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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Digital media and healthcare providers

There is a lot of data available on how physicians perceive and use digital technologies like the web or social media for finding health-related information. But how do their perceptions and use patterns compare to other providers like nurses and pharmacists? The infographic below analyses the question on hand.

According to a recent survey the same ratio of doctors, nurses and pharmacists (85%) turn to digital sources for healthcare information. There are definite differences tho when it comes to using mobile devices for gathering information.

An interesting finding of the survey is that physicians trust digital sources – websites, mobile sources and social media platforms – the most out of the three groups. Nurses and pharmacists see these as less reliable information sources.

According to the study 40-50% of the time physicians used digital tools for professional purposes while nurses turned to these more often for other reasons. Pharmacists turned to digital solutions for healthcare-related reasons the most.

 

(Source: Path of the Blue Eye)

Consumer use of social media in healthcare

Social media is becoming a bigger part of the collection of health information, but it varies by health condition and treatment options how patients use social channels during their online search. The more serious the condition, the more time patients spend online researching with social media tools as part of the equation.

This is one of the findings of a recent qualitative research project designed and carried out by Rich Meyer, an experienced DTC marketer working in the pharma industry for over 10 years now. The study showed other interesting trends about how consumers are using social media for seeking healthcare information and how it influences their decisions as well.

Here are the key findings of the research:

  • Seeking health information online is often triggered by health concerns of a patient or family member. People usually do not search for health-related information proactively. The search is initiated after experiencing the symptoms.
  • There is not one online source that is the most popular when it comes to searching for health info. There is no ultimate source. People in older age groups usually start with search engines, and often mention being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of health-related information online. One of the main problems for internet users is complexity, the often feel frustrated when not finding answers to more simple questions.
  • While some people use social media sites during their search, they rarely trust the accuracy of posts. The main reason to go to social media sources is to read about others’ experiences with the same health concerns. This is trend is more dominant with more serious conditions.
  • People are concerned about personal and data privacy, so they are usually not comfortable posting their medical information on social media sites. This was even a bigger of a concern for older demographics.
  • Before making a healthcare-related decision, women usually do more research online and go to a lot more websites than men.
  • While physicians are still a very important source of medical information, the need for a more cooperative approach to healthcare is obvious. Participants stated that they would like to discuss different options with their doctors.
  • Another interesting and possibly worrying aspect of the study is that during focus groups participants didn’t mention pharma company websites as a health-related online source at all. This might be due to the fact that they questioned the trustworthiness of pharma companies all together.

(Source: Pharmaphorum.com)

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)

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)

 

Advertising On Health Websites

Mayo Clinic’s recent decision to include paid advertisements on its website stirred up a heated debate. As the face of healthcare social media and effective patient education for a long time Mayo Clinic received a lot of criticism for its bold move to venture into the field of featuring ads next to important health-related issues.

I personally think in an economic climate like today’s no one can really argue with a financially smart decision if it is rightly done. Which means that in my opinion paid advertisements can have a place next to health information without taking away credibility and reliability. Unless they are placed poorly. And that is where Mayo Clinic made a mistake. Mark Schaefer, marketing consultant and author took to his blog to express his disbelief and disappointment about ads trying to sell children’s clothes next to an article about a condition during pregnancy that in most cases results in the death of the unborn child.

Here is a word I rarely use on my my blog: Stupid.  But I think it is an unavoidable description when an organization sells the soul of their brand for a few advertising dollars with a mindless strategy of advertising children’s clothes to women who have just lost their child.

I think the question is: was the placement of the ad intentional? I hardly think so. This is an organization that is involved in treating patients, conducting research, launching healthcare start-apps, using social media for better patient education and communication and operating a major platform for publishing reliable health-related content. I think by now they are aware of the sensitive nature of the different topics they are discussing.

I also think it is a case of not paying attention to detail and not making sure the content and the ads on the site are in sync. Placing ads can mean major funds for a website. Misplaced ads can mean angry and disappointed readers that have all the right to feel that way. And while a lot of times advertising agreements are a little loose when it comes to the content of the ads, a website specializing in healthcare content has to make sure to monitor and influence the ads appearing on the portal.

(Source: Businessgrow.com, Medcitynews.com)

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)

mHealth in Europe – Where Is The Disconnect?

