Mobile Healthcare Communications: Case Studies and Roundtables

Presented by the Business Development Institute (BDI)

New York City, Wednesday 19 Jan 2011

Your reporter is Donna Cusano

The content of this semiannual half-day conference on mobile healthcare was oriented primarily for pharmaceutical marketers and communicators. Thus most of the case studies presented were from the pharmaceutical sector, with an emphasis on patient (primary) and physician information delivered via smartphones. Leavening this was a discussion of texting in an adolescent health program here in NYC. A lively tweetstream, projected on a small screen stage right, kept a running commentary and also outside links to videos and other source material.  It is available at #BDI with a transcript of the day’s activity provided by Bridge 6. (Ed. Donna is @deetelecare) 


Pfizer and health management.
No exception to the cautious approach pharmaceutical companies tend to (or must) take with social media and partnerships, the heart of Kate Bird’s (Director of Digital Communications Policy) presentation centered on four apps, two outside the US: the partnership with Epocrates enabling direct contact with medical professionals to report adverse events; Smidge in Canada, a behavioral modification app to encourage healthier habits; Protonix mobile co-pay and refills, using designated text codes; and in Hong Kong, Pfizer Nutrition and Yahoo!‘s educational app that lets parents create flash cards for children, using preloaded forms.  What’s surprising is that all these apps are for iPhone only, with no plans to add Android and (ex US) Symbian—but 70% of their searches are from Apple devices (one tweet: Android users don’t get sick)
Ms. Bird is forecasting that apps are becoming saturated anyway, with which many in the audience, including this editor, concurred.) Another surprise: despite quadrupling in traffic recently, Pfizer’s website has only just been redone for mobile, which will enable the current 1% of their website impressions to grow and to benefit on what they have found is a lower cost per click cost. (Memo to Pfizer: your patients are not only using Android phones, but many will be buying tablets (and not just iPads.)


Joe Grigsby (Director, Emerging Media) from agency VML presented the case history on Text4Baby, the nearly two year old prenatal health reminder SMS for mothers [TA 8 Nov] which is 6 million texts to date; with 100,000+ users T4B is projecting an eventual 1 million.  Among future professionals, 25% of nursing students use iPhones, 70% of medical students have iPhone/iPod. But his points were strategic, reminding the audience that even though mobile is the ‘new norm’ for a younger age group, it doesn’t change marketing fundamentals and the need to develop a marketing strategy.  If anything, mobile has enhanced consumer control (as long as their information is secure). Smart marketers have to think even more about the end user and their individual goals as shaping the value proposition, not what app to make; what they are doing and how to add value. (Slideshow available at Slideshare)


Helping ACCU-CHECK diabetes monitor users better understand their condition and how to manage it is Roche Diabetes Care’s ‘Glucose Buddies’ iPhone app (again, no mention of Android). This free app also gathers general demographic information for Roche which is a secondary business goal, in addition to patient education. This information sparked a Twitter commentary on tradeoffs on privacy for ‘value’ although the data is ‘de-identified’.  The lack of a Spanish-language version that would be targeted to Hispanics who have, as a population, an above-average incidence of diabetes, also prompted a few choice tweets. Presented by Todd Siesky, PR Manager, Roche Diabetes Care.


Monique Levy’s review of Manhattan Research’s recent mobile-related studies touched on some points already made on Telecare Aware. Key highlights:

Physicians and mobile
* Doctors are abandoning the mainstay BlackBerry for the iPhone, with Android down the list (for now)
* MR projects that currently 72% of physicians have smartphones, projecting that 81% of doctors will have a smartphone by end of year, accelerating their year-ago projection by a year. [TA 3 Mar]   25% will have iPads and/or tablets (note the Dell Streak is targeting healthcare enterprise: TA 15 Sept ).
* Health info outpoints health tools. Visiting websites is as common as using apps like Epocrates, Medscape Mobile and Skyscape—doctors are seeking information (note to pharma companies, publications and references—time to get mobile versions of your websites)
* 65% of physicians use smartphones to check e-mails, but 41% are using mobile Websites and 38% apps.
* The greatest uses of smartphones (@50% in descending order): drug reference databases, clinical/medical references, reading medical journals, treatment guidelines, prescription dosage calculator)
* Remote patient monitoring is underdeveloped at 10%–same as writing medical notes

Consumers and mobile
* Again, health info outpoints health ‘tools’ or apps
* And it won’t come from pharma companies: 71% of those age 35+ are “not interested” in mobile services from a pharma company. (What will pharma do to win them over?)


Leaving the lofty heights of pharma-land for the streets of the South Bronx and East Harlem, Dr. Katherine Malbon of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center (MSAHC) shared how her idea to connect young patients with their ‘health home’ at MSAHC via text messaging and social media turned into a six-month successful program, ‘Text in the City’.  Teens opt-in for information, individual answers to their questions (within 24 hours, birth control reminders (most requested) and weekly ‘HealthBytes’ of advice.  Texting and often unlimited plans are ubiquitous (95%) in this population and age group—an amusing example was a teenaged girl texting non-stop as she received a physical exam! But privacy is a concern—users are reminded to delete their perhaps sensitive texts. Dr. Malbon’s passion is clearly serving teens—trained as a paediatrician and working in several Central London hospitals, she moved to the US as adolescent medicine is not a recognized sub-specialty in the UK.


Rounding out the conference was more on marketing and communications from Porter Novelli’s EVP Social Media, John Havens.  One memorable quote:  “If you want to speak doctor – speak mobile.” With the PwC findings of 56% of Americans liking the idea of remote healthcare and 41% via mobile phone—he focused on the less conventional as ‘pointers to the future’, such as earplugs that gauge your eating and wirelessly report activity (U. of WA), the Kaiser WeightMate app acting like a Chinese mother after you brought home a B, Frontline SMS: Medic (now Medic Mobile) in developing countries and goggles that prompt with speech and images. “Why is mobile so important for healthcare? Because it saves lives.”  Just a reminder why we are in the field…and that mobile technology is changing so quickly that unless we are otherwise funded (non-profit) developers and marketers need to focus on business case, goals and usage/ROI.

Many thanks to Maria Feola and Steve Etzler of BDI and Mario Nacinovich of AXON plus the Journal of Communication in Healthcare.

Categories: Events - Reports.