There are some times in your career that you feel like you are truly making a difference and the first week of May was one of those times for the Schwartz MSL Healthcare team.
We had the opportunity to once again work with the wonderful folks at the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) to raise consumer awareness in Denver and surrounding cities about the importance of heart health, and, most notably, help educate the public about two serious yet widely misunderstood arrhythmia disorders: atrial fibrillation (AFib) and sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). This patient education and awareness campaign was HRS’ way of giving back to Denver, host city for Heart Rhythm 2013, the organization’s prestigious annual scientific conference.
The Schwartz MSL team recognized that in order to reach a large and diverse audience and truly make an impact, we needed a surround sound approach that leveraged, but didn’t rely solely on, local media coverage and advertising. More than that, we wanted to put residents in touch with experts for live conversations about warning signs, symptoms and treatment options. Similar to our campaign last year in Boston, we set out to hold a public awareness event.
With a little more than a month to plan and execute, the Schwartz MSL team quickly mobilized, securing a location in downtown Denver with lots of foot traffic, making sure we had all the necessary permits from the City, and hiring tent and furniture vendors. Keep in mind that we did this all from almost two thousand miles away in Boston with none of the team ever having visited Denver! We often tell our clients that in today’s always-on world, location really doesn’t matter, and nowhere was this mantra more apparent than in planning the HRS event. The Schwartz MSL team quickly was able to establish relationships with key local departments in Denver — Park & Recreation, Chamber of Commerce, Travel and Visitor Bureau, and Mayor and Governor’s offices—enabling us to get the intel and influence we needed to pull off a great event.
To help promote the event and drive attendance, Schwartz MSL conducted traditional and social media outreach to local outlets and several, including the Denver Post and local broadcast stations tweeted and Facebooked about it to their followers. In addition, we secured more than a dozen calendar listings in outlets in and around Denver and developed a flyer about the event that was distributed by street teams in the City in the days leading up to the main event.
We also wanted the experience for people who attended to be interactive, so we worked with HRS on patient risk assessments that were loaded onto iPads. Using these online quizzes, the Schwartz MSL team guided people through a short series of questions about their health, family history and lifestyle. Armed with a topline assessment of each individual’s risk for SCA and/or AFib, our team then connected each attendee with a member of our team of cardiologists, nurses and allied health professionals who had volunteered their time for one-on-one conversations. Then, thanks to HRS partner AliveCor, attendees were also able to get their EKGs taken right on an iPhone. As a result, each attendee left not just with information, but personalized data on their own heart health, risk and steps they can and should take to protect themselves.
The Schwartz MSL team also didn’t stop at just an event. We developed and rolled out three weeks’ worth of radio ads throughout Denver promoting the event and helping to educate listeners about cardiac arrhythmias, AFib and SCA. We worked with HRS to sponsor a local Denver Rapids professional soccer game where HRS’ PSA was played for several thousand attendees. We also worked with Denver Governor John Hickenlooper’s office to secure a proclamation declaring the month of May as Cardiac Rhythm Awareness Month in Colorado, and with Mayor Michael Hancock’s office to proclaim May 8, the day of our event, as Cardiac Rhythm Awareness Day in Denver. These proclamations also gave a level of timeliness to our media pitches around local patient stories and local physician experts.
Despite a raw and rainy morning, the event on May 8 was a success. Attendees completed the risk assessment, met with a health professional and left armed with the information they garnered from these conversations so they could make follow-up appointments with their own doctors if needed. One woman even commented that she was having trouble getting an appointment with a cardiologist about AFib, so she came to this event and the one-on-one time she got with a physician was incredibly valuable. Many more people came by simply to learn about AFib and SCA and left with materials that will help them better understand these conditions. The Schwartz MSL team also distributed several hundred magnets developed to provide the public with simple steps for monitoring their heart rhythm at home, a simple task that can help close the gap between early detection and the life-threatening consequences if these conditions are left untreated.
The Schwartz MSL team really felt like we made a difference in spreading the word about SCA and AFib to local residents in Denver at this fun and educational event. Plus, the multi-faceted campaign continues to yield results with additional patient stories, expert physician commentary, PSA viewings and social media buzz that are still appearing.
Thanks Denver and HRS for a great event!
Posted by Lauren Arnold on May 21, 2013 at 3:12 PM
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A lot is written about how to generate buzz when you are attending or exhibiting at an industry trade show or medical meeting, but what if the event is your own?
Whether you’re planning a small, local event for the first time or organizing a large, well-established, annual conference, there’s a common denominator: it’s up to you to come up with fresh ways to pique the interest of attendees and journalists, and ultimately secure exposure for your company, product or campaign.
Here are some tips to help differentiate your event and maximize exposure for your company and key stakeholders. Check out our video for more details.
Hit Media Up Early and Often—Put together your “wish list” of media attendees and start outreach early—at least six weeks in advance. Conduct personalized outreach, highlighting ways the journalists can connect one-on-one with exhibitors, speakers, etc. for pre-show stories. Because of journalists’ busy schedules and reduced budgets, it may be difficult to secure on-site media attendance unless your event is located in their backyard. We recommend targeting the local media (including wire service and freelancer writers) in the city where your event is being held. This is often your best bet for on-site media attendance.
Stay in front of journalists to keep your company and key issues top-of-mind. Every interview is an opportunity to say, “this topic is one we are covering in-depth at the upcoming conference.”
If you can’t get any media to attend in person, don’t worry. If you’re announcing important news, one option is to conduct a virtual press conference with company, customer and analyst participation.
Pre-packaged Content—If your event covers a variety of tracks or industries, develop pre-packaged, detailed content for specific audiences. You can provide general event highlights (floor events, feature presenters, etc.), exhibitor information and conference sessions tailored to each vertical as well as pre-packaged content written by topic-area experts. This is important: you should develop a personalized pitch (not a generic form letter) that offers journalists the opportunity to connect with speakers and exhibitors relevant to their focus area.
Engage Your Speakers—In addition to touting your clients as thought leaders, take advantage of one of your biggest assets: your speakers. Secure their presentations in advance and arrange interviews between them and targeted journalists.
In addition, leverage your speakers’ social media channels. For instance, if the company has a blog, Facebook page or Twitter handle, request that they promote their participation at the event and reference the conference hashtag.
Think Multi-Media—In advance of the event, select the tier-one companies you’ll target for video interviews.. Conference attendees may need to secure approval from their PR departments, so by working through the appropriate channels in advance, you won’t need to worry that people will turn you down at the show because they’re unsure of company policies.
These interviews can be used as fodder for journalists to accompany online pieces, as content on your own website and as sales collateral.
Once you’re at the conference, networking sessions and breaks are great times to encourage more companies to participate. Don’t forget company executives either—this is perfect time to get them on camera.
Surveys and Polls—These are great fodder for journalists and gives them a timely reason for writing about your event. Think of a few survey questions that you can quickly ask during the registration process as well as during sessions. You can package the results and issue a release the following day, securing a steady stream of content that can be pushed out to traditional and social media channels.
Social Media Matters—Set up an event hashtag and promote it aggressively throughout your event. Another option: set up a Google+ event and video hangout that is broadcast on YouTube.
While generating buzz and attracting both media and attendee audiences for your event can seem like daunting tasks, it can be done, and done successfully. We are happy to chat with you about these and other ideas to help ensure you have a fantastic and media-filled event!
Posted by Lauren Arnold on October 3, 2012 at 3:33 PM
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After Decades of Controversy, First Rapid HIV Test Wins FDA Approval The FDA’s approval earlier this week of a new HIV test marks the first time that Americans can learn in the privacy of their home whether they are infected. The OraQuick test, by OraSure Technologies, said to be as easy as a home-pregnancy test, uses a cheek swab and provides results in less than 40 minutes. Until now, other at home tests required users to send a drop of blood to a lab to get results. FDA officials said the test is designed for people who might not otherwise get tested. Antiviral drugs lower the chance of transmission to someone else by as much as 96 percent, so this test is seen as a tremendous step forward in helping bring the epidemic under control. The test should be in available in 30,000 pharmacies, grocery stores and online retailers by October.
Summer Heat Requires Extra Health Precautions High temperatures are blanketing much the United States this week, and it is wise to keep a couple of tips in mind as you enjoy the dog days of summer. CNN reports that some of the basics – drinking plenty of water, avoiding the hotter parts of the day and wearing lightweight clothing – are key to staying healthy during the heat wave. Those who are suffering from chronic illnesses, such as endocrine patients, people taking heart medications, some cancer patients and the elderly may not be able to regulate temperature as well, and should take extra precautions to stay cool. Feeling a little hotheaded? MSNBC says that you can blame the heat for that as well.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user JeffSchwartz)
Mixed Messaging on Mammograms for Younger Women A year after an expert panel recommended that women delay regular screenings for breast cancer until age 50, a new study shows that the number of women in their 40s undergoing mammograms has only decreased slightly. According to The New York Times this may be due to conflicting guidelines urging more frequent examinations coming from other groups.
