative ways to reach audiences via only virtual means, as demonstrated by a successful CES 2021, others are bringing IRL exhibits to life among social-distance protocols. In these changing times, we’ll always strive to find innovative new ways to stay connected, but we also know our hearts still need comfort food sometimes: YouTube and Instagram were the top two apps (again) this week.

ByteDance is Latest Tech Company to Enter the Pharma Industry

The next big thing in drug development is…TikTok? ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, has joined other leading Chinese tech companies as the latest to bet on the healthcare industry in a move to diversify ad-reliant revenue streams. Job descriptions for the business suggest candidates will work on drug design, identification and simulation using the company’s AI-powered technology. The investments underscore the massive scale at which AI-supported algorithms can be applied and investors seem to believe the healthcare industry is the right place to start.


To Opt-In or Opt-Out, that is the Question…

Facebook and other social platforms are bracing for the impact Apple’s latest software update and its changes the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) feature will have on advertisers. The update will inform users on what types of data an app tracks before they download it from the App Store, with an opportunity to opt-in/opt-out of data tracking. Facebook has been vocal in its opposition to Apple’s IDFA updates, highlighting the detrimental impact it will have on small and mid-sized businesses that rely on using that data to reach new and existing customers. While Facebook has been sharing guidance on how to prepare for iOS 14, the update’s full impact on campaign performance and reporting will be unclear until users begin to either opt-in or opt-out of data tracking. With recent privacy legislation such as CPRA and an upcoming antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, it’s clear that the conversation around data privacy isn’t going away any time soon.


As CTV Popularity Soars, So Do Ambitious Scammers

Last month, Oracle discovered a Connected TV (CTV) ad fraud scheme now dubbed “StreamScam” that exploited digital ad technology by “spoofing” millions of IP addresses to steal the ad revenue from the advertising platform. Given the skyrocketing interest in CTV from viewers and marketers alike, experts expect to see an increase in fraud attempts as scammers try to take advantage of the higher CPMs from CTV inventory. Still, some say the concern is overblown because CTV is significantly safer for brands compared to digital display since inventory is typically sourced directly from premium publishers rather than on the open exchange. As healthcare marketers, we will continue to find new ways embrace CTV while trying to reduce waste by leveraging unique audience sets.


2021: The Year of the HCP Influencer

In late December, we reported that patient-physician engagement had doubled on Twitter since the start of the pandemic 🤯. We’ve quickly come to learn that this emerging influential group is not immune to various forms of online harassment. In fact, one in four physicians reported being harassed online, with women and physicians of color facing additional risk of attacks grounded in sexism and racism. But that doesn’t mean they should step away from the platform. As the world slowly works toward returning to life as it was pre-COVID-19, reliable HCP voices remain important in encouraging smart health decisions among consumers. As with all influencers, supporting HCPs in all aspects of campaigns and programming is critical to break through the noise and help them get out important messages.


Twitter is Tuning Up So Audiences Don’t Tune Out

Podcast listening has increased tremendously since the onset of the pandemic. Google was quick to recognize this change in audience behavior with the expansion of its audio advertising options last August. In keeping up with audio-focused content consumption, Twitter announced the acquisition of Breaker as an expansion of its voice-based “Spaces” feature. Breaker is a podcast listening app that features user engagement tools. These developments show that Twitter is expanding its features, so users can both read AND listen to their news – all while making a compelling fight to keep audiences engaged within its platform. The rise in audio-first features also marks another step forward for accessibility and inclusion on social media.


In Other News…

Social platforms are starting to resemble each other, but what does that mean for content consumption?

Because we live by our calendars, here’s a 2021 events calendar to help you stay on top of all the key happenings.

For those who love an annual trend forecast: eMarketer shares 10 digital trends that marketers need to track in 2021.

W2O’s The Scoop is brought to you by an editorial collective, featuring industry updates and insights from subject matter experts across social media, digital and influencer activation teams.

Get the latest marcom news directly to your inbox! Sign up to receive The Scoop updates here.

Insights from the Reuters Patient-Centricity Conference

I recently “attended” the virtual Reuters Patient-Centricity conference. It was refreshing to spend three days with like-minded people across the healthcare industry, laser-focused on how we can continue to place patients and their needs at the center of all we do. The conference agenda covered nearly every aspect of the patient journey – from research and development, to designing clinical trials, to the impact of COVID-19, to the most effective ways to reach and engage patient communities.

One of the themes I found particularly energizing was how the industry is using data to better understand the needs and nuances of patient communities, and, in turn, the most impactful ways to engage and service them. At W2O, leveraging data and analytics to help make the world a healthier place is in our DNA. I’m grateful to be able to see first-hand how meaningful data can be, and one of my favorite parts of my job is translating data-derived insights into meaningful marketing communications. One example that comes to mind is a W2O client that was looking to better understand, and thus better target, people with cystic fibrosis in order to drive clinical trial recruitment. Our analytics and data team created SocialGraphics segmentation, which allowed us to look at members of the community as both patients and people. With this approach, W2O could target beyond the cystic fibrosis community’s general interests. Using Facebook’s affinity targeting, we then matched the top interests from our SocialGraphics segments with Facebook targeting inputs and activated separate Facebook and Instagram campaigns targeted to specific interests. The result? SocialGraphics targeting outperformed traditional efforts, and the insights gleaned were pulled through to other activities.

During the conference, Tara Hastings, Senior Associate Director, Research Partnerships & Patient Engagement, at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, shared how the Foundation is using data to better understand and respond to people living with Parkinson’s disease. Tara noted that their innovative online real-world study, Fox insight, has generated some unexpected results. For example, patients cited pain and fatigue as what’s most bothersome about living with Parkinson’s disease, which isn’t necessarily what they expected. Fox insight also uncovered new language patients are using to describe their most bothersome symptoms during “off” periods. This is an important discovery that the Foundation is using to inform future communications.

