In a sector rife with competition and overlap, AccentHealth dominates a truly unique space in the health care economy as a leading patient education media company operating at the point of care.
CEO Dan Stone has led the company for more than six years, overseeing a media empire that distributes content to about 90,000 health care providers and reaching a total audience of approximately 375 million, according to Nielsen. Here’s what he had to say about the state of healthcare marketing.
Q: What’s the most recent data you’ve seen on the average wait time for patients?
A: The average wait time in a waiting room is about 30 minutes. In the exam room it’s about 16 minutes. I’m sure you’ve have that experience where you’re moved from the waiting room to the exam room. In addition to our product providing valuable patient education information for patients from a doctor’s office standpoint, it helps to reduce the perceived waiting time because patients are engaged with our patient education product, which is professionally produced by CNN , Harvard Medical School and others.
Q: You’ve pegged moments-based marketing to be a key differentiator for healthcare marketers in 2017. How so?
A: Our core proposition is about reaching a patient right before he or she talks to his or her doctor. There’s an overall trend toward increased consumerism in health care, wherein patients are taking more responsibility for their health and for the cost of their health, so we’re reaching them with patient education and sponsor information right before they talk to their doctor. We’re preparing them with information and questions to ask their doctor.
Where that’s evolving is a concept called the patient journey. When you have a symptom or a condition you often go online to get more information on it, and then based on what you learn, you make an appointment with your doctor, and then you’re at what’s called the point of care, which is at the doctor’s office. Then you leave the doctor’s office and you follow-up off- and online to continue to get information. That loop we call the patient journey. Our recent acquisition of PageScience , an advertising technology that reaches patients, reaches people contextually based on the conditions that they’re interested in.
From a pharma or health and wellness sponsor standpoint, by combining what PageScience does with what AccentHealth has always done allows us to address multiple points on this patient journey and. Moments of discovery of their condition, moments of follow-up on the condition and certainly moments when they’re just about to talk to their health care practitioner.
Q: What is contextual page-level targeting and how is it reshaping the digital pharma advertising landscape?
A: PageScience has proprietary technology called PageMatch, which, using computer algorithms, scans all the pages on the web for health content. It then develops a taxonomy of content by condition that allows sponsors to place their messages in the right context. So if diabetes is the condition, the PageMatch technology will have found thousands of pages that talk about diabetes treatment, and then the advertisers’ diabetes-related message would appear on those pages. It provides the right context.
The other thing the technology does is separate out good context from bad context. In other words, if there’s an article about the high cost of diabetes medication, that would not be a safe place for a diabetes drug manufacturer. The technology also distinguishes between information that’s about conditions and about treatment of conditions, and then it matches that with the advertiser’s message.
Q: Going back to moments-based marketing, you’re saying it’s the summation of these moments that will eventually guide them toward their health care choices?
A: That’s right. We’re a complement to a health care professional, we’re not a replacement for health care professionals. An educated patient makes that doctor-patient conversation that much more effective because there’s a big challenge in the health care world about compliance and adherence to people going to the doctor to follow-up on their condition and to follow-up on the doctor’s orders. By reaching the patient with patient education at all these moments, it helps to take what the doctor has recommended and elevate it within the consumer’s life, or the patient’s life.
Q: What makes for a successful moment from a marketer’s perspective?
A: When a consumer or a patient is in fact most open to learning and focusing on their health. Because we’re all so busy, we’re multitasking, and breaking through for that moment is increasingly difficult. Our particular form of patient education is so effective in breaking through because of the context in which it’s being delivered and the fact that a patient is at the high point of being concerned about their health and wellness. This issue about the moment has become increasingly difficult to achieve because of multitasking.
Q: Do you have any idea when in the patient journey patients are primed to receive messages from healthcare marketers? Is it when they’re feeling symptomatic and they Google their symptoms, is it when they decide that rest and over-the-counter medication is not enough and they need to go see a doctor, is it seeing content on AccentHealth in the waiting room right before seeing their provider, or is it what their provider tells them? What are the messages that break through?
A: We’ve done research on that, and we found out that 8 in 10 consumers find that information that they consume in the waiting room is the most credible source of health information [other] than from their health care professional directly. That’s versus other forms of media including the internet, so there is a halo effect of being in a doctor’s office in terms of the credibility of the information and the focus the patient has. We’re a guest of the office, so it speaks to the professionalism and the credibility that our information has to have in order to be accepted by the doctor’s office.
Q: Have you done any research looking at the other side of the equation: how the health advertisements and programming content influence the way medical staff advise their patients?
A: We do in fact see a connection. The reason that pharma sponsors find us to be an attractive outlet for their advertising is because we increase the consideration set of products. It’s the physician who decides what the sponsors advertise, and the patient is a conduit to the physician, and if we educated the patient with the various product alternatives out there, it then becomes a conversation with the doctor. Doctors are flooded with all sorts of information on drugs, so the reason that PTC advertising exists is to educate the patient, which then facilitates that patient-doctor conversation, and a product approval by the physician would ultimately lead to a prescription. By virtue of encouraging that conversation, pharma advertisers find that that’s why PTC pharma advertising works.
Q: You also believe there’s going to be a focus on immersive individualized patient’s experiences. With so much in health care being subject to strict privacy laws, how do you deliver individualized messaging in that space?
A: We’ve recently introduced an interactive digital tablet for the exam room, and that is really at the decision of the patient of what information to receive. We give the tools to the patients to decide what to focus on, similar to what would happen when they’re online at home. We don’t, for privacy information, follow the patient around, but we give the patients the tools to access the information they need that aligns with their concerns or their conditions.
Q: What’s next for AccentHealth? Is there a future for the company outside of the waiting room?
A: Yes. As evidenced by the new product introductions we’ve had, like the exam room tablet, it’s about providing more touch points within a doctor office setting—or a point of care setting, as we call it—to reach a patient and to educate a patient. That’s one prong of the strategy. The other prong is to address the patient journey. It’s really integrating the pre-visit symptom research with the doctor visit and with the post-visit treatment research.