Archive for the 'Mobile' Category

SXSW Interactive 2012: Health-related start-up roundup.

In 2012 at SXSW, health and healthcare put on a good showing in terms of the panels, talks and companies present and promoting themselves. This document provides a short roundup of start-ups that I saw presenting during the “start-up accelerator” portion of the conference. Here are some thoughts on some of these companies.

Medify

Medify claim to be a better way for patients to discover medical research, using an interactive layer over data from clinical trials and making the result interactive and approachable. Medify claim to enable the average consumer to make sense of big data in health, but I wonder how robust the dataset is and how they compare datasets from different trials and avoid data bias. Medify could be seen as a competitor to Medline Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus), which already has great consumer search outputs. Medify provides an added social layer to the data that Medline Plus doesn’t have by integration of Facebook, which is interesting, but may amplify the issues with data.

Jiff

Jiff claims to be the “Facebook of Health”, but reminds me more of the “Google+ of health” with its “Circle of Health”. This is essentially a private social network for health and medicine and is currently in private beta. Jiff claim to be addressing the future of health collaboration, but it will fail or succeed on adoption by healthcare professionals and there is little evidence it will be of value to them. The question that springs to mind is why wouldn’t I just use Facebook or Google+ to connect with my family about my health? Personally, I just don’t understand Jiff’s value proposition. That being said, Jiff is HIPAA-compliant (see http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/) and was a finalist at TechCrunch Disrupt, so does have some backing.

CellScope

CellScope make smartphone attachments for home use. The attachments produce high-quality images for physicians to use for remote diagnosis of ear infections and skin problems. This is a nice solution to avoid the need to take a child to see a physician. More and more we are seeing attachments to smartphones that make them viable as diagnostic instruments. The company claims that the costs of the attachments are “very low” and the trade-off between the cost of the attachment and the need to make a physician appointment means that this is a very viable option.

Bodimojo

BodiMojo claims to be a healthy social network for teen girls to promote healthy choices. They want to build a ‘tribe’ for young girls and promote positive body image through social story and rewards. I think BodiMojo will be successful only if they can get the incentive right for their target demographic and I wonder if an education or advice component would add greater value. One main query would be the approach of a complete platform – why not build out an app within Facebook?

Ginger.io

Another “Big Data” start-up that has been getting quite a bit of traction. Ginger.io provides a mobile app for patients to track their health – much like a patient diary. In addition, they can converse with physicians through the app and end alerts to their care team. On the physician side, the platform claims to allow “effortless” monitoring of the patient and identification of high-risk patients. In addition, Ginger.io has a dashboard for researchers that collate data both from patient-reported outcomes and “passive” data from mobile sensors. It’s quite a compelling offer and they are clear that the patient owns their own data and that all shared data is aggregated and anonymised.

Simplee

Simplee is a way to manage your health bills and save money (if you are US-based). For me, it seems to be a Mint (www.mint.com) for medical finance. Simplee tracks healthcare expenses and suggest possible health plans to suit patients. I don’t really have much knowledge of this area, so can’t really comment further.

Rx Apps

Could you be popping into your local GP sometime soon and receiving a prescription for an app on your smartphone?

Mobile

Image courtesy boostmobile, Flickr creative commons

Yesterday, the UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley opined:

“So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch. I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.”

“Information about your health is a service – just like the GP surgeries, Walk-in Centres and hospitals that millions of people access every week. With more information at their fingertips, patients can truly be in the driving seat.”

“Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free.”

It’s nice to see the government acknowledging the ubiquity of mHealth, and a nice move to encourage both the technorati, health firms, startups and Pharma to start producing good quality, helpful native (and mobile web) apps to benefit patients. I expect we have a way to go before the high-quality information becomes the norm, but I applaud the health secretary for his stance.

Source: http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/02/apps/

I Tweet Your Weight

The nature of communication today means that we are almost always connected to each other in some form or other, whether wired or wireless. We use a variety of methods to communicate about our ‘status’ to our circles, be it through Facebook, Twitter or even good old voice calling. When it comes to communicating about our health, this has traditionally been very personal and private, but increasingly as the barriers to privacy erode through social media, we find companies such as Microsoft and Google want to help us store our health information online (although, interestingly, Google recently halted their Google Health service due to lack of uptake).

