Dr. Theodore F. Search, PharmD, CEO and Founder of Skipta, knows a way in which life sciences companies can get their messages seen by physicians so that they can make more informed decisions and patients can receive more appropriate treatments. That’s what you call a win-win-win. And it gets even better. By contributing instead of advertising, one pharma company saw a half of an Rx incremental lift for its brand on just the first prescription written—and a 7:1 ROI. Dr. Search explains how life science companies can see similar results by contributing content to specialized physician communities rather than just throwing advertising at physicians. Watch the video or contact Dr. Search firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Bud Bilanich: Hi, everybody. Bud Bilanich here, with another edition of “Experts on Call.” And today, we’re speaking with Dr. Ted Search. And Ted has done an awful lot of work in terms of helping pharma companies understand their specialized audiences. So, we’re going to talk about that a little bit, and then we’re going to share a little case study from some of his company’s experience.
So, Ted, why don’t you again remind folks who you are and what you do, and then we’ll get into talking about some of the ideas you have with engaging specialized audiences?
Theodore Search: Right. And Bud, first off, thank you so much for your time today. It’s a pleasure to sit here and talk to you again. So, thank you.
Bud Bilanich: Always a pleasure to see you.
Theodore Search: Thanks. As a reminder, I am Ted Search. I am the founder and CEO of a company called Skipta. And I’m very proud to say that we created a way that allows medical specialists to communicate and collaborate more effectively. We developed a social network for verified healthcare professionals that’s broken down by now over 30 specialized medical communities. And really, what it allows our medical professionals to do is to go into our environment, connect more effectively with a peer, communicate and collaborate with them in a way that allows them to practice more effectively, make more informed decisions. And ultimately, as we’ll talk about today, the thing that I’m most proud about is it’s also leading to better outcomes for patients.
And as a result of that, we’re also able to work with the life science, the pharmaceutical, the medical device companies in a way that allows them to be part of these medical specialist communities.
Bud Bilanich: Well, I love what you’re saying about communities because I’m all about community. I do think that even before the whole social media revolution, it was always—I was always looking for ways to join and build communities.
And so, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about today is that you think that it’s so important these days for pharma companies to truly understand their specialized audiences. And I think that that was almost the whole focus of creating Skipta, in that you wanted to be able to help people connect in a much more specialized way. You said you’re up to 30 different communities now?
Theodore Search: Yes. Thirty different specialized communities, which we’re very excited and proud of.
Bud Bilanich: And so, they can focus on a whole different variety of topics. I mean, it could be adherence, it could be dosing, reimbursement—all sorts of different things. And I think that—could you talk a little bit more about that for the importance of that for, like, a pharma company?
Theodore Search: Absolutely. If you remember from our last conversation, the reason that I even got the idea for Skipta was I was on call and I had three main questions come up that weekend on call. It was questions about dosing of a new innovative product, about the correct adherence protocols for my patients, and number three, the reimbursement that would make sure that my patient could remain adherent to this medication product that we were sending them home on.
So, that’s so important because when we work with the life science, the pharmaceutical, the medical device companies, those three messages may be very different depending on the specialty audience that they’re looking to communicate with. For instance, pharmacists like myself, adherence is key. We play a big role in our patients’ care by making sure they remain compliant and adhere to different medications, whether we’re in a clinical setting, whether we’re in a community setting.
So, a message that these companies, our partners with Skipta, want to deliver to the pharmacists may be specifically around adherence. When you look at physician specialists—oncologists, neurologists, urologists—where dosing and understanding mechanisms of actions and what outcomes potentially they will see as the result of implementing a product, for companies, again, that Skipta works with, to reach that audience, the message specifically may be very focused on dosing.
The third audience, when it comes to reimbursement, it depends. Are our partners, our life science, medical device companies, looking to get on formularies? If they are, we allow them to directly communicate with our medical director audience. If they’re looking to allow patients to remain more adherent, allow patients to start a product because a physician will prescribe it, the reimbursement around medications, the access, is so key nowadays.
So, my point here, Bud, is the reason that we broke down Skipta into specialty communities was twofold: (1) because our members, our physician specialists, our healthcare providers found that to be the most effective and positive way for them to collaborate, and then (2) it also allows the companies that we have the privilege of partnering with to now very directly focus on the message that they’re specifically delivering to a targeted specialty medical audience.
Bud Bilanich: And that’s what I think you call about—you talked about these targeted audiences as sort of closed loop communities. And so, I guess it’s—I mean, for example, I had a very interesting little dermatology problem recently in a very sensitive area that resulted from bike riding.
