SXSW POV: How Agencies Can Help Marketers Use Data to Improve Health Equity

Benjamin Assor, Director, Integrated Media Strategy, SOLVE(D)

One of the most talked about topics in the Health & Med-Tech track at SXSW 2022 was the notion of Heath Equity – the belief that everyone should have equal opportunity and access to effective healthcare.

As we’ve likely all heard over these past two years, a spotlight has been shone on many of the inequities that exist in our current state, including the more overt challenges, like access to and affordability of modern medicine and diagnostics, and some of the more emerging dynamics, like fair representation in clinical trials and consistent access to high-speed internet, which enables medical education or even telehealth consultation when face-to-face consultation is inconvenient or not possible.

Many sessions with a range of speakers all spoke about how important this topic is to their respective institutions – from government organizations to global pharmaceutical companies, to leading academic hospitals and institutions. Everyone acknowledges the importance of health equity, and different institutions championed the steps they are taking to address the issue. Some of the more notable efforts included hospitals and providers discussing their increased commitment to digital health, expanding wireless access and 5G through mobile clinics with vans to help deliver telehealth and advanced care at home, literally bringing medical devices, wireless technology and providers into the home when hospitalization was not possible.

While change can be slow, what can we as marketers directly do and impact? We can apply our creativity and influence through initiatives like "The Trial for #ClinicalEquality.

In addition to using our creativity and influence, power also lies in the weaponization of big data and in our ability to look at healthcare as an interdependent ecosystem that should be studied together and planned in harmony, not in silos.

Let’s take one of the most used tactics many pharmaceutical manufacturers utilize to educate physicians: the development of a priority HCP list segmentation, used for both personal and non-personal promotion. Nearly every client today has a priority list, and most agencies and marketers agree with the concept of customizing personal and non-personal promotion based on things like patient volume, past behavior, even personality type in some degree. But this is a very one-dimensional view, and one that completely misses the most important component of healthcare – the patient!

How many marketers are factoring in health equity concepts, applying critical deterministic patient demographics and economic data-points in developing these HCP segments, or customizing the messaging or content based on who their patient is most likely to be, not just how many times they have prescribed a certain medicine or diagnostic in the past?

Yes, prescribing volume and willingness to write is important, but why shouldn’t a more rigorous analysis of the type of patient being treated be a critical part of or even a driving force behind certain segmentations? For instance:

  • How can we help prepare doctors who are more likely to have a patient population coming from lower socioeconomic markets vs. a more educated and affluent market?
  • How does it change for physicians who practice in rural locations that might not have access to consistently high-speed internet or 5G, and thus not be able to conduct pre or post appointment research? We might have to promote different types of patient support programs that aren’t as dependent upon internet.
  • Are we providing education about clinical trial studies, efficacy or side effects based on race, ethnicity or gender – and coordinating our promotional efforts so physicians and patients can more confidently prepare and adapt their consult?

This type of interdependent ecosystem featuring brand data, prescriber data and patient data, and which builds predictive and dynamic data infrastructures that can help our clients isolate a challenge and develop a strategy, is an important step in addressing the health-equity challenge.