There have been several reports on mobile playing a significant role in healthcare. New health-focused apps seem to appear out of thin air and winning over physicians who would like to prescribe these applications for patients. Virtually everything is possible to squeeze in an app – self-monitoring, calorie-counting, self-diagnosing, educational material for patients, database of drugs with interactions, and the list could go on and on.

A recent study published by GSMA research suggested that mobile health is so popular it is predicted to be worth 23 Billion dollars by 2017. Other staggering surveys showed the fast-paced growth of mobile use: there are 4 Billion mobile phones in use worldwide and 1.08 Billion of those are smartphones. These numbers show clearly the potential of the mobile and app market. Other predictions point out that by 2014 mobile internet use should take over desktop internet usage, which means more and more people are using their mobile phones as the primary tool for web browsing, social networking and getting information.

So given all the data mentioned above I was surprised to find the not-so-promising findings about mHealth apps in Europe. Based on the study Citizens and ICT for Health in 14 EU countries ICT consequences published the following data about internet users in Europe and their use of health, wellness apps:

  • 77% stated that they never use it;
  • 7% stated that they were not aware of it;
  • 6% stated that they use it less than once a month
  • 5% stated that they use it at least once a month (but not every week)
  • 4% stated that they use it at least once a week (but not every day)
  • 1% stated that they use it every day or almost every day

So where is the disconnect? What makes Europeans reluctant to use health-related applications? It is clear that this is not an issue of awareness. Other than the numerous articles published about mobile applications every day and the speedy growth of smartphone purchases the data above points out that only 7% of respondents were not familiar with health apps.

So if it is not awareness than what is causing the disconnect? A possible assumption could be the lack of user-friendly or user-centered applications. According to a study carried out by Consumer Health Information Corporation (CHIC), the top reasons why users quit an application are the release of better versions and lack of user-friendly features. But what does that mean “user-friendly”? According to the findings the key elements are: easy to navigate, informative and interactive. This means that the main goals while developing a mobile app should be to keep it as simple as possible while still being informative and use the advantages of interactive features. The fact that users like an app to be interactive can’t come as a surprise since social networking and playing games on mobile phones are in the top 5 favorite activities on a mobile device.

So we can conclude that just because an area of innovations is considered trendy, doesn’t mean it has reached its full potential of providing important features for users. The speed of growth of a market cannot be an excuse for the lack of user-friendly and useful, creative solutions.

(Source: ICTconsequences.net)

The End Of Janssen’s Psoriasis 360 Facebook Page

Janssen has announced the closing of its Facebook page, called Psoriasis 360. The social campaign was known in the pharma sector as the go-to best practice example for successful and creative social media use. What the audience – and the rest of the industry for that matter – didn’t see tho, was the enormous amount of work that goes into moderating posts and comments on a platform like a Facebook page.

Janssen was the first to use “post-moderated comments”, meaning that these comments were only checked – and pulled if necessary – after they were posted. This was definitely a progressive way of handling comments on Facebook, something that became mandatory after new Facebook policies were introduced in August last year.

So does this mean that pharmaceutical companies don’t have a place on Facebook? Does this mean that monitoring is a daunting task that cannot be completed? I’m sure a lot of people in the pharma industry would say so and use the closing of Psoriasis 360 as a proof to their case. But is it fair to point fingers and use a previous best practice as a bad example, or even as an excuse to stay away from social media? Can an award-winning campaign become a “failure” overnight? I surely hope the answer is no. If anything people responsible for the campaign should be praised for not letting the situation get out of hand and for addressing difficulties on time.

The end of Psoriasis 360 should not serve as a bad example, but as a great one for the proper way to handle social media risks and still keeping the main goals of social engagement and patient education in the limelight. Janssen made its announcement available on the landing page of Psoriasis 360 where they inform their fans about the reasons behind their decision. But they go a little further too, they point the patients in the right direction to get information by mentioning the websites and Twitter accounts of the Psoriasis Association, the Psoriasis Scotland Arthritis Link Volunteers and the University of Manchester Skin Research as accurate and useful resources. The company also decided to take a little time before closing down the page entirely to make sure its message gets through to patients. If anything, this process should be a best practice example of how and when to end a social media campaign.

And before anyone accuses me of being too positive and forgiving, this event should also work as a catalyst to generate  more ideas to better manage the task of monitoring social platforms, the handling of comments coming from the audience and keeping alive successful campaigns while staying in line with regulations.

(Source: PMLiVE.com)

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)