You are what you eat? Online and offline consumption

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The internet is increasingly influencing our diet and attitudes towards food – from online advertising about the latest diet plan, to accessing nutritional information about what you’re eating, ordering take-away via a smartphone and mobile applications able to assist with developing a grocery list.

The recent media discussions regarding traffic light food labelling have made nutrition a hot national topic – even more so now information about any kind of food is available at the press of a button. We’ve also seen an explosion of apps designed to help us make considered decisions about food and avoid the danger of eating hidden fats and sugars.  One that was launched this week is ‘food switch’- positioned as a tool to empower Australian shoppers to make healthier food choices. The app allows users to scan the barcode of packaged foods using their iPhone camera and receive easy to understand nutritional advice.

New Year resolutions

January is typically the month to kick-start our healthy eating resolutions and the nation’s dietitians are encouraging Australians to take part in a healthy ‘pledge’ campaign in tangent with Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (22-29 January). This social-media based campaign encourages users to publish their pledges via a Facebook page and Twitter profile. Ten years ago, such a supportive and motivating digital platform would not have existed, but in today’s social media environment, we are able to benefit from immediate, interactive digital programs.

Facebook

Online support

Weight management is also big business online, with the availability of personalised online tools for those who want to access support and information in the comfort of their homes. This is particularly helpful to those situated in remote areas of Australia and who don’t feel comfortable attending a face-to-face meeting. Weight Watchers Online enables people to remotely track what they are eating, monitor their weight and develop an interactive shopping list.

The Government has also launched a number of digital initiatives providing nutritional support. There is the Healthy kids: Eat well, get active website, positioned as a ‘one stop shop’ of information about healthy eating and physical activity for parents and carers, teachers and childcare workers, health and other professionals and kids and teens . There is also the Government’s digital Swap It, Don’t Stop It campaign encompassing a mobile app and website, helping users to make healthier choices.

Accredited practicing dietitian and infant nutritionist Kate di Prima says, “More often than not, patients I see are educated about food and what they’re feeding their families. A contributing factor is the plethora of information accessible via the internet. It’s important to use reputable sources – there is a lot of dialogue happening, which can sometimes seem overwhelming. The flip side is we’re inspired to cook more adventurously and use ingredients that we may not have previously considered.”

Fashionable nutrition

Indeed, examples such as the Create Nutrition blog and journalist/media commentator Sarah Wilson’s blog define modern, fashionable nutrition.

In this day and age, smartphones mean that every one of us is a potential food critic, having the ability to write immediate, online reviews, while seated in the restaurant. This in turn means that food standards need to be high.

Fruit

It will be interesting to see what the future holds and if the shelf life of online nutrition tools expires before the groceries go off!

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The real impact of Australia’s e-health system

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Australia has one of the world’s best healthcare systems, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. In the digital age, it’s hard to believe collecting and sharing health information such as medications, test results, scans, or hospital discharge reports is still by paper – an arrangement which undoubtedly has its limitations.

Australia’s move to an electronic health system was only going to be a matter of time. Coupled with the estimated national investment of $466.7million to launch the e-health system next year, healthcare professionals and patients are contemplating the real impact this will make.

According to the Federal Government, the digital management of health information has the potential to transform the way we do things now, streamlining processes, facilitating information sharing and ultimately, making it much easier and efficient to look after the health of the nation. The specific tools that will make this happen include:

  • Personally controlled electronic health records: enabling the communication of patient data between different healthcare professionals including GPs and specialists;
  • Telemedicine: physical and psychological treatments at a distance;
  • Consumer health informatics: use of electronic resources on medical topics by healthy individuals or patients;
  • Health knowledge management: an overview of latest medical journals, best practice guidelines or epidemiological tracking;
  • Virtual healthcare teams: consisting of healthcare professionals who collaborate and share patient information through digital equipment;
  • M-health: including the use of mobile devices in aggregating patient data, providing healthcare information to practitioners, researchers and patients, real-time monitoring of patient vitals, and direct provision of care (via mobile telemedicine);
  • Medical research using grids: powerful computing and data management capabilities to handle large amounts of information;
  • Healthcare information systems: appointment scheduling, patient data management, work schedule management and other administrative tasks surrounding health.

