Paul Lyrek

Healthcare data needs a universal standard

With the rise of self-managed healthcare applications and the announcement of centralized data storage methods, like Apple’s HealthKit and Google Fit, the capture and consolidation of health data is easier and more powerful than ever. But will that really spur the evolution everyone in healthcare is hoping for?

While we at StoneArch are encouraged and excited about these new tools, there are a couple of things that could hold back their widespread acceptance by the health industry.

The first and perhaps most important is standardization. As software and hardware companies race to be the first and the best in the mobile and online health business, they only further perpetuate the propriety hold on healthcare data. This makes perfect sense from a business perspective; differentiating yourself from your competition is Business 101, but in the world of data, proprietary systems make extensive adoption a near-impossibility.

This has already come to pass in the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) industry. It is not uncommon for us to run across clients that are limited in what they can do with the data they collect with the EMR systems they have chosen. In larger organizations you may even have two or more large systems running side by side that will not talk to each other, and millions of dollars are spent trying to integrate them. Even worse, oftentimes the scale and cost of integration is so great that truly helpful and even lifesaving ideas are abandoned due to the complexity and cost of making them a reality. When we hear about new technology like HealthKit and Google Fit, we are intrigued but worried that similar problems will emerge.

Perhaps it is time for companies to work together to free the data generated by healthcare technology– and they need not look very hard for a possible solution. For many years StoneArch Learning has worked with a data standardization model that has freed data without stemming technical innovation and competition: SCORM.

SCORM, or Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is a collection of technical standards and specifications for eLearning that allows for sharing of data between online training courses and the systems that manage them, Learning Management Systems (LMS). Utilizing SCORM, StoneArch Learning can develop eLearning programs for any client that has a SCORM-compliant LMS (of which nearly all are). This standardization frees up the data gathered from learners to be shared almost universally.

SCORM has been around for years and continues to evolve today. xAPI, a much more flexible and powerful standard that may be tailored for adoption by the healthcare industry was released in 2013. So you may be asking, who came up with such a flexible standard? What company had the foresight and resources to develop this standard? Well, it was not developed by any company; it was developed by the U.S. Government, specifically, the Department of Defense. The DoD created the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative in 1999 that later developed the first SCORM standard in 2000. The DoD was trying to develop the most efficient and effective way to consistently train soldiers across the globe.

Now imagine a similar standard in the healthcare industry, one specifically designed to share data between organizations, systems and people. Freeing healthcare data to easily and securely flow from one application or system to another could bring about the evolution we have all be dreaming of.

This dream would not necessarily take a government initiative to become a reality, either. Many industries and nonprofits have developed similar learning standards, from the nonprofit IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global) to the industry association, Aviation Industry Computer-based Training Committee (AICC). What it will take is the combined will of the tech and healthcare industries to demand a standard be developed and to agree that it must be beneficial for everyone. Then maybe the big announcements like Apple’s HealthKit and Google Fit can bring about the transformative change we all hope for.

Phil Hoch

Setting the mood

Using mood boards to start your brand down the right path

“Do you sketch out your ideas before you execute?” I think I’ve asked this question to just about every art director or designer I’ve ever worked with or interviewed. The reason I ask is to make sure that their thoughts are worked out on paper before going too quickly into an execution. Think of mood boards as a sketch of a brand—a critical early step in capturing the heart of a brand before getting in the weeds. They force you to get your story and foundational brand elements in order before jumping the gun and creating random marketing tactics.

Mood boards are deceptively simple. They are a visual combination of color, typography, graphic elements including maybe photography or illustration, and of course copy tone and voice. They are like a poster that captures the most important elements of your brand, all in one shot. And that takes experience.

Good mood boards have depth. This depth comes from a healthy dose of listening, research and insight. They have some meat to them. A real story. And that’s even before the visual part comes in. The best mood boards tap into the heart of a company. They make you “feel” a brand. Once the “feel” is nailed, then it’s OK to carry out execution across multiple channels and media.

Mood boards ensure your brand has legs. When considering the style, voice and visuals of a brand, one must look forward to how these elements will come together over multiple platforms and fit the needs of multiple audiences such as patients, physicians, caregivers and executives. It has to always feel and look like the same brand even though your audiences could be vastly different.

Mood boards are nothing new, but many tend to skip this step and go right into execution of tactical elements. Maybe it’s because deadlines have become tighter and tighter as technology gets better and better. I advise carving out space in the brand development process to sketch out your brand to make sure it stands for who you are, how it’s relevant to your customers, and how it can twist and turn with your many changes as time goes on. You’ll be glad you did.