Tara’s presentation resonated with me because the staff at The Michael J. Fox Foundation spend 100% of their time focused on the Parkinson’s patient, yet there were still new learnings to be gleaned. It reminds me that we can never stop learning and never stop listening. We must continue to engage patient communities at every step along the way and be truly open to what we learn, even if it isn’t what we want to hear. Ultimately, we need to let the experiences and needs of patients guide us because patient-centricity is central to patient communications and ultimately to the best patient care.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

This year, digital became the catalyst for shaping how we experienced the pandemic. For our 2020 recap edition, we wanted to focus on the positives that digital brought to communities around the world. While we couldn’t include every milestone and “talked about” trend, below we highlighted a few areas that made an impact. Thank you to all our readers for following along with us. See you in 2021!

Combatting Misinformation on Social

This year, social platforms were faced with addressing and managing, in real time, the spread of COVID-19 and U.S. election misinformation and conspiracy theories. Their responses ranged from light-touch (driving users to reliable information) to more pointed (tagging posts and freezing ads).

And the Winner Is…How Social Media Took on Voting in 2020

What was social media’s role in the 2020 U.S. presidential election? Though many would point to it being a vehicle for the spread of misinformation, there is also something to be said for the way social platforms, brands and individuals tried to make voting more accessible.

How Social Media Supported Social Good

As racial injustice protests and hard conversations about race swept the United States and reverberated around the world, social media was at the center – aiding organizers, driving conversation, educating and broadcasting real-time events. These difficult discussions also drove meaningful change. Brands and platforms responded and adapted in record speed.

The World Evolved, and So Did Those Influencing It  

Many questioned how the influencer industry would fare amid economic insecurity and stay-at-home orders. But influencers across industries adapted, connecting with audiences in creative ways, like sharing ideas for keeping kids occupied at home, hosting Live workouts or concerts and encouraging healthy habits.

Massive Growth in Familiar Digital Tactics

For many, 2020 brought radical change to daily routines and greater insight into the world we live in, but within the digital media industry, the year only accelerated predicted trends. The popularity of streaming video and connected TVs exploded while we were at home, forcing advertisers to double down on the flexibility of programmatic advertising and targeted B2B marketing.

10 Months Later: Staying Together While We’re Still Apart

None of us anticipated that we’d still be practicing social distancing and varying levels of shelter-in-place after all this time. Despite this lack of physical closeness, consumers and brands have found a new way to stay connected through the adoption of live online activations, the joys of shared interests and meaningful brand partnerships.

W2O’s The Scoop is brought to you by an editorial collective, featuring industry updates and insights from subject matter experts across social media, digital and influencer activation teams.

Get the latest marcom news directly to your inbox! Sign up to receive The Scoop updates here.

In the era of digital media, with more patients receiving medical care from home, the healthcare industry has an opportunity to support and advocate for patients and provide platforms for patient movements. I recently had the opportunity to help plan and attend a virtual session on patient advocacy as part of W2O’s SXSW virtual panels. As an advocate myself in the food allergy community, this gave me the opportunity to reflect on the changing nature of the patient experience.

Moderated by Steve Madden, Editor-in-Chief of MM+M, the session was joined by Jim Weiss, Founder and CEO of W2O, Samina Bari, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Aimmune Therapeutics, and Amar Kendale, Chief Product Officer at Livongo Health.

The speakers covered topics ranging from the patient perspective on value and access in healthcare, to navigating the patient journey, to the importance of patient voices in the medical community. Following are some highlights from the discussion:

  1. “The involvement of patients in the healthcare system is essential.” – Jim Weiss

Healthcare movements are often led by patients bringing important perspectives to the forefront of the medical community. Both industry and patients benefit when we work together. Showing our support for patients means listening and learning, which can happen authentically when we reach out to build relationships with patients who share their journey publicly.

As an advocate myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of outreach from many healthcare companies who truly valued my voice and input, as well as those who were simply hoping I would promote them or their treatment without first establishing a strong foundation of trust and respect. Patient advocates are more savvy than ever and are ready to share and provide their perspectives if asked. This is a necessary step in partnering with patients and ensuring they have a seat at the table.

  1. “We have to listen better, we have to be on the lookout.” – Samina Bari

Motivated patients are often passionate, vocal and organized in getting answers from the medical community and driving change. Many of these larger conversations have been made possible through social media, and we need to listen.

Through social listening, we can see patients connecting with other patients, physicians, politicians and practitioners – these discussions with key stakeholders can be leveraged to make real changes. As organizations, we can learn from these conversations to better understand patient needs and support them by lifting their voices within these online spaces and including them in key conversations where they may not have otherwise had a voice.

  1. “The digitization of clinical trials using more passive data, being more directly connected in a person’s normal workflow as the basis to collect evidence, will then inform R&D and treatment paradigms over time more and more.” – Amar Kendale

At W2O, we’ve always followed the data. As the healthcare industry becomes increasingly more data-centric, we have a responsibility to continue following the data to focus on the needs of patients. Healthcare technology has allowed medical professionals to engage with patients in their everyday lives, through telemedicine, apps and patient portals, which can provide additional comfort for patients, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future as the healthcare landscape continues to evolve.

During my last 10+ years serving as a parent advocate for my son and being active in patient communities, I’ve experienced firsthand how healthcare companies have made an increasing effort to bring patients into the conversation. This is foundational to how we counsel our client partners on how to work with patient influencers and advocates at W2O. Not only is it essential to understand the patient perspective, it also helps validate and affirm the patient experience. We all deserve to have a voice when it comes to our health, and it is up to healthcare companies to incorporate patient advocacy into the fabric of everything we do.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

Colonoscopy Enthusiast & Colorectal Cancer Alliance Board Member, Brooks Bell, joins the show to share her colon cancer story. Plus, she discusses the importance of advocacy and ways we can all prevent, detect, and treat the third most common type of cancer. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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

Patients’ willingness to participate in clinical trials is plummeting – from 89% to 49% in the past year – signaling a dangerous inflection point for the future of healthcare innovation. Without robust and effective clinical trials, tomorrow’s cures may never come.

