When Remedy Health acquired Vertical Health in April, a key reason was the health site’s expertise in using data and targeting.
Remedy Health, which didn’t run programmatic ads before, is now adopting Vertical Health’s in-house data platform for its sites, including HealthCentral and HIV management site TheBody.
Vertical Health’s portfolio focuses on information for people managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes (EndocrineWeb, OnTrack Diabetes), joint pain (SpineUniverse) and mental heath (Psycom).
Programmatic will add a second revenue stream to Remedy Health’s current focus on branded content ads. But automation wasn’t automatic for the publisher. First, Remedy Health had to integrate with Vertical Health’s data platform, a process that’s now complete.
The combined data platform observes how readers engage with site content in order to figure out what stage of a disease a patient is in, from diagnosis to all of the different steps involved in managing the condition.
From there it can help advertisers identify the right time, place and mindset to engage the user, said Brent Phelps, Remedy Health SVP of data and strategy.
As medicine becomes more precise, with treatments geared toward people with specific genetic variations of a disease, Remedy Health realized that simply targeting a person by condition wasn’t granular enough.
Slicing those audiences even more finely for pharmaceutical and medical device advertisers would allow them to reach patients when they’re ready to hear about specific products.
More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, for example, and many drug makers want to reach people who are at a particular stage of their disease, like before they take their first insulin injection.
“We identify users not only by their interest in diabetes, but where they are in their continuum of care,” Phelps said.
Remedy Health doesn’t rely on an outside data-management platform to collect and activate on this data. Instead, it built its own to ensure compliance with US health care regulation HIPAA. The data is de-identified, Phelps said.
The DMP also looks at a so-called “health dictionary” of terms to categorize articles and understand the concepts people are researching.
Because the ads mostly appear within the confines of a site where people are already researching their condition, the targeting is able to marry context with precise timing.
Tracking how people engaged with content across health sites also yields insights about conditions that occur together, such as the fact that when people with diabetes must inject insulin for the first time they often looked at articles about depression.
This is information that can help advertisers refine their targeting.
“When needles come into the picture, it can be highly emotional,” Phelps said, noting that focusing on people with an interest in depression and diabetes generated better advertiser performance.
The ultimate goal is to enable advertisers to get better results by targeting smaller pools of users – which also makes for better economics on the publisher side.
If only 1% of people engage with an ad at a $2 CPM, but 35% of people take an action after an ad with a $200 CPM, the higher-priced ad will deliver a much better ROI – flipping the traditional narrative of programmatic on its head with better publisher data.
Third-party health data, in contrast, doesn’t marry context with ads or allow advertisers to refine who they reach. “If you want to reach people with diabetes, all you do is look for people who buy sugar-free products,” Phelps said. “We’ve never found that to be particularly interesting.”
Although the integration with the new health sites is complete, Phelps’ team is still in the process of monitoring new reader behaviors as they emerge. HealthCentral, for example, is a general health site, which will yield valuable insight into other comorbidities that might exist between different health conditions.