WebMD: The Patient Value Equation - Pharmaceutical Executive

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WebMD: The Patient Value Equation


Pharmaceutical Executive


PE: As evidenced by the seemingly continuous restructuring of sales organizations at big pharma—and the ongoing scale down of sales forces across the board—access to physicians continues to decrease. How can pharma use WebMD to reach physicians in this environment?

Schlanger: WebMD has the largest audience of physicians, and they come to us for three primary reasons: to be educated through certified continuing medical education, or just to stay up to date on what's happening in their specialty; for relevant medical news; and for clinical reference. They're very engaged. Our docs spend a couple of hours with us every month, typically across several devices: a PC, a tablet, a smartphone. We provide a really effective way to get to the doctors pharma wants to get to through a host of programs that we push out, and programs that are based on the site that pull doctors in.

Medscape is a registration site so we know who our users are, and just like pharma, we know their behavior patterns and what they prescribe. But on top of that, we also know their proclivity to respond to certain types of things that we ask them to do. Pharma might go visit the top three deciles, knowing that it creates X amount of market lift, but the bottom seven deciles can't be reached in a cost-effective way. But with Medscape, it becomes cost effective, and we can create just as much lift by targeting physicians on the long tail, through an offering of interactive content like patient simulations and virtual speakers programs.

We have a product called Brand Alerts that allows a pharmaceutical company to reach a physician on whatever platform he uses, by any segmentation factor, right into the workflow. We've redesigned the WebMD app, to create a bigger picture narrative. The Brand Alert flows into the news and is integrated into the carousel, so if you click on it, you get an in-line native ad, information from industry. Then you could click through into the content, which could incorporate video assets directly from industry, and of course it is always clearly labeled as such. The engagement and click-through rate is much higher, and it counters what people call "banner blindness." The key is that even if we're going to show something that's native information from the industry, it's got to be relevant to the experience someone is in at the time. We value the trust our users have in us and that manifests itself in a lot of ways.

PE: A lot of pharma companies spent a lot of money building their own physician portals, and no one really used them. Even though you have the capability to target physicians, and you have the audience, how do you know that you're providing value?

Schlanger: We can look at who was exposed to a program and how it changed their prescribing patterns. On the Medscape side it's easy to demonstrate that a program is impactful, because we've invested in our marketing sciences and analytics capabilities. On the consumer side, we can measure consumers exposed to a program to find out what percentage of them, on a statistically significant basis, got on therapy after the program. When we report on an ROI, it's a scientifically determined ROI. But WebMD was never the place for a big brand like Lipitor; the target is 50 million people. Consider instead multiple sclerosis. Four-hundred-and-fifty thousand people out of 300 million in the US.

There are a limited number of products in the market, and they each cost over $50,000 a year— everybody's all over Gilead for their $84,000 hepatitis C treatment, but MS is $50,000 every year for the rest of your life. But there are 450,000 sufferers, and TV makes absolutely no sense. Why would you advertise on TV? And yet, each patient is so valuable. When pharma comes to WebMD [to target MS patients], they don't care that we have 170 million visitors, or when you eliminate the duplication, about 65 million unique Americans every month. What they care about is that 185,000 MS sufferers are on WebMD every month, plus their caregivers. And [MS patients] aren't just checking their email or checking the sports scores. When they visit WebMD they're dealing with their disease, they're here for a reason. They're in lean-forward mode. We have them at a very teachable moment, at a point in time when it's very impactful to a brand trying to get to them.

PE: What barriers would you cite as standing in the way of pharma becoming a more active or innovative partner? What gaps could pharma fill?

Schlanger: The pharmaceutical industry tends to be fairly slow-moving and conservative. I don't think there are any real barriers. Even the rules about fair/balance, and regulatory review of DTC and professional advertising I wouldn't view as barriers to anything because we've learned how to deal with those processes. We just have to continue to do what we're doing, which is to help them understand the value of working with WebMD versus all of their other media tactics. We have certain brands that are very forward-thinking and that have their own mobile-optimized websites, and that leverage our mobile offerings. But that's probably 40 percent of the brands. It should be 100 percent, because they need to understand that's where their audience is.


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