We formed Hū because we believe clinical trial innovation is desperately needed. Our approach is rooted in behavioral economics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to support and enhance patient engagement and activation into trial participation.

To be successful, we must do one critical thing: see clinical trial participants as people, not just as patients. We have to recognize the complexity of decision-making surrounding their decision to participate in a clinical trial and meet them where they are.

Participating in a clinical trial relies on patients actively making a choice. Joining or remaining in a trial is an active choice, and we should re-imagine how we engage patients in their time of choice.

In that spirit, we recently held our first symposium, attended by top pharmaceutical company executives. We discussed key concepts and case studies in behavioral economics, machine learning/AI and technology to overcome the persistent patient engagement and enrollment challenges of clinical trials.

The vigorous and informative conversation in that symposium inspired our new report, Driving Engagement in Clinical Trials Using Behavioral Economics, AI and Wearables. Click here to request your copy.

It is clear to us at Hū that the need and desire for innovative approaches in patient engagement and the potential for behavioral economics and decision science are plentiful. We are developing this approach in a true collaborative spirit as a roadmap to a new clinical trial era, with the goal of accelerating R&D innovation.

Ultimately, we want to ensure that clinical trials are more accessible, equitable, representative, efficient, cost-effective, insight-driven and successful. Our team includes people who have been disruptors and true innovators in the evolution of clinical trials and patient engagement. We invite you to join us in a conversation to accelerate change together.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

Want more updates from Hū? Follow us on LinkedIn.

We recently learned that according to psychology, making lists makes us happy. We took that advice and made a list of five things that made us happy since the last Scoop [📝❤️]:

  1. Spotify showcases the top podcasts in 2020 for the first time in their Wrapped feature (US & Globally)
  2. TikTok adds an accessibility update to include photo sensitivity warnings
  3. The best Tweet of 2020 (so far) is Guy Fieri raising $21.5M in seven weeks for unemployed restaurant workers
  4. Twitter updates its hateful conduct policy to include abuse and harassment posts based on race, ethnicity and culture
  5. Drone technology is being used to rebuild forests destroyed by devastating fires

The Most Important Healthcare Campaign of the 21st Century?

With the possibility of FDA approval and initial distribution of COVID-19 vaccines mere weeks away, the healthcare industry is gearing up for the communications campaign of the century. Messaging will attempt to educate the public about vaccine science and the approval process – no small feat given society’s growing anti-vaccine sentiment and a recent Gallup poll indicating that only 58% of American adults are willing to take a coronavirus vaccine. Former FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts believes “PSA campaigns really don’t get the job done” and that communications “absolutely should play into the controversy.” Glen Nowak, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication, acknowledges the campaign needs to be “large and multilayered” given the variety of vaccines, dosing requirements and audiences. It’s a historic moment that will require overcoming seeds of distrust to help push the nation closer to a recovery from the pandemic.


Fighting COVID-19, and Misinformation, is a Team Effort

The influx of promising announcements about COVID-19 vaccines has resulted in increased efforts to preemptively combat misinformation about them by a consortium of social media platforms. Recently, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube announced a joint effort to partner with fact-checkers, researchers and governments to combat misinformation surrounding the vaccines. The group plans to roll out an initial framework for addressing these issues in January, which will include standards for qualifying “misinformation” in these circumstances as well as plans for marking, responding to or removing such content. As much about the vaccines remains unknown, this effort is sure to be useful to all those in the healthcare space seeking to ensure that accurate health information is shared on social media.


The Power of Connection for Mental Health Communication

Given the combination of the holidays, seasonal depression and isolation due to the pandemic, many marketers are paying special attention to the topic of mental health and finding ways to connect with consumers or bring awareness to the topic. Successful campaigns, such as the UK’s CALM ad, Instagram’s #HereForYou campaign, and Sheba’s Healing Powers mini documentaries, all tap into ways to reduce the stigma of mental health and build connections. Given the rising interest in the subject, the Ad Council commissioned a report on loneliness to help readers understand that it’s a syndrome that plagues younger people as much as older adults. The report highlights ways people across the world are coping using a mix of technology (video chats, social media) and social engagement (religious services, time with pets, visiting family) to connect with their community.


More Apps in a Snap

A few weeks ago, we featured Snapchat’s expansion of partnerships with apps such as Vivino and Yuka. Snapchat has now announced the rollout of several new options that will allow app developers to continue cross-linking their functions within the app. Additions include Augmented Reality Lenses, app conversions as an ad objective, and a minimum return on spend. With the creative Lenses, app marketers can promote their brand in a way that entices users to then potentially install the app (just ask Yahoo Fantasy Sports). The app conversions ad objective allows marketers to optimize for app installs as well, enabling installation tracking from the Snapchat Lens. These new features will help increase brand awareness and overall engagement. And with Snapchat’s rapid growth this year driven by “older” audiences, it’s never been a better time to reconsider including Snapchat in your marketing plans for the year ahead.


Instagram Proves that Platforms Must Evolve to Stay Relevant

As social media continues to grow, platforms face the decision to adapt or fade. Instagram is facing this head on, opting to evolve to maintain its steady flow of engaged users. The platform recently announced new branded content opportunities, allowing for greater partnership, monetization and collaboration opportunities for brands and creators, particularly through Reels and Live. This announcement comes at the same time as an additional update that allows users to search by keywords, making content more discoverable. As new platforms make their mark in the social landscape, the more experienced need to remain agile and receptive to new practices. Otherwise, they risk losing the attention of their audience to the shinier new offering. Each platform serves a purpose, but if it can’t identify its role within the media landscape and capitalize on its strongest offerings, as Instagram has done here, it may soon join the likes of MySpace and Vine.



