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)


Pharma Websites Among The Most Effective Online Platforms

There is another reason why titles like “Pharma is behind on the web” and “Pharma doesn’t get e-health” are getting outdated. According to the Bowen Craggs Index published in the Financial Times the websites of Roche and Novartis are in the top 10 most effective portals among corporate sites. Other pharma companies were also included – AstraZeneca took the 13th and Sanofi the 17th place on the list.

One can read numerous articles about how pharma is the slowest industry to adapt to digital and online solutions and still, some companies like Roche and Novartis managed to be relevant and secure better positions than robust corporations like Nestle, Microsoft and Coca-Cola. This means that other pharma companies cannot use the industry’s bad example anymore for their own lack of online initiatives.

In its study Bowen Craggs & Co points out several issues that pharma companies with less effective web presence have in common. Most of the time portals operated in the United States are supposed to work as the corporation’s global site but it lacks information about worldwide initiatives and activities. Another issue is that pharma companies are trying to put together their websites as an iPad app, but these sites only look like apps, they don’t operate like ones. If the functionality of the application setup is missing, there is no point in turning our portals into applications.

There is another issue concerning mobile trends – out of 81 companies analyzed in the study only 25 of them had separate mobile versions. Among the numerous pharma companies only four of them, namely Bayer, Boehringer, Pfizer and Shire have websites accessible on mobile devices without a problem.

While I don’t necessarily think that one single index number can describe a company’s online efforts, but it is certainly helpful in creating an environment a little more competitive. This way pharma companies can see how well others are doing and realize – an industry is not behind in general. There are teams and organizations within the industry that are up-to-date, using cutting-edge solutions and have no problem adapting to new and creative online solutions to be more effective.

(Source: PMLiVE.com)

Novo Nordisk Is The First In Pharma To Join Pinterest

It has been stated numerous times that the discussion about your brand is happening online whether you choose to take part in it or not. The latest social media sensation to prove this right is Pinterest. Launched February 2010, the number of users of the now popular image sharing site skyrocketed. Only two short years after its start, Pinterest had an amazing 11.1 million visitors just in February 2012, becoming the fastest website to have 10 million users.

With these numbers showing the enormous reach of the site it is surprising that pharma is just starting to think about jumping on the bandwagon. With so many new social applications and sites emerging one after the other it is understandable to wait and see if something is on the way to become the next best thing or if it just turns out to be a quickly fading trend. But a two-year waiting period is way too long by any measure. By now there are Pinterest users that claimed names of pharma companies on the site.

As John Mack (@pharmaguy) points out on his Pharma Marketing Blog, several companies are going to have some trouble claiming their own name on the photo sharing site. Among others, usernames like Boehringer, Roche, Merck and Novartis have been taken by other members of the site. And while they obviously have no intention to post content about these companies, using their names, connecting their brand with unrelated posts is hardly helping on any online platform. This can highly alter searches carried out by patients, clients influencing the companies’ content marketing strategies.

Novo Nordisk confirmed that it created a Pinterest profile for the company being the first one to do so in the pharma industry. And while the company hasn’t started pinning away yet, it already has an introduction uploaded on the site making the profile an official one. This way – even if only by dipping a toe into the water rather than jumping head first – Novo Nordisk reserved the right to control the content sent out in the name of its brand. With registering on Pinterest, the company has the opportunity to explore the options on the image sharing site and take its time to decide whether to utilize the possibilities of the platform or not. Bottom line is: while doing so, no one else is pinning unrelated content to their name.

While it seems that Novo Nordisk is still leaving most of its Pinterest page blank – other than the very important bio section mentioned before – Bayer started pinning under the name of “bayerus”. The company has 3 boards with 28 pins covering its business, and the subjects of sustainability and innovation. This shows that on the long run it’s not going to be about what username you pick, but rather how you can utilize the platform and find creative, effective ways to share content with your audience.