So what’s next? Companies are starting to manufacture connected devices that can communicate our health status automatically. I recently saw a demo of bathroom scales that tweeted the user’s weight every day, and a blood pressure cuff that connected to iPhone and transmitted a daily reading over the internet. Of course, we can debate whether people want others to know if they have grown ‘vacation handles’ (or if they trust companies like Microsoft with their personal health information), but this at least illustrates that we need to consider the interfaces and devices with which we share information, and understand that it’s not just our fingers that do the talking when it comes to health status updates.

Motorola Xooms itself in the foot?

I was pretty excited about the announcements before and during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. Android was the star of the show, with many many manufacturers showing off hardware that uses the operating system. Forefront in the hype was the tablet-specific iteration, called Honeycomb that will be available on many of the new tablets, a couple that are creating buzz are:

LG Optimus Pad (formerly called G-Slate):

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (10-inch version of the existing Tab)

These tablets will be available for consumer and enterprise use later in 2011, however, more imminent is the Motorola Xoom, which will be the first tablet running Honeycomb available.

It looks fantastic, and represents a viable alternative to the iPad for both detailing duties and for use in a hospital environment. In fact Android, being an “open” platform, means that you don’t have someone like Apple meddling in the types of app that can be produced for the tablet, making it simpler to manage, produce and approve specific apps for specific tasks. In addition, pharma companies and hospitals can have control over how the user interface looks and feels.

The problem with the Xoom is twofold: No Flash integration at launch. Admittedly, this is a minor problem, as Flash is promised for a few months’ time. However, the major problem is the cost of the thing. Even assuming the retail price of $799 can be beaten by bulk purchase, this still leaves the Xoom on a par with its (currently) only rival in the 10-inch category, the iPad – a very well known and trusted device, and I expect that, given the choice based on cost, 90% would go for the iPad.

It also gets worse, rumour has it that iPad 2 announcement will be days away (March 2 anyone?), and if the iPad 2 is launched soon, you can bet that the price of new original iPads will drop significantly, as we saw with the iPhone 3Gs when the iPhone 4 was launched. This leaves Motorola in the position of having an untested device, with a completely new and unfamiliar operating system at a higher price than the iPad. Which will be a problem.

Aside from this, Pharma companies and institutions looking to leverage tablet devices should maybe think about waiting for the choice of devices, as I thought you would also like to see what else is out there too in terms of tablets:

HTC Flyer – a 7-inch tablet that controversially uses a smartphone version of Android and has a stylus

RIM PlayBook (BlackBerry) that runs on a new operating system and is intended to link up with the BlackBerry

HP TouchPad – uses WebOS, developed by Palm (remember them!)

Will bandwidth capping/throttling scupper Mhealth?

I love the idea that you could fire up an app on your smartphone and check your health records, or if you are a physician, you can peruse the drug interactions for HIV medications on your iPhone. the healthcare ‘mobile revolution’ appears to be starting, and mobile healthcare is predicted to be very big starting 2011 and I myself have predicted that mobile health will play a larger role in 2011 too.

Of course, this all depends on the uptake of smartphones (and tablets, if you consider them to be a mobile device) by patients, as well as the commitment to infrastructure by healthcare providers and authorities. We know Pharma is interested (My agency are currently developing several apps ranging from dosing calculation tools to e-detail aids on a number of platforms), but my main worry is whether our efforts will be scuppered by the one variable no-one seems to be talking about: The telecoms companies.

Let’s look at recent news in the industry – there have been reports of mobile providers throttling bandwidth (Virgin Mobile in the US is the most recent to announce this). In addition, mobile providers are reducing the amount of data that can be used in a particular plan. Even last year in the UK, for instance, all the large telecoms companies were offering ‘unlimited’ mobile broadband packages (with a fair use policy of up to 500MB or 1GB of data a month). Significantly, there was little enforcement of the fair use policy. Fast forward to today, where T-Mobile are the latest to announce that they are essentially abolishing the fair-use policy and introducing a hard cap on data usage (500MB/month), above which punters would need to pay an extra £5 per 500MB per month. This follows similar rules introduced by Vodafone in late 2010 (which was handled appallingly with regards to how they communicated this to customers, by the way).

So here begs the titular question: Will bandwidth caps/throttling scupper mobile health?