Another day, another streaming service: Discovery unveils Discovery+, its DTC streaming service.

Different downtime choices lead to different kinds of relief: How teens use downtime to connect, distract or reflect.

W2O’s The Scoop is brought to you by an editorial collective, featuring industry updates and insights from subject matter experts across social media, digital and influencer activation teams.

Get the latest marcom news directly to your inbox! Sign up to receive The Scoop updates here.

Welcome to our third episode of #MedicallySpeaking! A video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.

Throughout the six episodes we’ll be speaking to a variety of people here in the W2O EMEA offices about their jobs, education and experience to find out how they got where they are.

In this video I speak to Dara Mohammadi, an associate creative director about what that job title actually means, how he started in his career as a journalist and some tips on how to become a Creative Director.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

Happy Thanksgiving eve! This week, I took time to reflect on the topics, guests, and intentions of this year’s shows with the content producer of the podcast, Maya Ollie. It was fun to be on the “other side of the mic”, take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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

The Oxford Dictionary declared the 2020 word of the year “unprecedented,” and we couldn’t agree more. This week alone fits the bill of a “typical” 2020 news cycle, jammed packed with updates reflective of a truly unpredictable time: Microsoft and Zoom are removing time caps for Thanksgiving, Pinterest is suddenly the platform to watch in 2021, Snap is giving away $1M to creators for their new inspiring in-app update called Spotlight and TikTok teens are following senior citizens. We’re grateful to be able to share the latest and greatest with you all, so ping us if you want to hear more on these topics or the ones below. Happy Thanksgiving to our American family and friends. 🦃

Is Local News Making a Comeback?

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only accelerated innovation within healthcare, it has also sped up trends and revealed new opportunities within the local media landscape. Media companies including Axios and NPR – and entrepreneurs like David Klotz – are looking to fill the void of regional newspapers by introducing localized e-newsletters and podcasts. The pandemic also has resulted in media talent spreading beyond the hubs of New York and D.C. as people move to remote work models. Additionally, the evolution of the media landscape in response to the pandemic has shown the value of local news coverage. The specificity of different local regulations leading to higher audience numbers and increased subscriptions shows how some of these organizations will become digitally based in the future to reach local audiences.


The New Streaming Service Every Healthcare Marketer Should Know About

The Able Channel is set to fill what it believes is an “information void” with a streaming channel dedicated to healthcare content. CEO and former Novartis and Disney exec Brian McCourt says he can’t believe this void exists in a world where healthcare represents approximately 18% of U.S. GDP. The debut of this new channel may be perfectly timed as new reports suggest connected TV will be the only device to grow its share of video ad impressions, up to 41% from 33% just a year ago. Viewers can preview the channel’s fresh storytelling approach now by watching “Surviving Suicide,” its first series. Produced in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, the series profiles survivors who have gone on to help others struggling with suicide. With the right conditions and advertisers such as Ochsner Lafayette already on board as its first hospital system partner, advertising opportunities are primed to grow.


“Point of Care” Advertising Is in It for the Long Haul

Despite dips in in-office doctors’ appointments due to the pandemic, industry experts still tout the enduring value of point of care (POC) media as new deals are being struck with content developers such as Meredith, which has just joined forces with Health Media Network. Doctors’ offices around the country will now be displaying video content from several Meredith brands through Health Media Network’s existing relationships with healthcare professionals (HCPs). The POC advertising will focus on TV (as magazines have been removed from waiting rooms) and is designed to educate patients about treatment options, facilitate patient and doctor engagement, and improve health outcomes through engaging and informative content. While targeting in an in-office setting seems limited, much of the audience for healthcare marketers has proven to be those sitting in a waiting room. POC is rapidly growing as experts have found that targeting a patient while they are currently seeking medical care is critical and effective.


Fostering Community and Influence with Social “Hubs”

The purpose of social media has evolved since its initial development, and platforms that served to connect us with others now also serve largely as educational resources. YouTube, one of the most searched platforms, has long been a hub for educators and influencers alike to share longform, informative videos on a variety of topics and now offers learning-focused playlists and URLs. TikTok is working to strengthen this area within the platform as well, testing a “Learn” tab in the UK market. And LinkedIn recently followed in similar fashion with the launch of its resource hub dedicated to supporting underrepresented groups. Specific “Learning” focused sections of platforms could be key areas for HCP influencers to congregate and help consumers find the resources they are seeking. These hubs also go a step further to reinforce the benefits of social media.



Tis the season: TikTok adds new option to display non-profit fundraisers on your profile.

Slowing the spread: Twitter may slow down users’ ability to “like” tweets containing misinformation.

Need a screen break? Check out the New York Times’ annual list of 100 notable books.

W2O’s The Scoop is brought to you by an editorial collective, featuring industry updates and insights from subject matter experts across social media, digital and influencer activation teams.

Get the latest marcom news directly to your inbox! Sign up to receive The Scoop updates here.

Prioritizing mental health is important to your overall well-being, productivity, and happiness. Tiffany Shlain, Emmy-nominated Filmmaker, Author & Founder of The Webby Awards, shares the power of giving up screens one day a week. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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

It was almost a year ago. I was walking through Philly’s holiday market, sipping mulled cider and finishing my Christmas shopping, between business flights and train rides up and down the East Coast. I was later stopped going through TSA thanks to a bacon bourbon hot sauce I bought for my dad. Ah, the days of business travel.

Amid my yuletide merriment, I got a call from a colleague. She said her client was seeking a “big idea” for 2020 and she was hoping that our analytics team could brainstorm ways to use data to help. The ask: What would happen if we peeled back the curtain on chronic kidney disease (CKD) and looked at the holistic patient experience, beyond being defined by traditional quality of life measures or creatinine levels? How could we develop a better understanding of the whole person, not just the patient, living with CKD every day?

