DigiPharm Europe 2010

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I attended the DigiPharm Europe 2010 conference this week (29 to 30 September) and there was quite a bit to digest and discuss. I’m collating how I followed the presentations and the discussions here, along with my personal thoughts and commentary. Why? I’m of the opinion that much of the time we are all very good at talking, but due to various reasons (lack of regulation/guidance, Luddite tendency, old-fashioned thinking and a basic misunderstanding of the digital environment) that’s all that seems to be done within Pharma and healthcare in the digital arena and especially on the social web. Hopefully just by laying it all down here I can cause pause and thought and encourage progress.

So this is the first in a series of posts. I certainly can’t put it all down in one go, and knowing the nature of web readership, you’ll probably get to a short way through before those eyes glaze over.

Firstly, to see the source material, here is the Twitter transcript and here are the stats generated on Twitter.

I’d also very much like to thank the people who have contributed to the Twitter stream, obviously I can’t name them all here, but I can list the most frequent contributors: Andrew Spong, Daniel Ghinn, Dave N Clarke, Michelle Petersen, Rob Halkes, Arnold Breukhoven, Henry Gazay, Paul Grant and Silja Chouquet

Also thanks obviously go to the organisers and the Chair, Paul Dixey

Day 1: Welcome

A call to action
Paul Dixey introduces the day, ‘Something has been happening in the last year‘, he says. Andrew Spong agrees in his STweM blog: ‘The pace of change within the health conversation is picking up, but not just in isolated pockets. There are more good things going on than we seem to have time to keep track of.’ This precedes what I take to be a strongly-worded call to action from Andrew for Pharma and healthcare to start working with the collaborative channels and tactics that are available before it is too late.

I certainly agree with the sentiment, but I think the reality here is that we need to find a balance in the interim before Pharma can truly start a collaboration with patients. Using Andrew’s ‘live to work’ analogy, we need a bit of work-life balance before we can decide how to commit the rest of our lives.

Future Shock
This segues nicely into the first presentation of the day by Kai Grant on business organisation for a digital future: Faster speed, smarter markets – faster customers, slower companies. He say’s it isn’t rocket science, but 65% of Pharma marketers find it hard to stay on top of technology and if executives can’t understand technological change, it’s very difficult to get buy-in. Campaigns are different now, we need to be moving from large campaigns to continuous engagement and from ‘hard to reach’ to an ‘available everywhere’ approach, all with a need for transparency in all activities. Paul Grant illustrates with a link to ‘future shock’ by Alvin Toffler.

Gait illustrates the problems within corporate Pharma with upper management struggling to understand social media. He wonders if there are residual dot.com bubble ROI memories. Gait uses an example of the SVP trialling a blog that is a spectacular failure, with complaints that it is vanity project, no-one reads it and it’s aimed at the wrong people. I agree with this and I’ve experienced difficulties myself with barriers to innovation thrown up through an individual’s bad experience of a simple web project – not because the implementation was bad, but because it was the wrong choice of medium to satisfy the strategic imperatives. I see it happening now and brand managers need to temper their enthusiasm for a specific channel (Facebook, iPad etc, Gait calls this ‘channel blindness’) and start looking at the appropriate way to deliver the information and communicate with their appropriate audience. As Gait says (and I am paraphrasing), education internally is the key to buy-in, which is the gateway to communication.

That’s enough for today. I’ll continue with the second half of Kai Gate’s presentation and associated commentary tomorrow, as all this thinking has given me a headache!

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