University of Arizona Produces Robot Legs that Mimic Human Movement The University of Arizona has announced that researchers built a pair of robotic legs capable of “biologically accurate” movement. The machined uses motors to drive Kevlar “muscles” and a computerized version of a neural network known as the central pattern generator to power the machine’s movement. Though only capable of movement while tethered, the development could allow researchers to gain more insight into how babies learn how to walk and further research into treatments for patients suffering from traumatic spinal injuries. Check out the video to see the robot in action.
Posted by Lauren Arnold on July 6, 2012 at 12:12 PM
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With BIO in full swing and thousands of companies and organizations descending upon Boston for the annual global event for biotechnology, Schwartz MSL was fortunate enough to steal away North Carolina Secretary of Commerce J. Keith Crisco and Doug Drabble, Director of BioNetwork and Life Sciences Initiatives at BioNetwork North Carolina, for a lively and informative thought leadership salon. The topic: North Carolina’s successful training program that engages community colleges as a key workforce development source for the life sciences industries. Students attending the state’s 58 community colleges have access to the state’s BioNetwork which trains students at all levels in life sciences for potential educational and career paths in science, technology, engineering and math-related industries. The seven centers and one 40-foot long mobile educational lab center are staffed with highly skilled industry-trained experts who are constantly developing new workforce training programs that can be delivered anywhere in the state of North Carolina. As a result, students have access to career-focused training programs and high-quality educational opportunities, making it easier for them to find jobs.
Interestingly, often times it’s industry that dictates the training curriculum. For instance, the threat of a flu pandemic and the ability of the Tar Heel State to train students in the field brought Novartis to the state to build a flu vaccine facility. In addition, our client West Pharmaceuticals works with the BioNetwork to secure trained employees.
Many states including the Commonwealth are looking to North Carolina’s community college system as a model for workforce development. It will be interesting to see what happens in Massachusetts, given the plethora of life science companies, and our 15 community colleges. Check here for updates!
Hosted by WBZ-TV News Anchor David Wade, the ceremony provided a snapshot of great work being conducted by industry colleagues. Our work on behalf of our healthcare clients were honored in the following categories:
Gold Bell • Feature or Commentary Placement: Online – Retina Implant AG: “Bringing Bionic Vision into Focus” (For more info on the company, check out this PRWeek case study on how we are building buzz for Retina Implant’s technology in the US).
Silver Bell • Feature or Commentary Placement: Online – Cyberonics: “Celebrate the Extraordinary” Bronze Bell • Bylined Article - Simpler Consulting: “Going Back to Basics: The Little Book of Lean”
• Print Feature or Commentary Placement: Regional/General Interest Publication – Bioness: “Stepping Forward: Denver Newspaper Placement Drives Local & National Attention for Bioness”
Merit Awards • New or Social Media Campaign- GE Healthcare: “Targeted Social Media Campaign Quadruples GE’s Challenge Entries in Three Weeks”
• Print Feature or Commentary Placement: National – Riverain Technologies: “From Iams to Imaging – Bridging the Gap in the C-Suite”
• Products/Services Publicity: Business-to-Business – Kimberly-Clark: “The Dirt on Shop Towels”
Congratulations everyone! We look forward to seeing you next year!
The majority of medical technology marketers navigating the social media waters have been waiting for an update or course of direction from the FDA regarding social media. Since holding a public hearing in 2009 on the “Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools,” the FDA really hadn’t issued any guidance on what medical device companies wanted most—how to respond to adverse-event reporting via the emerging medium of electronic media.
As a healthcare public relations agency, we are constantly speaking with clients about Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other vehicles to reach key audiences. While some medical device and pharma companies have jumped right in, others are more cautious, wanting to hear from the FDA before making a splash (if you let me continue with my water metaphors!).
In December, 2011, the FDA came out with a Draft Guidance but instead of focusing on adverse-even reporting like people expected, it provided recommendations for responding to unsolicited requests for off-label information related to their products. Check out the full report from the FDA.
This will most likely be a hot topic for discussion at the first meeting of the MassMEDIC working group on social media which is being held on Friday, February 3 (8:00 am) at Schwartz MSL. With participants from Philips, Palomar, Smith & Nephew and Vention Medical and moderated by Schwartz MSL Healthcare Practice Leader Jim Weinrebe, we expect a lively and educational session focused on how marketing, legal, regulatory and HR can work collaboratively. The event is open to all MassMEDIC members. Check back here for insights from the group that will be developing best practices for members.
Posted by Lauren Arnold on January 31, 2012 at 2:47 PM
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You may have seen the posters on busses around town, “I survived disco. I can fight hepatitis C” with a gray-haired rocker holding a guitar.
What you won’t find on the poster unless you look extra hard is the name of the sponsor of the ad - Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The biotech company recently won FDA approval for the drug Incivek and instead of drumming up consumer demand directly for the drug, the company has implemented an unbranded consumer awareness campaign focused on hepatitis C. Consumers are directed to an unbranded website and free helpline where they can speak with nurses According to an article in the Boston Globe, pharmaceutical company giant Merck has also implemented an unbranded campaign aimed at educating people about the potentially deadly liver disease.
While a relatively new tactic with pharmaceutical companies, Schwartz has implemented successful unbranded awareness campaigns for many of our medical device clients. For LifeCell Corporation, Schwartz was charged with raising awareness among women about their options when speaking with surgeons about breast reconstruction post-mastectomy. The awareness campaign focused on relaying the importance of breast reconstruction options, while also highlighting the benefits of our client’s tissue regeneration technology in targeted media outreach. At all turns, the team focused on leveraging and positioning LifeCell’s unbranded, consumer awareness website with the media and the public as the go-to source to learn more about breast reconstruction options. Over a 15 month period, the team secured a steady stream of coverage in national women’s books, top tier business press and priority local media, reaching an estimated audience of more than 9.2 million with our key messages.
Schwartz also launched the world’s first educational web site devoted solely to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which served as the educational landscape for an issue-awareness campaign, entitled, “Sleep Well, Be Healthy.” Schwartz drove visibility for the unbranded website as an educational resource to the more than 18 million potential sufferers, their families and friends, caregivers as well as sleep industry professionals. We encouraged the media to turn to an advisory council of expert physicians for insight into the condition and its health effects. Since launching the website, media coverage has resulted in more than 230 million impressions, including key messages around the prevalence of sleep apnea and the seriousness of its health consequences. Traffic to the unbranded website averaged nearly 7,500 visits and 15,000 page views per month.
It will be interesting to monitor the results of the hepatitis C campaign as well as to see if more pharma companies go the route of Vertex and Merck with unbranded campaigns.
Schwartz’s work on behalf of our healthcare clients shined last night at the Publicity Club of New England’s annual Bell Ringer Awards Ceremony that recognize excellence in communications and public relations. Always a fun and festive evening, it was great to catch up with industry colleagues and it’s even better when we take home honors for great PR campaigns! From healthcare IT to medical device to pharma, campaigns were honored in the following categories:
• Product/Service Publicity: Healthcare Campaign entry, “Epocrates: Saving Lives and Reaching Physicians” • Product/Service Publicity: Healthcare Campaign entry, “Restoring Vision to the Blind: Retina Implant's Microchip Helps Patent Suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa” • Product/Service Publicity: Healthcare Campaign entry, “"Against the Odds: NxStage Medical Security Validation for Daily Home Hemodialysis” • Television News Placement: National entry, “The Art of Storytelling: Transforming Standard Corporate News into National Visibility for Accuray” • Product/Service Publicity: Healthcare Campaign entry, “Epocrates: Saving Lives and Reaching Physicians” • Product/Service Publicity: Healthcare Campaign entry, “Restoring Vision to the Blind: Retina Implant's Microchip Helps Patent Suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa” • Product/Service Publicity: Healthcare Campaign entry, “"Against the Odds: NxStage Medical Security Validation for Daily Home Hemodialysis” • Product/Service Launch: Health Care Campaign entry, “WellDoc: Like Having a Doctor in Your Cell Phone” • Special Event: Series Campaign entry, “Eurand Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life: Engaging a Patient Community through
Stay turned in the coming weeks for highlights from some of our great client campaigns.
Memorial Day weekend marks the official beginning of summer—meaning the 3 B’s for many people: BBQs, the beach and bathing suits! For the one in three Americans who are obese and even those who are struggling to lose five pounds, this often means a renewed focus on dieting. Either we experience it firsthand or we know someone who has struggled unsuccessfully to lose weight, trying all the latest fads and exercises.