The digital system will increase communication between healthcare professionals and the public – but what difference will it make to their everyday lives?

Patients will be able to access their personal health records and support will be at their fingertips. Ultimately, treatment will be more streamlined resulting in clearer records and more immediate access to healthcare professionals.

For healthcare providers, a seamless roll-out will enable them to access patient information at the click of a button. An electronic system will translate to improved methods for disease surveillance and being able to get a second opinion – resulting in improved patient care.

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General Practitioner and former Australian Medical Association president, Dr John Gullotta says, “It’s inevitable that an implemented e-health system will alter the way patients and GPs interact. Key elements of personalised health information will be brought together and patients will be able to access their own health details and benefit from streamlined GP visits.”

Despite the anticipated benefits, there are some concerns about the implementation. The media has voiced doubts about the security of patient’s records. In addition to this, there is concern a digital system may isolate people who do not have access to a computer, particularly people living in remote areas, older generations and low socio-economic families. And like all sophisticated IT systems, there is also the risk of technical failures.

The opportunity for patients and healthcare professionals to have access to personal health information whenever needed, and the predicted streamlined treatment journey, paints a very positive picture. But until Australia’s e-health system starts operation and is assessed in practice, nobody is willing to fully sing its praises quite yet.

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What does the Twitter explosion mean for journalists?

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Back in 2009 when the US Airways flight crashed in New York’s Hudson river, it took a mere four minutes before a member of the public broke the story to the world via Twitter. Jim Hanrahan, wrote: “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson rive [sic] in manhattan”.

Twitter

It wasn’t long before the story was spreading like wildfire in Twitterverse. Interestingly, it took news outlets longer and it was approximately 15 minutes later that they began reporting the incident.

Love it, or hate it, with the rise of social media channels like Twitter and Flickr, news stories can reach all corners of the world with an immediacy we’ve never seen before. We only need to look at more recent examples of the microblogging’s speedy ability to spread the word, including the death of Steve Jobs and Muammar Gaddafi. So what does this mean for qualified, modern-day journalists and how are they embracing Twitter?

We’re constantly reminded that we’re in the midst of a social media revolution. Twitter is a social networking phenomenon and Australians aren’t holding back! In fact, Australia accounts for 1.8% of Twitter’s traffic and the social networking site attracts 1.1 million unique Australian visitors per month.

So, what is Twitter? Twitter, in essence is a very simple tool. ‘Tweeters’ are limited to posting short, 140 character messages (the same length as a traditional SMS message) to their followers. So a Tweet can’t provide a lot of detailed information, but it can make a concise point, link to an image or webpage and most importantly publish content immediately.

Since it’s creation in 2006 however, Twitter has evolved. ‘Tweeters’ are now able to search the entire network in real-time for specific topics or breaking news, organise their streams with ‘hash tags’ – the # symbol, used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet, and even add photos or videos to their posts.

These developments of the social media channel have translated to journalist engagement. Twitter has become a way for the media to keep up to date and engage with their audiences, locate sources and to report on news in real-time. The sheer speed of Twitter’s ability to spread breaking news has completely changed the way that journalists report and audiences receive news.

Many key Australian health journalists are opting to not only ‘follow’ the news on Twitter but also publish and promote their own stories. Take ABC medical health reporter Sophie Scott. Sophie’s an active Tweeter and uses the channel to broadcast her stories to the world.

Sophie Scott

Twitter itself, is also catching on to the growing trend of journalists engaging the networking site. This is reinforced by Twitter publishing a set of guidelines called Twitter for Newsrooms, which is designed to help journalists use the platform effectively. A Twitter spokesperson explains:

“We want to make our tools easier to use so you can focus on your job: finding sources, verifying facts, publishing stories, promoting your work and yourself and doing all of it faster and faster all the time.”

