Thursday, September 29, 2011

Take This App and Call Me in the Morning

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

I wonder if it’s too early to say if there’s a movement happening here. I see signs that remind me of the big shifts that have happened online over the last 15 years, but that doesn’t mean it’s really occurring. So you tell me: Does pharma realize that they are less in the pill business and more in the health business?

Of course, maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe because so many of the world’s health problems require some sort of prescription medication that it doesn’t matter what business they are in because the sales will always be there.

But maybe it does matter. What pharma presentation doesn’t start with the litany of horrors about the ending of blockbuster drug patents, insurance changes, and slowing sales? Maybe re-framing the issue gives pharma the opportunity to see themselves in a different light and get beyond their less-than-hopeful prognosis for their industry.

So if pharma is in the “getting people healthy” business, they need to see and embrace all the ways people can get healthier, and right now, the fun/sexy/exciting means of doing that involves tech. Specifically, mobile tech.

I don’t need to get into all the reasons why mobile and health care make such a great match (Need a refresher? Here you go: 2012 Tech Outlook for Pharma) so let’s just skip ahead and pretend pharma has embraced mobile tech not just as a means of selling more pills, but as a new part of their complete health package.

This means that apps aren’t just commercials, but have to become powerful tools that help people become healthier. They can’t stop at “Let’s make the patient aware that they might have a diagnosable issue.” Let’s move them down the road to “As part of treating condition X, we have prescribed Brand Y and bundled it with this app to help you make healthier choices.”

By moving to a mobile platform, pharma can start to embrace elements of local check-ins (how many times you went to the gym and how many times you went to that greasy spoon around the corner), gamification (get points for taking your meds and drinking enough water) and social media (let your friends encourage you to take care of your health because they can see when you’re really working at it).

Uh oh. We’ve just moved past the world of the un-branded app into something bigger. Who’s gonna pay for all this?

Getting pharma to embrace the idea that apps are something more than product commercials is seismic, and requires a lot of changes on every level. So, what should pharma be able to do in the very near future?

Because these apps take a prescriptive course, they can’t really be said to be unbranded. Thus, they need to be treated like meds. They need a review process, even if the information they are conveying is pretty close to common sense. For example, when a doctor tells you to drink 8 glasses of water a day, it’s a non-event. If pharma tells you to drink 8 glasses of water a day, that’s prescription from a company and might need some review.

Maybe this shift will start to unearth some long-standing rules of thumb regarding health that might actually be untrue? (e.g., That “8 glasses of water” rule is a completely arbitrary number and doesn’t take into account the size, activity or even the local weather of the patient, right?)

And since these apps are no longer unbranded, and are a form of treatment, shouldn’t pharma be compensated? Oh, I have your attention now, don’t I? People spend more than a hundred dollars for As Seen On TV exercise programs. They should expect to pay for the same information in app form.

That sounds like quite a hurdle until you consider that if the apps are like a treatment from a doctor, the insurance companies are going to have to figure out how to cover them. While there will be whining from the insurance companies, the overall effect is that patients are more likely to improve their lifestyle and be reminded by the app to take their meds. This creates healthier patients, ones who are less likely to need to see a doctor and cheaper to insure.

All of these things lay the groundwork for a change in how most people view medicine: that prescriptions are often more effective when they work in tandem with lifestyle changes (e.g., pre-insulin diabetes treatments are going to be more useful if the patient loses weight and eats better). The burden on health doesn’t lay solely on pharma who makes the pill, or on the doctor who prescribed it, but equally between pharma, doctor and patient.

Merging the silos of pharma and non-pharma can only have a positive impact on the world’s health, as we can’t just take the pill and assume we’re going to be all better.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Five Trends Pharma Needs to Know about Connecting with NPs and PAs

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Today's guest post comes from Maureen Malloy, Senior Healthcare Analyst, Manhattan Research.

Marketing to physicians is becoming increasingly difficult for pharma companies for a variety of reasons, including more docs closing their doors to sales reps and the Physician Payment Sunshine Act going into effect in near future.

Some manufacturers are beginning to explore marketing and service opportunities among non-physician HCPs, in particular NPs and PAs. And for good reason – these providers are already a critical part of the healthcare ecosystem and their roles will expand in the coming years.

Why are NPs and PAs pharma important for pharma?

NP and PA populations are growing
NPs and PAs are some of the fastest growing professions in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of PAs to grow 27 percent between 2006 and 2016, and forecasts the NP population to increase 23 percent during the same time period. As of July 2011, there are an estimated 93,000 PAs and 148,000 NPs in the United States.

