If we want authenticity, we have to initiate it.

A story about snowboarding and patient engagement. Obviously.



Sometimes the most profound thoughts come from the places you least expect.

During an early morning business flight to Rome, I needed something relaxing to silence my busy mind. I closed my work diary and reached for my Mac to watch my go-to movie for just such as occasion: the brilliant 2011 snowboard movie “The Art of Flight” (from Red Bull Media House).

The film starts with an opening monologue from professional snowboarder Travis Rice:

…”Our lives have become digital. Our friends, now virtual.

And, anything you could ever wanna know is just a click away.

Experiencing the world through second-hand information isn’t enough.

If we want authenticity we have to initiate it”…

I immediately hit pause and re-watched this part of the intro, paying close attention to the words.

“If we want authenticity we have to initiate it”

I was now repeating those final two sentences over and over in my mind and thinking about the relationship between pharma companies, patients and health care professionals — most commonly labelled as engagement — and whether each of these players really, truthfully understand what makes each other tick.

What we need is disruption!

I cast my mind back to a recent meeting at Indigo Medical HQ with the ever charming and insightful Martin Talks, Principal of Digital Disruption School. We discussed, amongst other things, the topic of engagement, and the conclusions were damning:

“In terms of engagement, pharma companies are beginning to run out of tricks. A new mindset is needed, new experiences and new ways to communicate with healthcare professionals and their patients”

We talked about the advent of pharma-sponsored websites, and again Martin had some misgivings about these methods to communicate:

“HCPs and patients don’t want to go to company-sponsored websites”. The solution? “Pharma needs to help break through barriers, grow communities, provide training to HCPs, develop skills, solve problems and regain trust”


And it’s not just a pharma-thing

The air stewardess shuffled by with the payment-only trolley; my attention momentarily distracted, I hit play and let my mind once again relax. But I couldn’t. Travis, Scotty Lago, Pat Moore and others proceeded to throw themselves of huge kickers (snow-ramps to the less informed) and I couldn’t help thinking about engagement. I randomly skipped the footage to the beginning of another scene and heard Travis’ tones once more:

“We will never know our full potential unless we push ourselves to find it.

It’s this self-discovery that inevitably takes us to the wildest places on earth”

Who is this guy and how is he able to channel my mind?!

Those 14 words hit the nail on the head. We, in pharma (OK, I no longer work in pharma anymore, but at 39,000 ft my brain suddenly reverted back to my pharma days) rarely push ourselves to find those wild places. A counter that most pharma executives utter at this point is about regulation and the hurdles pharma is mandated to negotiate. But pharma isn’t alone. Take the regulated financial sector and how FinTech (Financial Technology) has revolutionized the way we bank using smartphones and mobile banking. And the story of Monese, whose promise to “open a UK current account on your mobile, without a UK address or credit history” seems ridiculous to even contemplate in today’s financial landscape, however they are addressing a mistrust issue that people have with the legacy banks.

So, what can we do about it?

Pharma engagement plans follow well-trodden paths. Corporate websites, moderated social media channels. But are they truly authentic? Are they genuine, reliable, original? We need to consider what makes patients disengaged. We need to meet the trust issue head-on. We need to make time for more (innovative) collaborations.

It’s about time we blaze some new trails.

It’s time to go off-piste to see what is possible, what should be doable and what could be the outcome.

It’s time to be more like Travis.


Indigo who?

We treat every engagement project with the uniqueness it deserves.

That is the only way we can be truly authentic.

We look to help our clients truly understand the experience, from patient / physician health issue identification to how pharma can effectively treat, manage and communicate.

Additional information relating to Martin Talks Digital Disruption School can be found at https://www.digitaldisruptionschool.org/