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More Thoughts On PMRG 2012 Conference: Get On Board The Innovation Train Or Get Left behind


By Diane Hayes

Day 2 at PMRG began with attendees straggling in after a party hosted the previous night by WorldOne.  Fun was had by all!  It did make Tuesday morning’s wake-up call feel very early.

Scott Chistofferson (Corporate Executive Board) and Derek Jones (AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals) braved the morning crowd by sharing us thoughts on managing the current information overload we are experiencing.  We have to be creative in how we manage, synthesize, and communicate the huge volume of information we access in order to combat information fatigue.  The intersect of the client-consultant interaction may help provide the solution.  This area of innovation is using tools such as the Wiki to help distill large amounts of information so decision-makers can view the right data at the proper point in time.  I thought back to yesterday’s presentation where we learned that much of our revenue generated today is based on a product that wasn’t possible two years ago, and expect the same will be true in information management – in two years we will be using tools not available today.  This feels like a critical development as the volume of information continues to explode and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

I tried to listen to a variety of breakout sessions throughout the day to capture the various innovations in our industry.  I heard a presentation on customer loyalty by Scott Brunetto (Shire) and Thomas Hardley (GfK HealthCare) that felt appropriate for many industries.  The interesting thing about pharma is that the focus is on the brand and not the company – this uniquely shapes the research effort.  In pharma, loyalty does vary but not as much as in other industries. The presentation illustrated that the sales rep is certainly key to a loyal engagement and can still serve as the lynchpin in a successful relationship.  The information about identifying both key enhancers and key dissatisfiers was particularly compelling.  I often expect one to simply be the reverse of the other but that isn’t necessarily the case – the things that cause delight are not always the same things that cause dissatisfaction. Some best practice takeaways were to set and communicate expectations, collaborate early and often, share results and accountability.

The next breakout session I attended, by Peter Simpson from Segmedica, gave me encouragement and pause.  Several presenters during the conference outlined the profound changes we are experiencing in healthcare and made it clear why we need to innovate to stay current.  It isn’t enough to be new and cool; we also have to be cost-effective.  Innovations that are will have a much easier path!  This presentation left me thinking that we really are all in this together – our success as an industry depends on our ability to collaborate as we innovate.  As Peter stated, we need a healthy balance of optimism and skepticism.  Our corporate cultures must encourage innovation and risk rather than maintaining the status quo.

The next couple of breakout sessions I attended focused on mobile market research and heard several presenters talk about the force of change being created by mobile market research. In full disclosure, I was drawn to these presentations because I co-founded a start-up designed to gather insights in the moment using mobile devices.  But I think even attendees without my bias could not avoid hearing a lot about mobile throughout PMRG.  As we think about innovation in the industry, a clear focus is on how we incorporate mobile research into our market research toolbox.

Mobile phones dramatically reduce the lag time between when an event happens and when we, as market researchers, can learn about it. In this way, mobile research reduces recall bias and gives us a more accurate picture of the event in question. This is quite different from the traditional market research approach that captures retrospective data based on recall of days, weeks, or even months.

As I look at how my 15-year-old nephew uses his Smartphone, it becomes clear to me that his generation is living in a “right now” world. By using apps like Facebook and Foursquare he’s always connected to what his friends are doing that very minute. He has no interest in having an email account – why should he, when he can connect so much faster using texts?  Seeing these trends up close makes it clear to me that we will continue to find innovative ways to capture data from mobile and weave the results into the stories we tell.

Joanne French from Knowledge Networks presented some thoughtful information on how researchers can use different mobile methods like video diaries or photo capture to report in the moment events.  We are clearly in the early stages of understanding how to incorporate this tool and right now the approach seems to be integration with more traditional research strategies.  I feel that this was an ongoing caution about mobile – don’t rely on it alone; rather, figure out how it compliments and supports traditional approaches.  I imagine there will be a different story being told about that in the next few years!

Another presentation by Matt Grimley at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Janet Kosloff from InCrowd discussed a case study using a mobile platform to collect data pre- and post-launch for a novel drug.  Matt described uses of the platform pre-launch to test last minute label scenarios, to test the approved label, and to solidify forecast assumptions.  Post-launch, he has used a mobile platform to get market feedback during dark period (following launch before any traditional data is available), to test message recall and effectiveness, to understand if patient types expected to go on the drug are the ones that were being treated, and to understand reasons behind emerging market trends.  This interesting use of mobile was yet another example of using technology in an innovative way to help a company be nimble and quick in a market where many new therapies are being approved for patients who previously had few treatment alternatives.

I am left to wonder at what point down the road will we be seeing mobile standing on its own two feet as a critical research tool rather than a compliment to traditional efforts? If my 15-year-old nephew is right, it won’t be long!

I left the PMRG meeting energized and hopeful about the future of our industry.  A lot of very smart people are thinking about, developing, and measuring useful and innovative ways to collect, synthesize and make sense of data.  It felt good to be part of that group.  It made me feel that I am not on an island but that I am keeping very good company with people who are driving our industry forward with thoughtful innovations designed to help us maintain our footing in an ever changing landscape.

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