Mobile Day Recap: Digital Pharma West

By Seth Painter, Contributing Writer,

Mobile Day kicked off Digital Pharma West and was chaired by AstraZeneca’s Jenny Streets.

Jenny set the stage with some interesting commentary on the perception of mobile amongst pharma’s target audience:  your app is competing with Amazon, competing with the best user experiences out there, the best engagement in the digital space.  The fact that your digital product deals with healthcare is of no concern to the audience—it will be judged by what people know, what they feel comfortable with and, in some cases, what they think is cool.  Therein lies the real value of consumer expectations—fail to meet them and you’re finished.

Leading off this year’s conference, Chris Crichton (of 5th Finger) argued the merits of Responsive Web Design (RWD), which was defined as the ability of a single website to render effectively on desktop, tablet and mobile.  When he compared RWD to ‘m.sites’ across 5 categories—device optimization, maintenance, deep-linking, website rebuild and SEO maximization—RWD came out ahead, winning 3-2.  However, the true winner, as Chris explained, was transformative web design, a set of code that can automatically measure the target device and render the proper format. With TWD in place, the audience (and the digital strategist) can be certain that the content will be appropriately displayed on every device.  One question that came up involved the compliance regulation of ISI. Chris said that he has seen many different interpretations of the ISI situation and the real answer depends on the company.  The bottom line: ask your digital vendor about transformative web design or RWD.  It will make life easier.

Jay Goldman of KLICK Health is always good for an entertaining presentation and today was no exception.  Teamed with VP of Strategy Michele Perras, the duo provided us with a glimpse into the not-so-distant future with a survey of “wearable” technology. Products such as Google Glass, diagnostic sensors and implants and “thin future” glass-panel devices were highlighted.  But was the implication for pharma, Jay wisely asked.  KLICK sees the future of these augmentation tools in industry/healthcare collaborations that will allow today’s generation of “ePatients” to continue to develop towards better understanding and improved patient outcomes.  When asked “how many devices or sensors can one person hope to wear,” Jay opened some eyes by describing that a common smartphone have about 10 different sensors already built in (camera, mic, GPS, motion, etc.…).  Pharma can be excited about the potential collaborations that lie ahead.

The Mobile Trap was the topic of the talk given by Scott Tyson, Platform Director, North America Digital Marketing at JANSSEN.  His mantra was “Mobile First is Second Best,” believing that some aspects of the customer experience can be overlooked when the focus is placed primarily on mobile development. Instead, Scott suggests focusing on the UX first asking questions like “How is the need in this context different from other contexts” or “How does the solution address this need across ALL contexts.” Considering user’s perspective and not falling into the ‘mobile traps’ that befall some digital strategists if they focus on the phone too much.  “Test for ENGAGEMENT, not usability” was another concept Scott highlighted. This idea parallels the evolution of the digital world and should inform our decisions in the immediate future.

“Jesus has an iPhone” is one of the flippant quotes of LIFE Technologies’ Jonathan Young used to assess the mobile fever that has swept over not only pharma but almost every industry that is operating in the space.  One of the most telling parts of Jonathan’s presentation was his Top 10 Mobile Needs… which outlined the Top 10 things that customers utilized mobile to do.  Shockingly, the top 3 things users want from mobile access—tracking shipping, info on already purchased products and tech support—have nothing to do with selling new product. Instead, these functions are in the category of loyalty/support.  He also issued this statement:  “If it doesn’t connect to a phone, nobody is going to buy it.”  This applies not only to baby monitors, thermostats and automobiles….but to a single pill as well.  Brands need to find this type of connection—via adherence, gamification, support, however—in order to combat this growing perception.

The afternoon session shifted gears to more Q&A and active discussion among the audience and presenters.  This provided the ability to learn from colleagues who offered real-life situations and questions and received real-time answers. Interestingly, I participated in the spirit of Mobile Day by conducting a conversation with the gentleman beside me—via email, using my Airbook, iPhone and iPad.  I could’ve simply turned and spoke to him…but that’s not the future!

The afternoon panel discussion featured mobile leaders from Janssen and AZ (Scott Tyson and Jenny Streets) and Doug Mooney from Twitter.  Mark Bard of Digital Health Coalition led the Q&A. Among the topics discussed were:

  • The business case for mobile? What is the ROI?
  • Why should companies increase budget for mobile?
  • What’s next?

Scott, Jenny and Doug provided valuable insight.  Jenny pointed out that the challenges of mobile in 2013 are dramatically different than those faced just 3 or 4 years ago.  She thinks that regulatory issues will straighten themselves out, and at DP West 2017, we will be laughing about our concerns in the med/reg department.  This philosophy also applies to “disease tracker” apps, many of which endure long, painful approval processes—only to e released to lackluster patient engagement.  These will evolve along with the mobile world.

Scott forecasts the next step in mobile evolution will be the integration of mobile collaboration into EMR, to part of the physician’s work flow.  Not to provide overt marketing, but resources, tools and support at the point-of-care.  He also mentioned that increased mobile budget serves at least two purposes:

  1. to address barriers to adherence
  2. provide complimentary experiences to other marketing initiatives

Doug addressed the business case for mobile.  He explained that brands could have a very unique dialogue with consumers that simply were not possible years ago.  Valuable insight can be gained using services like Twitter—not as a primary “tactic, “ but instead as a complement to other marketing objectives.  Twitter can amplify everything else you are doing.

The afternoon also featured an interesting presentation from Pursuit Solutions, who explained “82% of physicians want to see reps DO MORE with the iPad.”  Over the past 3 years, the majority of pharma sales teams have instituted iPad technology.  The novelty has worn off; now customers are interested in seeing more of what these machines can do.  Pursuit offers a concierge-style experience for the sales reps, featuring a recommendation engine that is powered by real-time data collected at the point of contact.  The platform also affords easy access to all of the support services that physicians claim to be real value provided by reps—samples, vouchers, access tools, patient ed, reimbursement information, etc.  As a former rep, I sometimes shudder at the thought of taking more and more of the “art” out of customer interactions.  However, there is no question that the immense functionality of the iPad can be somewhat confusing, which often leads to poor presentation, low utilization or worse—no utilization.  Anything can help with this dimension of the customer experience is certain to raise the level of audience engagement.

One thing that I noticed about all of these experts is that most of the wisdom provided may be considered as common sense.  Focus on UX, the mobile experience is different than desktop, use plain language, try to create engagement–these are no-brainers right?  But it would seem that these tenets seem so common that they get overlooked. My strategy would be to create a toolkit or checklist to take way from Mobile Day…and then review one’s mobile strategy from top to bottom.

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Stay tuned here for more coverage of the 4th Digital Pharma West conference.  


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