Apr 21, 2023



Best Practices for Using AI in Digital Pharma Advertising

Artificial intelligence holds great potential in the pharma space, but there are still some concerns to consider. Here’s how marketers can embrace AI in their digital pharma strategies to drive engagement and conversions without compromising privacy.

For the past several years, artificial intelligence (AI) has been expanding the horizons of innovation. From self-driving cars to predictive analytics, AI has proven invaluable in bringing a new level of convenience, accuracy, and efficiency to everyday tasks. Now, with the emergence of advanced tools like ChatGPT, AI is poised to reinvent how we communicate with each other, disrupt current marketing strategies, and further transform the tech landscape, including within the pharma industry.

For example, ChatGPT and other OpenAI toolsets can generate more personalized messaging that better resonates with specific consumers. Using AI’s ability to understand nuance and context while accurately mimicking human verbiage, brands can speak directly to each customer rather than generalize audience segments. This targeted messaging is advantageous for marketers—a recent McKinsey report found that 71% of consumers now expect personalized communications from companies they interact with, and 78% saying that such content made them more likely to return.

As such, many healthcare leaders are viewing AI as a revolutionary new tool that can redefine digital marketing as we know it. In fact, research shows that around half of all global health companies plan to use AI strategies more broadly by 2025, with pharma and biomedicine enterprises investing more in AI to assist specifically in chronic disease diagnosis and management. Let’s explore how pharma marketers can safely leverage this increased interest in AI to help drive more prescriptions.

The Pros, Cons, and Potential of AI in Digital Pharma Marketing

With unique patient conditions and privacy concerns, utilizing AI in pharma warrants caution to ensure that its capabilities help improve patient outcomes, not hinder them. So, while the future of technology in pharma is promising, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of applying intelligent software in healthcare applications. 


Attracting and acquiring qualified patients is imperative for pharma companies since brand medications are only relevant to those with the health conditions they are designed to treat. According to Brad Bacon, Healthgrades’ Vice President of Product, audience targeting and message creation are prime opportunities to leverage AI. “There is great promise in the ability to customize messaging based on complex AI algorithms to deliver better engagement,” he says. “If AI is managed carefully, it can drive better health outcomes in the long run.” He further expands on the three core areas where AI holds this promise:

  • Audience Modeling: Intelligence tools can fine-tune and automate audience modeling and segmentation. Because machine learning algorithms can comb through and understand very large, constantly changing data sets, AI can quickly identify particular traits within a broader audience. As such, it can put your ad dollars to better use by ensuring your brand message is in front of patients who need it the most. However, it should be noted that expanding privacy protection laws surrounding digital pharma marketing tactics may make this application more difficult to implement.
  • Ad Creative Optimization: AI can help tailor campaigns to qualified patients, which is essential to making your brand memorable and relevant. Such technology can display promotional events and advertisements to relevant target audiences so that campaigns supplement the patient experience rather than disrupt it.
  • Website Customization: Tried-and-true multivariate testing and content optimization tools are getting smarter with AI. Capabilities being explored include AI-generated copy and imagery, strategic ad placement, and real-time patient communication. But while customization helps deepen engagement and reap conversions, it’s important to remember that AI can’t replace human review. Not only should pharma marketers exercise caution to abide by industry regulations and protect patients’ data, they should also constantly check AI output for information accuracy.


AI is a huge leap for pharma companies—it may take years before the industry is fully ready to embrace and trust the technology. And since AI requires transferring massive amounts of data—including private information—discretion remains an ongoing concern. Pharma brands have to be careful to abide by laws surrounding patient confidentiality and promotional materials. 

AI systems can also hallucinate by delivering information that is not accurate due to inherent biases or training data limitations. Suppose a pharma brand wants to incorporate a website feature that allows patients to take a quiz to learn about their disease’s patterns and how certain treatments work. The AI algorithms could misinterpret the user’s inputs and give them data about the wrong condition. Such an error can spread dangerous misinformation and generate patient distrust in that brand. Fortunately, there are a few things pharma marketers can do to lessen the impact of hallucinations, such as:

  • Integrate human review to cross-check the system’s outputs.
  • Use simulations to test and improve the AI system’s vulnerabilities.
  • Improve training data to help reduce the occurrence of hallucinations.

Another word of caution: malicious actors may likely exploit emerging AI tools to create new ways of illicitly acquiring personal information from unsuspecting consumers. Because consumers won’t know that pharma companies are using AI tools, it is critical that pharma companies establish and maintain authenticity to help patients differentiate their legitimate content from fraudulent efforts.

Best Practices for Adopting AI to Enhance Marketing Strategies

It’s normal to be skeptical of novel technologies, especially intelligent software tools like AI—but the potential for progress lies in innovation. When applied correctly, AI can optimize ad creative and provide a steady stream of personalized content to help marketers maintain consistent patient engagement. Here’s how to safely and seamlessly incorporate AI into your existing pharma marketing strategy:

  • Understand the Possibilities and Limitations of AI: The pros and cons above provide a good framework for analyzing potential tech solutions. When narrowing down on a specific AI tool, be sure you clearly understand what it’s capable of and how it can help you achieve your marketing goals. This understanding will allow you to use the tool more effectively and avoid unrealistic expectations.
  • Use AI to Complement Human Interaction: While AI tools like ChatGPT can provide personalized recommendations and support, they should not replace human interaction. Instead, it should be a collaborative effort, with AI allowing organizations to become more efficient but still utilizing human processes to review ad creatives and anticipate changing situations. View AI as a way to streamline processes, not take control over them.
  • Ensure Ethical Use of Your AI Tool: Ensure your AI solution generates accurate and unbiased content and does not violate any regulations or ethical guidelines. Also, have a clear plan in place for addressing any issues or concerns that may arise, and train your employees on the proper use of AI in their everyday work.
  • Survey and Optimize Your AI Solution: AI tools require continuous monitoring and upgrading to remain effective. As mentioned earlier, you should conduct frequent checks on the tool’s performance, identify any areas for improvement, and adjust the tool’s training data or algorithms accordingly. This will help you maximize the tool’s capabilities and ensure it continues providing value over time.

By following these best practices, pharma marketers can leverage AI to provide potential patients with a more personalized and engaging experience while ensuring compliance with industry regulations and ethical guidelines.

Step into the Future of Pharma with Healthgrades

AI is a valuable tool for expanding and refining your outreach strategy, but it should not replace human communication. When in doubt, it’s best to refer patients to doctors. And while you work to integrate AI into your strategy, consider partnering with Healthgrades to amplify your reach.

Healthgrades provides an excellent opportunity for pharma brands to engage with their target audience. And when you advertise on Healthgrades, you can reach a highly targeted audience of consumers who are about to make an appointment. By partnering with America’s #1 platform for doctor-patient connections, you can leverage our advertising expertise and market reach to reach your audience at every stage of their healthcare journey. We’re dedicated to ensuring that your campaigns are optimized for success by maximizing the impact of your ad dollars. Improve your visibility, build trust, and drive more prescriptions with Healthgrades—get in touch today to learn how we can help you get the most out of your advertising potential.