A focus on specialty and biopharmaceutical companies and niche brands that treat serious and chronic conditions is paying off for Compass Healthcare Communications. Compass finds that specialty and biopharmaceutical companies and brands are more aggressive and entrepreneurial regarding innovative and cutting-edge programs.
Following the launch of pku.com, a community support Website for BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., the agency has launched an acromegaly support program on behalf of Tercica Inc. called Acromegaly Answers. Acromegaly Answers is an overarching online patient support program for members of the Acromegaly community.
According to Kristin Keller, VP, client services, Compass, when you have a patient population that’s so small reaching out to them and becoming an authentic engaged member of their community can be very beneficial for a brand.
“I think it is something that is much more meaningful and valuable when you serve a patient population in which there’s maybe 7,000 people or 5,000 people,” Ms. Keller told Med Ad News.
The campaign, developed for Tercica, comprises two components — an unbranded blog, one of the first pharmaceutical-sponsored patient blogs, and a PatientConnect patient webinar series in support of Somatuline Depot. Compass Healthcare Communications has launched Acromegaly Answers, an overarching patient support program designed to educate, assist, and connect members of the acromegaly community. Acromegaly, or gigantism, is a rare hormonal disorder that affects only 3 to 4 out of every million people per year. Acromegaly occurs when levels of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor are too high.
“Patients with acromegaly are hungry for information and many feel isolated,” says Peter H. Nalen, president and CEO, Compass Healthcare Communications. “The brand required a multi-faceted program that addressed patient’s practical and emotional needs while connecting them with one another. In addition, we were able to position Ipsen and Somatuline Depot as an active partner and trusted resource in managing their condition.”
The Acromegaly Answers blog, one of the pharmaceutical industry’s first patient blogs, is designed to create an ongoing dialogue in the acromegaly community. The blog keeps patients informed on issues related to their condition, provides downloadable articles and resources, and acts as a forum where patients can share their insights and personal experiences.
Ms. Keller believes blogs, as with all viral forms of communication and social media communications, is something that builds with time because its an organic promotion and support from the community. To drive patients to the website, the agency has been reaching out to different folks within the community and asking them if they would feature the blog as a resource in their informational resource section.
For example, this includes acromegaly related websites, such as the Pituitary Network Association and the Magic foundation, as well as a patient who is a very prominent advocate within the community who has a social media website called acromegalycommunity.com.
“We’re using some more traditional ways of just making sure it just comes up in the search engine, so when someone searches for information about agromegaly a link to the blog appears in the search engine, so it’s a whole variety, and so of course we link to it from our different websites,” Ms. Keller told Med Ad News.
The agency did research with patients and analyzed the social media landscape to identify some of the key issues and questions patients had and created a list of topics to address that have been raised by the patient community.
“So once you get beyond the sort of 3 paragraphs from WebMD or whatever other website may have content about acromegaly, then what do you do with the patient,” Ms. Keller told Med Ad News. “The patients do what they can to support each other and that’s why the social media space is such popular space for health topics because they share stories and they share advice and that sort of thing. What we wanted to do is bring experts to the table to help answer some of those questions.”
Comments are approved by the med legal team and is moderated in collaboration between Compass and Ipsen regularly and checked at least once every 24 hours, usually every 12 hours, so that if there is any adverse events they can be reported in the appropriate timeframe.
The Acromegaly Answers PatientConnect webinar series features topics of interest to the acromegaly community as presented by renowned healthcare experts. The four-part educational series marks the first patient webinar event for Somatuline Depot. It provides information about the disorder, facts about reimbursement and treatment options, and tips for handling the physical and emotional aspects of the disorder. Patients can submit questions online to healthcare experts and get answers in real-time. In addition to the live broadcast, each webinar is hosted and archived on the AcromegalyAnswersWebinar.com website.
“What these programs do for patients is to empower them to be their own advocates, to take an active role in managing their disease,” Mr. Nalen says. “Patients go from feeling overwhelmed, with no idea of what to expect, to taking charge of their disease. We’re proud to play a role in giving them a voice.”
There’s four webinars in the first webinar series. The first series of webinar cover topics such as Understanding its Physical and Emotional Impact; Getting the Facts on Reimbursement and Dispelling the Myths; Optimizing Disease Management; and Managing the Long-Term Effects.
“I think because of our focus in this niche part of the industry, you’ll absolutely see more from us,” Ms. Keller told Med Ad News. “I think from the larger industry in general, the challenge is first just from an investment perspective, sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t make sense for a company to invest in this way.
Ms. Keller believes the investment is two parts. Of course it’s financial, but the greater investment is at the time and resources level. This is because to engage in the social media space in a meaningful way requires an incredible committment on the part of the brand and the organization to engage long term with the community and it requires daily weekly involvement with whatever your program may be.
“You can’t sort of dip your toe in the water, if you want to engage the community and be part of that you really have to go all in.,” Ms. Keller told Med Ad News. “There’s not necessarily what many brands, especially if you’re talking about the primary-care space, either want to do, have the resources to do, or see the benefit.”