Going Inside the Imagination of Sharon Patent of Publicis Health

As one of this year’s finalists for the PM360 Trailblazers Imagination Award, Sharon Patent, Head of Data Strategy & Methods at Publicis Health, tells us about how she expanded the industry’s view of segmentation.

PM360: What does it takes to break away from the conventional norms of our industry to do something truly different?

Sharon Patent: For decades, our industry has been siloed. While I work in healthcare communications and media now, I’m not a born and bred agency person. I began my healthcare career in data and analytics before pivoting to healthcare communications. When I made the shift, I quickly realized the huge opportunity to leverage real-world data to identify audiences, inform creative work and media plans, and so much more. I believe breaking away from conventional norms starts with removing traditional silos and inviting unconventional people and ideas into new areas of our industry.

In your case, you helped launch HealthStyles, a data-driven solution for audience identification, segmentation, and activation. What made those areas in need of change and how does HealthStyles flip the traditional foundation of segmentation?

The way we find and segment audiences hasn’t changed on the consumer side for years—it’s always been primarily based on market research, large databases, and ultimately delivered an “average” segment, like women over 45 with diabetes. When I joined Publicis Health, I did my own internal market research and asked my colleagues, “what’s not working?” which sparked a number of interesting conversations. The most insightful “ah-ha” moment came when I discovered severity of disease isn’t necessarily the best predictor of treatment.

To use the simple segment mentioned above, two women over 45 could have diabetes but one could be more active and one more sedentary and data shows physicians will treat these patients differently based on their lifestyle. Uniting real-world health data with lifestyle data in a HIPAA-compliant manner allows us to have a more comprehensive view of the patient—and then find them in the world with the information and motivation that most acutely speaks to their unique situation.

What challenges did you overcome to make that solution a reality?

We walked away from the average patient journey to have richer, more robust real patient segments. As is the case with many large projects, the scope of “HealthStyles” required bringing together an array of internal and external stakeholders, all of whom have different incentives and ideas about what good looks like. This is also the first time consumer lifestyle and healthcare data have been brought together at this scale, which posed its own integration challenges. Finally, HIPAA compliance is always top of mind and it’s important to take time to ensure consumer privacy is protected at every step.

What would be your pie-in-the-sky dream project to change anything regarding how this industry operates?

If I could change one thing, I would remove many of the siloes separating departments, especially in pharmaceutical companies. Removing siloes would allow for synergies across the entire health marketing spectrum, especially across DTC and HCP communications. I’d love to work with a client across both segmentations. If we could segment doctors by the patients they have and patients by the doctors they have, it would allow us to see a bigger picture and truly deliver a meaningful, omnichannel experience for everyone.

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