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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Alarming Level Of Non-Adherence

Recently I came across an alarming data on non-adherence: according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) 25% of people above 50 are not taking their medications as prescribed if they take them at all.

Rather than worrying about the sky-rocketing healthcare costs and revenues we should ask, what makes patients stop a treatment and go against their physician’s advice. Is it only the price of the medication or is it a consequence of miscommunication? And if so, what is pharma doing to find a solution for whatever the problem might be?

  1. First of all the cause of non-complience has to be clear. To be able to act on it one needs to know the real nature of the problem. It might sound obvious, but surprisingly it is often overlooked. To determine the reason for non-adherence pharma and healthcare need feedback from patients. This of course requires communication and listening which to this day seem to be challenging.
  2. Communication: The reason behind stopping a treatment could be the lack of information about certain drugs. A lot of patients end up leaving the doctor’s office not entirely understanding what they have been told. With the constantly decreasing visit times accurate knowledge about a treatment is hard to provide. It has to be a crucial goal to get through to patients and make sure they have all the information they need to successfully complete or maintain a treatment.
  3. Financial solutions: Non-complience can also root from financial difficulties. Healthcare providers, pharma, insurance companies have to be able to work together to find a better system to help patients in need to pay for their medication. To imply that patients come first and not collaborating for a more sufficient way for them to finance their medications is simply misleading.
  4. Marketing tools for adherence: Marketers often focus on the great results and advantages of taking a certain drug. They often forget to emphasize that partial treatment is not a treatment. Through conventional marketing, social media platforms and educational portals pharma has great tools to inform patients and advertise adherence. These tools could be the base of comprehensive compliance campaigns.

(Source: World of DTC Marketing)

Basic Attributes For Collaborative Healthcare

We can agree that more and more patients look for information themselves, or look into what their doctor says during a visit – but that doesn’t mean that trust between physician and patient is not important, that the empowered patient doesn’t need to be convinced that his/her doctor is competent and caring. Just the opposite. A great deal of trust needed in a time when achieving health becomes a shared goal and experience for doctors and patients.

But what is this trust based on? How do patients develop this trust for their physician, what do they take into consideration? According to a recent blog post on Mind The Gap the trust in doctors is based on three attributes:

  • The physician’s clinical skills
  • The physician’s communication skills
  • The patient is the number one concern of the doctor (without any other motives involved)

Because patients are usually not clinically trained (although more and more informed), they rely mostly on the second and third attributes when trusting their doctors. And that’s why it is crucial to spend enough time focusing on the dialogue with the patients, asking and answering questions and discussing any kind of concern they may have.

It is not surprising that communication is key for patients at this point. We are far gone from the idea that patients are not allowed to have an opinion, or any kind of knowledge about their condition or treatment options. Healthcare became more like a collaboration and as such people participating (doctors and patients) have to find a way to talk, communicate and discuss.

This is why it is alarming to see that the amount of time spent on a visit is rapidly decreasing. This is why it is frightening to know that even an important subject like taking a new drug is discussed in 49 short seconds. It is not enough to possess clinical skills and a great amount of information. Physicians also need to know how to pass on that information and earn their patients’ trust to achieve better outcomes and a well-operating collaborative healthcare.

(Source: Mind The Gap)

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)

e-Patients And Their Health Habits

Social media could be a great staring point for clinical trials. According to a study carried out by Blue Chip Patient Recruitment, e-patients who are active social media users are 60% more likely to have participated in clinical trials.

The data published in the research suggest, that patients using social media are more active in other areas as well when it comes to their health. They are 37% more likely to agree that medication helped imrove their lives, and 21% more likely to be willing to try advanced medication. They are also 29% more likely to visit their doctor for check-ups. They are 39% more likely to state that their condition resulted in a limited lifestyle.

There is one area where patients didn’t seem so active: online communities. When asked about their activities in online communities 80% of the respondents (between the age of 25 and 54) stated that they are reading the posts of others while only a little more than 30% said that they take part in providing content. So sharing posts and comments is definitely less significant compared to looking for information.

(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)

KV Pharma Ignores Facebook

There is no sign of KV Pharmaceutical to take part in the conversation joined by 1277 people already on Facebook about their decision on selling Makena injections for a shocking $1,500 per dose. The progesterone treatment against premature birth given weekly during pregnancy used to be available at pharmacies for a relatively cheap price, with injections costing between $10-$20.

Last month however, FDA approved the drug and gave Makena an orphan drug status, which gave the right to KV to be the only company making and selling the injections. KV used this exclusive position and set its own surprisingly high price for the shots causing a stir between parents and doctors alike.

Patients and professionals quickly let their voices be heard by creating a Facebook page called Shame on you, KV Pharmaceutical and CEO Greg Divis. The page is very much alive. In less than a month 1277 people liked it and joined the conversation posting pictures, sharing hundreds of wall posts and comments. The only missing element was the company itself, who decided not to get involved in the discussion on the page. Instead, they ignored the messages coming directly from patients and responded to letters from officials. The company also published a statement on its own website:

Ther-Rx Corporation has been carefully listening to all stakeholders following the announcement of the list price for Makena™ (hydroxyprogesterone caproate injection). We recognize the concerns that have been raised regarding the list price, patient access, and potential cost to payors of this important orphan drug. (…) We are scheduling meetings with key audiences – including payors and national organizations that are committed to the advancement of obstetric care and infant health.

Guess this means KV has no plans to use social media as a direct and instant channel to communicate with their “key audience”, future parents. They have been “carefully listening”, but they have not been effectively answering. Although payors and organisations are the ones influencing healthcare decisions, ultimately it is the patient who has to pay for the crucial treatment. Ignoring them and their powerful ways of making their opinion public can hurt KV as a brand tremendously.

(Source: FiercePharma, CreationHealthcare)

Two-Way Decision-Making – Alone?

A couple of days ago I read an article about the Salzburg Global Seminar, attended by 58 healthcare professionals and researchers from all around the world. The panel had a discussion on patients’ role in healthcare decisions, and called them the future “co-producers of health”.

While I completely agree with their argument, that patients need to be more involved making big decisions about their own health management and treatment process, I feel like the seminar itself shows where healthcare fails to give patients the chance to participate. This was the perfect example of a decision-making process about the way healthcare and treatment should work. So where were the patients, or health advocates, leaders of patient communities?

The panel agreed, that “patients should vocalize concerns and questions”. As long as there is no communication between healthcare professionals and patients this remains a goal in theory.

(Source: MedPage Today)