Tara Parker-Pope recently reported in the popular Well column in the New York Times that a study found that the decline in physical activity in the workplace over the past five decades has greatly contributed to the nation’s weight gain. According to the article, the shift in the types of jobs we perform has led to a decline of about 120 to 140 calories a day in physical activity, which tracks closely to the nation’s weight gain. The report was published in the journal PLoS One.
While sitting in front of computers has definitely contributed to the obesity epidemic, we shouldn’t overlook the role that diet, exercise and interestingly, genetics plays in weight loss. Many people unknowingly diet incorrectly by selecting an approach that is not compatible with their metabolism. My client Interleukin Genetics has developed a scientifically-proven genetic test that identifies genes (via a quick and painless cheek swab) that are known to impact fact and carb metabolism. The test details whether an individual will respond best to a low fat, low carb or balanced diet and based on these results, outlines the best exercise regimen and suggests the most appropriate foods to eat.
Last year, Stanford University presented clinical data at a major medical meeting which demonstrated that individuals who used this test and followed diets based on their gene type lost up to three times more weight than those who followed a diet inappropriate for their genotype.
So bottom line takeaway: while sitting in front of a computer all day may have contributed to the obesity epidemic, we should think of it as only one piece of the puzzle and not overlook the role of exercise, diet and genetics.
Thanks to all our great participants who took part in last week’s social media event held with the MassMEDIC. Our own Healthcare EVP Jim Weinrebe along with Carissa Caramanis O'Brien (@carissaO), president of Red Box Communications; David Saggio (@dsaggio), digital marketing strategist; David Harlow (@healthblog), attorney and author of healthblawg; and Stephanie Philbin, counsel at Goodwin Procter LLP, all provided great commentary on best practices and case studies on navigating the social media waters during this time of regulatory uncertainty. Our interim survey results on what the medical device industry is doing today in terms of social media to engage customers and prospects was also presented.
Interim results show that while only 23 percent of respondents actively use social media, 46 percent of respondents are tentatively navigating the waters. More than half of the respondents said that the absence of FDA guidelines have impacted their use of social media tools. This number could shrink though in the coming months however with 50 percent of respondents saying their companies have adopted a social media strategy.
It’s not too late to participate in the survey and we’d love to hear what your company is doing today and what it plans to do in the future as it relates to social media. As a participant in the survey, you will receive the final report on how your industry peers are leveraging social media marketing.
We had a full house at the event, underscoring that this is an important topic that the medical device industry is eager to discuss and learn more about. Stay tuned for video showcasing highlights from the event!
The event at MassMEDIC on Friday morning promises to be a lively discussion on a topic that everyone is interested in these days—the use of social media. FDA draft guidance has yet to be made public and while some device companies are engaging with stakeholders via social media to various degrees, others sit on the sidelines and wait to hear from the FDA.
We will be sharing the preliminary results of a survey on what your healthcare marketing peers are doing in terms of social media as well as hear firsthand from experts in healthcare communications regulatory guidelines and industry luminaries on what they are seeing in the marketplace.
Joining Jim Weinrebe, EVP of our healthcare PR practice, we are thrilled to have Carissa Caramanis O'Brien (@carissaO), president of Red Box Communications and VP at the ProMed Network, talk about her experiences helping companies leverage social media and promote their brands. Carissa is a regular podcaster on the ProMed Network and she also serves as the Director of Communications for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.
Also joining us as a speaker is David Saggio (@dsaggio), a digital marketing strategist who has been providing interactive strategy and consultation to medical device and diagnostic and pharma companies for more than 15 years. As a consultant, David focuses on the use of interactive and social marketing to brand, market and educate patients and healthcare professionals in the medical arena. David was a speaker at the FDA hearings on the Internet and social marketing, discussing how social communities help companies change the standard of care and communication with physicians, surgeons and nurses.
We hope to see you Friday for this informative and timely event! If you can’t attend, please do take our brief survey and automatically be registered to receive the final report on how your industry peers are leveraging social media marketing today.
If you ever wondered what your healthcare marketing peers are doing about social media in light of the lack of guidelines from the FDA, take part in our discussion on this very topic.
Take a brief survey on what your company is – or is not - doing in terms of social media and automatically be registered for the final report on how your industry peers are leveraging social media marketing in a period of regulatory uncertainty.
In addition, on Friday, May 13, Schwartz Healthcare Executive Vice President Jim Weinrebe will be participating in a panel discussion along with David Harlow, lawyer and author of HealthBlawg, and Jacqueline Klosek, senior counsel at Goodwin Proctor, to discuss the survey results. Hosted by MassMEDIC, the panel promises to be a lively discussion taking into account the legal, communications and regulatory sides of the healthcare social media equation.
We hope you can join us for this breakfast event to discuss this important and timely topic.
Event Details Use of Social Media During Regulatory Uncertainty Friday, May 13, 2011 8:00am-10:00am Waltham Wood Corporate Center 860 Winter Street, Waltham, MA 02451
Vertex on Road to FDA Approval for Hepatitis C Virus Drug
Congratulations to Cambridge biotech company, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., for getting one step closer to FDA approval for telaprevir, its experimental drug to treat the hepatits C virus—a viral disease that leads to inflammation of the liver. Yesterday, an FDA medical advisory committee—an independent panel of medical experts from across the country— unanimously recommended that the drug be approved when the FDA makes it decision which is scheduled to occur by May 23. The FDA typically follows the panel’s advice.
According to an article in the Boston Globe, if approved, this would be the first blockbuster drug (drugs with more than $1 billion in annual revenues) launched by a Massachusetts company in almost a decade and Vertex’s first drug commercialized solely by the company in its 22-year history. Vertex has been working on this treatment for the liver-ravaging disease since 1993. Quiz for Early Diagnosis of Autism in Infants The Wall Street Journal reports on a study conducted at the University of California, San Diego’s Autism Center of Excellence, that showed that a screening in a pediatrician’s office can detect autism-like symptoms in children as young as 12 months old. Autism typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. The 5-minute questionnaire asks parents to identify potential problems in language and communications skills. Early diagnosis and treatment of autism—which according to the Autism Society affects 1.5 million Americans—are thought to improve outcomes. While the study did flag some babies who turned out to be developing normally, the study found that the benefits of the test outweighed the downsides. Typically, children are not diagnosed until age 2 or 3 when symptoms like lack of eye contact become more obvious. The study found that of the nearly 10,500 infants screened, 184 scored lower than expected and were referred for further evaluation and tracked up to three years. 32 infants were diagnosed with an autism-spectrum disorder and 101 infants were found to have a language or developmental delay. This is the first and only study that demonstrated the feasibility of using a broad screening measure in a medical setting.
Think Twice about Petting an Armadillo
Using genetic sequencing, researchers have found that armadillos are a likely source of leprosy among some Americans who have contracted the disease in the U.S. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, researchers found that infected armadillos captured in five southern states have the same strain of the agent that causes leprosy as that found in patients from southern states diagnosed with the disease. The strains are genetically identical, providing a biological link between the infection that occurs in human beings and those that occur in animals. The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
While leprosy is rare in the U.S. with fewer than 250 new cases reported each year and most cases are acquired overseas, one-third of patients were not out of the country or couldn’t recall contact with another infected person. The study could prompt doctors encountering patients with unexplained skin lesions to ask whether they have handled armadillos.
For the first time in 27 years, the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association have updated clinical diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease to focus on earlier stages of the disease and as it gradually changes over many years. The original criteria only focused on later stages, when symptoms of dementia are already evident. The updated guidelines now focus on the earliest preclinical stages, mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Most notably, the guidelines report on the use of imaging and biomarkers in blood and spinal fluid that may help determine whether any changes are due to Alzheimer’s. While this marks a major change in how experts study Alzheimer’s disease, these tests are to be only used for research, and not for diagnosing Alzheimer's in the general public. The new guidelines are published in the most recent issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Medication Errors at Hospital Continue to Rise The number of people treated in hospitals in the U.S. for medication error related problems has increased by 50 percent in recent years. An article in the New York Times reports that 1.9 million people became ill or injured from medication side effects or because they took or were given the wrong type or dose of medication, compared with 1.2 million injured in 2004, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
The cost of medication mistakes is the most common cause of medical errors, resulting in an estimated $3.5 billion in added costs for lost wages, productivity and additional health care expenses, according to a 2006 report issued by the Institute of Medicine. The authors of the report outlined a series of recommendations for patients, healthcare organizations, government agencies and pharmaceutical companies to curtail medication errors. These actions including the creation of new, consumer-friendly resources for patients to receive drug information as well as the call to action for all prescriptions to be written electronically by 2010.
While there has been an increased awareness about the dangers of medication errors, these numbers illustrate that this continues to be a problem.
Are you a Short Sleeper?
