Why Dive Into Developing Mobile Health Apps?

While digital marketing solutions and social media projects became the center of attention in pharmaceutical communication recently, it is also important to notice the growing popularity of everything mobile. Below is a list of reasons why pharma companies should invest considerable time and energy into developing effective, creative health-related mobile applications.

The mobile trend is here to stay: Based on a recent study by Comp TIA, half of all physicians use smartphones for professional purposes and the use of mobile applications is steadily growing as well. According to another study, mobile technologies can be utilized especially in healthcare. There are many factors that influence mobile adoption on different markets. These factors include “consumer adoption, clinical adoption, evidence of efficacy, costs of deployment, and regulatory climate.”

High demand for healthcare and drug-related information online: Patients are looking to find valuable information about different treatment options, drugs and medical conditions online. According to a recent survey looking for health-related info online is the third most common activity of internet users. Maybe the biggest issue when it comes to treatments is medication adherence, which can be managed with easy-to-use, always available mobile devices in a very cost-effective way.

Mobile devices during clinical trials: A recent article emphasized the role mobile apps could play in the entire process of clinical trials. “The recruitment of patients, transmission of clinical trial records, and the reporting of adverse events in a prompt and accurate manner” can be all managed with creatively developed mobile applications.

Mobile apps can help communicate with HCPs more effectively: Tight budgets, digital solutions and the demand for time-efficacy resulted in big number of layoffs in the pharma industry with decreasing number of sales reps conducting in-person visits with physicians. “The significant decline of sales force presence has created an educational void for prescribers.” The need for a more effective educational method and better understanding between pharma and healthcare professionals could be managed with mobile apps created specifically for medical education and delivering prescriber information.

Information to bigger groups and institutions: With mobile applications it is easier to deliver a big amount of data to a wider audience in a manageable way. This is especially important when it comes to communicating with hospitals, healthcare organizations, patient or physician communities. Pharma can utilize this when providing information about products, treatments and different conditions.

(Source: The Digital Health Corner)

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The Battle Of The Reps and Digital Devices

More often than not there is a perception that using digital devices and e-detailing technology to communicate with physicians and provide product information is going to eliminate the need for sales representatives. This belief is only strengthened by the big number of layoffs at pharmaceutical companies due to tight budgets. Thousands of sales representatives lost their jobs everywhere in the last couple of years while digital solutions to deliver product messages successfully took center stage. So how do these two changes correlate? Is pharma trying to replace sales reps with digital technologies or is the connection between these two trends less obvious?

 

 

There is no reason to deny the financial difficulties and how these effected the changes in the number of sales representatives. It is also clear that digital devices are more popular than ever. But I feel hesitant to draw a parallel between these trends. I also feel the predictions about the total replacement of sales reps are over-represented and exaggerated.

Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the connection between e-detailing solutions and the decreasing number of sales reps and in person visits:

When German drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH launched the cardiovascular drug Pradaxa in the U.S., it put together a digital-marketing package to target doctors, including organizing webcasts for leading physicians to speak to other physicians about the drug. But the company found that sales calls to doctors’ offices were still the most powerful tool for driving new prescriptions, says Wa’el Hashad, vice president of cardiovascular and metabolic marketing. ‘No doubt digital marketing does have an impact … I don’t believe, however, the shift happens overnight. I think it’s a gradual shift,’ he says.

Other studies also proved that physicians still prefer assistance from sales reps while they are increasingly find digital detailing and e-detailing effective and a comfortable way to receive information. According to the research 68 percent of the physicians who received iPad details before reported being extremely satisfied or very satisfied with the digital technology. It also seems that using digital platforms still needs the sales reps to present the information in an effective way. Based on the findings it is safe to say that pharma representatives have a key role in providing a combination of digital and face-to-face detailing.

Additionally it has been shown that physicians who are interactive during an assisted e-detailing process have a better experience and detailing presentations that engage doctors are more likely to drive prescriptions as well. To ensure that a presentation is interactive, to make physicians involved in the information delivery process a company needs tech savvy sales reps who are comfortable with not working against digital tools, but to work together with those.