Theodore Search: [Laughter]
Bud Bilanich: And the dermatologist was somewhat confused about what was happening there. And so, I think that—she was dealing with colleagues. Now, I don’t know if they’re working with you or not, but she was trying to figure out what my problem was and how best to treat it. And so, I think that’s the kind of thing you’re talking about here, where in this case an MD is somewhat confused by something. They have the opportunity to go to their community and say, “Hey, has anybody seen something like this?”
Theodore Search: You’re exactly right. And it’s about making a more informed decision as a practitioner. And I can’t say for sure, but we have a very robust dermatologist community which we’re very proud of, so it’s very likely that she was engaging with Skipta’s Dermatologist Connect. And really, what that community allows for in the case that you just discussed with your dermatologist, it allows them two main things: To go into a community that’s verified—so everyone in there already has been verified as a dermatologist—and immediate. On a smartphone, on a computer, on an iPad. To go into there and again, do two main things. Number one, have the opportunity to make more informed decisions for our patients as a result of consulting with our exact like-minded peers within our specialty. And then, number two, because we have the opportunity of bringing products and device information in from the companies that Skipta works with, as a practitioner now, that dermatologist can take the feedback they got from their peers and ultimately can do a check against very trusted resources coming directly from the source: The product, company or the manufacturer.
And Bud, what that allows that dermatologist to do very quickly, very effectively because of the technology we have, is make more informed decisions, and ultimately practice more effectively. And again, have the opportunity to lead a patient to better outcomes.
Bud Bilanich: Yeah. And I think it’s fascinating. And what I really like what you’re doing is that you see so many things on the Internet these days that it’s almost like, “Well, so what? Why are people doing this?” In your case, you’re creating these communities that really are leading to better patient outcomes, and you are harnessing technology for something that it’s not just kind of cool, fun, different, whatever, but, I mean, literally for things that can have a true impact on people’s lives and their health and well-being.
Theodore Search: Absolutely. And that’s what makes us proud as a company of what we’re doing. It’s what drives us to continue to grow Skipta. And the process is not just us figuring it out either. It’s not like we’re sitting in a room coming up with all these great ideas. We have the privilege of working with a lot of different physician specialists around the country. In every specialty we have, we have a fantastic medical advisory board with Skipta of leading key opinion leaders around the country.
The reason I point that out is: From the beginning, Skipta was founded out of a need, and it drives that need to allow physicians, healthcare providers to practice more effectively. It also allows companies—pharmaceutical companies, life science, medical device—to understand their audience more effectively, and as a result, contribute to that audience rather than advertise it.
So, we’re excited because we constantly learn from our medical advisory board, the physicians that are part of our community. What continues to allow them to practice more effectively? How can Skipta continue to be that solution? What else can we do for them that would ultimately allow them to practice more effectively and lead to better outcomes? And what we found is: Continually evolving our technology to meet their needs and continually bringing in content, contribution from, again, pharmaceutical, medical device, life science companies in a way that allows them to make these more informed decisions and practice more effectively.
Bud Bilanich: I mean, it’s really about engagement. And there is true power in engagement when not only are the providers are engaging with one another but the pharmaceutical or device manufacturers can also engage with them in a way that is, again, aimed not at promotion but really aimed at helping them being able to do the best possible job they can for their patients.
Theodore Search: You’re exactly right. And it’s funny because we say “Contribute, don’t promote.” But the same tactics—even ad spaces—when put into the right media at a place where physicians are already going to collaborate with their peers, an ad space could be a quick link. It could be product information. It could be unbranded that leads them to an area to get the information that they needed. So, when we say “Contribute,” we don’t say, “Change your tactics. Go away from ad spaces, from messaging.” We’re saying, “Stay specific with your message. Deliver it in a place in which it can be seen as contribution, not as advertising.” And that’s what Skipta allows our partners that we have the privilege of working with to really do.
Bud Bilanich: Well, it’s really great. And I really think that you guys are onto something. And I think that what I like about it is that you’re harnessing technology to be able to—with the technology we have today, you can do this, where 20 years ago you couldn’t. And I think that that’s one of the fantastic things about what you’ve come up with here.
Theodore Search: Absolutely. And that’s the—that’s really—all credit goes to my fantastic technology team led by our CTO, Sreeni Jakka. They’ve done a phenomenal job of getting this set up and, like I said, constantly learning from our members what they need to, again, practice more effectively as a result of our technology.
