On mobile and pharma

iphonesymnavKEY TAKEAWAY: Pharma companies are not prepared to develop, launch and support mobile apps because it requires additional investment at a time when pharma looks at the cost as opposed to the value.

According to Localytics, roughly a quarter of apps were abandoned, an increase from 2014 when only 20 percent of apps suffered that fate. Meanwhile, the number of apps that are opened 11 or more times dropped to 34 percent from 39 percent a year earlier. it is believed that for health apps the number is higher and research indicated that the primary reason is that ‘they are not user friendly”.  But there is skepticism within the medical community when it come to apps as well.


John Torous, MD, a researcher and psychiatry resident at Harvard University, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s/Faulkner Hospitals, and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, presented findings that highlighted how some apps could impact mental health in a detrimental way. “We have little evidence about the risks or benefits of smartphone use in clinical care,” said Torous.

In a study by Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, researchers found that a smartphone that purported to intelligently calculate a user’s blood alcohol level (BAC) to encourage reduction of alcohol intake actually had the reverse effect as intended. “The apps studied using eBAC calculation did not…seem to affect alcohol consumption among university students,” stated Mikael Gajecki and colleagues, “and one app may have led to a negative effect among men.”

But there is good news too. Fifty-five percent of Millennials who live with diabetes stated they would trust a health app over a health professional for advice. The same number stated they are connecting with their doctors more frequently because of health apps, according to Telcare’s first National Diabetes Awareness Index. The mobile diabetes management provider developed the Index to measure consumer awareness about diabetes and attitudes towards the use of technology in healthcare.

Insurers are also facing a mobile dilemma.  A new survey of 1,200 consumers with either self- or employer-sponsored health insurance indicates that interest in payer-led mobile health initiatives is still fairly low.

Although 89 percent of respondents use a smartphone, tablet, or both, only 30 percent of those surveyed said they would participate in a program offered by their wellness program that would require them to use a mobile app to track or monitor their health. And only 18 percent said they liked to learn health, wellness, and lifestyle information from a mobile app.

What can pharma do?

1ne: Develop apps with end users in mind.  Make them simple, easy to use and easy to understand.

2wo: Develop apps the same way as prescription drugs. Test them to demonstrate patient outcomes.

3hree: Ensure buy-in from HCP’s on the application with focus on outcomes and improved patient-physician communication.

4our: Invest and build a mobile marketing department.  Don’t use a vendor without establishing a strategic relationship with them.

Finally, not all health conditions warrant an app.  Some patients prefer not to be reminded that they have a chronic health problem.