Mobile apps or mobile optimization – do we have to choose?

In a recent article on published on the Pharma Marketing Blog by John Mack the author, also known as @pharmaguy discussed the subject of health-related mobile applications and the mobile optimization of online content. To decide which one is more important to pharma is not the main task at hand. Our first and most important concern should not be whether one or the other could achieve a higher ROI. Simply because even if it turns out that online content optimal for mobile consumption brings higher ROI, pharma cannot deny the increasing popularity of health apps and the potential they provide. The same way mobile optimization cannot be ignored if health applications turn out to be the holy grail of patient engagement.

The article mentioned above refers to the Mobile Health 2012 survey published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project which showed that “half of smartphone owners use their devices to get health information and one-fifth of smartphone owners have health apps.” The study also pointed out that only around 9% of US adults have health applications on their phones. And @pharmaguy is right, this does not mean that these apps are used. How many times do we download an application and later find it impossible or even annoying to use?

Although the data about mobile health apps does not seem too promising, the percentage of smartphone owners who use their devices to access health-related information almost doubled. But does this tell us to focus exclusively on mobile optimization because that is what the current trend tells us? In my opinion this should be more of a wake up call or a warning sign that while online content has to be accessible on mobile devices, there is also a lot more to do to develop truly user-friendly health apps that users don’t just download but actually end up using as well. With only 19% of pharma websites being optimized for mobile platforms it is clear that there is a lot of unfulfilled potential in that area as well, but pharma companies are going to have to divide their efforts and make sure to achieve progress in both developing apps and optimizing online content.

Do you think pharma has the resources to conquer the challenges of the mobile era? Make sure to leave a comment below!

(Source: Pharma Marketing Blog)

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How Do We Spend Our Time Online?

A recent infographic from Go-Gulf presented striking numbers about just how much time people spend online. Social networking is the most popular activity by internet users while Google has the highest number of unique visitors monthly, followed close by Facebook. With 30 percent of the world’s population online the average time spent globally on the internet in one month only adds up to a mind-blowing 3,955,444 years.

According to the infographic below looking for health-related information online is the third most common activity among internet users. Only emailing and using search engines top its popularity. But looking for and finding valuable information can be two very different things. So do we trust online health info? Based on a new survey carried out by Wolters Kluwer Health people do trust the medical content they find on the internet. And this means a huge responsibility for every online publisher who create and distribute health-related information on the web. According the the survey:

65 percent of those seeking medical information online say they trust the information they find and 63 percent say they’ve never misdiagnosed themselves based on something they read online.

A recent post on KevinMD.com points out that Twitter can be a valuable medical resource for patients and their relatives as well. With many doctors, patient groups and health services providing help and information on the micro-blogging site, there is a pool of knowledge that could be tapped into after getting used to the idea of sharing and co-creating a knowledge base with only 140 characters at a time.

To think that only a decade ago we didn’t even have the term social networking, using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites didn’t play any part in our everyday life. It’s safe to say that these fast paced changes in technology remodeled the way we look at medical information and diagnosing conditions entirely.

 

(Source: Mindjumpers.com, FierceHealthIT, KevinMD.com)

 

22 Tips To Create Great Content

They say content is king. But what exactly makes your content worthy of that title? It is nearly impossible to be witty, interesting and informative at the same time post after post, article after article. The inforgraphic below tries to ease the pain of many publishers dealing with writer’s block.

Involving your team, your readers or interviewing someone seem like good ways to spice up your blog posts. Similarly case studies usually provide interesting material for practice-focused articles that attract a big number of readers. Check out further tips to create great content and to fight the lack of inspiration.

What’s your best method for finding subjects to write about? Feel free to share in the comment section!

(Source: Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News)

What Makes A Health Website Trustworthy?

In an earlier post we discussed the importance of online content in the internet age and how health websites have the responsibility to meet high standards when it comes to accuracy and comprehensive information. That sometimes means sacrificing being the first to report something or getting the most hits on a given article.

An American study also highlighted some of the readers’ considerations when choosing between different health websites. According to the findings the most trustworthy platforms are the ones recommended by a physician while publishing scientific articles about research is also proof of being an accurate source. 39% of respondents said that the information has to be easy to understand to be considered worthy to read. This also supports earlier findings suggesting that long, overly complicated content is not well-received and not user-friendly.

This brings us back to responsibility. But who has the responsibility to provide trustworthy health content? Who is responsible to make it available, to make it easy to understand, to make it accurate? In healthcare where content is published from many different sources people can’t afford to point fingers. Everyone who creates content has to be responsible. Let the platform be a hospital website, a pharmaceutical Facebook page or a physician’s blog.

