One of the most noticeable changes at the American Society of Hematology meeting this weekend was the impact of banning chotchkes and giveaways for health care professionals in the US:
- Traffic in the exhibition hall was noticeably slow, except for a couple of booths
- The booths were much smaller
- Pharma companies provided more medical information staff and fewer sales reps
- With the lack of credit and high cost of the booths, several small biotechs were also noticeably absent
Of course, when you needed a pen to jot something urgent down, none was to be found. I tried switching to the notepad on the iPhone to record a name and phone number and managed to drop the call twice. Oops.
Talking to several oncologist and hematologists in the exhibit hall about the topic was interesting. Getting pounced on by desperate or bored reps trying to promote something is never pleasant. They don't want to collect tonnes of paper based clinical trial and medical information when a flash key is smaller and easier to manage/access later. Of course, several Pharma companies defensive response was that legal had taken a draconian position of ultra conservatism and declared flash keys chotchkes and therefore not allowed under any circumstances.
Several of the booths had interesting interactive tools for browsing clinical trials or their pipeline for useful information. The problem was, you could only see it on the screen, no printouts or downloadable files of any kind, rendering the fancy program pretty but totally useless and impractical.
Here's some ideas they could have considered:
- Mini CD's or flash keys with relevant medical or clinical trials information on them for later use.
- Interactive tools for case based management enquiries, which allow the doctors to sign up and ask an expert peer for advice on patients via email, video or phone later.
- Ditto, but have materials available in label that the sales reps can deliver offline post meeting.
- Ditto, but information based on ongoing company clinical trials with a visit from the MLSO. This would encourage more trial participation in US or EU co-operative studies.
- Incorporating social media programs that foster engagement and dialogue between peers to improve patient outcomes.
- Sign up to have specific medical information enquiries about data presented at the meeting answered via SMS or email with a protected link to relevant clinical information from the medical affairs department.
- Create useful and interesting medical iPhone and Droid apps such the excellent BlackBag news one that J&J did (but wasn't in evidence at the ASH meeting) so doctors can play with a demo at the booth and request an email with a link to the app for later downloading and use.
The ideas are endless, if applied creatively.
What was marketing thinking just creating loads of glossy paper based brochures no one wanted to carry home or destroy the forests? Or all those ads on light boxes pushing the name of your product?
Instead, Pharma seems slow to change from old media (print) and push marketing (DTC, ads) to more useful interactive PDA apps or digital tools, yet the vast majority of doctors were walking around with PDA's and using them constantly. A wasted opportunity to interact and build deeper relationships with your most important customers in many ways.
Maybe it's time for the industry to run syndicated surveys at a neutral booth to learn what health care professionals attending their annual meeting actually want or need? They can then tailor future programs to what the customers want.
For me, I'm mourning the loss of flash keys, the single most useful giveaway I can get hold of yet can never get enough of.