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. More than a third of those had downloaded at least one from the category of ‘health and fitness’.
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.