Maybe it is hard to see digital tools as helpful and handy while constantly facing more layoffs, but digital solutions are not created to replace human work force. These devices are only tools and not messages, they help sales reps to work effectively, but they have to be used correctly. A new device may catch a physician’s eye, but the emphasis has to be on the information represented with that particular device. and this is where sales reps are not replaceable.

(Sources: Pharma Marketing Blog, Wall Street Journal, MedAdNews, STwemM)

Mobile Healthcare – An Infographic

We read a lot about how mobile technology is the future, we see fascinating numbers and statistics about how smartphones and tablets are becoming more popular than desktop computers and laptops. It is hard however to really put a finger on how these trends will change healthcare.

The infographic below – other than piling up evidence about the sheer force with which the mobile market is growing – shows how mobile solutions can influence healthcare in different ways. Here are the key findings in connection with mobile in healthcare:

  • Mobile health has the potential to change healthcare in a revolutionary way with making patients more engaged in their care and transforming the patient-provider relationship.
  • Main features of smartphones that could be used in healthcare: physician finder, applications to view claims, to fill our medical forms, and other apps to follow treatment plan and help adherence.
  • Revenues from remote patient monitoring services that use mobile networks will rise to 1.9 billion globally by 2014.
  • Users with wireless connections are more likely to monitor their health with the help of their cell phones.
  • People owning a smartphone are more likely to be an active content contributor related to healthcare, that means mobile technology boosts participation.
  • According to predictions by Juniper Research the number of downloaded health apps will reach 44 million by the end of the year, and by 2016 there will be 142 million downloaded health applications.

 

(Source: Healthworks Collective)

Physicians Using The Internet On Mobile Devices

On both the American and European market the role of smartphones in medical-professional information-seeking is becoming more and more important. According to the result of a study published by MD Marketing Research 64% of American doctors own a smartphone (the rate is 67% among family practitioners, and 61% among specialists). Every fifth physician owns a tablet (27% of both family doctors and specialists have a type of tablet device).

Among physicians who are more open to new technologies findings show even higher rates. According to a Manhattan Research study published in 2011, 81% of American „ePharma doctors” (physicians who use digital channels to keep in touch with pharmaceutical representatives) own a smartphone, 30% of them have an iPad, and 28% of physicians plan to purchase a tablet in the coming 6 months. The 5 biggest countries in Europe are falling a little behind with 69% of doctors using smartphones.

American ePharma physicians clearly prefer mobile devices when it comes to keeping in touch and communicating with pharmaceutical companies:

  • 45% of them would rather communicate with pharmaceutical representatives using a smartphone or iPad.
  • When it comes to getting the information about certain products they also clearly prefer online channels.

Physicians more frequently rely on the possibilities presented by mobile devices in Hungary as well. When it comes to using the internet desktops (82%) and notebooks (56%) are the most popular, while 15% of doctors use smartphones to go online, while the rate of tablets and PDAs is 5%.

Smartphone owners among physicians – Physicians going online using a mobile device in Hungary

Source: MM&M (August 2011), Szinapszis MedNetTrack 2011 (n=909 physicians)

 

Age is a significant factor when it comes to mobile devices: younger doctors go online on mobile devices more and more, 19% of them using smartphones and 3-5% using tablets or palmtop computers.

(Katalin Kiss)

Embracing The Era Of Mobile

The last couple of days presented several news pieces that prove: we are indeed rapidly approaching the era of mobile. The longest Blackberry outage so far made people religiously using Blackberry Messenger furious. On the other hand, faithful believers of Apple were more than happy to share their numerous versions of “I told you so.” The timing was horrible for Blackberry and never better for Apple: days before the release of the new iPhone 4s.

It is safe to say, that by now mobile technology overtook our day-to-day life. But how much influence does mobile have  when it comes to our habits? And what does that mean for marketers, especially in the field of healthcare? The infographic below helps to understand just how much are mobile devices part of our lifestyle.

Reading these numbers and data it is obvious, that the old model of TV and print focused marketing is outdated, therefore a lot of money spent with minimum reach and success. It is time to consider regrouping marketing expenses and paying close attention to mobile technologies and trends.

