The Rising Importance of Verification and Validation Standards for the Point- of-Care Media Industry
Point-of-Care Media (POC) is one of the fastest growing sectors in healthcare education and media today. With the rapid proliferation of technology and digital screens across physician offices, pharmacies and hospitals, the $500 million POC market has grown more than 10% annually over the last few years.
Key Factors Propelling POC’s Growth
Sponsor-advertised educational content is the main thrust behind POC’s rise to prominence as a media channel. The mutual benefit to patients receiving timely, relevant, healthcare information and to advertisers targeting consumers when healthcare is acutely top of mind is central to POC’s appeal.
POC media provides educational content to consumers in physician offices, pharmacies and hospital settings. Because the majority of treatment decisions are made in these authoritative and trusted environments, this form of advertising and content is uniquely positioned to reach a target audience, while facilitating more effective patient and healthcare practitioner dialogue. A direct correlation between patient education and related healthcare follow-up action is already apparent, with multiple POC companies reporting material increases in vaccinations and other forms of preventive screenings, treatment and procedures.
POC will also continue to benefit from the ongoing fragmentation of media channels by modern technology. Advertisements for drug companies broadcasted on television today are no longer as effective in reaching audiences as they were years ago, with audiences moving away from traditional television programming and gravitating towards more targeted media platforms, including on-demand, mobile and online video. What’s more is that POC, because of its relevance and strategic placement before captive audiences, is even beginning to show dominance over some of these “newer” media channels as online advertising platforms contend with advertisement blocking software, fraud and poor engagement by online audiences.
The Need for Standardization
Although POC introduces unique and high-value opportunities for advertising agencies and media buyers, potential growing pains within the industry are currently being addressed. Specifically, marketers and healthcare professionals are concerned about the verification, standardization and auditing of network content and scale. The most influential party in this debate is the Point-of- Care Communications Council (PoC3), a consortium of POC industry leaders whose goal is to advocate utilization of the POC channel and scale the industry through the efforts of its member companies in order to improve patient health outcomes. The organization’s initiatives call for verified auditing and increased transparency of performance standards to credentialize POC to healthcare brands and agencies that are allocating larger portions of their advertising budgets to the channel.
Credibility in the platform is more important than ever as providers in the industry continue to promote POC as a valuable tool and effective media channel. Towards this end, a significant feature working in POC’s favor is that that various elements of the channel are measureable, including the number of locations in a POC network, as well as the resulting “script lift” (increase in number of prescriptions written) or ROI of a particular campaign.
Since POC companies sell their platforms to healthcare buyers based on their network sizes (i.e., number of physician offices, hospitals, screens, patient impressions, etc.), media providers need to follow consistent practices and standards when making claims about the number of health-related offices or hospitals in their network. Buyers should be ensured that the facts and figures stated by a POC media owner are 100% legitimate and consistent across the industry.
Similarly, there is no industry standard in place regarding the ROI that POC companies provide healthcare brands and media buyers. As mentioned, a differentiating feature of POC is that it can quantitatively measure ROI on advertising spend. However, this critical advantage could be negated by inconsistent reporting of these statistics across POC providers. Some POC providers, for example, may claim the ability to generate ROIs as high as 20x, but results may not be measured the same way by other POC providers. To address this issue, PoC3 media partners currently use established data providers (e.g., Crossix, IMS, Symphony) to validate results. Legitimate standardization, though, for ROIs and other metrics will need to be established across the entire industry in order for POC to reach its full potential as an advertising medium.
What’s Being Done to Move POC Forward
Steps are being taken to tackle POC’s underlying growth challenges. PoC3 is in the process of officially releasing a set of guidelines that will speak to verification, standardization and auditing (i.e., “Buyers’ Guide”). The Buyers’ Guide includes key physical audit metrics, such as reach verification, as well as specific protocols to follow, i.e., developing an approved methodology to ensure the integrity of physician network lists. The guidelines also feature a set of FAQs to help potential buyers of POC media understand the most important questions to ask POC media providers. Buyers could ask “How does the POC media owner verify campaign presence and functionality of digital devices?” or “Does the POC media partner physically audit their locations?” A draft of the Buyers’ Guide has been released to a select group of media providers and is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.
In order to continue driving momentum in the industry, the next step would be for these ethical guidelines to gain significant traction among all POC media providers and for the auditing standards to be universally approved and embraced by the industry. Once finalized, the auditing standards will need to fully encompass network definition and validation, minimum standard metrics for performance, completion of audit by approved third-party auditing firms, compliance with updated ethics guidelines and annual ethics compliance certification. These developments, which are already in motion, will provide a firm framework on verification, standardization and auditing in order to maximize the value of POC channels and the education that this platform provides for its patients and healthcare providers nationwide.
Though still a niche channel, POC continues to grow as an attractive advertising platform with the ability to demonstrate attribution for its brands. Reaching patients at the point-of-care, where drug prescribing decisions are the most important, remains a key selling point for this channel. There remains significant whitespace potential for the industry, and effective standardization and auditing will position POC to meaningfully compete as the premier healthcare media channel in the foreseeable future.
On September 13, 2017, PJ Solomon hosted a PoC3 Town Hall to discuss the importance of establishing industry standards for verification and validation in the POC industry.
PJ Solomon was the strategic advisor to PatientPoint on its $140 million capital raise. The transaction was announced on June 28, 2017.