Healthware and Intouch leading at the frontiers of Customer Engagement

by Gerry Chillè

Healthware and Intouch leading at the frontiers of Customer Engagement
Healthware and Intouch leading at the frontiers of Customer Engagement

Last week I was thrilled to join Healthware International’s team of 20 people from across all the specialty areas of the agency to attend Frontiers Health Berlin, one of the most exciting and influential health innovation conferences in Europe. Over the course of two days the conference was home to 400+ delegates from across the world who gathered at the Axica convention center. Designed by the star American architect Frank O. Gehry, the venue and atmosphere could not have been better as Axica’s futuristic glass-domed hall (engulfed on one end by an organic and womb-like wooden structure) brilliantly mirrored the themes of the event.

Talks introducing the emergence of digital therapeutics as a maturing discipline, delivering significant and measurable clinical outcomes, were counterbalanced by presentations on how technology is also helping us to go back full circle to re-embrace and validate holistic approaches to health and wellness steeped in history and tradition. Surrounding this topic, the Axica main stage featured presentations of digital platforms helping people make better choices on foods, nutrition, mindfulness and music all of which were shown to be extremely effective in delivering health and wellness in our age of rampant metabolic diseases.

A particularly enlightening talk, by Oxford scholar and researcher Mariarosaria Taddeo , was on the considerations and applications of ethics in this age of artificial intelligence and data science. Her advice to the audience was that either too many ethical considerations applied at the beginning of a project, or too few of them introduced at the last minute before launching a product, are sure ways to stop an innovative idea from becoming a viable reality.

Putting people at the center of the health conversation, collection of personalized data and how to apply this data to answer healthcare challenges in sensible and innovative ways were also the themes of “Innovating Customer Engagement” a workshop that I was honored to lead along with the brilliant Justin Chase, SVP of Innovation at Healthware’s US partner agency Intouch Solutions. Both agencies were lead sponsors of the Frontiers Health conference, and given the significant presence of Pharma companies there we were confident that the workshop was going to be well attended. We were not however prepared for a completely full room, so much so that we had to clear up a table used to hold our workshop supplies to make more room for attendees who were left standing!


Justin and I designed the workshop to address a simple but extremely important subject. In an age of information and technology empowered consumers Pharma still needs to find much better ways to engage with their customers in the same way that these very same people engage as customers of innovative companies like Google, Amazon, Uber, Spotify, and more.

We chose to describe these companies not so much for their application of technology to innovate and disrupt business models, but because we strongly believe that the reason of their success is in great part due to their almost obsessive and exceptional approach to enhancing the customer experience. These companies are unique in their ability to be able to get in the minds of their customers, anticipate their needs, and make sure that they are supported in each step of their interactions with the company, its services and products.

One case study that we focused on prior to the hands-on session of the workshop was The Disney Company, which helped us to highlight the point of how even a legacy industry set in its ways can also find ways to “innovate” its customer engagement strategy. As unlikely a case as Disney could be for our audience, it actually faced many of the same challenges that the healthcare industry experiences today! The commonalities include a very innovative past, highly successful business run, yet increasing in age (Disney is 85 years old) and with mounting industry and customer challenges.

In 2012 Disney realized that it was in trouble with its customers, and it decided to make an investment of $1 billion in innovating and enhancing their customers’ experience in drastically different ways. Their solution was Disney’s MagicBand a simple, elegant and highly innovative idea that helped the company to radically improve its theme parks logistics by 30%, create brand new and repeat sales opportunities and channels, and above all catapult the level of customer satisfaction up in the 90+% range!

The examples we showed must have resonated well because, once we divided the 50+ participants into teams they dove into the workshop session, identifying particular challenges as it comes to pharmaceutical companies dealings with some of its top customers such as Doctors, Nurses and Patients. At the end of the session the teams presented their proposed solutions to the rest of the workshop attendees drawing applause for their proposals.

Extremely interesting ideas came out of the workshop, many of which are well worth pursuing further (such as the one that looks to match people with doctors also based on their respective personalities as a good relationship based on trust results in better communications, compliance and outcomes). The most exciting thing that Justin and I witnessed in the workshop is how people from several Pharmas, many of them fierce competitors in the industry, can easily come together, sit at the same table, and brainstorm ways to elevate the entire industry and its perception amongst their customers.

The feedback we have since received from attendees has been nothing short of delightful! Looking back, the thing that we are most proud of is in having been able to show ways of how Pharma can deliver excellent customer experiences and at the same time instill a sense of kinship, common mission, and collaboration amongst some of the industry’s most influential (and competitive) global business leaders.

Read also the post Frontiers Health: Evolving the Healthcare Customer Experience by Wendy Blackburn, Executive Vice President, Intouch Solutions.

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