And as the study pointed out physicians play a key role in directing patients to trustworthy online content by choosing the accurate ones to recommend. In this sense doctors have an even more crucial part being the gate keepers of health-related information in the digital era. This is why the increasing popularity of the internet or the growing number of online health websites don’t threaten the job of a physician. It only adds another one to the list of daily tasks.

Poor Communication Equals Non-Compliance

In a recent post on Mind The Gap, a blog dedicated to investigate the quality, or in this case poor quality of communication between physicians and patients, I stumbled upon some alerting data about how much these shortcomings effect compliance. We long knew that being informed and engaged in health increases adherence. But the magnitude of consequences of not providing comprehensive information about new medication was shocking.

Here are some of the sobering facts (also shown on the infographic below):

  • While 50% of the US population takes at least one medication and 85% of seniors have one or more chronic conditions, only 50% of patients are taking their pills as directed.
  • Even more astonishing, that 70% of non-compliance is intentional. The reasons are the following: disbelief in diagnosis and severity of health problem, concerns about side affects – all of which could be discussed during a visit.
  • Doctors spend an average 49 seconds (yes, that’s not even a minute) giving information about a new drug they prescribe.
  • They only tell patients how long to take their pills 34% of the time. In as low as 35% of the cases they spend time mentioning the adverse effects and only 9% of the time they talk about the price of the drug.

 

(Source: Mind The Gap)

The Digital Era Of Healthcare

I have said before that quoting numbers from studies endlessly and keep proving that we live in the era of social networks is pointless. After a while people can say: “Ok, we get it! A lot of us use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.” Even the role of online content and social engagement in healthcare don’t really need further proof to be taken seriously.

Despite all that I wanted to share this video below. First of all because it includes all of the most important data about social media use and how that effects healthcare and patient information. Secondly because I believe that for whatever reason the same facts presented in a fast pace video can grab people’s attention better than any results in written words.

To make it easier for viewers to follow, here are the key findings included in the video:

  • There are 2.08 billion internet users worldwide
  • That number increased 11% in the last year only
  • There are 476,213,935 internet users in Europe
  • There are over 156 million blogs online
  • Over 200 million people on Twitter sending out 40 billion tweets per year
  • Wikipedia has over 3.65 million articles that would take more than 123 years to read
  • Facebook has over 750 million users – if it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after China and India
  • Every second someone joins LinkedIn
  • Youtube serves 1 billion videos everyday
  • Google logs 2 billion searches daily
  • Healthcare is the second most search for topic on Google
  • Healthcare is the third largest web activity across all generations
  • 85% of online Europeans turn to the internet and other technology for health and prescription information
  • In a survey of 4,000 physicians 88% said they used internet resources to search for professional information
  • 48% claimed to visit Wikipedia more than once a week compared to only 16% visiting BMJ online
  • 50% of patients discuss what they have found online with their doctors
  • Patients who visit a brand website are more likely to request a drug by name
  • 44% of physicians prescribe a requested drug
  • 49% of physicians will recommend a website to patients – 80% for disease or condition education and awareness, 62% for patient support, 56% for health or lifestyle change, 37% for drug and product specific information, 22% for online communities for patients with the same condition
  • 95% of physicians use handheld devices and smartphones to download applications and access medical information

(Source: Pharma Marketing: The Weekly Dose)

Patients Using Social Media – Dropping Numbers?

Recently I stumbled upon an article published on eMarketer.com titled “Patients Get Social About Their Health”. Based on the title I had a general idea of what I am going to read. I remembered numbers from earlier studies: 61% of the patients in the United States turn to the web for health information, another research said that rate was as high as 80%, 16% Americans use social media to search for medical advice, and more than half of patients sharing information about their conditions do so on blogs.

As a matter of fact, I stopped reading these kind of articles some time ago. As Bryan Vartabedian, MD wrote on his blog, 33charts.com:

I’m preparing a new presentation on doctors, patients and information.  I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to display quotes on health search.  I always felt that I had to make the case.  But it’s official:  lots of people search Google for health information.  It’s no longer remarkable.  It no longer changes the way an audience sees things.

I agreed, so I assumed every time I saw an article with the same title about how many people use the internet for health information, I am going to see the same data over and over again, presented maybe in a slightly different way. So when I read the post on Emarketer.com, I was surprised. Did the numbers drop? Did patients turn away from social media and other online sources, like blogs? According to the study used in the article as a reference, an carried out by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions only 11% of American healthcare consumers use social media to find and share health-related information, and 8% of them turn to blogs.

