September 14, 2023

6 Takeaways From The Future of Digital Health Panel

By Eric Peacock, CEO and Co-founder, MyHealthTeam

Digital health media is on the precipice of major change. ChatGPT and AI are advancing faster than we ever thought they would. Third-party cookies are going away slower than we ever thought they would (finally happening next year). There’s a pressing case for improving health equity and patient privacy, and the pressured budgets of pharma companies looking to hedge against an uncertain economic and regulatory future weigh heavily in 2024 marketing plans. 

Five of the top minds in pharma marketing came together at the MyHealthTeam Summer Summit in New York City last month to tackle these subjects and more. Below is a summary of the issues they believe should be top of mind for pharma marketers, agencies, and publishers while planning for 2024.

6 Takeaways From The Future of Digital Health Panel

Panelists pictured left to right, are: William Veltre, Director, Omni-Channel Strategy, Bristol Myers Squibb; David Klein, EVP, Strategy & Brand Experience, Publicis Co / Lab; Keira Duarte Vinson, Media Director, Publicis Health Media; Karima Sharif-Ali, M.B.A., Managing Director, Client Lead, Initiative; Brian Kaiser, EVP, Head of Strategy, Klick Health; and, moderated by Eric Peacock, Co-founder & CEO, MyHealthTeam


With third-party cookies crumbling in the first quarter of 2024, brands, agencies, and publishers are preparing by investing in first-party and zero-party data solutions to reach diagnosed patients.

We are going to see a change in the marketplace “driving more content-based buys and direct buys with partners who have better access to their patient communities,” predicted William Veltre, director of Omni-Channel strategy at Bristol Myers Squibb. He continued, “The companies who are working on building [data] engines for their pharma clients will be the ones who are going to win.”

William Veltre

Keira Duarte Vinson, media director at Publicis Health Media, agreed. “Everyone has been preparing for third-party cookie deprecation since Google announced it several years ago,” she said. “Most publishers have started to build out their first-party data and different data audience models that they can sell into marketers.”  Added Karima Sharif-Ali, MBA, managing director at Initiative, “Agencies are building out programmatic divisions and partnering with companies that have that data that will allow them to buy that targeted inventory.”

Patient communities such as MyHealthTeam, which has built large zero-party databases, are critical partners with agencies and pharma marketers to ensure their tactics reach diagnosed patients in a cookieless world. MyHealthTeam has introduced patient diagnosis targeting and content targeting for advertisers. We’re all partnering to provide ways to reach diagnosed patients in a targeted and privacy-compliant way once third-party cookies disappear.


Recent changes in privacy and patient data will fundamentally change targeting tactics and reporting on marketing programs, members of the panel predicted. Sharif-Ali explained that the recent spate of anti-abortion laws going into force across the country have triggered a response of new privacy laws. “There has been an attack on women’s health care, which has affected table-stake marketing tactics. Already, four states have enacted health privacy and data laws around facilities and geotargeting. This has an immediate impact on marketers and patients,” Sharif-Ali said. “That news immediately and directly affects us as marketers, but most importantly as patients.” 

Karima Sharif-Ali

Similarly, the deprecation of third-party cookies will require a reeducation of clients about how campaigns are measured, predicted Duarte Vinson.  “Some of the tools that we used to have at our disposal as marketers to pull insights across a target demographic, [or] pull back one to one and understand how a top-of-funnel program led to some of our lower-funnel conversion action — this will look a lot different in terms of the insights we will be able to provide. So there’s definitely going to need to be a lot of education with clients, and the KPIs that we use to measure performance will need to shift.”


You can expect to see an increasing role of “microinfluencers” on social media in Omni-Channel marketing. Omni-Channel is fundamentally about using all the data at your disposal to determine the next best action and communication to a patient or an HCP. Influencers can be a big part of that communication — but not the way they have been.

“What we are really talking about are not the Lady Gagas and Khloé Kardashians, but instead the network of microinfluencers [with a health condition] who speak authentically,” explained Brian Kaiser, executive vice president and head of strategy at Klick Health. “Influencers move at the speed of the market, and speed and authenticity are a critical currency for brands.” 

Brian Kaiser

We’re not talking about controlling the message of influencers as much as co-creating it with them. Pharma can take a page from the playbook of beauty brands, who have embraced the microinfluencer world better than any category, shared David Klein, executive vice president of  strategy and brand experience at Publicis Co/Lab. “The beauty category has evolved from having major spokespersons to these sub-segment influencers,” he explained. “It can change a brand in a couple of weeks if the right person gets onto TikTok talking about a brand in a category like migraine.” 

