As the head of a data marketing and healthcare IT company, I’m no stranger to conversations about return on investment (ROI). Across all verticals, these conversations are a daily occurrence, and have been since the dawn of the paleolithic age. “If I bust my flint trying to start a fire in this damp Neanderthal cave, how many fish will I fry with this one spark?”

If you sell services to media buying and planning agencies and also contract with manufacturers directly, you may be picking up on what feels like a shiny new squirrel being tossed about. This squirrel, however, unlike many before it, has staying power. I’m talking about the quest for real-time conversion analytics to trigger a next-best action. Yes, I said real time. In pharma. The same pharma that still waits six months to a year for a script lift study to see if there’s been an increase in claims to justify next year’s budgets and vendor selection. The same pharma that spends half a year compiling priority targets by decile, only to focus all data and media vendors on the same exact target list. So, what exactly is going on here, you might be wondering? Why now is pharma suddenly starting to think like a CPG company looking to sell more Lunabars?

A Change in Media Spend

It’s no surprise that this new normal we’re walking around in, masked and half-dazed, is fueling a heightened scrutiny as to where marketing dollars can and should be deployed. In 2008, pharma pulled back on direct-to-consumer spending by more than 14%, mostly because the infrastructure to calculate return wasn’t immediate enough to justify business as usual. The tried and true TV buys of the day were already known to have a tremendous amount of waste. The dawn of social media marketing was still a year away. Real-time analytics was just a twinkle in the eye.

Today, instant gratification physician-level data return will become the lens through which all decisioning will be filtered on the professional side. The direct-to-consumer side, which typically takes the brunt of cuts during economic dips, will focus more dollars on direct-to-patient engagement. Patient vs. consumer will lead to a much-predicted decrease in broadcast television, where there is undeniably still a whole lot of waste. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a television commercial for a specific biologic, I’d be a humillionaire. Nay a psoriatic arthritic elbow in my household. I do think we’ll see the rise of CTV (connected TV) in a more meaningful way, geared towards specific households where likely sufferers reside. The marketing and data service providers who can get laser targeted and return the analysis at a much faster clip will rise to the top.

The Shift to Real-Time Analytics

Through real-time analytics, pharma can see how healthcare professionals are engaging with their message, and which messages, channels, and media are most cost effective in driving the almighty script lift or new patient start. Today, physician-level data can also be ported into Veeva systems and other CRMs. Our ability to get interaction data to sales reps sitting at home, showing that their no-see physician just watched a 60-second dosing video, will eventually replace a face-to-face rep visit.

As telehealth becomes more widely adopted, it will be critical to look to vendors who can capture events taking place in the virtual world. Companies that have engineered smart re-targeting opportunities that use EHR diagnostic and prescribing event feeds during virtual consultations will harness the right provider, right message, right time approach to drive professional conversions in real time.

Preparing for the Data Tsunami

While many agency partners tend to think about calculating ROI based off clicks or time spent on site, our pharma clients speak an all-together different language. Brand marketers are often seeking deeper meaning beyond the surface level digital metrics that can tell you not what kind of action was taken but who took that action, and most importantly, who is interested and seeking out additional information. This pivot to real time will challenge us to become hybrid educators, speaking both agency and pharma fluently.

It’s no longer enough to select a vendor based on the size or percentage of a target file overlap. Agencies should be thinking about which matched professionals have been actively engaged over the prior 30 days and whether or not that professional is more responsive to one type of message over another. A list match overlap does not a conversion make. As agencies continue to be empowered by ad budgets, it’s critical that we all speak data. This includes why alert data can be additive to target lists, how relapsing patient alerts or new on-competitive therapy events can be piped in weekly, and how these activities can increase script lift—all calculated in a matter of days not months or years.

In a land of shiny squirrels, the ability to return daily and weekly exposure and interaction data down to the NPI level will become the Chupacabra of the healthcare universe. As industry leaders rise to the challenge and companies like mine are already touting our ability to meet the need, pharma and their agencies will need to embrace the story that this weekly data tsunami will tell. If the creative can keep pace with the data, and we can match the right creative message to that next-best action, we’ll be in a much better place. We’ll need to make sure that all facets of pharma are ready for the real-time revolution, in order to be truly successful in our quest for real-time automation.

This is a sponsored post from TI Health, an intelligent data-driven marketing company, serving leading pharmaceutical and healthcare marketers in the United States. TI Health deploys targeted ad messaging to healthcare professionals and patients with a focus on mobile and tablet device engagement and non-personal promotion. TI Health can deploy advertisements specifically to the handheld devices of healthcare professionals or patients when they are in the vicinity of their practice or point of care location, in response to highly targeted and timely data feeds such as diagnostics, labs, claims, and formulary access data. TI Health is headquartered in New York City and has additional offices in Santa Monica, California. Get in touch with Erin DeRuggiero at

  • Erin DeRuggiero

    Erin DeRuggiero is a fast-rising healthcare entrepreneur and company executive, leading change in healthcare innovation, female-led startups, and gender equity. As TI Health’s CEO, Erin brings more than 20 years of digital advertising and healthcare experience to the data-driven marketing company where she works extensively with leading pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical devices, and their respective advertising agencies to create palpable, positive impact across hundreds of therapeutics, devices, and brands.


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