Twitter for Newsrooms was launched earlier this year and demonstrates to journalists how to “report”, “engage” and “publish” to their followers.

There are a plethora of other helpful tools that are assisting journalists with their mission to conquer the news digitally – be it, Tweetgrid, Twitscoop.com, Twhirl, Tweetdeck or Twellow, and the list goes on.

During a talk in Melbourne on the ‘Twitterisation of Journalism,’ University of Canberra Journalism lecturer and social media researcher/consultant Julie Posetti stated, “It’s fascinating as a citizen, as an academic and as a journalist to watch Twitter progress. Despite all the risks and pitfalls that have well and truly been identified along the way, I think Twitter is an important breakthrough in terms of making journalism more social and accessible to a broader public.”

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What does Australian consumption of the internet say about us as a nation?

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Internet usage in Australia has been hitting the headlines. Last August, Facebook publically announced that Australia has 9.5 million subscribers and that we’re spending more time on the social networking site than any other country. The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed earlier this year that the number of internet subscribers in Australia has increased by a sizable 10% to 10.4 million in the past ten months. So what does this say about us as a nation?

Australia image

You could argue that it’s something to do with Australia being an island – we’re a long way from everyone else and we use channels like Facebook and Google+ to communicate with long lost friends and relatives overseas. But then wouldn’t the same ring true for the UK, New Zealand and Japan? Perhaps it’s down to us being the stereotypical “friendly, laid back, social” Aussies who like to communicate with our mates. No! What it’s really got to do with is that we are informed, online users and data suggests that we like to do our research on the web before spending our hard earned dollars.

As a nation, we’re spending on average 22 hours a week online and a fifth of that’s using social media channels. You see, we like to browse, make informed decisions and see what other people are saying about a product or brand before making a decision. And this explains why there has been a huge surge in the number of Aussies contributing and using online reviews, discussions, comments and ‘Likes’ before making a purchase.

And the same rings true for the medical profession. In August this year, Cegedim Strategic data released new stats about doctor’s digital habits. The research suggested that 30% of doctors own an iPad and 56% plan to buy one in the future. Out of those who own an iPad, 17% said they use it for both work and personal reasons.

We’re also seeing steps being taken by the government to electronically coordinate patient care across the healthcare sector. It’ll be interesting to monitor the success of the initiative to roll out the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system for Australians. From 2012-13, if we register, we’ll be able to see important health information in one consolidated view and share it with healthcare practitioners during our medical appointments. 

Nielsen published some very interesting data earlier in the year showing that we’re also leading the way in social media consumption. 73% of us read reviews, discussions and comments on brands, products and services at some stage and 26% do so on a regular basis. 46% have clicked the Facebook ‘Like’ button for a brand/organisation and 17% do so frequently.

Luckily we don’t have to stay glued to a computer to do our browsing. Nowadays, doctors can readily access mobile medical applications while in the hospital. Migraine patients can track their condition on the move, diabetes patients can log their glucose levels with a glucose buddy and smoking cessation apps motivate quitters while they are socialising by keeping a note of cost savings.

One thing’s for sure – Australian use of the internet is predicted to rise. In terms of what this says about us as a nation – it’s simple. We’re digitally savvy. We like to chat to our friends and family online, conduct web based research and shop around before we buy. Who knows what next year’s stats will suggest about our national digital habits. There’s only one way to find out – keep browsing.

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Integrating digital into your marketing strategy

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Consumer interaction hasn’t changed. The consumer journey is the same as it always has been; people browse, buy and use. What is different in today’s digital environment is people start their research online and to influence this, offline and online marketing needs to work together.