As someone who gets grumpy when sleep-deprived and loves a good nap, my curiosity was piqued by the Wall Street Journal article, “The Sleepless Elite,” which examined why some people are totally fine after a few hours of sleep and seem to get so much done throughout the day. For this small group of people – estimated at just 1 to 3 percent of the population - and known as “short sleepers,” they typically go to bed way past midnight and get up a few hours later, without the need for naps or caffeine.
While there are not a lot of studies published about what makes someone a short sleeper, a gene variation common to two short sleepers was discovered in 2009. Scientists were able to replicate the gene variation in a strain of mice and found that these mice needed less sleep than usual, too. Researchers are currently recruiting more candidates and hope to find more gene variations they have in common. Interestingly, the 20 short sleepers involved in the study share common characteristics. Their circadian rhythms are different from most people, are typically very upbeat and have high metabolism .They also seem to have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks. MS Study Looks at Blocked Veins A study conducted by researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo looked at the whether vein blockages in the neck can cause multiple-sclerosis as traditionally thought. Many patients with MS turn to risky surgery to unblock the veins in their neck when they fail to respond to drug treatments. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, while the study found a relationship between MS and blocked veins, it concluded that this may be a consequence rather than a cause of MS. The research is to be presented at the upcoming American Academy of Neurology meeting in Honolulu.
No Link Between Foods with Artificial Coloring and Hyperactivity
An expert panel convened by the FDA has determined that there is no proof that foods with artificial colorings cause hyperactivity in children and there is no need for these foods to carry special warning labels. According to the New York Times article, artificial color which is found in children’s favorites like Froot Loops, Life Savers and Hostess Twinkies have, have been in debate since the 1970s when a pediatric allergist successfully treated hyperactivity in some children by prescribing a diet that included eliminating foods with artificial coloring.
The panel was conveyed after FDA scientists decided that children with behavioral problems may see their symptoms worsen by eating foods with synthetic color additives. The panel voted 8 to 6 that a warning on food with artificial colors was not needed but did say more studies needed to be conducted. Lung Cancer Death Rates Improve for Women For the first time in 40 years, lung cancer death rates for women fell along with a continued decline in the overall cancer deJath rate. The report, published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that lung cancer death rates among women dropped nearly 1 percent yearly between 1992 to 2007.
Researchers with the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Cancer Society compiled the report, which provides an analysis of long- and shorter-term trends in cancer incidence and death rates. The report focuses on the 15 most common cancers and the 15 most common cancer-related causes of death in men and women.
The report found an 0.8 percent decline in new cancer diagnoses every year between 2003 and 2007, and an annual decline in death rates of 1.6 percent. Researchers did find that the incidence of childhood cancer rose slightly during this time period and the decline that started in the mid-1970s in treating childhood leukemia has slowed. One of the reasons for the slowing decline is that the newer, targeted cancer therapies are only studied and approved in adults.
With the growing popularity in social media and more and more consumers turning to Facebook and social networking sites to get their health information (we wrote about this last week, in fact), even the most seasoned healthcare PR pros are grappling with what the right mix of social and traditional media should be for their clients.
Throw into the mixture that guidance on social media from the FDA is delayed again and this equals a hot a topic indeed. Schwartz Senior VP Helen Shik (@helenShik) participated in a lively webinar hosted by PRWeek along with Gary Karr (@garykarr), EVP/Public Affairs at AdvaMed, and Lee Aase (@LeeAase), director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, on this very topic. Participants all agreed that the division between social media and traditional media has blurred and we should just think of it all as “media.” One plays off and complements the other and you run the risk of not being able to reach a critical audience if you focus solely on the traditional press or vice versa.
For instance, Helen talked about a recent study that found that blogs still heavily rely on traditional press for their information. According to a study conducted by PewResearchCenter Publications, more than 99 percent of the stories linked to in blogs come from legacy outlets like newspapers and broadcast outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post.
Gary talked about how the popularity of the iPad has infiltrated the C-level at organizations and as a result, CEOs are getting more acclimated to social media and using it as a vehicle to communicate. He advises companies to start small—no need to try everything at once. And, given regulatory fears, Gary advised companies to seek advice of a lawyer and establish social media guidelines.
Lee gave a powerful example of the power of Twitter in relaying news about professional baseball player Jayson Werth who had surgery on his wrist after he thought he was all done with baseball because of the pain. Well, through Twitter and a USA Today Twitter chat, a patient was able to diagnose her wrist pain and had the same surgery after being in constant pain for 5 years. She now has a future without chronic wrist pain and says that without Twitter, she would likely not have heard about the surgery. AND, the surgeon credits the power of social media in raising awareness of this surgical procedure in less than two years for what would normally take about 17 years for a new procedure to truly become mainstream in a practice. Talk about the power of the media!
It’s not too late to download the full transcript and hear the webinar in its entirety including the Q&A which answered questions on important topics such as measuring success.
1 in 5 People Turn to Social Media for Health Info
One in five Americans today are turning to social media as a source for their healthcare information, according to a National Research Corporation survey. Facebook was the most popular resource with 94% of the nearly 23,3000 respondents saying that they turn to this online networking site to find health information such as health education videos, and diet and exercise tips. When asked social media’s influence, 1 in 4 respondents said it was “very likely” or “likely” to impact their future health care decisions.
Many health agencies such as the CDC, health care providers as well as medical technology providers have launched Facebook pages to provide consumers with better access to health information.
Check out iHealthBeat’s article on the survey for more details on social media’s impact on how Americans are getting health information these days. Rising threat of TB According to a story in The Boston Globe, the World Health Organization has announced that more than 2 million people will contract a form of tuberculosis by 2015 that is difficult to treat. According to Mario Raviglione, director of WHO’s Stop TB department, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide will die from multi-drug-resistant (MDR) strains of tuberculosis during that period unless greater efforts are made to properly diagnose all patients and provide them with correct medication. While some countries in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are successfully reducing infection rates with aggressive detection and treatment programs, the lack of proper screening for MDR-TB means many sufferers are going undiagnosed, let alone properly treated, increasing the risk that they will spread the disease to others.
Study shows relatively poor long-term results for gastric bypass surgery A study published in the Archives of Surgery reported that nearly half of the patients who underwent gastric band surgery for weight loss more than a decade ago have had the bands removed because of medical complications. The study, which was conducted at a university obesity center in Brussels, Belgium, found that nearly 1 out of 3 patients experienced band erosion. The study as reported in the New York Times tracked 151 patients from 1994 to 1997 and is believed to be the first to track the outcomes for an extended period of time. Researchers concluded that the results reflect relatively poor long-term outcomes.
Gastric band surgery is continuing to grow in popularity in the U.S. so it will be interesting to see if this study has an impact on the patients requesting the procedure.
Posted by Lauren Arnold on March 25, 2011 at 2:30 PM
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First Treatment for Lupus in 50 Years Approved by FDA
For the first time in half a century, there is a new treatment for lupus – a chronic, incurable immune system disease in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. The FDA approved the injectable drug Benlysta (belimumab) for the treatment of patients with the most common form of lupus who are already on standard therapies like steroids, antimalarial drugs, and immunosuppressive drugs.
With lupus, a patient’s joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lung, blood vessels and brain can be affected. The drug is the first product developed by Human Genome Sciences and will be marketed by GlaxoSmithKline. It works by blocking a protein that fuels lupus. The drug however doesn’t work in African Americans who are three times more likely to get the disease but there were too few African Americans in the trial to draw a definitive conclusion. The FDA has asked the manufacturer to conduct a trial in only African Americans to assess the safety and effectiveness of this drug in this patient population. FDA approval is huge news for the more than 1.5 million Americans suffering from the disease as at least seven drugs in the last several years have suffered setbacks in clinical trials.
This news is significant on multiple levels. While it’s a step forward for the lupus community, it also underscores big pharma continuing to work with outside technologies – something we have talked about on this blog in the past. Importantly, this news also demonstrates how betting on the human genome is paying off in the discovery of new drugs. While it may have taken 18 years since the two companies partnered, it shows that patience has it rewards – in this case identifying functions of genes and their proteins and developing new drugs.
Large Medical Device Companies Look to M&A to Supplement Growth
Under increasing pressure to supplement product lines in markets that are flattening, large med-tech companies will continue to look to acquire smaller companies, according to a report published by the Walden Group. Examples include Novartis acquiring Nestle’s large stake in Alcon for $51.6 billion – one of the largest deals of 2010 - and one this blogger saw firsthand with our then client Invatec being acquired by Medtronic for $350 million. In addition, just this week Schwartz client Accuray announced it will buy TomoTherapy Inc. for $277 million. According to Medical Device Daily, the Walden Group expects the trend of big deals to continue with large companies looking to complement their offerings in their best growth markets.
