Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ladder your way to the perfect HCP app: How Pharma can create the perfect app to support their customers in the digital space.

Just a quick search on my iPhone App Store for ‘apps for doctors’ brings up 2,197 results. Even if I was a doctor, wanting to get into digital, I really wouldn’t know where to start.

Luckily, several people have done the work for the doctors by summarising the best Apps for HCPs. One of the first things you learn, is that whilst there are a lot of general apps, the rate of development for more specialised roles is also just as astounding.

For example;

With downloads over 700,000 and an average of 3.5 star rating, MedCal is one of the most prolific reference apps for HCPs. It provides doctors with easy access to about 300 medical formulas, scores scales and classifications. We non-medical professionals have this opinion that doctor’s brains are like supercomputers and can hold an infinite amount of information. But I’m sure they struggle. Which is why an app with this large and relevant resource database comes in handy and is applicable to a large proportion of their daily practice.

Again, if you’re a busy doctor working in a clinic seeing perhaps 100 patients a day, it might be difficult to remember to eat your lunch, let alone learn about any new upcoming trials. Which is why the “ACS Trials” app is also pertinent to a doctor’s practice to convey important information in a concise and mobile way. Cardiologists can be quickly alerted through push notifications to a new trial and read on the go in-between patient appointments or procedures. Thus, maximising the use of their very limited time.

One more example that I have to mention is actually sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. Sanofi are one of the top names in the diabetes arena with their digital work, especially on Twitter talking to diabetes patients and providing them with valuable therapy information. So it’s no surprise their name comes up in the app store. Sanofi have also thought hard about the implications of Cardiologist’s limited time and invented an ‘AFib Educator’ app to support their customers (they have several products in this therapy area, for example, Multaq).

Perhaps my favourite app though, is one that challenges my assumptions about how technology can be integrated into certain professional settings. ‘EMS Tracker’ is an app for paramedics to record key events as they are transporting a patient to the hospital. Whilst I love the idea of an app that stores vital information such as dose of drug administered, symptoms at first point of contact, and then email it to the treating physician, avoiding any potential mishaps, the idea that a paramedic can be updating an app in an emergency setting does make me a little sceptical of how far we are willing to go in the digital takeover.

Why is this of interest to our clients in the pharmaceutical industry?

Well, quality over quantity should be highlighted here. There can be thousands of apps available, as we have seen, but if they don’t meet a need for the doctors, they won’t get used. It’s as simple as that.

It’s what you can easily learn from a benefit laddering exercise that we use in our market research interviews to uncover the most valuable product insights for our clients.

We ask:

1.     What is unique about the app? What features does it have that differentiate it from the hundred other apps available? Does it provide access to medical resources that other apps don’t? Does it give more accurate heart rate readings versus other monitoring apps? These are questions that pharma should be understanding before they commission the creation of their app.

2.     What functional benefits does the app provide? Does it reduce the time a cardiologist spends scrolling through volumes and volumes of papers on Acute Coronary Syndrome? Or does it provide a cost saving, replacing more expensive diagnostic tools? Does it decrease the amount of resource needed to perform a certain procedure?

3.     Last but most definitely not least, what emotional benefits does the app represent? Does it give the doctor that sense of satisfaction when he has accurately diagnosed a patient and the patients themselves are grateful for the relief?

Therefore, the need to conduct market research into what the unmet needs are and how a product might best meet those needs is essential for pharma looking to develop an app to support HCPs. You might also be reading this and thinking – that’s exactly the strategy we use offline!!

And you’d be right of course. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean we should abandon the basics of marketing. Although, I suppose if we ever do forget the basics of marketing, I’m sure there will be an app available to download…

Thanks for reading!
Written by Sofia Fionda; Research Executive

Monday, 21 July 2014

Edible Tech

We’ve heard about the innovative ways that healthcare is infiltrating the digital world. Technologies such as mobile aps and techy wristbands have been part of the mainstream healthcare conversation for a while now. However Proteus Digital Health have gone one step further and have developed a new type of ‘edible’ tech.
This miniscule wireless device is actually ingested by the user and feedbacks their bodily vitals to an external computing device. The contraption, which resembles a grain of rice and is made almost entirely of silicon, passes through the body over a space of about a week and feeds back information to the user including heart rate, body temperature, activity levels and rest patterns.

What may be the purpose of receiving such information?
For patient’s friends and families, it is a way to ensure that their loved ones are taking their medications, sleeping correctly and getting enough exercise. And through a clever linking system, the family can send reminders or gentle ‘nudges’ to encourage a healthy lifestyle or compliance to medications. Not only may the information be used to aid adherence to both drugs and lifestyle changes, but it also empowers the patient to be more in control of their illness and especially may help to ease the patient back into society after a stint in hospital, by providing a reassuring edge.
Perhaps more importantly though, the information can also be used by physicians to help monitor their patients. The data can be used to help identify ‘at-risk’ patients who may be more likely to require medical help and even recognise those who need to be admitted to hospital rather than waiting for an appointment and allowing their problem to escalate.

What may be the value of ‘edible tech’ for pharmaceutical companies?
Digital health is something pharmaceutical companies are increasingly engaging in. Both Otsuka and Novartis have announced partnerships with Proteus Digital Health. Novartis, in particular, are looking to use the ingestible device to help with adherence relating to organ transplantation; a therapy area where they have a substantial portfolio.

Yet could this captivating new device be used by ourselves within the realms of market research? Perhaps in patient research this could be a way to truly understand adherence to both medications and lifestyle changes, and match up what respondents believe and say they are doing with clinical data showing their real behaviours. A couple of ideas Branding Science have had include monitoring sleep cycles of patients with insomnia or the exercise patterns of type II diabetic patients. However with Proteus yet to announce a launch date, there is plenty of time to work out more ways to include edible tech in market research.