Through blogs and social media channels your marketing content needs to facilitate two way dialogue. Previously, customer relationships worked via a one-way conversation – the company speaking to the consumer. Now discussions are collaborative and work both ways via channels such as Facebook, blogs and forums. To work with this, there has been a shift to ‘inbound’ marketing – marketing that focuses on getting found by customers.

Inbound marketing uses digital channels including:

Content: Blogs, videos, white papers, e-books

SEO: Search engine optimisation and keyword analysis

Social media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr

The more materials and content you post online, the more chance people have of finding your content.

Here are some key components to consider when thinking about your digital marketing strategy if you haven’t already:

1)      Create a keyword strategy using Google AdWords

2)      Search engine optimise your website

3)      Develop a business blog

4)      Promote content and participate in social media

5)      Nurture engagement with email marketing, e.g. eDMs

6)      Consider online advertising

7)      Be mobile friendly

8)      Analyse and refine strategies

marketing strategy

You may have heard it before, but the power of digital is growing rapidly and it is important you capitalise on the opportunity as part of your marketing strategy. Now the average time spent online (13.7 hours/week) tips television viewing time (13.3 hours/week). In just 20 minutes on Facebook over one million links are shared, two million friend requests are accepted and almost three million messages are sent. Every day 300,000 new users sign up to Twitter and 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute! It is therefore necessary to promote content and participate in social media to open up the discussion and to encourage engagement for your business.

Ultimately when integrating digital into your marketing plans, you need to define your strategy and vision and understand how digital media interrelates with traditional media. With the evolving nature of digital, you also need to be flexible and engage your audience, which may mean reinventing your content to accommodate varying trends and discussions.

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Developing an engaging Facebook page for your business

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With more than 10 million users in Australia alone and 500 million global users, Facebook is one of the most influential websites in the world. Increasingly, patients are researching their condition and treatment approach online and Facebook is a very useful resource to share experiences with others and to gain further insights. Here are some simple ways that you can maximise engagement on your Facebook business page.

Focus on your audience and their needs

As with any marketing and communications messaging, it’s important to focus on the outcomes and your audience. Who are you talking to and engaging with on your Facebook page, and what would they value from you? If you have a range of insights that you deliver to clients as part of your services, consider seeding some of these into your Facebook page. Be clear about who you are talking to and be sure to offer them something of ‘value’ – whether that be expert advice, topical news or an offer.

Plan your posts

Publishing valuable content on your business Facebook page is crucial to maximise the audience’s engagement. Scheduling what you want to say and when you want to say it avoids repetition and ensures you integrate different aspects of your communications plan on the Facebook page. Planning content avoids any last minute panics and translates to higher quality posts and enables consistent messaging. The most effective way to do this is to create a content calendar and set aside time each week/month to plan what you are going to say.

Good content is crucial

It seems obvious, but if you publish good quality content, people will return to your Facebook page and will share links with their friends. Here are some top tips to encourage engagement:

1)      Include links to support your message

2)      Be personal – your page is the face of your organisation or your brand

3)      Be active and update your page frequently

4)      Engage with your audience. If someone asks a question ensure you answer it

5)      Have a social media framework in place in case anyone posts defamatory content

6)      When publishing health specific content, remember it must comply must with the ASMI, MA, TGA codes and other relevant industry regulations

7)      Monitor your page – if someone publishes spam, immediately delete it

8)      Think about what would add value to the audience, e.g. a tip of the day may demonstrate your expertise as well as be of use to the audience

9)      Upload varied content, this could include videos and podcasts

Frequency of posting

It is the quality of content, not the quantity that matters. Research shows that businesses who post weekly on their Facebook page get the same result as those who post daily. Always think about the time of day you post content and when your key audience is available.

So what does this mean for the pharma industry?

