While Pharma companies are dabbling in social media, the importance of a strong presence in mobile health technologies cannot be ignored. Here are some reasons:
1. Mobile apps are not a passing fad and Pharma needs to be there. The use of mobile apps in medicine is steadily and rapidly growing. Half of all physicians use their smartphones for work according to a Comp TIA study of 350 physicians. In a recent study by the GSMA, mobile health technologies are becoming central to healthcare, due to shifting supply and demand. Drivers of the new market worldwide are divided according to the report into five categories: consumer adoption, clinical adoption, evidence of efficacy, costs of deployment, and regulatory climate.
2. Patients are interested in learning more about their prescription drugs. Drugs.com Pill Identifier Lite is now the number one paid medical app in the Apple app store. Patients are looking online for health information in record numbers. In addition, they are realizing the imperative and advantages of participatory medicine and self-management. They are seeking tools which can facilitate this new paradigm of shared decision-making. Medication adherence is a known major obstacle to the success of treating chronic diseases. Mobile apps provided by Pharma can help with this in multiple ways. Educating patients about their diseases, informing them of the ways in which drugs fit into a comprehensive treatment plan, and creating patient engagement with interactive tools to monitor their progress all contribute to improved self-management.
3. Mobile apps will be utilized in the conduction of clinical trials. Mobile apps can be instrumental in all aspects of conducting trials. The recruitment of patients, transmission of clinical trial records, and the reporting of adverse events in a prompt and accurate manner. One company, Exco Intouch, provides such mobile patient management solutions for clinical trials.
4. eSampling is an increasing way in which physicians interact with Pharma. “eSampling is the perfect fit for multi-channel marketing in non-personal promotion (NPP) and healthcare professional relationship marketing (HCP RM) initiatives” , according to MedAd News. This may be a point of contact for engaging healthcare providers to download a company app directed towards disease awareness and patient education, as well as product education. The significant decline of sales force presence has created an educational void for prescribers. Some see this as a triumph for the anti-conflict of interest supporters. However, something which must be addressed is prescriber education. Patient safety and care depend upon a prescriber knowing when and when not to prescribe a drug, and the interactions and potential toxicities it has. This information is changing more quickly than ever before given new regulatory requirements. I believe that mobile apps will play an essential role in prescriber relations.
5. Mobile apps will get information to hospitals and institutional personnel. Institutional policies now greatly restrict interactions between Pharma field employees and hospital personnel, whether they be in the areas of pharmacy, nursing, both attending physicians and physicians in training, and other allied health professionals. Hospitals will have customized app ‘stores’ and other mobile platforms. Pharma mobile apps might be very useful in education as previously noted, interacting with patient portals (downloaded after a medication is prescribed in the office or at the time of institutional discharge), or as part of electronic medical app prescribing which is already in clinical use..
Pharma is a big part of healthcare. It intersects with the key stakeholders of direct patient care. Medical apps will be an essential part of patient care and Pharma cannot afford not to be an active participant in this creative destruction of healthcare.