Bud Bilanich: That’s the other thing I like about it, is that it’s sort of a continual learning kind of loop, that your members give you some more information, which allows you to amp up what you’re doing. And you’re keeping that feedback going and keeping that information sharing, and as a result creating a better body of knowledge for everybody who at least is involved with Skipta.
Theodore Search: That’s right. And again, that’s what excites us and what drives us to continue to work with our advisory board and continue to make Skipta a very effective way that allows practitioners to collaborate, communicate and practice more effectively.
Bud Bilanich: So, for folks who are listening, how can they find out more about your company and what you do?
Theodore Search: They can find more about us by going to Skipta.com and—
Bud Bilanich: Spell that, please, just to make sure.
Theodore Search: Absolutely. It’s S-K-I-P-T-A.com.
Bud Bilanich: Just like it sounds.
Theodore Search: Just like it sounds. It’s an Icelandic word that means “exchange,” and that’s really what we are: An exchange of powerful information between healthcare providers that allow them to practice more effectively.
Bud Bilanich: All right. That’s great. Well, Ted, any last thoughts on what we’ve been talking about?
Theodore Search: Not really. I just would add one thing as we’re talking about the life science, the medical device companies that we’ve had the privilege of working with. Really, again, my message here is: Contribute to healthcare providers. Get very specific on your messaging.
And Bud, when that happens, we’ve done independent studies now with our clients, looking at what that impact was, not from just we’ve received so many engagements, we’ve received so many clicks, views, but really: What did those engagements mean? As a result, what did it mean for the practitioner, for a company?
And what we’re excited to say, with studies we’ve seen significant ROI return for the companies that we’ve been working with. One study specifically, we focused on a specialty audience where this company was getting information out to them that allowed them to prescribe more effectively. And what we saw when we took the control group of physician specialists that were engaged with this brand on Skipta versus a control on the outside where they matched every demographic of the physician group on Skipta except they weren’t exposed to the brand on Skipta, what we found was there was a half of an Rx incremental lift on the Skipta physicians. Now, with us in pharma we know that’s significant. What it returned to the brand that we worked with was a 7-to-1 ROI just on the first prescription written.
And for our practitioners, what it showed us—because, again, as a pharmacist myself, I knew the power of this medication. And that’s what excites me with working with a lot of these companies. This was a fantastic product, a fantastic medication that really did a lot of benefit for these physicians’ patients that ended up prescribing it. So, what I saw from that was more informed decisions were being made. More appropriate treatments were given to patients as a result. And since that was happening, since this brand was contributing to that and making the physicians practice more effectively to get better outcomes, they ultimately, naturally saw a very significant return on investment as a result.
And you know what? When you get a win-win like that, that’s pretty exciting. And that here at Skipta is what we’re proud of doing, is really driving that level of engagement both between our members and also the companies we work with.
Bud Bilanich: Well, some ideas are so good that when you hear them you say, “Well, geez, why didn’t I think of that?” or “That’s a great idea.” You know, you have what I refer to as face validity. But I think what’s really interesting—and I think you have a lot of that; you just have great ideas. But I think these control studies that you had done go beyond that to prove that this really does work. It’s not just something that sounds like a great idea, but you have some real data that shows that—that show, excuse me, that you are—what you are doing actually can make a difference both for pharmacists, patients and pharma companies.
Theodore Search: I agree. And I appreciate the credit on the great idea. And really, as I talked around in the beginning, it was just a need. And instead of sitting around, I’m thankful that I decided to act on it.
And really, the reason that we keep seeing these positive results both from our physicians and for the clients is, there’s no secret or, you know, us sitting in the room coming up with good ideas. It’s really just listening to both sides: Understanding what healthcare providers want and delivering, understanding what they want from the pharmaceutical, the medical device, life science companies, telling them what they want and delivering. And when you do it in that manner and you have a fantastic technology that can make this go very effectively very quickly, the results obviously happen. And what we’re doing now is just putting it on paper and proving it and showing both our medical professionals, “Hey, we’re going to continue to provide you with a great environment to collaborate,” and to the companies we have the privilege of working with, “We’re going to continue to let you learn what the specialists you want to reach want from you, and as a result, you’re going to see the results and the positive impact that you want to see.”
Bud Bilanich: That’s great. Well, thanks, Ted. I appreciate your time today. I think that everybody who’s listening is getting a good feel for the power of community when merged with technology. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us.
Theodore Search: Absolutely. And Bud, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time.
Bud Bilanich: All right, folks. Well, we’ve been speaking with Dr. Ted Search of Skipta. And check them out; they have some really interesting things going on and I think that you can benefit from learning more about them. So, thanks again, Ted.
Theodore Search: Thanks, Bud.