Consider data-heavy apps, sharing images, streaming video and other information. The telecos won’t pay to support this. Will healthcare infrastructure pay for physician apps? Will patients be happy to pay extra to access these?

Edit: 18 January 2011 – an another operator adds to the confusion. Sprint are to charge smartphone users an extra $10/month to account for data usage!

Balloon animals

A quick apology to readers of this blog. I really enjoy writing here, but the past month has thrown up a number of challenges.

One of these challenges is actually finding something interesting and, importantly, new, to write about. There are so many bloggers out there that I feel I would be doing you a disservice if I wrote basically the same stuff that others have already covered.

Social media is no longer new and exciting, and in the pharmaceutical sector at least, little has changed with regards to its use, other than the fact that pharma companies know more about it than before. Especially in Europe, where regulatory guidance is a long way off; don’t get me wrong, there have been excellent examples of innovative use of social media, however all the signs show that we are ‘over the hump’ of social media hype and are now, quite rightly, looking at it as a channel to be considered and utilised in an appropriate manner as part of an integrated plan. Not so much a bursting of the social media bubble, more a slight deflation so that we can make balloon animals (to overextend my mixed metaphor for appropriate consideration and usage of social media). Essentially in 2011, it is necessary for Pharma to bring social media into the Venn diagram and start using it appropriately.

What about the rise and rise of mobile and tablet healthcare with native apps (and in my opinion this is also something that is still overhyped and not rationally used as a tactic in an integrated plan, but I expect that to continue for the moment). I think Android will play a much larger part in healthcare as a platform with some major players bringing out Androidbased tablets in 2011 (with implications in terms of enterprise, cost and accessibility).

Let’s not forget the possibilities of near-field communications (NFCs), especially now that mobile handsets are starting to integrate this technology (notably Google’s upcoming Nexus S made by Samsung, which also inexplicably has no LED indicator or SD card expansion slot). This is something that will gain momentum in 2011, with possibly some good use coming of it either late in 2011 or more likely in 2012.

Now to a topic I’ve also been banging on in this blog about recently: integration, and I think actually this will be a key theme for the focus of my commentary in 2011 – integration of digital into overall healthcare strategy. We need to be savvy that digital must fit within our offerings in an integrated manner, and that we shouldn’t get overexcited about ‘the shiny’ (be it platforms or gadgets). I expect 2011 to be the year where the ‘bedding in’ of digital occurs, where we all go back from being ‘digital strategists’ to just ‘communication strategists’, because this is where the benefits for patients, HCPs and Industry lie.

I’m excited by the prospect of 2011 in digital. Happy holidays to you all.

Paul

DigiPharm Europe 2010 Pt 7

Here’s my final post on the #DigiPharm narrative. Part 7! Again, I am reporting on selected sessions from Day 2, ones that I found of note or interest. You can read the twitterstream for more information on the presentations not covered here.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Still friends
First up after lunch was John Mack of Pharma Marketing News detailing to us Europeans the new rules for new media: a funny thing happened while waiting for FDA guidance. Waiting on the FDA is ‘Waiting for Goduidance‘; apt, considering the FDA hearing was October 2009. 70 presentations at the FDA hearings came from stakeholders, and interestingly the stats show that industry service providers made a large proportion of those presentations. Mack thinks that they are ‘pushing Pharma outside of the social media envelope‘. In addition, because of the first-come first-served basis, the share of voice for patients and HCPs was much reduced from previous hearings (1997).

From a survey taken by his readership, Mack explains that Pharma parses into different categories what they are accountable for and what they are not according to the way the funds have been given/spent (grants, paid content, display ads). Interestingly, around 45% of Pharma responders said that Pharma should be accountable for the content even on sites they do not have direct control of (funded by grants). There are also mixed views on accountability with regards to correcting third-party misinformation, with 12% of Pharma suggesting that all off-label information should be corrected by Pharma and 49% of Pharma opining that no corrections should be mandated on third-party sites.

Regarding space limitations, most responders to the survey did not know if space limitation is a problem in Pharma online communication, and therein lies the challenge: how do we make 140-character messages meaningful to the patients in addition to fair and balanced? Mack focused one of his infamous ‘Mack Attacks’ on the Race With Insulin Twitter page featuring promotional Tweets from Race driver Charlie Kimball on behalf of Novo Nordisk (although a picture of the two smiling together may indicate they are still buddies – not sure where Kimball’s hands are though!). A big thing for Pharma are Adwords and search results (around 40% of US Pharma’s online spending budget says Mack), and because Google was losing the Pharma revenue, they piloted and presented a solution for prescription drugs that included a fixed warning of 60 characters, a link to more information and a fixed landing page in the headline.

