Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak with Olivier Chateau, the CEO and co-founder of Health Union, about how technology is changing the way patients and healthcare brands interact.
The abbreviated interview was posted on our blog. The full text of our conversation is below.
1. What was your experience at GSK that led you to form Health Union, LLC?
During my years as a GSK marketer, I worked across both professional and DTC campaigns for a variety of brands. After managing many digital marketing programs, I realized the real potential of digital, social, and mobile technologies to change the way people engage in health and healthcare.
I saw the untapped potential of websites like Diabetes.com to help people learn, connect, and share experiences in a whole new way. At the same time, I was struggling with a personal health condition that shaped how I thought about what people really need from online resources and social media.
Tim Armand and I started Health Union to build and grow online communities dedicated to helping people live better with challenging health conditions. This is the fundamental principle that still guides the company today.
2. What is the Health Union, LLC elevator pitch?
Health Union builds relationships online with the patients and consumers healthcare companies care about, enabling one-of-a-kind access to those consumers for business insight and impact.
Our unique model for community development combines new, original, daily content with distinct, shareable graphics and robust social media conversation to attract and engage more than 10 million healthcare consumers each month. For patients, Health Union online communities provide a safe and supportive environment to share experiences and connect with others who can empathize and truly understand the challenges of living with the condition.
Some clients have deep expertise in digital marketing and measurement, driving innovation with accountability, while others still view digital as a commodity, measuring success by impressions and click-through rates.
For biopharmaceutical companies, Health Union offers innovative ways to reach, relate, and engage with target consumers – often these are hard-to-reach patient populations. Partner solutions in media, market research, and clinical services deliver highly effective business results and foster deep consumer insights that drive competitive advantage.
Health Union’s 15 condition-specific online destinations – like the recently launched SkinCancer.net, Migraine.com, RheumatoidArthritis.net, and companion Facebook pages serve a variety of health conditions across general medicines, immunology, oncology, and neuroscience, with many more in development over the next three to four years.
3. What trends do you see among your clients in managing and leveraging information?
As biopharmaceutical companies face pressures to control costs while also accelerating results, we’re seeing a trend toward increased accountability for advertising investments. Healthcare marketers are realizing that mass media reach is less important than engaging “qualified” audiences. A media plan that reaches tens of millions doesn’t make sense when the intended patient population is 400,000 people. For pharma, marketing and media is focusing more on the quality of interactions, not simply the quantity.
Integrated data and analytics become increasingly important in understanding the quality and impact of marketing interactions. As companies shift their spending to targeted programs that reach highly qualified audiences, many are holding media partners accountable for business results by employing independent, third-party measurement studies.
These studies seek to link online ad exposure with real-world healthcare data, verifying that advertising campaigns are reaching the right people, at the right moments to influence health decision making. Soon, we may even see the ability to do this in real time. In a digital advertising world where quality and relevance are more important than broad reach, relationships like those Health Union builds through its online communities matter most.
4. Take me to 2020. What's the NEW new thing?
What excites me the most is the application of data-enabled personalization to online health. I’m not referring to “big data” applications; companies today are already using sophisticated algorithms based on huge consumer databases to profile and predict who has what health condition.
For patients, Health Union online communities provide a safe and supportive environment to share experiences and connect with others who can empathize and truly understand the challenges of living with the condition.
In healthcare, technology can enable healthy behaviors, but creating real value requires understanding how technology impacts a person’s physical, emotional, and social needs. By combining technology with real human interactions, we can learn from people’s individual online behaviors and personalize their experiences over time—thereby helping to promote greater understanding of health conditions and their impact.
In the same way that my Facebook feed is different than anyone else’s, we will personalize health content and engagement opportunities according to how people are choosing to interact with and consume information. Technology will enable us to build an individual experience that is more relevant to their condition, to their life. And in doing so, we will help people find validation, empathy, and support along their care journey—making it easier to take steps toward health and vitality, even in the face of challenging and chronic health conditions.
5. How interested are your clients in collecting, managing, and leveraging their digital marketing efforts? Where are the gaps?
The interest level is high but the knowledge and experience to execute it varies greatly across clients, even within the same organization. Some clients have deep expertise in digital marketing and measurement, driving innovation with accountability, while others still view digital as a commodity, measuring success by impressions and click-through rates.
In general, clients agree digital campaigns (as a percentage of marketing efforts) will continue to grow. The challenge comes in building the skills to understand how and what to measure; to analyze the data and tell a story; and to translate metrics into actionable strategies that evolve and optimize digital marketing.
6. What do you find attractive about the DMD product portfolio?
I think DMD’s position, “Digital tools that help you know more, so you can do more,” really says it all. Clients need and deserve to know their marketing efforts are reaching the right physicians at the right moments to inform patient care decisions. DMD’s products that leverage individualized data for personal targeting and verify exactly who is viewing digital advertising reflect many of the ideas I’ve discussed earlier. I expect these services will be the gold standard for physician digital campaigns very soon.
Olivier Chateau’s vision and desire for innovation is a driving force behind Health Union platforms, services and solutions. During his 10 years in pharmaceutical marketing, Olivier gained experience in consumer marketing, insight creation, digital technology, and analytics, which he leverages along with extensive commercial knowledge of the healthcare market to develop unique opportunities that connect patients, professionals and industry partners to improve health decisions. Olivier’s passion and enthusiasm for Health Union is contagious, inspiring others to think bigger, to be more creative, to do what hasn’t been done.