This question reflects a challenge that many of our clients are grappling with as we hurdle toward “modernized healthcare,” where personalization and consumerization are becoming tablestakes and patients have more access to their own health data and more choice over how they manage their disease. As such, our clients are asking: how do we capture and support the human, lived experience – with a focus on how the burden of disease can impact every facet of a patient’s life? And how can data help us be more precise and thoughtful with our actions?

As an applied sociologist and analyst at W2O, my question is never “can we find answers to these questions?” Rather, my question is “what types of data can we leverage from our robust data engine?” In partnership with a team of smart colleagues – a scientific strategist, a communications specialist, and a seasoned marketer researcher – we developed a three-phase multi-modal approach that aggregated data from a geographically diverse cohort of patients living with CKD. Leveraging social media data, qualitative phone interviews, and an online quantitative patient survey, we created a global CKD-Personal Impact Index (PII) that derived the daily personal impact of the disease on individuals diagnosed with CKD (and their families). The CKD-PII uncovered the direct and indirect impact of living with CKD on patients’ activities of daily living and overall quality of life (QoL), providing unique insights into the patient experience that other studies have not traditionally assessed.

Our research showed the burden of a CKD diagnosis is profound: 56% of patients living with CKD said the disease has an extreme impact on their overall QoL, and 13% said they felt an impact almost immediately post-diagnosis. Mental well-being and sleep schedule were most severely impacted by CKD, followed by planning of life events/holidays/trips, diet/meal management, exercise schedule, and time for medical appointments. These findings were recently presented in a poster session at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week and are being submitted for presentation at the upcoming World Congress of Nephrology.

But beyond garnering recognition in academia, this research reflects an emerging imperative in the healthcare industry. How do we use data to humanize the patient experience? How do we uncover the real, lived day-to-day burden of disease and its outcomes? If living with CKD results in poorer mental health and running on little sleep, how can we better reach and serve the patient community? In a year where COVID-19 has had mental health implications for many of us, we have gotten a taste of how it feels to have a disease interfere with our day-to-day life. Perhaps we can carry this perspective into the future – leaning a little more into the data and appreciating the whole person behind the patient.

A very special thanks to Jillian Guiglotto and the AstraZeneca CRVM team, who were instrumental in pushing this important work forward.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

Welcome to our second episode of #MedicallySpeaking! A video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.

In this episode I speak to Dafnie Prodromou, Senior Analyst for W2O Group to discuss how a career in pharmacy changed to a career in data and analytics for some of the biggest healthcare companies in the world.

Watch to find out more about what it’s like to work in data and analytics.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

In the absence of physical interactions, COVID-19 is forcing shifts in the pharmaceutical industry from more traditional field-based models to digitized programs designed to engage with patients and providers. Some may say this is a “Tipping Point” but I’d argue it’s a “Forcing Point.” Digital approaches have been around for years, but weren’t implemented to the degree needed to truly change how the industry engages with its customers, runs its businesses, or thinks about technology. Investment in field sales models and tactics has stayed relatively consistent.

So how and why did the pandemic drive a more aggressive shift to digitally transform businesses? Likely because it takes 66 days to change and/or form a habit. As we settled into the second month of quarantine, companies had that necessary time to live without their field-based models and could see that their old-school approaches would no longer work. This realization is forcing mindset and behavior changes and, hopefully, fostering an openness and vulnerability that encourages a new way of thinking.

But how best to accomplish this?

Simply providing iPads and interactive sales aids, and investing in CRM platforms such as Veeva and Salesforce, which many companies have done, hasn’t changed people or their behaviors. Transforming an organization takes a dedicated and measured approach to digital education—encouraging curiosity and problem solving, resulting in ownership of new thinking and behaviors.

It also incorporates a human-centered approach called Design Thinking.

Design Thinking starts with understanding end users (reps and healthcare professionals) while remaining empathetic to their needs and stated problems. Instead of just providing iPads, for example, it involves understanding whether HCPs want to see a rep at all. Did they want a 13” screen to review clinical data held 6 feet away from them? Did reps want a device designed to track their performance vs. improve their engagements with HCPs? No, not in the least. But therein lies the issue. The very thinking was flawed as it focused more on how to use an iPad in the field to track rep and HCP behaviors than on better understanding the end users, their needs and how technology could enable net-new behaviors that would benefit HCPs and pharma brands.

Much of the conversation that we’re seeing today in light of the pandemic is not about reinventing approaches or the use of digital technologies in pharma marketing and sales. Rather, we’re seeing a willingness to embrace approaches that have been proven and well established but lacked adoption. The challenge now is to wrangle strategic partners together who are best suited to execute these types of strategies and corresponding tactics.

Partners who can:

  1. Design their firms using data to uncover deep insights about audiences.
  2. Understand that it’s not just about being creative, but about delivering engaging experiences via digital platforms.
  3. Create, develop and integrate technology platforms together into a seamless digital ecosystem.
  4. Put the power of the data and insights back into the customers’ hands for use across business functions.
  5. Understand the complex web of digital media channels and tactics, how they can be customized with data, and provide personalized experiences in micro-moments that matter.
  6. Harness the ultimate power of digital to demonstrate measurable return on investment (ROI) down to real business metrics such as new prescriptions, total prescriptions and sales.

Here’s a prime example of a forcing point.

Telemedicine has been around a long time but lacked adoption, in many cases because insurance companies didn’t have reimbursement models for these types of appointments. The pandemic created the forcing mechanism to make them a necessity. One Medical and other companies made this investment many years ago and are well positioned to capitalize on COVID-19. And it won’t stop there. We’re likely to see the uberization of healthcare, via an app-like experience that lets a patient call a physician to their house and have their pharmacy deliver medications without any physical interactions. Forcing points like these are going to further impact how we market therapies and how pharma and healthcare as an industry adopt digital approaches.