Pharmaceutical companies face the challenge to host a branded Facebook page which complies with industry regulations and also acts as a forum where patients can have a two way dialogue. The FDA, ASMI, TGA and MA is yet to determine official guidelines for pharmaceutical  brands operating in digital media, so understandably, pharmaceutical companies are cautious in their decision making about how to use Facebook pages as part of their marketing strategy.

 women's confidential

Women’s Confidential Australian Facebook page

As a business, it is important to be within the digital space that your key audience is using. Many organisations are hosting successful unbranded Facebook pages – take a look at the Australian Women’s confidential page from makers of Canesten®. This site is positioned as the “modern girls survival guide offering advice fashion, beauty and health tips.”

The Can you feel my pain? page developed by Pfizer is an exemplary unbranded Facebook page raising awareness about chronic pain and working in collaboration with leading patient and citizen organisations across Europe.

 Can you feel my pain? Facebook page

Can you feel my pain? Facebook page

Evidently, there are strategies to host engaging Facebook pages that educate patients and do not contravene regulatory guidelines.

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How can we help consumers of online health information discern truth from twaddle?

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Our complex e-health infrastructure is revolutionising healthcare across the globe. Bupa Health Pulse conducted a survey in 2010 that comprised of over 12,000 people from 12 countries including the UK, Australia and Germany. The internet is increasingly being used as a tool for health-related purposes with people drawn in by highly sophisticated audio and visual content now offered through computers, mobile phones and tablets, as well as opportunities for interaction via social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

In Australia, 4 in 5 people have access to the internet and nearly 45% use Facebook – the largest social networking site in the world. Australians spend more time than any other country using Facebook, averaging at 7.5 hours per month. At least 4 in 5 Australian respondents in the Bupa survey were making some use of the internet to search for advice on health, medicines or medical conditions, including searching for information to make a self-diagnosis and seeking other patients’ experiences.

BLOG PIC

The internet has the potential to empower Australians to make better, more informed choices about their health and healthcare. It may facilitate economic efficiency for our healthcare system by reducing inappropriate consultations and decreasing the costs of communication between the patient and their healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, there are a huge number of websites that provide bogus information, lacking in evidence-base. This can have serious consequences, leading to needless worry, unnecessary consultations, delay in appropriate diagnosis and use of unproven, ineffective tests and treatments. How can we expect people to decipher through the thousands of results that come up within their Google or Yahoo searches? Also, most of the top 20 healthcare websites are geared towards scientific and academic communities in the US – certainly not the average Aussie.

Of the Bupa Health Pulse survey respondents, 18% are using social networking sites to find out about healthcare issues. Twitter is used by 5% for this purpose. The extent to which individuals who post comments or write blogs are representative of the broader health population is questionable, but of course this may not always be borne in mind by the individuals who take their advice.

The full potential of the internet will only be realised if there is sufficient investment in providing the tools and skills to help people discern high quality, credible content that is jargon-free and tailored to their current knowledge and skills level. Accreditation procedures might be used to ‘badge’ trustworthy websites, but support and advice on how to search for information in the first place is also a must.

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How to develop a successful medical/health application

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The functionalities and variations of medical applications (apps) are developing at a rapid pace. An iPod can now convert to a heart monitor or an Android phone can act as an electronic stethoscope by connecting to an external sensor. In relation to this, we saw a fundamental development on July 21, 2011 with the draft guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The guidelines suggest three types of apps should require the FDA’s approval: a mobile app that acts as an accessory to a regulated medical device, turns a mobile gadget into such a device or makes suggestions regarding a patient’s diagnosis or treatment. Previously, there has been very little guidance for digital health tools and this could be indicative of digital codes of practice set to emerge in Australia. This is definitely something to bear in mind when considering developing a medical/health app.

medical app

Why your app must be useful to others

It is important to know the users you are serving and/or targeting. When thinking about building an app, you need to validate your assumptions of the perceived value that the app will bring and also do your research! An app can give your business/brand(s) a competitive advantage, but importantly, you must determine its core purposes.