I don’t think studies can be compared, since their sample, their method could be very different resulting in various conclusions. But one thing is for sure: you have to be a little suspicious when finding results that are way off of the regular pattern of past studies. And I am also certain that you can’t state that patients are getting social based on numbers as low as 11% and 8%.

(Source: eMarketer.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)

How Social Is Too Social?

In a recent blog post on 33charts.com Bryan Vartabedian, MD raises an interesting question: “How many places can you live?” These days chances are the biggest part of your online activity happens on social media sites. You check Facebook and click on the Youtube videos shared by your friends (or by random people you accidentally have on Facebook) and after finding the video extremely funny/interesting/inspirational you decide to post it on Twitter.

Let’s just say you also blog and you would like to keep up with the comments of readers of your posts. You also keep reading about Google+ so you decide to join to see what all the fuss is about. Before you know it you spend long hours sitting in front of the computer trying to find your way out of the great mess of information. Then when you finally build up enough courage to tear yourself apart from the computer to leave your house, you turn to your smartphone. And the whole circle starts again.

Is this really the purpose of social media? To create addicted people staring at a screen all day? I don’t think so. Using social sites should be beneficial on a daily basis not result in digital mess around you. The real quality of this era is being selective. To be able to decide what information to pay attention to and what to ignore. This way we could organize the fine chaos we see online every day. Social media and more and more mobile applications are supposed to help us filter information and find out easier what is relevant, new and deserves attention.

With so many social platforms you have to make choices. One doesn’t have to use all the applications and social platforms out there. It is better to use a few effectively than to get lost in the social sphere. Especially if there is a lot at stake. Let’s just say you are a physician actively using social media. For a healthcare professional social media is a lot more than a fun way to spend time in the evening. In this case social media is a great tool with countless possibilities to connect with fellow doctors, get informed and stay relevant in the rapidly changing medical field. But social media is also a potential source of danger – for privacy (yours and patients’) and for reputation.

The possibilities given by social media are too big to pass on them. But that fact doesn’t make the pitfalls go away. That is why everyone has to decide: how social is too social? A social media presence is too much if it can’t be monitored and controlled. You can’t keep your eyes on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and comments, Youtube, Google+ and different online communities all the time. There is only 24 hours in a day. If you want to use social media effectively to connect with people you want to connect with, to access useful information that you want to access and if during the process you would like to monitor and control your online presence, you have to be selective. And decide for yourself how social is too social.

(Source: 33charts.com)

“Sticky” Patient Comments On Facebook

The conversation about Facebook’s changing commenting policy has been going on for a while now. In a recent, very detailed overview on Pharmaphorum.com, Wendy Blackburn lists the new risks and the possible solutions for the recent  challenges. And finally there are multiple ways of dealing with this issue surface instead of the regular “keep the comments disabled or turn away from Facebook” answer.

The post also highlights certain situations when patient commenting could turn into a problem. People posting off-label use, positive outcomes, their joy over an unfinished clinical trial, their way of using a different dosage of a drug:

“[Drug X] was FDA-approved for asthma but my Dr. prescribed it for COPD and it worked great!”

“Whenever I self-inject [Drug X] I use ice to make the injection feel better and I also take ibuprofen. You should try that.”

“I’ve learned that if I cut my pill in half, I still feel okay, but my prescription will last longer and costs less.”

In the imaginary comments above, you can read about off-label use, unauthorized medical advice and usage not in sync with the recommended dosage. These could all cause problems for a pharma company. But that doesn’t mean that these comments shouldn’t be made possible. They reflect on real situations and sometimes real problems whether they violate regulations or not. Choosing the right platform for this may be challenging, but it is definitely an urgent and crucial task that needs to be faced.

I do understand that unless it is made clear that a pharma company is not responsible for user comments on a Facebook page, allowing these posts are great risk factors. I do agree that this has to be decided. But why wait on the FDA to declare that? Disclaimers work just fine on blogs, Twitter and different social media platforms. Why wouldn’t they be enough for Facebook comments? For content published by others than the company?

There are also different tools for keeping your Facebook wall under control. The post mentions extensive monitoring, moderation, filtering or creating a branded page. So there are solutions for “sticky” patient comments on Facebook. They are time-consuming and result in a large workload, so companies have to decide carefully if it’s worth it or not. The question that still lingers is: what can we do about the issues, like the examples quoted before that have to be hidden on social platforms? Where are those notions going to be addressed?

For more interesting and exciting posts, check out Pharmaphorum.com!

(Source: Pharma on Facebook: past, present and future)