PharmExec Blog

Connect with a Click of the Mouse

Picture 3Thanks to Google, Facebook, and Twitter, the Internet has become the e-Patient’s No. 1 destination for seeking health information, and industry was all “a tweet” about it at this year’s e-Patient Connections Conference.

More than 250 people were in attendance for the two-day event, which included pharma marketers, brand managers, and patient education specialists who shared a common interest: The desire to connect and engage an educated, digital savvy population of e-patients and their caregivers.

Some attendees came to hear keynote speakers such as Dennis Urbaniak from Sanofi-aventis, Joe Shields from Pfizer, and Marc Monseau from J&J share their expertise on driving change, patient adherence, and the art of tweeting, respectively. Others like Derek Rago, vice president, strategy and marketing, McKesson Patient Relationship Solutions, traveled to Philadelphia from Arizona for the opportunity to understand how social media and networking influences his clients.

“How will pharma embrace and use social media appropriately? I’m thinking it’s part of a broader marketing strategy and building an appropriate relationship with my patients and social media can play a part of it,” said Rago.

Urbaniak, vice president of innovation and new customer channels at Sanofi-aventis, kicked off Tuesday with a presentation on shifting to a customer-centric approach. “The first mindset shift is the term around patient. We need to stop thinking patient and we really need to start thinking people,” said Urbaniak. “At Sanofi-aventis, we learned that when you’re a person who is first diagnosed with cancer and given the news that you need to undergo chemotherapy, it’s a tremendous impact. We look to see what hospital and grant programs are out there, but then build a program for patients that they want like bringing chemo therapy into their homes if that’s what fits their dynamic.”

Joe Shields, product director, consumer marketing and strategy integration, Pfizer, followed with new ideas for patient adherence. “For me, success is a healthy patient,” said Shields. “The empowered patient will be a collaborator and an active participator. It’s less about the sticking to something, and more about the ‘I want to do this for my health and my family.’ Adherence is starting to elevate the role of everyone in the community, and like health care, is a team sport.”

For the duration of the conference, participants had the option of using Twitter to ask questions and continue conference discussion with tweeters near and far. The live Twitter footage was projected on a flat screen monitor for everyone to follow in the ballroom. It was only natural that J&J’s Marc Monseau was on site to discuss the popular virtual space that the company mastered under his direction.

“We saw the Twitter feed as being a news gatherer and information provider as a starting point,” said Monseau. “When we established the Twitter account, I did not want it to be a bunch of press releases.”

Here are six quick tips for getting started in Twitterland straight from the source himself:

  1. Create a business case
  2. Connect with other initiatives
  3. Establish a personality
  4. Set guides
  5. Gain legal and regulatory support
  6. Tweet, tweet, tweet

In addition to Twitter, Eileen O’Brien, a former digital agency veteran who led a 1:1 coaching session on SEO/SEM during lunch, said that Google’s Sidewiki was the hot topic of conversation among pharma folks. She demonstrated the tool to me, located on Google’s tool bar, by posting her own comment about the drug Allegra on

“It’s having a side conversation by posting comments,” says O’Brien, who was a fan of today’s tweeting scene. “It’s really great to see everybody here tweeting in questions and answers.”

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