To see real life examples of brand mood boards, check some out on Pinterest.

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Ellen Schuller

Brace Yourself—the ACA Will Significantly Change Healthcare Marketing

Our own Director of Strategy Ellen Schuller is featured in the most recent “PM360 Think Tank,” which asks 12 industry leaders to weigh in on the ACA’s impact on the medical device industry. Ellen discusses the shift toward a more data-driven, value-based marketing model and offers examples of how clients and agencies are changing their approaches.

The ACA’s Impact on the Medical Device Industry

How detrimental the medical device tax will (or will not) be for industry profitability, jobs and innovation remains up for discussion. However, there seems to be little doubt that the transition from volume- to value-based healthcare will significantly change to whom and how manufacturers market their devices. As relationship selling and physician-preference products give way to supply chain centralization, consolidation and standardization, manufacturers and their agencies are moving toward a more data-driven, value-based marketing model. The following are just a few factors changing how clients and agencies are working together.

Sales Force Realignment. Manufacturers are creating tiered sales force structures—specialized sales teams focusing on integrated delivery networks and territory representatives providing support and implementation at the local level. Agencies need to understand clients’ selling strategies, be adept in crafting messages for a variety of audiences, and be able to design tools and training for a variety of sales skills and situations.

Data-driven Sales. The new healthcare buyer is driven by data—financial and clinical. Agencies need to understand what drives purchase at all levels, help clients generate and present meaningful data, and develop interactive selling tools that enable real-time customization.

Comparative Effectiveness. Comparative effectiveness and patient-centered outcomes data will radically transform the competitive and reimbursement landscape. Agencies need to develop strategies around post-market data that influence provider, payer and patient decision-making.
Transparency and collaboration between client and agency, which have always been important, are now imperative. Client-agency teamwork is a critical success factor in the rapidly changing healthcare industry.

Click here, to read the entire PM360 article

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Paul Lyrek

Aligning Your Sales Force

Your entire organization needs to be aligned with your digital communications and content strategy. Doing so will help you make the most of multichannel marketing opportunities while delivering a consistent brand experience.

To do that, you’ll need to:

  • Align your digital marketing with your traditional marketing
  • Assign a dedicated team to create and manage content marketing, sales, PR and training needs
  • Drive your digital persona throughout the organization to ensure that marketing, sales, engineering, IT, R&D, manufacturing and legal are using a consistent voice and personality across their digital media communications


Your sales force plays a key role in the success of your digital strategy. They are often in direct contact with customers, and need to be both informed and empowered to react in real time to client online interactions with your brands and products.

Begin by ensuring you:

  • Involve your sales reps in the process from the beginning
  • Inform your sales reps of your digital and content marketing strategies
  • Provide training that will help them identify customers’ needs and where they are in the buying journey
  • Implement tools and policies that support your sales reps’ communication efforts with customers
  • Automate communication between sales and marketing
  • Implement real-time content management, customization and tracking


Go here for a handy list of marketing automation platforms that can help you streamline these steps.

Go here to download Paul’s four-part digital marketing strategy series, complete with all the examples.

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Paul Lyrek

Understanding Your Customers’ Journey

Fostering valuable relationships with your customers begins with understanding not just who they are but what they need and when they need it. Once you have created your digital persona, it’s time to define how you wish to communicate with them.

These five basic principles can go a long way toward ensuring your customers see you as a valuable resource and not an intrusion.

  1. Be true to yourself. Align all communications with your digital persona, or you risk undermining your credibility and confusing your audience.
  2. Encourage conversation. Give your customers a way to participate in the conversation through comments, retweets, shares or response forms. One-way communication does not build relationships.
  3. Tell the truth. Content should be consistently genuine and factual. If not, you risk legal repercussions and the loss of your customers’ trust.
  4. Be deliberate and responsive. Over-posting can become white noise. To keep your audience engaged, be sure your posting is valuable, useful or relevant to the audience. Think about where, when and how often you communicate. And make sure you respond to any comments.
  5. Stay relevant. Focus your content on your customers’ needs, challenges, goals and their place in the buying journey, and you’re more likely to be perceived as a valuable partner.


Communicate throughout the buying journey

The buying journey varies from business to business, but typically moves through these phases:

  • Attracting customers
  • Securing interest
  • Showing intention
  • Providing support
  • Building loyalty
  • Promoting advocacy


With the right mix of digital marketing channels and content, you can effectively move your customers through each phase of the buying cycle.

For more information on each phase, download our infographic here.