Publicis Health chief patient officer on marketing

After years of treatment, Manber beat the disease and decided to partner with the Skin Cancer Foundation and Digitas to create “The Big See,” a skin cancer awareness campaign designed to drive early detection of skin cancer. She is co-chair of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s gala committee.

Manber predicts the health care categories in which the industry will see growth, discusses how the company is using behavioral and real-world data to help clients understand patients and physicians, and details how the pandemic has changed the way health care marketers approach their business.

Just what is a chief patient officer?

I had spent the last few years [at Digitas Health] launching drugs in the cancer space and then I myself became a rare cancer patient and a patient advocate. I work with the Skin Cancer Foundation because I had a rare form of skin cancer and through all of that work we crafted this role from scratch. There are no chief patient officers at other networks, and the idea really was put together through my professional and personal experience and about putting the patient at the heart of everything that we do. So all of that was really intended to say, ‘How can we bring together all of the strategic teams across Publicis Health?’ We had made significant investments in building across our strategy disciplines, but to really be able to bring them together and have a community and a collective that could share is really the fundamental approach. And then after our Epsilon acquisition, a big part of my role was how do we then leverage all of that frontal real-world health data in combination with the Epsilon lifestyle data to truly have an understanding of patients in the real world. So all of that was the foundation for creating the position.

Who are some of your main clients?

Historically we’ve always had a deep base of pharmaceutical, biopharma and biotech companies. What’s changed now is that the technology companies, whether you make smartphones or you’re making the next automotive choice, the importance of having health experts partnering with the core brand teams has grown. It’s about how you build a health sensibility as a marketer, and many marketers have never worked in health. If you’re a marketer in virtually any category now—and as we now start to go back [into the world post-pandemic]—certainly anyone who’s targeting parents who still have unvaccinated children, for example, all of that sensitivity needs to be brought to bear because we need to respect people’s concerns as marketers. That’s been the biggest shift, every marketer is now a health marketer.

What’s a recent example of you helping a client in terms of messaging?

Retail pharmacy has been a place where we have been spending a ton of time across the globe because the front line of primary care is changing. Whether it be Walmart, Walgreens, or a CVS in this country, there’s a change in the way that you engage with pharmacies such as going in for tests and vaccinations. We are working with our retail pharmacy partners in very different ways to really understand, ‘How does this change the way people are buying in the front of the store, whether it be your toothpaste or your general health supplies? How does it change the way we can engage and provide additional learning? How does the role of a pharmacist change?’ We’re going to continue to see a lot of shifts in this notion of the frontline of primary care, being much closer. If you live in a rural area, you may be closer to a pharmacy than you are to any other kind of health care.

I start every Monday morning with a couple of calls from clients in areas that I haven’t worked with before. Everyone is thinking about ‘How do we connect with people and make sure that we are dealing with their health concerns while selling what we need to sell?’ If you’re an automotive manufacturer, how do you safely buy a car? If you’re a dealership, how do you really understand how to make people feel confident and comfortable coming in? Financial services is another place. Helping people who maybe didn’t have all the resources to work through working-from-home scenarios. How do I manage a different way of managing my finances, managing my childcare, other savings and investment tools?

Do you feel like the health space has become more creative?

I think health has lost its bad name and more creative people have said, ‘I want to do meaningful work that really drives impact.’ One reason people were drawn to the space is super practical. Outside of health, a lot of our clients cut budgets and for the first six months of the pandemic, if you worked on a category that wasn’t health, you might not have been working. We said to ourselves at Publicis that before we hired a single person outside, we were going to draw from the expertise that we had in our building. We looked for people who had expertise in financial services, telecom technology, the more complicated and regulated industries. We were able to draw in a lot of people [around 300-400 employees] who hadn’t thought of health before and they realized not only can they bring expertise to this space, but it’s really personally satisfying too.

What are some examples of data capabilities you are looking to utilize?

By combining real-world health data with the Epsilon lifestyle data, we’ve been able to create two products. We’re calling them HealthStyles and CareStyles. As somebody who’s done probably 50 market research-driven segmentations, we’re using the same tools and approaches to dimensionalize the data, but to create real-world activated segments for the first time. So by having the real-world data such as your medical claims, your lab claims, your electronic health records, not what you told me or responses to a questionnaire, combined with all of your lifestyle information so that I can really understand—are you actually using your Peloton? Are you a steak with a Lipitor and a Diet Coke type of person?  What’s the difference between people who live in underserved areas? 

CareStyles allows us to match data to physicians and say, ‘How does your lifestyle as a physician impact your practicing behavior?’ We have now five different projects going on, where we have everything from pharma to clinical trial recruitment. So using that data to help, to boost both clinical trial recruitment among the general population, as well as among underserved populations. And also profiling our physicians by answering all types of questions like ‘How do we really understand how you want to engage with your rep; How do you want to engage with data and technology; How is your practice changing; How are your telehealth practices changing?’ So I’m like a kid in a data candy store.

Can you explain further how the data comes together? 

Imagine a data lake. First, we segment based on the real-world clinical data, it goes into this HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant place where we now can ingest the lifestyle data. I’m never going to get to a true one-to-one where I’m talking to ‘Brian.’ What I can do is talk to the ‘Brians.’ And by doing that and enabling us to truly understand a full clinical and lifestyle segment, then we can tailor the communications in a much more effective way. Then we test and learn what works and what doesn’t.

The other day a client asked us, we did [a test] in the cardiovascular space, and they’re like, ‘But isn’t this just a diagnosed patient?’ And we’re like, ‘Well, yes, but there’s seven of them. Not just one.’ That different way of thinking about where you [patients] are on your journey and what the right kind of intervention is going to be to make a difference.

Intervention design is a common phrase in public health, but it’s never really been used in our communications area until now. When you think about behavioral design intervention, it’s about what’s actually going to make a difference. We know that the drug itself has its treatment effect, but all the social determinants, all of your lifestyle issues, when you put that together into what we think of as the total treatment effect, and you effectively engage people, then it is medicine.

What are some categories you expect to see growth in for the next year?

Oncology is the biggest growth area within the space, there’s so much happening in terms of precision medicine tools, new biomarker testing. There are now 18 million cancer survivors in the country. There’s growth in any area around managing any kind of chronic condition. I think COVID shined a light on immunocompromised people, whether it be MS or psoriasis. We’re continuing to see a lot of activity in dermatological care. We’re continuing to watch the Alzheimer’s world very carefully as new research is being conducted. We’re also continuing to see a lot of research going on centered around diabetes and obesity. 

And then coming back to mental health itself, I think what’s very exciting is there’s the clinical pharmaceutical growth, but we’ve also seen everything from Michael Phelps with Talkspace, to Simone Biles having done maybe more than a lot of people could have done to change the conversation and to destigmatize mental health. I think we’re at a point where the levels of depression and anxiety have continued to grow, but there’s a fundamental difference between the depression and anxiety based on the situation we find ourselves in and the people who aren’t dealing with severe mental illness and disease. Continuing to shine a light on and destigmatize those are critical. 

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