(Source: Visibli.com – shared by Gary Monk)

Mobile Medical App Regulations – Are They Necessary?

As I mentioned before, the FDA seemed to be moving faster with proposals to regulate medical applications than with the ever-dragging process of creating guidelines for social media in healthcare. Helthcare IT News surveyed 50 of its readers on what they thought of the sudden urgency the FDA addressed the issue of non-regulated mobile apps.

As you can see on the chart below, 46% of respondents thought that regulations are important for different safety reasons. But the rest of the readers, 54% said that too much regulation could be demotivating and problematic for developers. My question is: can one think both of these statements are right? I think you can agree that some sort of regulation is needed so an app doesn’t offer a band aid for a broken arm (excuse me for the simplified example), but it is also important that the developers can still be innovative and creative.

The article also mentions a concern that is not addressed in the survey. Mainly, that regulations are offered for doctors, so they don’t become too reliant on these applications. First of all, what do you call too reliant? Where do you draw the line? A recent study showed that in the United States every 2 in 5 doctors use mobile apps during a visit. Would you consider that too high? And second of all, isn’t it more of a concern that patients become too dependent on these tools? The doctor has a medical degree to help him/her decide what app to use and how. But what about the patient that follows any advice on a mobile device without seeing a doctor?

(Source: Healthcare It News)

Medicine In The Digital Era

With new devices constantly appearing on the market at a new speed, it is safe to say that the digital era has arrived. It also consumed the medical field with physicians enjoying the perks of having mobile access to the enormous amount of knowledge required while practicing medicine. While it was long obvious that mobile applications and devices influenced doctors in a major way, a recent infographic about U.S. hospitals and healthcare professionals included surprising numbers to prove just how much they became an integral part of practices.

According to the data below, more than 2 in 5 physicians go online during a patient’s visit mostly for drug references, new publications, disease associations or to look for a support group for patients. The most convincing fact was the high rate of doctors using consulting applications with 94% of them turning to these for information. The infographic also suggests that other mobile based technologies are welcomed as well. For example 86% of physicians are interested in accessing electronic health records, while 83% of them would like to use these devices as prescription tools.

The data also highlights the fact that more and more doctors go on social sites for professional reasons. At the 1188 hospitals observed Facebook seemed the most popular with 1018 pages created. These healthcare facilities shared overall 548 Youtube channels, 788 Twitter accounts and 458 LinkedIn profiles. One thing that stood out was the relatively low number of hospital blogs with only 137 listed for all 1188 hospitals. Despite the fewer blogs in these organizations, the infographic states that blogs are actually favored by doctors compared to private online physician communities.

The numbers once again show the significance of the “mobile movement” among healthcare professionals. Maybe this magnitude is why the FDA, while usually slow in similar cases, felt the urgency to address this phenomenon with its draft guidance for mobile medical applications.

 

(Source: Spinabifidainfo.com)

Non-Adherence – There’s An App For That

I was very surprised to read a blog post the other day about how mobile applications to increase compliance are “intrusive” and how the whole concept is shortsighted. After stating what an enormous problem non-adherence is, I think the only reasonable conclusion could be to try every possible tool to help patients stay on the right medicine regiment. When non-adherence causes 89,000 deaths and $100 billion dollars every year in hospital costs only in the United States we simply cannot turn our backs on a solution because of some negative reaction without further observation.

The post also mentions a study about an application for patients with Type 2 diabetes, that reportedly failed to provide help and was rather annoying in the eyes of the participants. There are no numbers or percentages to really measure how unsuccessful the experiment turned out to be, only a few examples of negative feedback to prove and emphasize how “aggressive” these applications are.

I however agree with the statement, that there isn’t one solution that is going to magically solve the problem of non-adherence. It has to be a very balanced mix of different components, that in the end help patients (and their physicians) with the dosages and tracking of medications. But I also believe that a smart and easy-to-use application could be a complimentary element in the mix. The article quotes the New England Journal of Medicine and its list of tools that could help increase patient compliance: tracking prescriptions, paying providers based on outcomes or having lower co-payments. As I said before, the fight against non-adherence has to combine different but equally important elements, so an app wouldn’t make these changes unnecessary. But all fails if patients don’t remember to take their medication.