There are many things to consider – for example button size. Will the users predominately be male or female? If the users are men, then they will have bigger hands and the app buttons will need to reflect this in size. Will the users have good eye sight? You may need to incorporate a functionality that enlarges text.

The app development stages

Below are the key stages to consider when developing an app:

1)      The initial concept. Start with the idea and what features the app will include. This is when you map out the timeline and scope out the budget. You need to define your purpose and it is important to be clear about the ultimate use, benefit and functionality. The app functionality needs to be user friendly – it is important to ensure that features are discoverable and not hidden and it helps if the app has the ‘wow’ factor in order to engage the user.

2)      Design. Investing time in the visual design is crucial. Design is a key element to help the app stand out from others on the market and it also impacts on usability and sense of value. High quality visuals influence users’ perceptions that the app is worthwhile and going to provide a benefit. Excellent design also reinforces the business/brand(s).

3)      Development.  Key elements include building a framework, expanding the features, designing the user interface, coding the functionality of the features, and all other creative and technical components of the app. 

4)      Testing. You should look to solicit feedback from a pilot to ensure the launch of the app runs smoothly. Feedback is necessary in the development cycle and usability is critical to the success of an app. You need to think about the processes and factor in suitability testing. There is the expectation amongst users that apps will be immediately intuitive, therefore in-field testing amongst the target demographic will provide valuable insights into the appropriate build for the app. If things go wrong with the functionality, then naturally users will question the usability and rationale of the app.

5)       Release and maintenance. It is important to be mindful of marketplace guidelines to aid market acceptance for your app. Apple, for example, reviews every app featured on the App Store based on a set of technical, content, and design criteria. The Apple review criteria are available in the App Store Review Guidelines.

Other considerations

Be aware of hidden costs. Costs to consider in addition to the app build may, for example, include user experience, testing and online marketing.

Organisational engagement. You need to take the business and/or brand teams on the journey when developing an app. Get all departments on board, so they can take ownership of the app when it launches.  Everyone in the organisation should know who you’re creating the app for, what you are creating and why.

The ultimate measure of success for your app will be determined by downloads, feedback and the user response, which may translate via testimonials.

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No Respite In Sight For The Pharmaceutical Industry

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By Jody Fassina, Independent Political Consultant, JF Consulting 

The announcement of the Government’s new Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listing deferral policy in February this year caused a lot of anguish for stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry.

The impact of the Government’s Deferral Policy is still to play out. Twenty eight Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommendations (including five new listings) remain in limbo, between Cabinet and Deferral, which goes against the Government’s own National Medicines Policy. What this means for PBAC independence and a growing number of medicines being held back from patients in need, where the PBAC has stated they should have access; will have long term implications.  

For the Government they face the dilemma of increasing patient costs through the denial of listing new medicines now. The fiscal reality though is that a drug denied listing today is a dollar saved tomorrow, whereas future patient costs from a drug denied listing today does not even show up as a direct cost to the budget tomorrow. So for the Government it is far easier to save a dollar today which is readily quantifiable than worry about patient costs into the future.

Even with this current situation, further developments indicate drug approvals will become even more challenging.

Minister Roxon has recently introduced for the third time legislation to means test the 30% private health insurance rebate. This is budgeted to save the Government approximately $2.8billion over the budget forward estimates.

At the same time when announcing the recent listing of 13 new medications including Erbitux and Gilenya at a cost of $200million per year to the PBS, Roxon also sent an ominous message that future listings are dependent upon the passage of savings measures like the Private Health Insurance (PHI) legislation.

Roxon specifically stated on 21 June that “…we will not be able to keep doing that (list new drugs) if the Opposition keeps opposing sensible savings measures like the private health insurance.”

While the Minister has already articulated that all new drug listings need to have offsetting savings, the Minister’s recent statement is a further development. She is now seeking to place the onus well and truly on the Opposition for any future delay in new drug listings. Her message is simple, unless the Opposition ‘plays ball’ on Government savings measures, then don’t expect any new significant drug listings.