Given everyone knows someone these days suffering from a stuffy nose, sore throat or fever, this blog entry is dedicated to the latest news surrounding colds and flu. Happy reading and stay healthy! Achoo! The FDA Pulls Prescription Drugs for Coughs, Colds and Allergies
The FDA announced that it ordered about 500 prescription drugs used for the treatment of colds, coughs and allergies be removed from the market, citing that they had not gone through a federal review of their safety and effectiveness. Popular over-the-counter medications are not affected and since they are used more frequently than prescription drugs, it is not thought to have a significant impact on all those people struggling with stuffy noses and the sniffles this winter, including this blogger! According to an article in the New York Times, the FDA is on a campaign to remove unapproved drugs from the market, many of which have been on the market since before 1962 when a federal law required drives to undergo an agency review for safety and effectiveness.
Calming Fever Phobia
With fevers being the main reason for one-third of calls and visits to pediatricians and cause extreme worry in parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report that the number displayed on a thermometer is less important than making a feverish child feel more comfortable. An article in the Wall Street Journal reports that parents and caregivers should focus on the general well-being of the child, his/her activity level and observe the child for signs of serious illness and maintain appropriate fluid intake. The report, aimed at physicians, also states that there is no evidence that lowering a fever will help a child get well faster or if left untreated, could cause seizures, brain damage or death, as some parents and caregivers fear.
With everyone from pre-teens to great-grandparents and everyone in between using cell phones these days, the issue of radiation continues to be in hot debate. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the first and largest study focused on whether cell phone exposure affects brain activity. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study found that 50-minute cell phone exposure was associated with increased brain activity in regions close to where the phone antenna is held against the head. However, what this means is not clear - it is not known whether these changes have any effect on a person’s overall health. While this study is preliminary and does not address any potential health issues, it definitely will ramp up the debate about radiation safety and will likely result in additional research and studies conducted on the safety of cell phones. Interestingly, according to the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse – the authors of the study - if there aren’t negative long-term effects, cell phones have the potential to be used as a non-invasive method to therapeutically stimulate parts of the brain for treatment for conditions such as depression. We’ll keep our eyes on this hot topic and report updates.
Unnecessary Surgical Breast Biopsies Being Performed
While medical guidelines state that surgical breast biopsies should only occur 10 percent of the time or less, a study found that 30 percent of the breast biopsies conducted in Florida between 2003 and 2008 were surgical. These results would likely be replicated in other areas of the country which according to the New York Times translates into more than 300,000 women a year having unnecessary surgery at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. The study published in The American Journal of Surgery found that other methods can be used such as needle biopsies which could lead to a reduction in unnecessary operations in women, improved patient care and a reduction in breast health care costs. While a needle biopsy requires only numbing with a local anesthetic – not sedation or general anesthesia like with surgery –and uses a tiny incision and carries less risk of infection and scarring, the increased use of surgery is not known. Some surmise that it is because some physicians may not be keeping up with the latest medical advances or may not want to refer patients to a radiologist. Interestingly, some hospitals are starting to put in place a surgical biopsy ban unless they are truly necessary and many doctors are telling women that if they are told they need a surgical biopsy they should ask why and consider a second opinion.
Here is a recap of some of the top health stories of the week:
Lap Band Surgery for the Not-So Obese
The FDA approved this week the wider use of Allergan’s Lap-Band stomach-restricting device for moderately obese people who fail to lose weight by alternate methods such as diet, exercise or drugs. As reported in the New York Times, more than 26 million Americans will likely now be eligible for the surgery, compared to the 15 to 18 million eligible under the previous standard. Experts believe that this expanded approval will drive more moderately obese people to consider surgery, especially since a number of diet pills have been failing to get FDA approval of late and the drug Meridia was withdrawn from the market. With these new guidelines, people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 with an associated health condition are now eligible for surgery. Until now, people had to have a BMI of 35 if they had obesity-related health problems.
Genzyme Purchased by Sanofi-Aventis for $20 Billion
The world’s fourth-largest drug maker, Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis purchased Genzyme for $20.1 billion this week. The announcement comes after months of back and forth between the companies after the deal was originally met with reluctance by the Cambridge-based company to a takeover. As discussed in the Boston Globe, this deal underscores the new pharmaceutical landscape as companies that are plagued by patent expirations are seeking ways to replace these drugs with new revenue streams. In fact, medications worth more than $30 billion in annual sales will begin competing with low-cost generic drugs for the treatment of common diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma. Genzyme’s drugs fall largely into the orphan drug class, meaning they are developed specifically to treat rare medical conditions and are given extra patent protection. Sanofi says that it is committed to Genzyme’s development of complex drugs to treat rare diseases and as a reflection of this commitment, the president traveled to Cambridge to meet with the head of Genzyme instead of simply making the announcement from its headquarters in Paris. This deal underscores the expanding life sciences industry in Massachusetts. With the nation’s top universities like Harvard and MIT and research hospitals in Boston developing new breakthrough therapies, Massachusetts is cementing itself as the hub for scientific research and talent, and large pharma is taking notice!
Watson Asks: What is Healthcare?
It’s hard to miss any stories about Watson – IBM’s advanced computing system that went against Jeopardy! pros this week – and now the analytical technology will be used to provide unprecedented clinical information and analytical technological advancements to the healthcare field. Partnering with Nuance Communications, the companies have signed a research and technology agreement to combine Watson’s technology with Nuance’s speech recognition and clinical language understanding solutions. The goal is to leverage Watson’s ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language and quickly process information to find correct answers, and assist physicians and nurses in finding information often buried within huge volumes of information and offer answers they may not have considered. Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are working with the companies on this collaborative effort to study diagnostic evidence. The first commercial offering is expected to be available in 18-24 months.
Here is a recap of some of the top health stories of the week:
Listen Up!: Survey of Docs and Patients On How to Have a More Productive Relationship
The March issue of Consumer Reports features the results of two surveys that look at the relationship between physicians and patients — what’s going well? What makes each group tick? Targeting more than 49,000 of the magazine’s subscribers, one survey found that while three-quarters of patients were highly satisfied with theirdoctor, they still had complaints — ranging from lengthy waiting room visits to ineffective treatments. On the physician front, 660 primary-care physicians were surveyed about professional challenges and what patients could be doing better, with noncompliance being a big issue. Both patients and doctors cited respect and professionalism from each other as key for a successful relationship.Not surprisingly, online research was a hot topic – with patients being big proponents about looking up their condition and treatments on the Internet while doctors were more skeptical of it being helpful. Bottom line: check out reliable sites like the CDC, FDA, NCI and the Mayo Clinic. And while we’re on the subject, the New York Times Magazine had an interesting story on where consumers get medical information: if you want unbiased information on a health condition that simply doesn’t provide links to pharmaceutical companies that it has a relationship with, check out the Mayo Clinic’s site.
Lymph Node Study Changes Thinking on Breast Cancer Treatment
Long thought to be a standard course of treatment—the removal of cancerous lymph nodes from the armpit of a patient with early stage breast cancer - a new study finds that for many women with early breast cancer, this painful procedure is not necessary. The study appearing in JAMA and reported in the New York Times found that for about 20 percent of breast cancer patients taking out cancerous nodes has no advantage and in fact, can cause complications like infection and lymphedema, a chronic swelling in the arms that can become disabling. These new findings along with results from similar studies will likely change medical practice for many patients, with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan already changing its practice.
FDA Launches Innovation Pathway to Speed Up Approval of Potentially Life Saving Medical Devices
The FDA announced a plan that would speed up the approval of medical devices that have the potential to dramatically improve patients' lives. Long a sore spot by medical device companies on how long it takes to secure FDA approval, the FDA’s Innovation Pathway would aim to review first-of-a-kind devices in five months, which is half the time currently spent reviewing most new devices. The New York Times recently wrote about how medical device executives and investors are afraid the U.S. is losing its competitive edge because companies are now seeking approvals in other countries, rather than go through the arduous and lengthy FDA review process in the U.S. As we reported earlier, the FDA is undergoing a multiyear effort to overhaul its system for approving medical devices, which has been the subject of increased criticism by industry officials and public safety advocates
We are thrilled that PRx has been accepted to Alltop, the “online magazine rack” of the web that features the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs on a variety of topics. Check out the PR and Healthcare sections for the latest PRx blog posts.
As we discussed earlier this week, the big news this week was the FDA’s announcement of its changes to improve the 510(k) market approval process for medical devices. The industry continues to come out and support the changes but the consensus during the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) conference call held yesterday cautions its listeners that the impact of the plan will depend on how the changes are implemented and whether or not it will improve patient access to new technologies. We along with everyone else in the industry will be playing close attention to how everything plays out.