(Source: Pharma Marketing Blog, PMLiVE.com)

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)

Social Media Tips For Pharma Companies

Recently I read an interview with Gillian Tachibana, head of eMedia and social media at Merck Serono. She pointed out some basic issues that pharmaceutical companies should consider when using social media in their business.

As I mentioned it in our last post, some of the pharma companies are embracing social media and realize the value that patient engagement and social communication hold for them. They also pay attention to the special regulatory requirements that the industry demands. But there is always room for growth, there are always opportunities for improvements.

Gillian Tachibana raises an interesting point when she says: “Social media is being treated as a separate beast in itself … it’s not.” Just because social media is considered a new approach and a new channel to reach customers – although it can’t longer be called the hottest thing in digital marketing –, it doesn’t mean it has to be handled as something separate from the company’s marketing strategy. It should be an integral part of all marketing activities.

She also argues that listening is key in social media, especially before deciding where to set up an account, what platform to choose for a marketing campaign. I do agree that to reach a target audience it is important to find out where they are, but I also think that pharma companies are not destined to follow their audience, they can be – and should be – the ones setting an example, they can be early adapters to be followed. It’s also crucial to emphasize that listening and monitoring doesn’t stop with choosing the right platform and setting up an account. First of all, a pharma company should be always alert and aware of all activities happening on its social media accounts. Secondly, one social media tool could be the right choice at one point, but in the digital environment changes come fast, new solutions appear day after day, and a digitally savvy company cannot afford to be left behind or not up-to-date with the latest technologies.

Another important lesson from the above mentioned post is that you can’t base an entire social media strategy on the idea that using social platforms is important because everybody else is doing it. Copying doesn’t work with digital campaigns, it gets obvious very quickly. Not to mention that social media efforts that are built on only competition and not for the benefit of the audience, are very likely to disappear, and disappear fast. That’s why it is better to take time to plan ahead, to consider every aspect of how social media might effect a company’s marketing activity. There is no need to “jump headfirst into a lake”, it looks like social channels are here to stay, so there is plenty of time to prepare and make improvements.

(Source: PMLiVE.com)

Pharma And Social Media – Where Are The Companies Now?

There has been a lot written about the pharmaceutical industry being slow to implement social media and how it is not willing to actively engage with patients and other healthcare stakeholders. It might be time to change the sharp tone of criticism, and give to best practices and good solutions the attention they deserve. There is still a lot to do of course, but looking at pharma as an industry that is not capable of change is not an option anymore. And here is why.

While there are companies that are reluctant to use social media as an integrated part of their marketing strategy, others have realized the value of social communication and engagement and they are doing their best to navigate on the relatively new platforms, while meeting the strict regulatory requirements of the industry. For example GlaxoSmithKline with more than 22 000 fans on Facebook is making sure all of its followers are communicating respectfully and urges them to consider certain legal matters. They let their Facebook fans know how and why the company is using the platform by having all this information on their landing page. This is one of the many examples how a company can use social media consciously and still keep the important regulatory issues in mind.

Obviously when using social media it is not enough to just „simply” follow the guidelines published by different authorities, companies also have to use the platforms what they are created for. We can’t talk about communication unless both parties (the company and its audience) are participating in it. There is no social media without interaction. Case in point the Twitter – or any other social media account for that matter – of Boehringer Ingelheim. On Twitter they share interesting content, they retweet, they ask and answer questions. They interact. Not to mention the fact that the company realizes what numerous studies have shown, that people are more likely to engage with pharma companies on social platforms if they know exactly who they are talking to. On the Twitter page of Boehringer Ingelheim the company makes sure to state who shares their tweets, so people can connect the posts to actual faces.