The Minister has admitted she does not yet have the numbers in the House of Representatives to pass the PHI legislation so a $2.8billion hole in the health budget means the pharmaceutical industry could be facing a very bleak future and significant further delays in gaining Cabinet approval for PBS listings despite a positive PBAC recommendation.

The other interesting development is the ascension of the Greens to holding the balance of power in the Senate. They have finally succeeded in supplanting the Australian Democrats as Senate balance of power party.

The Greens are a party that the pharmaceutical industry needs to get to know. The Greens are naturally suspicious of big pharma even going as far as wanting to ban all political parties from receiving political donations from the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries.

That said, the Greens did support a Senate Committee Inquiry into the Government’s Deferral Policy where they will be represented by new Victorian Greens Senator and Health Spokesman, Richard Di Natale, a GP and public health expert. This will be the first time for the industry to get a feel of what Senator Di Natale may think of the pharmaceutical industry. 

What is clear is that the impact on patients is so serious that almost 100 Consumer Health Organisations, supported by Health Care Professional Groups, have publically condemned the Government’s politicisation of access to medicines, which is set to play out in the upcoming Senate Committee Inquiry.

 For more information contact Jody Fassina at fassinaconsulting@bigpond.com.au

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Digital Healthcare Today

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Mobile phones are no longer just about making calls, they are about finding information and images, sharing insights and managing lifestyles. Mobile phone applications (apps) – whether for iPhone or Android are the latest tool to help the public access, aggregate and consolidate lifestyle related information.

Over a thousand people in Australia were interviewed in 2010 by The Mobile Industry Group and 41% said they had downloaded an application.[1] More than a third of those had downloaded at least one from the category of ‘health and fitness’.

Healthcare Apps

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example Health and Fitness Apps

Smartphone Apps and Pharmaceutical

The majority of medical apps worldwide are aimed at a broad market (such as lifestyle and health tools) but there is a growing number of apps that deliver direct support to those suffering from a particular condition and many of these are created by pharmaceutical companies for specific countries.

With apps, pharmaceutical companies in particular are creating a portfolio of services and support around their products that they can offer to patients and non-patients alike. The benefits for patients are clear – they can receive immediate information, which is personalized and shareable in order to better manage their condition. Patient apps can be broadly classified as:-

1) Dosage Calculators & Medicine Management: Includes personal medical record storage applications, tracking medicine history, appropriate compliance and encouraging patients to take medication correctly

2) Discovery Tools: Applications on symptom management: support group, healthcare professional and resource locators

3) Education Aggregators: General information on weight loss, specific diseases, or broad grouping of information about symptoms and conditions

Examples of benchmark applications to support patients include:-

1) iManage Migraine by Merck & Co. enables patients to learn about migraines, potential triggers and understand the treatment options. The patient can track information in an interactive migraine journal, which can be used to aid discussions between the patient and healthcare provider to help reach an effective action plan for managing migraines.

2) Novartis’ VaxTrack provides parents with one convenient place to store information about their family’s vaccination records. The built-in locater can source local pharmacies for flu jabs and record insurance information.

What Are The Benefits?

Much of the discussion around apps is around potential – they are not currently heavily downloaded and reviewed, but with the growth of tablets and more smartphones this is likely to change. Companies wishing to build deeper relationships with patients and healthcare professionals can add value to their product offering and deliver real support in disease and lifestyle management:-

1) Support specific outreach and healthcare campaigns – For instance to patients suffering from a specific clinical condition, those wanting to improve their health or increase their activity levels

2) Provide a practical support for patients and healthcare professionals – In gauging dose levels and tracking dose history (patient compliance)

3) Deliver insight and education for the broader community – Offering deep and relevant information or access to specialists

Applications – whether free or paid for will become a lasting engagement tool. They are useful, not heavily branded and empower the patient.


[1] http://tinyurl.com/3tk5oyc

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