So how do companies achieve true digital transformation? 

At times, and depending on the organization’s Digital IQ, it may be more efficient to accelerate progress to centralize efforts in a high-functioning group working with technologists and digital evangelists throughout the organization. Once incubated, members of teams with higher Digital IQs can be dispersed into project teams throughout the organization, bringing their knowledge into groups that reach customers. Project teams will learn what actually happens in a website build, a digital media campaign, or an analytics assignment other than what the final product looks like. They’ll learn by listening, asking questions, and learning the range of possibilities of these new avenues of communication.

Unlocking curiosity.

When I was 10 years old, I took apart every doorknob in our house. Not because I wanted to be a locksmith, but because I was curious to learn how they worked. How did the knob trigger the latch or dead bolt? How did it keep the door shut? That same curiosity must be encouraged to drive teams to learn the possibilities of digital communication, how they can be used in new ways to reach customers, setting them free to brainstorm ever more effective ways of engaging and converting them.

To drive true transformation and changes in thinking, we must understand the following:

  1. Digital is the new traditional must be an ingrained belief within an organization. Digital is central and immediate to current communications.
  2. Each employee is the digital person in the room. The days of “bringing the digital person” into the room must become a thing of the past. Dispersing employees with higher Digital IQs into project teams (see above) uplevels everyone’s understanding of technology and ensures that digital solutions will be woven into every tactic and strategy. Digital is in everything we do. It spans every form of communication. It’s no longer an afterthought or nice-to-have. It’s foundational for business.
  3. There is a symbiotic relationship between technology and digital engagements. Voice skills and actions wouldn’t have taken off without the invention of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Mobile apps and basic features such as SMS wouldn’t exist without smartphones. And services such as Instagram and TikTok wouldn’t exist without sophisticated cameras in smartphones. Understanding the connection and potential between the two will help us create even better user experiences.
  4. User-centric and design thinking approaches are mandatory. Rather than what we want to say, or what we want people to do or buy, we must be empathetic to users to better serve their unmet needs, by communicating the benefits of our products through meaningful digital experiences. We must fundamentally shift the way we think, behave and operate. We also must deliberately hire, train and educate staff to be curious, ask questions, sit with and learn from the practitioners. The organizational changes discussed above will be required to make this happen, but the payoff in output and results will be huge.

Yes, it’s unfortunate that a pandemic has forced the acceleration of digital innovation, but it’s a great time to capitalize on the momentum. Hopefully, this crisis will pass so we can all get back to a sense of normal. However, if organizations do things right, the transformation to new ways of thinking and communicating will stay with us for a long time to come.

–Adam Cossman, Group President and Managing Partner, W2O

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

The importance of data and statistics in the healthcare industry cannot be overstated, especially today. Sara Hughes, SVP & Head of Biostatistics at GSK joins the show to discuss the role of data in health, and shares how leveraging statistics can create a healthier world. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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

Is anything predictable anymore? 🤷 With Spotify considering making users pay for podcasts, to Netflix France launching linear TV 🤯 it seems we are in a state of constant pivots and agility in digital. As another industry leader points out, we “used to shy away from the word “scrappy” to describe our work,” and now it’s what brands want for success. Today’s unpredictability is what makes us love being digital futurists, strategists and subject matter experts. If you ask us what we’re tracking these days, it will likely be around privacy, audio and the reinvention of learning in the virtual world.

Marketers Shift Spending Mentality Following Facebook Boycott – Will Google Be Next?

”Thankful”: a surprising characterization shared by Facebook executive Carolyn Everson during ANA’s recent Masters of Marketing conference when asked about the more than 1,000 companies that boycotted Facebook as part of the #StopHateForProfit movement. Everson cited increased organization and accountability as key takeaways from the boycott, though the question remains – what meaningful changes have been made? Outside of Facebook, marketers have shifted their spend approach. Among the most notable is that of P&G’s top marketer, who pledged increased spend with minority-owned media. Other leading brands, such as Coca-Cola, have developed public policies aimed at increasing accountability and transparency among advertisers. If other brands continue to follow suit, their actions could signal a broader willingness to reallocate media dollars that advertisers – not just Facebook – will soon have to account for. This comes as the U.S. Department of Justice and 11 state attorneys general sue Google for alleged anticompetitive behavior, which has us (and others) wondering if the search giant could be next on the boycott list.


Nutrition in a Snap

Visual search has become a common in-app tool to help provide users with information before making a purchase. Snapchat is trying out visual search through its partnership with nutrition app, Yuka, and wine app, Vivino, as an extension of its visual search features. The in-app camera is used to scan a bar code on a food label or wine label, which then displays product information. Specifically, Yuka’s features provide users with nutrition information, ingredients and health benefits, as well as suggestions for healthier choices. Along with Snapchat’s recent partnership with Headspace, the app seems to be moving farther into the wellness space, while leveraging new technologies to engage an active audience.


TikTok’s Latest Partnership Proves Its Intention to Stick Around

As TikTok continues to grow a steady creator base, it’s looking for new ways to continue monetizing. These efforts have led to a global partnership with Shopify, allowing Shopify merchants to run promotions on TikTok and access the core functions of TikTok for Business Ads Manager without leaving the Shopify dashboard. TikTok reports that about half of its users indicated that they discover new products through ads posted by a brand in the app, while 88% reported discovering new content while on the app. This partnership could provide more value for marketers on the app, making a stronger case to integrate the platform into a content plan. Additionally, more ways to monetize could help keep creators on the platform instead of losing them to more robust platforms such as Instagram or YouTube. TikTok seems to be learning from Vine’s failed past while charting a new path for its future.