Additional news stories making headlines this week include:
• An advisory committee to the FDA recommended unanimously that the FDA approve the first test — a brain scan — that can show the characteristics plaque of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain of a living person. However, this is conditional upon a training program be set up for physicians to properly read scans using the dye and that the company demonstrates that the images are being interpreted correctly. Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly, manufactures the dye. Typically, the FDA follows the advice of its panels. More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and it is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. While there is currently no treatment that can slow or reverse the progression of the disease, knowing definitely if a person had it would be invaluable in enabling physicians to diagnose whether a patient’s memory problems are a result of Alzheimer’s disease or something else such as tiny strokes. This has huge implications for patients and their families, enabling them to best plan and understand what lies ahead.
• The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 2) “The Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act aimed at repealing all aspects of Affordable Health Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Our blog post from earlier this week opines on what this means for medical companies and citizens.
We’re launching a new feature on our blog today: Healthcare headlines people are talking about. It will be a regular recap of the biggest medical stories in the news with commentary from our practice leaders. Enjoy this first post in our new series:
• Eli Lilly announced a partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to develop and market new diabetes drugs. Diabetes affects an estimated 285 million adults worldwide and more than 24 million people in the U.S.
• The FDA announced on January 13 that it would greatly restrict some of the nation’s most popular prescription painkillers that contain acetaminophen, like Percocet and Vicoden, saying these drugs put many patients at potential risk for severe liver injury. The problem arises when patients aren’t aware of their pill’s acetaminophen content and combine these drugs with over-the-counter acetaminophen painkillers like Tylenol. In 2009, an FDA advisory panel recommended a total ban on these pills, but the FDA today announced that the manufacturers of these drugs which combine narcotics with acetaminophen have 3 years to reformulate them or stop making them altogether. Under the new limit, the pills may combine no more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen—less than half of the amount found in many of them now.
• On January 12, the journal Nature published results of a study in rats demonstrating that stimulating the vagus nerve while simultaneously playing a variety of sound tones over an extended period of time helps stop tinnitus—a condition characterized by persistent ringing in the ears. There is currently no cure for tinnitus, which can occur as a result of hearing loss. Tinnitus affects nearly two million Americans and is a common problem among soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The researchers plan to try the treatment next on tinnitus patients in Europe.
• Matt Lauer on the Today Show recently interviewed a 12-year-old boy, Andrew, who suffers from a rare and severe form of epilepsy, which caused him to have up to 20 seizures a day, any one of which could be fatal. According his Andrew’s mom, the family got a service dog, Alaya, to help take care of Andrew. Alaya can actually sense a seizure coming on. The service dog carries a magnet on her collar and when the boy is on the verge of a seizure, the dog licks his face and swipes the magnet over the vagus nerve stimulator in Andrew’s chest. This eases the severity of the seizure, and sometimes even stops it completely. Alaya has completely changed the family’s lives. Andrew can now go out and play, walk Alaya down the street and use the bathroom unaided. Unfortunately, the school district refused to allow Alaya to come to school with Andrew.
After this segment aired, school officials reversed their stand on the service dog, and agreed to allow Andrew to bring Alaya to school on a 3-to-6-week trial basis. This truly demonstrates the power of PR—or more so, the Power of Matt Lauer.
We hope everyone has enjoyed our “Getting to Know” series featuring journalists, industry thought leaders and fellow colleagues. You may have noticed that we went a bit over 20 interviews - but since we got such a great response, we wanted to include everyone! One theme consistent among the healthcare PR and marketing practictioners as well as the journalists we spoke with—working in healthcare is exciting, challenging and most of all rewarding. Perhaps David Freeman said it best: “healthcare has a way of stripping the business veneer away and reminding you of what’s at stake and how you make a difference in a way that I imagine few industries can.”
Schwartz Healthcare Practice Leader and Executive Vice President Nigel Smith, closes out our special 20th Anniversary series with a video commentary on what’s next for public relations, including content marketing and the vital incorporation of digital, video and SEO with traditional PR. Enjoy!
Name: Sherry Feldberg Title: Director Company: Schwartz Communications
My first Schwartz healthcare client was: Philips Medical Systems. What I like most about working in healthcare is: the opportunity to empower people to take charge of their healthcare by educating them about the latest tools available for a variety of conditions/ diseases.
When I’m not working, I like to: spend time with my family, watch my favorite shows including Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Mad Men, and travel. Who had the biggest influence on your career?: That's a tough one. Pretty much every Vice President in Schwartz's healthcare practice has helped me become the professional I am today. People would be most surprised to learn that: while I tend to be "type A" at work, I am not quite that way at home. For example, sometimes I leave the dishes unwashed in the sink and my daughter's toys all over the living room before going to sleep at night. The horror, I know! If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: a therapist. You can find me: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sherryfeldberg; http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherry-feldberg/11/81a/465
My first Schwartz healthcare client was: in healthcare IT, it was Skyscape, a provider of mobile reference solutions for healthcare professionals. In the medical device market, it was Endius, maker of a minimally-invasive spine surgery platform. Today, I work primarily with companies in Schwartz’s healthcare IT practice.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: learning about new innovations that have a direct impact on everyday people. It’s interesting to promote solutions that really improve the practice of medicine or make a business impact for providers and payers. It’s also cool when I am at a doctor’s office and see him/her using a technology that I represent, like Epocrates’ medical software on a mobile device.
When I’m not working, I like to: spend time with my 15 month old son dancing and giggling, as well as with my great husband Dan. I also like to watch TV, shop, read, and enjoy a glass of good wine and yummy food (these days it’s mostly take-out or finding recipes to make at home). And, I admit, I like Facebooking and playing games like Angry Birds on my iPhone!
Who had the biggest influence on your career?: I never really thought about this before, but I think it’s my mom. She always taught me that I can achieve anything I want, and to set big goals and work hard to achieve them. She passed away several years ago, but I think she’d be proud to see where I am today.
People would be most surprised to learn that I: pursued a career in professional theatre before coming to Schwartz. I was in stage management at Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Indiana Repertory Theatre, where I worked with/met some famous people like Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Arthur Miller, Sigourney Weaver, Marisa Tomei, F. Murray Abraham and Blythe Danner.
Name: Risa Burgess Title: Vice President Company: Schwartz Communications My first Schwartz healthcare client was: Cyberonics. Interviewing and meeting patients, and their family members, who have struggled with epilepsy and depression was eye opening and humbling for me. VNS Therapy is truly life changing and I can distinctly remember the thrill I got from pitching patient success stories to regional TV and newspapers. Hearing about patients who were seeking out information about the treatment after watching a TV segment or reading a newspaper article that I had placed, I was sold.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: I really enjoy working with entrepreneurs who are paving the way for new treatment options for underserved patient populations and researchers at the top medical institutions in the country to get the word out on the latest medical advances. I know first-hand how challenging it can be to navigate the healthcare system and work through the different channels to find information on treatment options for loved ones. I’d like to think I’m helping the cause for others.
When I’m not working, I like to: spend family time with my son, daughter, and husband. I enjoy hosting dinner parties but, let’s be real, today my get-togethers are centered around kid-friendly cuisine, nap-time, building blocks and construction trucks. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also love to travel, camp with my sister, cook, drink good wine, try new restaurants, read non-fiction and spend time on the beach. Who had the biggest influence on your career?: At different inflection points along the way there have been different people – colleagues, family members, friends – who have both encouraged me and inspired me. I have to hand it to my parents for instilling in me a strong work ethic – at an early age. See my next answer below. People would be most surprised to learn that I: am the queen of odd jobs. Before my career in healthcare PR, I taught sailing at my beloved summer camp, sold vinyl siding as a telemarketer, ran museum exhibits at a Children’s museum in Washington, D.C, served lunch to faculty members at a “haunted” inn at the University of Maryland in College Park (my alma mater), conducted holiday inventory scanning at department stores, tagged clothing in a factory, and refereed soccer games for my town soccer league. If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: a restaurant food critic or a stay-at-home mom.
Name: Lauren Arnold Title: Vice President Company: Schwartz Communications My first Schwartz healthcare client was: Cyberonics in 1997. We started working with them 4 days before FDA approval so it was a hectic and demanding week like I had never experienced before. From faxing reporters the news release to FedExing press kits, how we do things may have changed, but what has remained constant since that FDA approval is the thrill of seeing news stories that have an impact on patients and their families.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: the great life-changing impact our clients’ technology has on patient’s lives and their families. From artificial hearts to participation in life-saving clinical trials to digital hearing aids that allow grandparents to hear their grandchildren clearly for the first time, the technology and medicine we publicize is making people’s lives better every day. When I’m not working, I like to: spend time with my family, including my 7 month son who I’m still hoping will get my curly hair; read; and unwind watching tv. Who had the biggest influence on your career?: My mentors and colleagues who inspire me daily to do the best job I can. People would be most surprised to learn that I: think I would make a great detective, although I get scared easily. If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: a writer of children’s books featuring my dog Piper and her Lazybones Detective Agency.
