App-athy and the Wild West: eyeforpharma Mobile Strategies London Dec 2011 (#e4p)

At last week’s excellent eyeforpharma Mobile Strategies event in London (1-2 December) there was an interesting dichotomy between how embedded ‘mobile’ seems to be the lives of the delegates and how far from embedded it is in our professional communication strategies. 

In a mini-poll I did as Chair of Day 2, 75% of the delegates had an iPad, 86% a smartphone.  Three-quarters of delegates had used their phone as their alarm clock that morning, the same number admitted signs of anxiety if they didn’t have their phone and would not leave home without it.

Graph - 75% of delegates have an iPad

Yet still we are not necessarily drawing on our personal experiences in order to develop the insight to deliver value for our customers.  Here are my five take-aways:




1.  Mobile App-athy

Brand teams and marketers in pharma are excited about the potential of mobile apps but our customers are perhaps less enthusiastic.  As a result there is a large number of pharma-sponsored apps (one estimate put the total health apps at 34,000) with just a few downloads each.  A panel discussion (chaired by Chad Daugherty from Lilly with Len Starnes – @lenstarnes, Duncan Arbour – @rbour and Andreas Claus Kistner) concluded that pharma is too keen to invest in “shiny things” without real insight into customer needs.

Companies want apps but many have not optimized their email and websites for mobile – even though doctors and patients use mobile devices mostly for email and websites.  Too many emails will not even display properly on a mobile device, and Sam Walmsley (@sammielw) pointed out that only 12 of the top 2 pharma companies’ websites are mobile-friendly.

To me it feels like the late ‘90s when brand managers everywhere were saying “I want a website” without taking a strategic look about how the web might fit into the overall communications plan.   Many useless websites later, companies started taking a more strategic, customer-centric view and websites grew up.

My advice – if your objective is to build an app, don’t.  Spend time defining an objective that is about customer value, then see what channels/tools can achieve it.

2.  The Mobile Physician – who?

We learned that Doctors download 50 apps on average, but like everyone else, use just 7 regularly.

A panel discussion with Doctors Rob Hicks (@DrRobHicks),  Peter Ilves and Henrik Andersson observed that there are “mobile” and “non-mobile” doctors.  “Mobile” doctors are doing hospital ward-rounds or travelling from patient to patient and need handy reference services in their pocket – often it is treatment guidelines, symptom checkers, calculators.  One example of a this is the Psoriasis PASI calculator from Janssen, a simple tool to help determine the severity of the rash and therefore appropriate treatment.

“Non-mobile” doctors are sitting in their office seeing patients and will mostly use a laptop or desktop computer.  We need to provide multichannel services to fit the requirements of each.

One interesting doctor-patient app we saw was the mini-atlas from EC-Europe – anatomical atlases for iPad, designed for doctors to share with patients, the most recent version of which allowing the doc to draw on and annotate the image, then send to the patient.  Pharma companies are sponsoring these atlases and the platform is well chosen – 93% of tablets sold to HCPs in the US last year were iPads.

Rob Hicks put it simply: the doctor’s daily workload is already very high and overloaded with multi-channel information – ““Don’t give us lots more to do – give us stuff that will save work and time.” 

3.     The Mobile Patient and mHealth

MHealth is now an established force in the developing world, where mobile technologies are providing much-needed access to health care and changing lives.  In the developed world, however, the picture is more fragmented and, as for physicians, there are a great many under-utilised health apps competing for attention in the app store.

The winners are once again those based on real customer need and insight.  For example the Claritin pollen alert for hayfever suffers (I can testify to its usefulness); Medtronic’s Lenny the Lion ‘carb-counting’ game app for children with diabetes, and a sponsored app in Israel for finding the nearest public WC, with links to Pfizer’s advice about bladder control.

The most compelling opportunity to provide mobile health solutions we saw was not for the “walking well” – the traditional pharma targets of asymptomatic patients needing medication reminders – but the moving and inspiring story from the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Presented by Simon Davies, CEO, Professor Faith Gibson and former patient-now JimmyTeens.TV developer Tom de Bruin (@deadlyhifi), this told of the problems faced by young people going through chemotherapy. 

Isolated by necessity and often very ill, these teens feel even more alone if they turn to Facebook and see their friends having fun without them.  They also have a million questions and concerns about their symptoms (as do their parents).  The Trust has pioneered web-based solutions allowing patients to ask questions of a cancer nurse and get help, information and support online, as well as connecting with other patients.  The mobile potential for this is exciting, and so the Trust and eyeforpharma are running a competition to design such an app.

4.    Ready, Fire, Aim! – Reps and iPads

I have stolen the title from Armand Brevig (@BuyingeContent) of Reprints Desk and several of the speakers agreed with the point that companies have taken a “Wild West” approach to iPads for reps, in some cases providing the technology before any application has been identified.  Back to those “shiny things” again.

However, there is hope. Roche has integrated iPad solutions for its reps.  In the pilot reps said that the ability to update the CRM system right there after the call was saving them 2 hours of data entry each evening.  Key learnings: keep it simple and quick, provide offline capabilities, integrate with the rest of the solution (not ‘islands of technology’) and learn to fail fast and learn from mistakes. 

My favourite quote of the event is Andreas Claus Kistner’s definition of ‘fail fast’: “Technology is like chocolate, if it is fundamentally bad, you can’t fix it – throw it away and get some new stuff.”

There was also an interesting example from Murat Mendi of Nobel, who rolled out a fully integrated and tracked closed loop marketing system in Turkey with 100% rep adoption based on tablets, not iPads – demonstrating that CLM is about good strategy, strong execution and shifting the culture, regardless of technology.

5.    Good Mobile Service/Marketing is Just Good Service/Marketing

Our (@CompleteDigital’s) own Helen Harrison (@harrassedmom) set the tone early on in the event with a story about how the First Direct bank – famous for award-winning customer service –  developed their mobile app.

As a bank they had some parallels with our industry – they had a mountain of legal, security and personal data concerns and had to very carefully step through the hurdles and ensure high standards of compliance.

Priding itself on being the top bank in terms of customer satisfaction in the UK, First Direct started with its customers.   The team developed clear and detailed customer personas and designed the app with the user at the centre.  They chose not to do “everything” but to do the few key things that customers really wanted, really well.  They tested, tested, tested, including sketching the designs on paper and sitting with customers refining them, then testing further at wireframe and design stage so that by the time the app was built it needed hardly any testing – it was exactly what customers wanted.

In other words, First Direct did the opposite to “I want an app”, they spent a good deal of time investing in finding out what their customers really wanted, then delivered it.  With 100,000 downloads in the first month and 85% 4 out of 5 rankings, it seems to have hit the mark.

Medtronic’s Matt Thomas re-iterated this on day 2 when he advised us to start with the strategy, learn from observing customers and continually analyse in order to refine the service.

The best healthcare mobile solutions, like the best banking solutions, do exactly what customers want, really well.  In Helen’s words and put very simply, mobile apps or other mobile solutions must adhere to the first rule of great customer service:-


Simple, really.

Congleton Town Councillor for the Women's Equality Party. CEO of Kanga Health Ltd - practical digital transformation of healthcare.

Posted in CRM, Marketing, mobile
2 comments on “App-athy and the Wild West: eyeforpharma Mobile Strategies London Dec 2011 (#e4p)
  1. Great analysis Kay, on the ball. Good to cross-reference the points on the Janssen PASSI calculator app blog by John Mack:
    It’s not easy to capture all elements in these projects, but slowly we’re getting there and hopefully helping patients and HCP along the way (dhhh that’s the aim I guess!)

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by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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