Also, companies have to realize, social media is not just about the numbers. You can have millions of fans on Facebook, thousands of followers on Twitter – if you don’t use the platform wisely, if you don’t use the opportunity to actually connect with people, it doesn’t matter how many fans you have. Pfizer for example has almost 48 000 Facebook fans. It is an impressive number that looks really good in corporate presentations, you can use it as an argument in meetings, but unless you communicate and engage with those people, big numbers are pointless. Pfizer is actively using its Facebook page to share company-related news, and more importantly to give patients a chance to report adverse events. While this may seem like the worst nightmare for many companies, it is an effective and responsible way of dealing with issues that are there, whether a company acknowledges them or not. The discussions are happening whether we listen or not.

The Value Of Social Media Within A Pharma Company

When it comes to pharmaceutical marketing companies are accustomed to have very specific data and analysis ready about the ROI of their campaigns. Long lines of numbers show how many people have seen a television ad, what type of audience did a message reach and what is the value for the company in these marketing activities. Stats and numbers, clear and simple. Social media tools throw off a lot of people because they are essentially different in this aspect.

You can count the “Likes” and present the number of  Twitter followers to marketing executives but it won’t show you a definite picture of what value social media brings to your company. The statistics don’t represent how fans and followers make their purchasing decisions based on the creative contest you just did on Facebook, they also won’t show the long-term benefits of building business relationships on Twitter.

Another way of looking at the value of social media is to see how members of your company are using it professionally and how it benefits them, and eventually through them how it brings revenue to the company itself. This was the idea behind the recent study AstraZeneca carried out asking almost 400 of its scientists about the professional use of social media and science. More than 75% of the respondents said that social media was “valuable” or “somewhat valuable”. The most popular online platforms among the participating scientists were professional networks, wikis and blogs.

They study, featured on PMLiVE.com emphasized the importance of social communication among scientists and the long-term benefits of co-creation of knowledge. One of the responders summarised this in the following statement:

Social media are like any medium of communications. Saying that social media are not important is isolating you as a scientist … (which) rarely leads to new science.

(Source: PMLiVE.com)

Ways Of Gaining Trust Again In Pharma

A recent study by Edelman proved what pharma marketers and consultants knew for a long time now: the consumers’ trust in pharmaceutical companies is severely shattered. According to new findings the credibility of the industry decreased significantly with the level of trust in pharma companies dropping almost 10% from 61 to 56. It is illogical and not realistic to think that the global issues of the sector can be solved with old tactics and practices. To fix these problems and gain back the trust of consumers pharmaceutical companies have to acquire a new approach.

Luckily the economic surroundings, results of several researches and new global communication trends all point in the same direction. All pharma companies need to do is to actually recognize this direction and give up the old, habitual and ineffective ways of marketing and talking to their audience. Case in point: the excessive spending on TV ads. Here are the key reasons pharma companies should revisit their strategy about television advertising:

  • The global economic situation doesn’t provide financial resources to support expensive and rather ineffective advertising methods. These days TV ads fall into this category.
  • Stricter regulations also make it harder to include key products in TV advertising and also influence the development process of such ads.
  • Controversies in the past in connection with heavily advertised drugs resulted in the consumer assumption that pharmaceutical products promoted on television cannot be trusted.

The findings of recent studies and new trends also seem to prove that the future is not about TV advertising and old ways of marketing but rather about social engagement, co-operation and two-way communication. Online communities and social platforms quickly gained popularity in the past few years creating never before seen changes in the way we communicate, share and consume information. So it is no surprise that consumers trust people like them more and more and take their advice rather than following a push message marketed “at” them and not “with” them. According to the study mentioned above people trust others similar to them more and more. The level of consumer trust in others’ opinion increased from 43% to 65%.

The opposite trends of the changing level of trust are undeniable when it comes to pharma companies and peers. So wouldn’t it make sense to focus on what works, to pay more attention to integrating peer-based tools like social media and patient communities into the marketing strategy? Wouldn’t it make sense to focus and spend less on marketing tools, like TV ads that doesn’t work anymore? New approaches are desperately needed, because clearly, the old ways couldn’t secure the industry’s credibility.

(Source: Health Talker)

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)