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Pharma takes Wi-Fi targeting to the doctor’s office to reach waiting patients on their smartphones


Checking your phone at the doctor’s office? Don’t be surprised if you get an ad for a drug you can talk to your doctor about. Data-as-a-service provider Semcasting is using IP address targeting to serve messages to patients’ smartphones while they’re waiting at appointments.

In a campaign beginning next week for an unnamed PCSK9 inhibitor, for instance, thousands of cardiologists’ offices in Semcasting’s Wi-Fi “Smart Zones” will send messages to waiting room patients. People who log into the Wi-Fi network—and opt in for ads—to browse the web, read news or even play app games like Candy Crush will be served banner messages suggesting that they have a conversation about the particular PCSK9 brand with their doctor. The aggregated cardiology offices in the campaign have an average 21 minutes of waiting time Wi-Fi use, said Matthew Hedberg, Semcasting’s VP and general manager of professional services.

While he declined to name the brand, only two PCSK9 inhibitors are currently on the market: Amgen’s Repatha and Regeneron and Sanofi’s Praluent. The two brands have battled not only each other but also payers. Praluent most recently slashed its list price by 60% in February to match the $5,850 that Amgen had cut Repatha to in October.

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While Semcasting specifically cordons off the Wi-Fi data collected around doctors’ offices, hospitals and other healthcare centers for privacy and compliance, it can use some of the data, such as average time spent on Wi-Fi, to evaluate whether a campaign would likely be effective in a particular area. It can then put together Wi-Fi delivery programs for pharma and healthcare clients to deliver to desired office locations. On the back end of the campaign, healthcare analytics firms like Crossix do comparative analysis and result reporting on things like prescriptions written.

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“There are incredible inefficiencies in delivering messaging to patients when they’re in the point of care setting,” Hedberg said. “Most of that revolves around the difficulty and cost of setting up physical displays in various offices, permissions required from the offices, delivering the materials, auditing the materials, taking down those materials and of course, the cost of production.”

Digital delivery removes that hassle as well as expense, and per Semcasting, also delivers results. On average, campaigns result in a 1.5x increase in sales and a 10% halo brand effect, which is in line with a traditional POC campaign, Hedberg said.

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Previous clients include an OTC pediatric drug, an acute migraine drug company and a pharma involved in rare disorders of lymphoma, he said, with 10 pharma and healthcare campaigns done since 2018 and five more in the works before the end of the year.

Editor’s note: A quote in this story was edited for clarity.

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