This impacts the type of content created for marketing too. “With the digital [Omni-Channel] model, pharma companies no longer need to create seven 60-second TV spots,” Klein said. “Digital content is snackable stuff that is developed and run in a very different way.”

Added Veltre, “Audiences are using social media to share their experiences in a reputable way. It’s not a megaphone for pharma; it’s about listening to what and how they are doing and saying. We have to listen to that as marketers in order to be authentic. It’s a bidirectional relationship where we don’t drive prescriptions, we drive conversations [between patients and physicians] that lead to prescriptions.” 

Patient social networks such as MyPsoriasisTeam and MyVitiligoTeam, which are composed of thousands of microinfluencers, have proven them right. The discussions on these networks are great examples of how authentic and organic conversations blossom about recently launched drugs and the ways in which patients are able to get on those therapies and pay for them. 


Sharif-Ali laid out three key points for successful health equity initiatives, which we at MyHealthTeam have found to be 100 percent accurate in our own health equity work:

  1. “Health equity is everyone’s job, not just one person’s job,” she declared. 
  2. Health equity programs start upstream — not at the bottom of the marketing funnel. Start by looking at understanding the microcommunities of underserved patient populations, and ensure you’re putting resources there. “Black women are three times as likely to die from breast cancer as white women,” said Sharif-Ali. “We need to make sure we are having authentic conversations, relevant story-telling, and trusted influencers in that local community.”
  3. Make sure your microinfluencers and medical experts look like the audience you’re trying to serve. “If I, as a Black person, see a Black physician, I’m more likely to have a higher life expectancy than if I see someone that doesn’t look like me,” explained Sharif-Ali. That can be difficult when only 6 percent of U.S. physicians are Black. Find the leaders and communities within these populations, and leverage digital tools to give patients access to information from people who look like them and understand them.

“Health equity is not about short-term ROI,” added Duarte Vinson. “It’s about long-term results and establishing trust with that community that will develop into better health outcomes.”

Finally, invest now in health equity because the market is going to demand it. The FDA already has set expectations for more diverse participation in clinical trials and a movement toward outcomes-based pricing in health care. “The market is going to demand improved outcomes for specific communities,” Kaiser pointed out.

Keira Duarte Vinson

I would add that effective health equity programs provide actionable advice to combat systemic racism in the health care system — as discussed in this IBD case study.


Industries are investing in AI exploration. It feels like a shiny new object, but we’ve been living with it for a while. “Siri, chatbots, avatars — those are AI, and it will continue to grow and we will apply it across media channels for marketing,” said Sharif-Ali. 

Duarte Vinson further explained, “There is an evolution of how agencies use it and how a brand interacts with it. It will take a while for all the touch points to fully evolve so we have an opportunity to grow with AI — to prepare accordingly and build internal infrastructure.” 

With natural-language processing tools driven by AI technology, such as ChatGPT, content can be easily created. Companies are experimenting with it. “We should not use AI to create campaigns, core messaging, or imaging,” stated Veltre. “The core of our industry is people, hearts, and minds. That’s the part AI can’t replace.”

The generation currently being raised with AI has a different level of trust and acceptance of AI than older patient groups do. As Klein pointed out, “AI is going to impact the way those younger patients take their first step in understanding their disease. It’s not going to be the old-school world of typing into WebMD but will be starting in other places with answers from AI.”

David Klein

Looking further down the pharma marketing road, Kaiser made a prediction. “Conversational interfaces will become the expected way we interact with our audiences because today’s generations are growing up talking to Siri or Alexa. We should be preparing for future generations of consumers who will expect to have conversations with a brand.”


Finally, collaboration was a clear theme in everyone’s answers as part of the panel. “There will be a real currency in collaboration,” stated Kaiser. “The data-sharing between partners, clients, and agencies [in a privacy-compliant way] will be critical. Those who understand the data they have, and how to make it valuable to those who seek it, will have the most success.”

That has certainly been our experience at MyHealthTeam, working with the wonderful people on this panel and their companies over the years. The more we fall in love with the problems faced by patients (rather than our own products), and the more we collaborate to solve those problems for patients, the more successful we have been. 

My gratitude and thanks to all the panel participants: Keira Duarte Vinson, media director at Publicis Health Media; Brian Kaiser, executive vice president and head of strategy at Klick Health; David Klein, executive vice president of strategy and brand experience at Publicis Co/Lab; Karima Sharif-Ali, managing director at Initiative; and William Veltre, director of Omni-Channel strategy at Bristol Myers Squibb.

Interested in participating in a future MyHealthTeam thought-leadership event? Email to express interest, and we will be happy to hear from you.