Mobile apps for pharma: Opportunities exists

POST SUMMARY: Developing an app may not the answer for DTC marketers who want to improve bottom line results.  Apps require a lot of money to develop and most patients don’t want to be reminded that they have chronic health problems but there are opportunities for tose willing to blaze new trails NOW.

Lets’ look at some stats..

Close to 75 percent of adults do not use a fitness device or app to track their weight, diet, or exercise, according to a survey of 979 US adults conducted by research firm TechnologyAdvice.


As it does every year, analyst firm Gartner updated its famous Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies this summer and, according to the firm, “mobile health monitoring” is approaching the bottom of the so-called “trough of disillusionment”. Mobile health monitoring will need another five to 10 years before reaching its “plateau of productivity” and steady market adoption.

Most US smartphone owners download zero apps in a typical month, according to comScore’s new mobile app report.

  • A staggering 42 percent of all app time spent on smartphones occurs on the individual’s single most used app. Nearly three out of every four minutes of app usage occurs on one of the individual’s top 4 apps.


However, there are opportunities..

opportunity-knockingDuring May to June 2013, PatientView undertook a pilot survey of 250 disparate patient and consumer groups worldwide.  Analysis of the data indicates that people who experience similar health challenges (lifestyle issues, for instance, or heart disease) share common needs from a health app irrespective of their location in the world.

The survey results confirm:



  • People specify five main requirements of health apps. Apps need to
    1. Give people more control over their condition, or keep them healthy
    2. Be easy to use
    3. Be able to be used regularly
    4. Allow networking with other people like them, or with people who understand them.
    5. Be trustworthy
  • People with a long-term chronic condition (such as diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, HIV/AIDS, learning difficulties, a rare disease, or urinary complaints) all specify that their top priority for a health app is for it to give them more control of their disability. This finding is important, as it shows that people do not just want passive information—they wish to receive support in managing their condition.
  • People with a disability that affects personal mobility (such as a skin disorder or a rheumatological condition) place ease of use as top priority for their apps. Conversely, other patients or members of the public are happy to compromise on ease of use provided that the app really helps them.
  • People with a complex condition which might be difficult to diagnose or treat (such as a bone disorder or an endocrine condition) see trustworthiness as the top priority for their apps. A reduced emphasis on trustworthiness among other respondents may simply be because many people assume that apps are innately trustworthy.
  • People with a sexual health problem, or an infectious disease, or ordinary members of the public, stipulate that the top priority for a health app is that it ought to allow them to network with other people like them, or with people who understand them.
  • Surprisingly few people insist that the priority for a health app is that it should be capable of regular use (although 42% stated that this is one of the desirable properties of a health app). The main message here is that patients and the public might view apps as a ‘regular solution’, as one among a series of tools to support their health situation. Apps help build up different capabilities in dealing with a condition, acting like steps during a journey to improved health.

We can do this!

1ne: In depth research is needed to uncover user needs BY HEALTH CONDITION.  Included in the development of apps is the need for in-depth usability studies.

2wo: The DTC marketing team needs to be realigned for the development, implementation and measurement of apps.

3hree: A strategic relationship is needed with app developers so that apps can be upgraded as needed and aren’t quickly out of date.

4our: A balance needs to be made between patient needs and ROI when developing apps.  If they sell too hard they will be dropped by users, if they provide more support ROI may be harder to measure.

5ive: Pharma marketers should partner with 3rd parties to provide information for users.

Those markers willing to try new things to reach health consumers are going to profit from building capabilities now.  However, it won’t be easy as it requires a lot of up-front development dollars.