Name: Jon Siegal Title: Director Company: Schwartz Communications
My first Schwartz healthcare client was: the Sleep Well, Be Healthy campaign to raise awareness of obstructive sleep apnea.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: the positive impact our work has in improving the lives of patients.
When I’m not working, I like to: spend time with the two women in my life, my wonderful wife and my just-as-wonderful Labrador retriever. As a Patriots season ticket holder you can find me at Gillette Stadium in the Fall. Beyond that, I’m always on the hunt for the next great steakhouse in Boston or wherever my travels take me. Who had the biggest influence on your career?: I basically fell into healthcare PR, so I can’t pinpoint one person. However, I soon realized the effect of our work and became hooked.
People would be most surprised to learn that I: began to lose my hair in high school. I enjoy being bald, but I didn’t have much of a choice. If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: in aviation, sports or casino gaming. You can find me at: email@example.com;@PRJon; www.linkedin.com/in/jonsiegal
Title: Freelance writer for websites and national magazines, including AOL Health
My first reporting job was: At a start-up teenage newspaper. It didn't survive very long, but it was fun while it lasted.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: knowing that my stories may be improving the lives of others. When I’m not working, I like to: laugh, cook, bake, power walk, watch TV, go to the movies and shop for bargains. Who had the biggest influence on your career?: It started with Judy Blume...she made writing seem so damn easy!
People would be most surprised to learn that I: Do my best writing while listening to Howard Stern.
If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: a therapist. Oh wait, that's still healthcare. Then I'd go the opposite (brainless) route and be a celebrity's assistant.
My first publishing job was: Copy-editing articles for mountain-biking and cycling magazines in the UK, where I hail from. I later went on to become production editor of Pulse, a weekly newspaper for physicians.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: that it is such an exciting, innovative, dynamic and - above all - important industry. My only hesitation about entering a career in magazines was that it was not a profession of fundamental importance to mankind, unlike being a doctor or nurse. Now I get to impart information about life-saving technology and innovation to those doctors and nurses - and play a role in this wonderful profession, however small. When I’m not working, I like to: Walk and cycle around Vancouver, the most beautiful city in the world, to where I have recently emigrated from the UK. Who had the biggest influence on your career?: My first boss at Building, an architectural magazine in the UK, who taught me that there was always a better way to present a story and to think laterally about all the possible ways to get that story out to the reader. People would be most surprised to learn that I: am in a Vancouver show choir called Sing City. It's like Glee for grown-ups.
If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: working for a movie magazine - I'm a big movie enthusiast, if not exactly a film buff.
You can find me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Lauren Arnold on November 22, 2010 at 9:09 AM
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My first reporting job was: for Wall Street & Technology magazine. What I like most about working in healthcare is: how collaborative the CIO community is
When I'm not working, I like to: read interesting historical biographies, watch football, play with my son
Who had the biggest influence on my career: my wife, who supported me quitting my job and starting a company from scratch
People would be most surprised to learn that I: am soon to be a parent of two under two If I didn't work in healthcare, I would probably be: a journalist covering some other industry, albeit far less engaged
Name: Helen Shik Title: Senior Vice President Company: Schwartz Communications My first Schwartz healthcare client was: Heartstream, maker of the ForeRunner automatice external defibrillator (now the Philips HeartStart AED). I started at Schwartz a couple of months before the FDA clearance of the ForeRunner-- and what an amazing launch to work on. From CBS Evening News to USA Today to the Wall Street Journal, the clearance of this tiny AED made headlines everywhere. And for years, my father-in-law would email me every time he heard an AED story on the news (and in most cases, it was about our client). Luckily, I've had the good fortune to work with many of the founders of Heartstream again, as they went on to other companies.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: There's no greater satisfaction than speaking with a patient or caregiver who says one of my client's technology/therapy helped them-- and that they learned about the therapy from a news story. When I’m not working, I like to: Not necessarily in this order: run (I've completed 5 half-marathons), go to the movies, host friends at my house, dance, travel, watch my boys play soccer and cook.
Who had the biggest influence on your career?: My mentor, Betsy Buffington Bates. She was my first boss in marketing and PR. She's an incredible writer and editor, a world traveler, and now a professor of communications and history. Although I worked with her more than 16 years ago, the lessons she taught me about PR, writing and editing, client relations, and business continue to impact how I do my job. People would be most surprised to learn that I: got my first car at the age of 30. If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably: Own a shoe store.
You can find me at: email@example.com, @helenshik and http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=19427976&trk=tab_pro
My first reporting job was: on-air as a one man band reporter/anchor in small town Michigan. What I like most about working in healthcare is: that it personally affects each and every individual; everyone has a story to share.
When I’m not working, I like to: travel, write, and spend time with my husband Who had the biggest influence on your career?: My family (near, far, immediate and extended), who taught me never to quit.
People would be most surprised to learn that I: speak four languages fluently. If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: an author.
Learn about Luke Timmerman, national biotechnology editor at Xconomy. Good for you for giving up your car!
Name: Luke Timmerman Title: National Biotechnology Editor Company: Xconomy
My first reporting job was: Covering high school sports for my hometown newspaper, the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. I was a senior in high school, writing for a newspaper with circulation of about 30,000 daily copies in northeast Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin. I was able to continue writing for the Telegraph-Herald after I graduated and went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They gave me an opportunity to be a regular beat reporter covering Big Ten football and basketball for a real newspaper when I was just 18. It was a real thrill, gave me several hundred clips before I graduated college, plus really valuable experience in interviewing prominent coaches and athletes. It really forced me to file fast, accurate copy on tight deadlines.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: It's just plain fascinating. No other journalistic beat that I know of can draw on so many ingredients for great storytelling---science, medicine, business, politics, ethics. There are also many great characters in the biotech industry. For the men and women who actually beat the odds and create a drug, device or diagnostic that is really useful, it actually matters to a lot of people and can make a difference in their lives. It's not just some passing consumer fad.
When I’m not working, I like to: Go for long runs, climb mountains, play fantasy sports online with old friends.
Who had the biggest influence on your career?: Steven Walters. He was the capitol bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and a part-time professor at UW-Madison. He taught a class I took in college on public affairs reporting. He really inspired me to think about how to do journalism the right way, how it's something much bigger than any individual, and plays a vital role in our democracy.
People would be most surprised to learn that I: ride my bicycle all around Seattle, and gave up car ownership completely three years ago. I rely on occasional use of zipcar, rental cars and taxis. I love it.
If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: Covering some federal agency that is supposed to do something important, but for some reason causes few people and few journalists to pay much attention.
You can find me at: firstname.lastname@example.org,@ldtimmerman, www.linkedin.com/pub/luke-timmerman/3/434/427,
My first Schwartz healthcare client was: Sleep Well, Be Healthy campaign for obstructive sleep apnea; Nobel Biocare.
What I like most about working in healthcare is: helping to raise awareness of a new treatment option (device, therapy, etc)., and being able to do so through the personal stories of patients and physicians, with the goal of improving quality of life via education.
When I’m not working, I like to: travel, exercise (CrossFit, yoga, running, hiking, skiing, etc), check out new restaurants and bars, listen to live music and standup comedy, catch a baseball or lacrosse game, see the latest movies in theaters, visit wine country, spend time with family and friends.
Who had the biggest influence on your career?: my colleagues who have continued to challenge and inspire me along the way People would be most surprised to learn that I: was captain of my collegiate lacrosse team (Colby College), was an "extra" in Fatal Attraction and Regarding Henry when I was in grade school, and lived in France for 4 months (no, unfortunately no longer fluent) during college. If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would probably be: A screenwriter or director (as I almost went to film school). You can find me at: email@example.com;http://www.linkedin.com/pub/shannon-murphy/1/bb1/207
Awareness days, weeks and months - for everything from fall prevention to diabetic neuropathy - have become a dime a dozen over the years and as a result, have tremendously diminished impact with the news media. While biotech and medical device companies may want to promote their products that tie into an awareness day, we as a PR agency know that it is a hard sell.
That’s not to say that all awareness days have lost their significance. For instance, Heart Disease Month in February and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October are still covered by the media and can be great vehicles as we conduct medical device and biotech PR. Given that October is coming to a close, I thought I would talk about some work that we recently did with our client LifeCell that strives to raise awareness for breast cancer reconstruction. Starting early, we reached out to national and local media to talk about the breast cancer reconstruction as an alternative to surgery. In addition to local coverage in cities across the country, we secured national coverage on breast cancer in Essence Magazine and the Today Show.
