Innovators within the pharma industry are beginning to recognize the huge role that pharma could and should play in the health engagement space. They’re setting goals that don’t just sell more drugs, but instead contribute to a shift toward maintaining wellness rather than just treating illness.

Those goals can be concurrent with those of the plans and providers. And pharma can be a major influencer within health engagement in two ways: by providing education and strong content and through indirect funding of tools and processes that further traditional and digital health engagement. McKinsey had it right with their position that as digital transformation hits healthcare, pharma needs to consider itself a solutions industry, rather than one that just sells assets.

The flu season provides a great example of an instance where pharma might directly influence health engagement. Everyone knows that the flu season presents major health issues for many individuals. Not only are up to 700,000 people getting the flu each year, the CDC estimates the illness creates a cost of$10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses. For health plans, reducing the number of people getting the flu can reduce costs dramatically, and that is typically accomplished by a strong health engagement campaign encouraging people to get the flu vaccine.

In one case study, nearly 50% changed their minds and said they would get a flu vaccine after the initiation of a strong health engagement campaign.Here alignment was found when the plan engaged more members and received a higher Medicare Star Rating, the members experienced less illness, and pharma increased the sale of vaccines. By driving stronger content and even helping fund more campaigns of this nature, pharma can contribute to population health and drive more sales. When it comes to keeping people well, the two goals are not mutually exclusive.

From this example and others, it’s clear that health engagement can make the population healthier, reduce claims, drive up Medicare Star Ratings, and drive increased, proper use of pharma products. Pharma may not be able to play a direct role in health engagement, but it can influence the cycle by helping educate members and other individuals with strong, relevant content and by supporting campaigns both financially and in other ways.

Although education and sponsoring engagement may be done in traditional ways, through physicians and patient focus groups for example, pharmaceutical companies are also finding digital ways to participate in the entire healthcare consumer experience and influence engagement. Acorn Therapeutics developed a self-health app called MS self for the multiple sclerosis community.

It provides an MS patient with the ability to track metrics on a daily basis, from their mood, to diet, to exercise. Not only are individuals able to record their personal habits, the company can drive new education and content through the app and also gain more information about this particular population. Eventually, data trends and behavior patterns will be established that can contribute to driving stronger health engagement campaigns for MS patients as well as continue to help users stay well longer.

Pharma can also help influence the ways in which we reach people to improve their health. Successful health engagement often requires a multi-channel strategy based not only on the age of the target population, but on the behaviors and health histories of individuals within that population. By adding more relevant content to the mix in the channels where individuals are most likely to engage, pharma can help influence engagement without being a direct participant.

If these education and content efforts are initiated in partnership with a healthcare plan in a managed, strategic fashion and using the right technology platform, the results can be pretty dramatic, as we’ve seen in our flu vaccine example.

Knowing the best way to reach individuals, from using the right channels, to the right messaging, or even the right incentives, is definitely key to success for strong engagement. And that strong engagement can drive success that aligns with everyone’s goals – from lower costs and higher Medicare Star Ratings, to increased proper drug use, to better health outcomes overall.