Title: Head of industry, health
With well over 2 billion monthly users across its global network of digital properties—not to mention tens of thousands of health- and patient-focused groups with millions of members—Facebook represents a huge opportunity to many players in the healthcare industry, but it’s also one they’ve been cautious to adopt.
Bringing together Big Tech and healthcare has been a slow journey on both sides, and for many good reasons. The historically risk-averse biopharma industry has to contend with federal regulations governing marketing claims, patient privacy and more; at the same time, companies like Facebook need to prove they’re up to the same tasks, at the same level of detail.
At the center of both these worlds is Jenny Streets, Facebook’s health industry head, whose personal journey has revolved around finding what’s possible when you intertwine powerful digital capabilities with the patient experience.
Streets got started in traditional advertising before becoming a sales rep for Pfizer, and she later joined Medical Broadcasting Company, a video-focused advertising outfit that worked with drugmakers, in the late 2000s.
“I've kind of been on this journey for the last 13 years,” Streets said. “How do you marry mobile, video and digital with the stories that are being told by pharma so that people are really empowered and understand what their options are in conversations in the doctor's office?”
When she started, many companies saw a good, catchy commercial as an essential method of generating awareness. But that was only ever a portion of the story.
“People don't see a TV spot and run to the doctor's office—they do a ton of research online,” she said. “That's how they become empowered consumers or patients. So how do you utilize this other medium to really drive your story, and your opportunity for patients to experience the benefits of your product, in a way that's much more personal? At that point, we’ve moved much more into a mobile world.”
While later serving as a senior director of global digital strategy for AstraZeneca, as well as the Big Pharma’s head of customer experience and innovation, Streets saw how digital engagement could improve upon nearly every facet of the company’s business—not just in advertising but also in how a brand is brought to market. This includes objectives like making savings cards mobile-friendly, for example, so that patients can pull them up more easily while they’re in a pharmacy, she said.
After making the jump to Facebook, Streets is working on the same fundamental ideas but on a much wider scale.
“It’s given me the opportunity to work across the whole industry, and to really see what was holding us back in getting engaged with mobile and all the opportunities in health tech,” she said.
Facebook has been working on a number of features that leverage the power of its social network, while also making privacy, security and transparency areas of priority investment, she said. One program has members sign up as potential blood donors, to be notified if local blood banks are running low and having a drive. The social network is also working to tamp down misinformation around healthcare and vaccines.
Streets is also exploring the use of Oculus, the company’s virtual reality division, as a way to help doctors better understand the molecular mechanisms of action behind a product or even a person’s disease.
“It’s always been about using technology to empower both—essentially brands, but more so patients,” she said. “One of the things that I feel like we have a huge opportunity is in clinical trial development, … not just to get people in and keep them in, but also in a study’s diversity. We really need a much more diverse approach to getting people into clinical trials, so that there is more of a reflection of society.”
While digital and pharma companies have taken their time to come together, Streets says that’s the way it should be: Helpful disruptions are still possible at a guarded, attentive pace.
“You're talking about everything from somebody with allergies to somebody with stage IV lung cancer—they need to be slow, they need to make sure that it's right, and they need to feel like they can trust us as a partner,” she said.