Here are some tips to get the most out of your PR campaigns tied to awareness days:
· Extra, Extra. it’s not just your regular contacts. Go outside your traditional media list. For instance, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mario Lopez on the tabloid entertainment show Extra conducts a segment on new and innovative breast cancer treatments. Who would have thought?!
· Must tie products into hot issues. As a medical PR agency, we know that we will be shot down in seconds if we just say our client X has a new treatment that you should cover because it’s National Heart Disease Month. Rather, the strategic way to go is to discuss a trend, explain its relevance and then use the awareness month as a reason for coverage today, not months down the road.
· Start early. Monthly women’s magazines start planning issues months in advance. In order to make the October issue, you need to start contacting them in the summer.
Do you have any tips or tricks for getting coverage during awareness months? If so, we’d love to hear them.
For healthcare PR executives, all eyes will be on the FDA later this week with its first public hearing focused on social media. Schwartz’s Executive Vice President Jim Weinrebe and Vice President Jayme Maniatis will be attending the two day public hearing on November 12 and 13 and will report back on key findings.
Check back later this for our expert commentary and top takeaways from the proceedings.
Should be an exciting two days in Washington D.C. and the results will have tremendous implications for all healthcare PR practitioners. Stay tuned!
With many industry folks saying it’s about time, the FDA just announced that it’s holding a public hearing to discuss social media. For years and years, the FDA has not addressed Internet-specific marketing so this week’s news is a huge acknowledgement that the Internet, social media tools like podcasts, and micro-blogging sites such as Facebook and Twitter are changing the face of marketing and advertising.
The public hearing, scheduled for November 12 and 13 in Washington D.C., is open to all interested parties such as consumers, patients, caregivers, patient groups, manufacturers, healthcare professionals and marketing agencies to provide their comments of Internet promotion. Armed with this information, the FDA will then make policy decisions on the promotion of human and animal prescription drugs, biologics and medical devices using the Internet and social media tools.
As a healthcare PR agency, our clients grapple with these issues every day as they look for guidance on what is acceptable and what could potentially land them in hot water with the FDA. Take Twitter, for instance. With its popularity growing in leaps and bounds every day, companies want to join the bandwagon and reach legions of people, but what is acceptable to say? With Tweets limited to 140 characters, do companies need to ensure that they are providing a fair and balanced view of the product including side effects or contraindications? Is this possible in 140 characters or less? Do they have to resort to haiku?
Many of our medical PR clients have also started Facebook pages to push messages out to consumers, healthcare professionals as well as the community at large to engage them and interact with them to learn more about their experiences with our clients’ products. One of the biggest questions that regularly gets asked is what if someone posts a comment on the Wall about an off-label use or adverse reaction. Is the company obligated to notify the FDA and is there a timeframe where this must be done? This is another key question that the FDA will be likely looking to address.
As a healthcare PR agency, we are definitely more than interested in the public hearings and especially what happens as a result. I suspect that many of our clients will provide comments and ask questions about this important discussion that is finally being addressed by the FDA. It will be a long process though as written and electronic comments are being accepted until February 28, 2010. Stay tuned for updates!
Over the weekend, I saw a Tweet (http://tinyurl.com/ljjwla) that the Heart and Diabetes Center NRW in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, performed the 800th implant of the SynCardia CardioWest™ temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH‑t). Congratulations SynCardia! Back in October 2004, in my capacity as PR counsel to Syncardia, I was at the FDA Panel Meeting when it approved SynCardia’s CardioWest temporary Total Artificial Heart as a bridge-to-transplantation in cardiac transplant-eligible candidates at risk of imminent death from non-reversible biventricular failure. What an exciting time for not only the company who spent years and years working on and perfecting the device but also for physicians and patients whose lives were greatly changed—and saved—by this amazing device. I spoke with numerous patients including a cyclist who is an award winning member of the Transplant Olympic teams who had a second chance of life after being implanted with the CardioWest device. I am thrilled that more than 800 patients have since benefited from this device.
While this was the pre-Twitter, Facebook era, SynCardia made headlines news—from cover stories in its local Tucson papers to the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Associated Press. This was one of the most exciting, heartwarming (excuse the pun) launches I ever worked on and will stay with me forever.
BIO started off with a bang on Wednesday with a Town Hall Forum featuring Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center President & CEO Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister and other state leaders who discussed how the Massachusetts Life Sciences Supercluster is growing as a result of the state’s $1 billion investment. They discussed how state, federal and private funding is being integrated to push forward new and established companies and researchers in today’s economy.
This year’s Massachusetts Biotechnology Council Annual Meeting provided a sober look at the state of the Massachusetts biotech industry and what the cluster must do to succeed in the years to come. Our world-class teaching hospitals and academic institutions, our talented scientists, physicians and researchers coupled with a vibrant VC community has resulted in Massachusetts being a world leader in the industry, but according to the council, other states and even countries are fast on our heals of potentially claiming the “super cluster” position. While Massachusetts has enjoyed being the launch pad for exciting companies like Genyzme and Biogen, today’s “rising stars” and even companies that are not yet formed but are a glimmer of hope in a scientist’s eye based on a patent or piece of IP, now face new, bigger challenges due to today’s economic conditions. The key theme of the day’s presentations was the importance of greater collaboration among industry, academia and venture capitalists. In order for the Commonwealth to not only survive today’s economic landscape but more importantly, prosper and maintain our leadership position, it will be key for these organizations to work together.
According to the MBC’s 2015 Strategic Report which was released at the conference, scientific collaboration and innovation is a critical linchpin to the success of the state’s biotech industry. The report discusses the need to better align the academic community with industry to improve collaboration and to address technology transfer processes taking innovation from the bench top to industry. Unlike other biotech powerhouse cities like San Francisco and San Diego, tech transfer doesn’t happen as seamlessly in Massachusetts. One of the calls to action was development of a consortium of academia and industry, so that the gene discovery and validation process that occurs in the academic setting can then be developed by companies with the funds and means to build accurate models and implement clinical trials. Without this technology transfer, we won’t see progress.
While it may seem ironic to say that I found the Economic Outlook session uplifting, it provided some clarity on where the industry is heading and it’s not all bad! Moderated by Xconomy Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief Robert Buderi, the session discussed on how the recession actually presents us with a tremendous opportunity. While pharma generally bets the bank on a blockbuster drug, nimble-minded biotech companies should focus on a “niche-buster” and be creative and adaptive in clinical trials. It is these companies who will come out standing—many of whom get their start here in the Bay State.
The MBC continues to host interesting, thought-provoking meetings that provide valuable forums for discussion, networking, collaboration and innovation.
A colleague and I recently attended the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council event, “Marketing in Turbulent Markets: Creative Strategies for Marketing Challenges”—something that everyone can definitely relate to these days. For anyone who has never attended an MBC event, I highly recommend them—a great way to meet fellow marketing folks, network, catch up on what’s going on in the industry and share best practices.
The lead speaker, Nancy Levy, founder and managing partner of BioHealth Management, LLC, a commercial strategy and business development consulting firm, gave a great overview on how to “Create the Buzz without the Bee.” Levy talked about the evolution of the four P’s of marketing: product, price, place and promotion are being replaced, or, at very least, supplemented with personalization, participation and peer-to-peer.
What this boils down to is knowing who your customer is and tailoring for that audience; involving your customers from around the globe and really listening to what they want, need and their thoughts about your brand; and using social and professional networks to spread a message—advocacy groups, patient groups, research organizations, etc.
Biotech is unlike most industries because the “product” is intangible. Typically, the product is innovation and the ability to do something. This presents inherent marketing challenges that underscore the importance of personalization, participation and peer-to-peer marketing efforts.
This marketing mantra definitely holds true for public relations. We advise our clients to focus messaging on the innovation and benefits, rather than simply features of the products. This is what interests customers and generate sales.
In times of a tumultuous economy, it becomes even more critical to stretch marketing budgets and reach as many potential customers as possible. PR is a marketing avenue that works hand-in-hand with the three Ps. Because PR is cost-effective, strategic and easily adapted to communicate with various audiences, it presents an opportunity to build your brand, communicate with customers, and engage key opinion leaders without breaking the bank.
If you are trying to decide what to put in your marketing mix that will be the most effective, you are putting yourself at a disservice if your PR activities go black. Dollar for dollar, PR is more cost effective than advertising and there are countless studies that underscore this.
For those companies thinking they can’t afford to put marketing dollars to PR, consider this:, it’s a risky approach; if even just one competitor pushes ahead with PR and is the one to get the exposure, when the tides turn, who do you think the public will remember—the company who has been radio silent for the past months or the company that they have been reading about?
All in all, it was an informative, timely meeting and really hammers home the message that smart marketing can help take us through these turbulent times. I am definitely planning to attend upcoming Mass Biotech Council meetings and will report on what I learn.