NPs and PAs influencing patient treatment
NPs and PAs already play a critical role in the treatment of patients. About 9 in 10 online NPs and PAs surveyed in Taking the Pulse® Nurses v11.0 (2011) say they influence the treatments prescribed to patients. Additionally, about three-quarters say they influence how well patients adhere to their medication. In the United States, where these healthcare providers have prescribing privileges in all 50 states, NPs and PAs write more than 900 million prescriptions per year.

NPs and PAs to fill the physician gap in coming years
The aging population and forthcoming addition of covered lives as a result of the Affordability Care Act (ACA) will increase the demands on our healthcare system. At the same time, the Kaiser Commision reported that the population of PCPs is shrinking in a March 2011 paper. NPs and PAs are poised to help fill this gap and play an ever larger part in delivering healthcare services to patients over the next few years.

What should pharma consider when targeting NPs and PAs?

NPs and PAs are digital savvy groups
NPs and PAs have already integrated the Internet into their workflow to a considerable degree, with the average online NP or PA spending a median of 10 hours per online for professional purposes. These groups are also using digital resources at the point of care, and there’s been a considerable increase in online PAs and NPs referring to digital resources during patient consults between 2009 and 2011.

Taking the Pulse® Nurses v11.0 (2011) also suggests that NPs and PAs value the Internet as an important resource for their clinical decision making and patient interactions. Among those writing prescriptions, 48 percent of online NPs and 44 percent of online PAs frequently change their opinions on prescription medications as a result of digital sources. Additionally, more than 4 in 5 online PAs and NPs recommend that their patients go online to research their condition.

Nurses want resources and service from pharma
The good news for marketers is that NPs and PAs are hungry for online information and services from pharma. About 9 in ten NPs and PAs online for professional purposes already visit pharma product or corporate websites and rely on various types of online content and tools from pharma. Many more are interested in taking advantage of pharma sponsored-support features, such online sampling, patient education and financial assistance resources.

Taking the Pulse® Nurses is Manhattan Research’s annual market research study and syndicated advisory service focused on how U.S. nurses, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physician assistants (PAs) use the Internet, digital media, mobile devices and other technologies for professional purposes, pharma communication and patient interaction. Taking the Pulse® Nurses v11.0 was fielded online annually in Q2 among 1,018 practicing nurses and PAs. Nurse practitioner (NP) data is available as a subsegment of APRNs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

HHS starts texting initiative for public health education

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The Department of Health and Human Services has recently started the program Text4Health.  It's goal is to take advantage of the number of 17% of individuals who use their mobile phones for health information, especially their target demographics of teens and minorities.  According to Information Week Healthcare, the task force is offering well thought out guidelines to for the mHealth initiatives:

- Develop and host evidenced-informed health text message libraries to leverage HHS' rich and scientifically-based information.

- Develop partnerships to create, implement and disseminate health text messaging and mHealth programs.

- HHS should form a mobile health (mHealth) community of practice, initially led by HHS staff in the Office of the Secretary, that meets regularly to discuss and coordinate mHealth activities, including health text messaging, across the Department.

- HHS should align health text messaging/mHealth activities with other HHS Health IT priorities such as support for electronic health records, cloud computing and health games.

- HHS should conduct further research into the privacy and security risks associated with text messaging of health information and establish guidelines for managing privacy and security issues.

- HHS agencies (FDA, NIH, AHRQ, ONC) should conduct research on future trends of text messaging technologies and establish regulatory guidelines for these interactive systems that can be used in treating, curing, mitigating or preventing diseases or conditions.

Do you see this mHealth initiative as a step in the right direction for health education through digital?  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Does Facebook Know It Just Entered the Medical/Wellness Market?

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

Even if you've heard the news from Facebook, you might not have seen the implications from a medical/pharma standpoint. Facebook announced a new tool called Facebook Timeline. Scrape away all the marketing copy and you get this: All that stuff you enter into Facebook (and Tumblr and Twitter and Foursquare and Flickr et al) aren't just quips and stories and complaints and jokes and whatnot, they are the ephemeral data about your life.

If your doctor said, "I'd like you to keep track of how many cups of coffee you have, how well you sleep, when you go to the gym, and the like" you'd hear, "Do a bunch of tedious homework." If your doctor said instead, "Hey, since you already track when you go to Starbucks and the gym on Foursquare, and complain about your lack of sleep on Facebook, can you keep doing that?" that sounds easy.