Data if You Do, Data if You Don’t: New Rules for Digital Data Regulation

California passed new data legislation (that will go into effect January 1, 2023) that will replace and adjust the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 and lay the groundwork for other states or the U.S. as a whole as privacy rules are developed. The California Privacy Rights Act is expected to add more nuance to existing laws and develop a separate oversight agency to monitor companies’ use of behavioral data, but industry insiders have mixed opinions on how this would play out among large tech companies.


Video Streaming into the Future

COVID-19 accelerated the emergence of connected TV devices and streaming as viewers gravitated to on-demand content, with media companies and agencies following suit. Major organizations including NBCUniversal and Disney are prioritizing streaming as the backbone of their content offering as CTV received nearly 25% of advertisers’ up-front budgets. While CTV is stealing more eyeballs away from traditional broadcast and cable, it provides a greater footprint for healthcare advertisers to leverage custom data targeting and limit waste.



On Election night, while their parents were watching cable news in the other room, younger people were gathering online on TikTok for a more communal experience.

The pandemic isn’t a problem when you’re computer-generated. Virtual influencers make real money while COVID-19 locks down human stars.

The “COVID-proof” drug launch? Why telemedicine could become a staple for more pharma brands.

W2O’s The Scoop is brought to you by an editorial collective, featuring industry updates and insights from subject matter experts across social media, digital and influencer activation teams.

Get the latest marcom news directly to your inbox! Sign up to receive The Scoop updates here.

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, Author, Health Economist & Advisor, rejoins the show and her message about health citizenship could not be timelier. She unpacks the 2020 Election, key trends, COVID-19, and what this all potentially means for healthcare. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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

Laura Mayer manages calls for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through PRS CrisisLink in Oakton, Virginia. Mayer, who was featured in an NPR story earlier this year, said that, under normal circumstances, she handles serious crisis calls with a 911 referral or a recommendation to go to the hospital. That script has changed in the midst of a pandemic with major concerns for hospital capacity. Instead, Mayer is spending more time providing therapy herself over the phone, well beyond the best practices most professionals recommend. Even more concerning is that the volume, nature and urgency of the calls has become far more dire this year.

“The type of call and the seriousness of the call is very different this year than it was in previous years,” Mayer told NPR recently. “There are environmental issues, internal issues, family issues. It’s never one thing.”

It is practically a cliché to say these days, but tomorrow’s election is the most important U.S. election in decades. One very important issue on the ballot is mental health, which has received reasonable bipartisan support in recent years but has never received the full national attention, investment or action it deserves. The truth is that mental health issues are touching the lives of more Americans in more ways this year than maybe ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic, resulting economic headwinds, and nationwide racial unrest have contributed to a spike in anxiety and depression. Once the data is finalized, we will likely see an acceleration of the increase in suicide rates that has occurred in recent years. Early indicators signal that U.S. 2020 addiction data will also likely show a dangerous increasing trend in drug use and related deaths.

At the center of this year’s campaign season has been the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), raising questions about the future of health coverage for almost 30 million Americans, and whether there is a still yet-to-be defined alternative. Also, within the ACA are important mental health parity requirements, which could be at risk, depending on the outcome of the presidential and congressional elections. Let’s take a look at this and other key mental health considerations in tomorrow’s elections.

Mental Health Parity

One of the most important mental health issues is parity in insurance coverage for mental health services. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was passed 12 years ago, requiring insurers to treat mental health and addiction services in ways reasonably equal to physical services such as medical treatment and surgery. Ten years ago, the Affordable Care Act expanded the original mental health parity law, but President Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to see the ACA repealed.

The Trump administration has supported legal challenges to the ACA, and most Supreme Court experts believe the current composition of the court, with the recent confirmation of Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett, favors the repeal of certain elements of the ACA. With no reasonable mental health supportive replacement measure on the table, the repeal of the ACA would be a very negative step for mental health and for access to mental health services for those in need. Without a clear alternative that includes similar mental health parity measures, this is an area of concern for mental health advocates. Vice President Biden helped craft and pass the ACA, was the original author and sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and has a long history of advocating for mental health parity. With no proposed alternative from President Trump, mental health parity seems to be an area of clear contrast between the presidential candidates. However, the individual positions among congressional candidates vary greatly, so check the positions taken by your state and local candidates on the ACA and related issues.

Suicide Prevention

One important mental health issue in which the presidential candidates are a bit less divided is suicide prevention, though there are also some very key differences. Suicide prevention is growing in importance given that rates have steadily increased every year since the turn of the century. Both candidates put heavy emphasis on the alarming rates of suicide among America’s veterans.

President Trump’s 2021 budget includes more than 25% more funding for preventing suicide among veterans, and he has proposed an increase in funding for state-focused grants for suicide prevention.

Former Vice President Biden has similarly proposed significant increases in spending for prevention of suicide among veterans, but he would also establish programming outside of the Veteran’s Administration. Beyond veterans, Biden advocates prevention programming for various other populations, especially teens and LGBTQ people across the United States. This is a very important distinction between the presidential candidates, though like mental health parity there is wide variation on the positions held by congressional candidates across the country.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available.

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor 24/7 in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
  • Call the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264.

Addiction Treatment

Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol has become a coping tactic for many Americans during the pandemic – data indicating increased risks of addiction are staggering. From the beginning of March to the end of the month, calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline increased 500%.

President Trump and former Vice President Biden have both strongly advocated for addressing addiction, particularly in the context of the opioid crisis. President Trump has been outspoken during his term that opioid addiction is a national public health emergency. He has advanced key addiction policies over the last four years, but he has also reduced funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Medicaid – the U.S.’s largest payer for mental health services and a main contributor to substance use disorder services. However, his 2021 budget includes increases in state grants for addiction treatment.

