Pill Identifier App

To the Point - Technical difficulties

There is no doubt that our modern Internet and computing technology are confusing to those who really don’t know how the sausage is made, so to speak. It wasn’t so long ago that a member of Congress had talked about the Internet being a series of tubes, like some crazy pneumatic mail system.

But think about it, as much as we laughed at that guy, are most of us much better? Most of us just want to turn on our desktop (or laptop or mobile device) and have it work. We just want to open a program and have that work – flawlessly, without hangups or timing out. We don’t want to deal with inconvenience, and while some of us have some minimal ability to do minor coding, we have made the active choice not to be code monkeys.
This is especially true in the pharma industry, where the preferred mobile devices on the non-IT side are Apple. And since the desktops are usually Windows-based, corporate IT departments continue to reign supreme.

Keeping in mind this tech anxiety, the results of a recent survey done by 3 Monkeys Health + Wellness of UK-based pharma marketers makes sense: According to the survey, nearly two thirds (60 percent) of pharma marketers said they would be concerned if in the next 12 months they were asked to carry out a digital campaign for a brand they work for despite 62 percent of 18-to-24 year olds now choosing the Internet over visiting their GP when unwell.

A parallel survey of consumers found that the Internet and digital materials are now the most popular source for health information for younger audiences. Also, 62 percent of 18-to-24 year olds check the Internet when feeling unwell rather than visit a GP, and 73 percent of consumers of all ages admitted to checking their GP’s diagnosis online after visiting.

For physicians, with all they have to do during a course of a day, there is even more of a desire to access information digitally, particularly through mobile means; and just like consumers, they want to have something work and not have to deal with technology problems. At Digital Pharma ExL in Philadelphia, Ben Greenberg, senior director, Product Management & User Experience, Medscape, humorously took the audience through how the company designed its mobile solution for physicians. He kicked off his presentation off with a scenario most consumers are familiar with – trying to access a banking app when alerted that illegal account activity has occurred, and then being unable to access the account because the app isn’t working properly because it needs yet another update.

The key details of Medscape’s solution are an app that will update itself in the background, allowing a physician to keep on working; and one that allows a physician to communicate information to patients without getting into a full-blown and inappropriate social media conversation with them. Greenberg illustrated why this was needed by reading a Facebook “conversation” between his mother and her doctor in full “Noo Yawk” accent – “Hello, doctor, I have another question. Hello, doctor, should I be concerned over this? Hello, doctor, I’m so thoughtless, I never asked you how you’re doing. How are you doing?”

There is no doubt that technical difficulties are some of the barriers in communicating with physicians via mobile means. Whether it’s the inability of mobile devices to effectively access electronic health records, the difficulty in trying to sort and best use the data patients can provide, or whether an app can just plain not crash out on the user, there are many technical challenges to overcome (see story on page 12).

But marketers are trying to meet these challenges as well as the “regular” challenges of figuring out just what physicians and consumers want in mobile communication from pharma. With careful thinking and planning, I believe these challenges can be overcome.

And for those who are unsure whether pharma can meet the challenges, all they have to do is look at how the U.S. government has been flailing around with the launch of its healthcare registration site – and take careful note of what NOT to do in creating their company’s own apps and solutions. Pharma has the money, the vendor knowledge, and the incentive to do what is best for physicians and patients, and should be able to create the most sophisticated solutions. Now is the time to be bold.

Posted: December 2013

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