The blog post includes a list of automated pill dispensers as the possible solutions to increase compliance. Here is one example:

The SIMpill Medication Adherence System text-messages the patient’s mobile phone if the patient does not take their medication or takes it at the incorrect time. If the patient still does not take their medication, an alert can be sent to their caregiver or healthcare provider. The system also monitors prescription refills and alerts the pharmacy when the patient is running low.

While I think this is a complex and wonderful solution of the problem, I can’t understand how a mobile application could be more “intrusive” than this. How can one state that an app is too aggressive and poorly perceived and then list automated tools with alarms, messages and alerts not only to the patients but to their providers. We can’t just say no to a possible solution because it didn’t work for a group of people. With adherence different methods work for different patients. That is why there is a great need for the invention of several complex applications and solutions, so everyone could choose what fits them best.

(Source: World of DTC Marketing)

The World Of An Offline Physician

There are more and more articles surfacing on physicians’ online presence and how doctors could become irrelevant with staying away from online platforms and social media. In a time when almost every patient comes to the office with diagnoses printed out from Google, when you have to consider providing patient health record online, when your colleagues get the latest news in medicine on their smartphones while you wait for the latest journal to be published – I don’t quite understand why anyone has to be convinced that online presence and being up-to-date with the latest mobile technologies are crucial.

But let’s get back to the examples. It is a well-known fact that patients Google their symptoms. They look for treatment options and find other people with similar conditions online. They connect and exchange information. It is also not hard to imagine how much false information could be published online. The accurate data could be misinterpreted, misplaced or in some cases accuracy is not there to begin with. Chances are that your patient is going to come to the office with numerous questions about what he/she read online. Some of them will be convinced that online information is sacred and always right on point. If you are not familiar with the medical information published online, how are you going to prove your point? How are you going to respond to the patient asking about a treatment that thousands of people blog about but you have never heard of.

How are you going to keep up with your colleagues when in your coffee break they talk about the newest medical application that allows them to look up drug interactions in a few seconds? How do you stay on top of your life long studying if only a fraction of the information is available to you because you refuse to add online content to your sources? How are you going to recommend easy to use medical applications to monitor health to your patients when you still can’t use the application store and never downloaded a health app?

How are you going to compete with other practices that connect with patients online. How are you going to keep up with doctors who have hundreds of followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook. How are you going to get hired when the other applicants have a detailed LinkedIn page and connected with their future boss online a long time ago.

I’m not saying you know less as a doctor without an online presence or a smartphone. I’m only saying that your knowledge can’t be used as effectively simply because you don’t use the channels that patients use. Your knowledge has to be communicated to benefit patients, therefore you have to go where patients are. They are surfing the net, using health apps and social media platforms to get the most valuable medical information. Also, you have to stay connected with your fellow physicians who more and more go online to stay informed and make their careers a successful one.

(Source: MedCityNews.com)

Conferences – Members Of The Audience, Please Don’t Turn Off Your Mobile Devices

Remember the days when you were asked to turn off your phone at a conference before the speaker went on stage? Remember when texting during a speech was considered rude? It feels like talking about ancient times, doesn’t it?

And while first I thought using phones and other devices in conferences would be distracting I got used to the idea. Social media gave numerous reasons to make phones and tablets justified and  helpful.

  1. With these devices the audience can keep others informed who couldn’t attend the conference or chose another speaker to listen to. There are so many conferences and so little time. Not to mention travel expenses and attendance fees. It is comforting to know that you don’t have to miss everything just because there’s an ocean between you and an exciting conference.
  2. With tweeting and posting about a presentation the audience can instantly give feedback and the can share their thoughts and first impressions. This could be very helpful for speakers and also thought-provoking for other attendees. This way several conversations can happen simultaneously.
  3. And the discussion doesn’t have to end with the usual Q&A segment at the end of the lecture. The conversation can keep going days after the conference ended.
  4. With using a hashtag during a conference it is easy to have an instant abstract of the presentations. You can have everything summarized: comments and conversations, links to presentations and handouts.

The only downside? This way there are many more conferences and still so little time.