Former Vice President Biden has committed to appointing an Opioid Czar to lead the government’s increased response to the crisis. The proposed increase would include new funding of $125 billion over a decade, focused on treatments, investments in underserved communities, new requirements for prescribers, and the development of less addictive alternatives.

A Culture of Mental Well-Being

There are also issues on the ballot that are bigger than individual policy measures. The president is not only the nation’s ultimate policy and security leader, they also set the cultural tone for the discourse between their supporters, detractors and those with no particular political loyalty. Our nation’s elected executive leader has enormous influence on the tone of our public dialogue and how we “treat each other” across society. One area that has to be discussed is the influence candidates will have on promoting a culture of mental health and well-being. While political correctness and “cancel culture” have become controversial, there should be no question of the need for civility, empathy and a sense of community that transcends political disagreement.

Whatever your politics, the United States has become increasingly divided at a time of crisis when unity and empathy are needed more than ever. A president who errs on the side of compassion and caring can have a meaningful impact on reducing feelings of isolation and alienation, resulting in corresponding mental health benefits for our citizens. While President Trump has supported certain mental health policies, former Vice President Biden has largely campaigned on creating a culture of empathy and understanding that can help lead to one that supports mental health and well-being.

The Hidden Issue, Hanging in the Balance

In our drama-filled, politically charged 24-hour news cycle, mental health has simply not drawn the attention it deserves during this crisis and throughout this election season. Indeed, it has not drawn the attention it deserves throughout history. But make no mistake, it is on the ballot both in the presidential election and in Senate and House races culminating across the country.

COVID-19 has compromised our physical health, but we also need to advance meaningful strategies and measures to improve the mental health of people across the country. This means reducing isolation for those who are alone, improving access to services by ensuring mental health parity in health coverage, providing much-needed resources for suicide and addiction prevention, ensuring equitable mental health coverage that is inclusive for vulnerable populations, and, perhaps most important, advancing an unwavering commitment to a culture of mental well-being.

Whatever your views on these issues or preferences between the candidates, the most important thing is that you vote. And whatever the outcome of the various elections tomorrow, the work isn’t over at the ballot box. Let’s make sure mental health is a priority in 2021 and well beyond.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.


Welcome to #MedicallySpeaking! A video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.

Over the next six episodes, we’ll be speaking to a variety of people here in the W2O EMEA offices about their jobs, education and experience to find out how they got where they are.

In this episode, I speak to Annalise Coady, EMEA President at W2O Group to find out the basics of a marketing and communications agency and hear more about her career history.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

Earlier this year, our Value+Access Communications team developed our 2020 Election Scorecard as a way to track the election and key pricing and access policy proposals. Over the last eight months, the Scorecard has evolved from understanding how the Democratic primary field, White House and key trade organizations aligned – and differed – on pricing policies to an analytics-driven assessment of key election topics in four bellwether Senate races: Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina.

Our analytics approach enabled us to understand how in-state social conversations trended over time, and which topics were evergreen versus driven by current events.

With Election Day less than a week away, my team has begun to contemplate what we have learned from the Scorecard, as well as what we think 2021 will look like from a health policy perspective. Five insights have come to the fore:

  1. 2021 policy priorities are likely to mirror what voters are discussing on social media: health care and COVID-19. While health care wasn’t the driving topic every week of our analysis, it was consistently one of the most discussed topics. Looking toward 2021, and regardless of the election outcome, policymakers will be faced with two urgent health care issues: COVID-19 recovery legislation and the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate. A Supreme Court decision on the individual mandate and whether it is severable (i.e., struck down while keeping the rest of the ACA intact) could come down in mid-2021. 
  2. Pricing policy is a concern for some, but not for most. Our analytics showed that drug pricing was consistently one of the least talked about election topics on social media. And, given the urgency of COVID-19 and the ACA ruling, stand-alone drug pricing policy is unlikely in 2021. That doesn’t mean it will go away completely, though. Trump’s drug pricing agenda has historically faced issues in terms of implementation. If he is reelected, he will face legal challenges to his recent set of EOs and a divided Congress. If Biden is elected, an anti-price-gouging or government price negotiations proposal could be possible, perhaps even in a COVID-19 recovery bill.
  3. The Supreme Court and the ACA are inextricably linked. From a social analytics perspective, there was overlap between discussions about the changing face of the Supreme Court and the ACA. If one increased, typically the other did, too. The same trend seems to hold for 2021 policy action. SCOTUS could rule that the individual mandate, and thus the law, are constitutional. However, if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional, there are two scenarios: either the mandate is considered severable and is carved out from the ACA or the entire law is struck down.
  4. Medicaid was not a key 2020 issue, but it will be in 2021. Analytics showed that Medicaid was only discussed significantly in North Carolina, the single state of the four bellwether states that did not expand the program under the ACA. 2021 is likely to be a problematic year for Medicaid for a few reasons: Medicaid is expected to experience an 8% increase in enrollment while revenues simultaneously plummet, both due to COVID-19. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruling could have implications for the states that did expand Medicaid. A Trump administration is unlikely to provide state Medicaid programs with substantial funding increases. A Biden administration, however, would likely do away with the block grant guidance, include additional funding for Medicaid programs in a COVID-19 relief package, and push for Medicaid expansion in states that have not already done so.
  5. Social justice may not be a driving topic, but it is ever present. Our analytics indicated that social justice was not one of the leading topics across the four states, but it was always part of the election conversation. COVID-19 placed newfound – and critical – attention on how systemic racism is hurting American communities of color. Every single access policy issue being examined at a federal and state level, from drug pricing to Medicaid, has a component of equity that must be resolved. No 2021 tea leaves here, just a plea for the health care community to commit to making inequalities part of every policy discussion we are having, for the betterment of us all.

For additional analyses and to view the full card, visit our 2020 Election Scorecard page.

To receive roundups of value and pricing news, sign up for our weekly Value Report or our daily Recommended Daily Value newsletters.