And now you can. Or rather, you already have.
Facebook users already engage in countless acts of data entry... Automated data gathering through smart phones—especially location data—provides even more data to mine.
-Christopher Mims at MIT's Technology Review

And that's where things are about to get interesting. We've been sitting on the precipice of some seriously cool ideas and tools for collecting, measuring and analyzing data, but they've all suffered from one of two problems: Lack of broad support or lack of fun. Facebook solved both those problems.

99% of the people who are interested in, and who would benefit from, collecting and analyzing their own data are stymied by the idea that it's a lot of work. At the end of the day, do you really want to rely on your memory? Or do you want to interrupt your life a dozen times a day and look like a dork doing it? Oh, you're updating one of your social media services? You're no less of a dork, but we all understand now.

And while Facebook is pitching Timeline as a way of easily keeping track of the birthday/breakup/roadtrip/concert parts of your life, people are already thinking about how to leverage all this info for medical and wellness tracking purposes.

Granted, this is Facebook we're talking about. These are not people who have a stellar track record when it comes to privacy. Or trustworthiness. Or professionalism. And while the intent behind all this work is clearly to be able to market products and services to us in a way that may actually be something close to interesting and useful, the opportunity exists for the data to be used in more meaningful ways... assuming Facebook can be persuaded to open the door to others, something it doesn't like to do.

So who's going to be the first to build a Facebook App to start to collect and use people's wellness data?

[Note: Five days after I wrote this, Facebook admits that it is tracking users, even after they've logged out. Can you see the fight Facebook is going to have with the FDA? Like a steel cage match...]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Novo Nordisk add the eBook to digital health arsenal

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With the sales of traditional books falling and digital books on the rise thanks to eReaders, NovoNordisk recently shared it's plans to share a free series of digital books compatible with all eReaders to help diabetics plan healthier meals. The eBook Titles include Diabetes and You, Your Guide to Better Office Visits, Diabetes Medicines, Carb Counting and Meal Planning, Your Blood Sugar Diary.  You can download them here.

Camille Lee the Corporate VP, diabetes marketing at NovoNordisk stated:
“With an increasing demand for e-books, we saw an opportunity to share our existing diabetes education book series in a new and innovative format that meets the changing technology needs of today's patient.  By broadening the availability of the educational series, we hope that more patients will have access to the resources they need to better manage their diabetes.”

How can eBooks add to the digital marketing tools of Pharma Marketers?  Do you see more companies looking to reach their audience in this way, or know of any doing so effectively 

Friday, September 16, 2011

How can marketer create apps that patients will use?

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Navigating the world of Web Apps can be tricky.  Of all the phone apps downloaded, only 30% of Apps are used the day after they are downloaded.  And after 20 days, only 5% of iPhone Apps downloaded are used.

What does this mean for marketers?  While mobile marketing is currently the hot topic among many marketers and organizations, it's key that the company creating the App identifies why they are creating it and find a successful way to measure it's use more than just the number of downloads.  It's key to identify how individuals are utilizing the app  and then have the easy ability to update it to keep it relevant.

The article at the World of DTC Marketing also reveals that the majority of patients using the app aren't pleased when one is created to send reminders for compliance.  How can Pharma marketers get around this?  Are there needs unmet in the digital Pharma space other than alerts on when medication needs to be taken?

What are some of your favorite medical apps and why?  How can this be applied to the creation of apps?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Digital in Pharma Infographic Video

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Had to share this great video about the use of digital tools in healthcare originally posted by Life Healthcare Agency. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yale & Harvard could futher stem the digital doctor revolution

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This year, Harvard and Yale Medical Schools are both giving their enrolled students easy access to the iPad to start learning their practice aided by the digital tool.  Yale is supplying its students with 520 iPads, while Yale is creating apps that will subsequently be synced with their hospitals within the next years.  The join schools such as Stanford, Brown, the University of California-Irvine and the University of Minnesota who have already given their students iPads when they enroll.

According to Fierce Mobile Healthcare:
Regardless of which device manufacturer wins the tablet wars, the upshot for hospitals will be a cadre of students from some of the best medical schools in the country who are used to working on tablets, and may have already begun to develop their basic practice patterns around the devices, experts say. 

Do you believe this?  Are these students adapting to the digital technology for the benefit of the hospitals and care?  Will it better the industry while challenging some hospitals to change their rate of adoption?