Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mobile Mania

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

I recently read an odd statistic. Four in 10 smartphone owners use their device in the bathroom. I’m surprised, really, that the number isn’t higher. My guess is that many an Angry Birds level has been beaten in this… ahem… fashion. But in all seriousness, a statistic like this illustrates how pervasive smartphones have become. And like virtually every other industry, pharma recognizes the potential of mobile technology and is aggressively trying to reach physicians and patients via their phones. Digital marketing and ePharma conferences this year were dominated by a focus on mobile, mobile, and more mobile.

More than 15,000 apps are available in the Health/Fitness and Medical categories for the iPhone alone. Research by the California HealthCare Foundation found that most healthcare-related apps are related to exercise, stress management, diet and medical reference. Among the patient-focused applications, they range from general reference to the highly specific, including hundreds of apps for certain common specialty areas such as diabetes, oncology, pain and cardiovascular disease. These apps help patients keep track of medications, document daily activity and adhere to treatment regimens. Diagnostic apps, wellness and fitness apps and apps for managing chronic conditions are all popular among the smartphone-using patient population.

Close to three-quarters of apps are geared for consumer — or patient — use. I find this odd, because recent research by my firm, Cutting Edge Information, shows that physicians are by far the primary target for mobile marketing, at a rate of more than three to one over DTC (see graphic).

To wit, one company alone offers more than 600 medical apps for physicians, nurses, med students and institutions, focusing on delivering answers to clinical questions in more than 35 specialty areas. Apps for clinicians hold the potential to revolutionize the way in which healthcare is administered. There are digital imaging apps for ECGs and radiological procedures; there are apps that improve emergency room efficiency; and there are apps designed to improve patient-physician interaction, including some that facilitate remote consultations.

The sheer number and variety of mobile apps speaks volumes about the potential for mobile technology to shape healthcare, pharmaceuticals and the rest of the life science industry. Make no mistake, these apps have the potential to dramatically change the way healthcare is delivered. And to think this could only be the tip of the iceberg when you factor in gamification, EHR/EMR, tablets, etc. May you live in interesting times, indeed!

Readers of the blog can find a white paper I wrote chronicling the rise of mobile technology and pharma’s response to it.
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