So where is the draft guidance? Mack predicted that we will get guidance by the end of October, but the FDA will produce and roll out draft mini-guidance documents over time, the first of which, he predicts, will be concerning space limitations. However, he says, that hasn’t stopped Pharma diving into social media, although there have been problems around mishandling (citing sanofi-aventis’ VOICES page being assaulted by a patient who suffered permanent hair loss from the chemotherapy Taxotere, resulting in the comments being turned off). He concludes by suggesting that the greatest mistake for an online pharma initiative is to not have a crisis plan.

Following the presentation, Mack sat down for a panel debate with Chandler Chicco’s Sam Walmsey, taking questions from the floor. Walmsey asks why he is so critical of the industry, and he admits that he “…doesn’t make a living by telling people what they are doing well, he leaves that up to awards ceremonies (it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it?). But do ‘Mack Attacks’ help Pharma? Responses from the floor suggest that they do, but it does involve a headache of lawyers (I believe that is the collective noun), Gary Monk recalls individuals who received a Mack Attack and this significantly increased their Twitter following.

The right measurement
A quick note about the presentation from Preston Hennington of PR Newswire on building your brand using multimedia. I didn’t really take much away from this, but when he was talking about using free online tools to track sentiment, buzz and influencers (such as Social Mention, Twitority and Twitalyser), it rang alarm bells. I feel strongly that these free social media tools should be used with caution, especially when interpreting the results. You are better off spending some money and getting it right!

I expect in 2040 we will all have cell towers grafted on at birth
A brief mention here of the Mobile presentation from Hedwig Scheck of GSK. Frankly I found there is nothing new here (considering my avid interest in mobile), but of note some responses from the floor from questions: most of the room are thinking about launching an iPhone app, but only a handful actually have done so. Also of note is that sanofi-aventis has unveiled an iPad and iPhone app glucometer with add-on hardware and GSK have developed an iPhone app for the German market to help allergy patients. She predicts that by 2011, more than half of brands are expected to use between 5 and 25% of their marketing budget for mobile marketing. My thoughts are that Pharma should be careful of focussing too hard on iPhone specifically to the detriment of Android – consider that Gartner predict by the end of the year it will become the number 2 mobile operating system (after Symbian and above BlackBerry and Apple). There are, of course costs associated with Android, considering the breadth of handsets and the fragmentation of the operating system. We should also be mindful of the new operating systems due: Windows Mobile 7, MeeGo (Nokia’s new smartphone OS) and Bada (Samsung), plus the launch of a number of app stores.

Microchips and pills
Next up is connecting patients and physicians to treatment outcomes in the digital era presented by Todd Stephens of Merck Serono. He starts by asking: ‘Which of these three can you do well?

  • Product leadership
  • Operational excellence
  • Or customer intimacy?’

It is difficult to move focus from one to the other, or indeed to get a balance. He says the problem currently is that Pharma needs to choose the technology they invest in three to four years in advance. There is a displacement in timelines between technology development, application of that technology, legal and regulations and roll out. Indeed, the choice of technology is relatively redundant to payors, as they are focused on outcomes, not technology: ‘Drugs are not reimbursed if they are not proven to improve treatment outcomes‘ A question: will we be looking for reimbursement of medical apps? Interestingly, Stephens implies that Merck Serono are working on a mobile compliance tool in endocrinology.

So will adherence/compliance be the next important topic in digital? I say this is one part of the patient story. With the rise of mobile help or hinder this? Will Mobile compliance apps be the way forward or, as Stephens alluded to, will ‘intelligent medicines’ as being trialled by the NHS be the way forward? More questions to debate.

The end? Not by a long run
Here endeth the narrative from DigiPharm Europe 2010, but looking back at the presentations, data, case studies, demonstrations and discussions, I can’t help but think that these are challenging and exciting times in the Pharma industry. I for one am encouraged by the growing effective use of digital technology and channels, and at the same time worried about the potential direction this could take. I think two things have become very clear from this conference:

  • There should be some discussion and agreement on regulatory issues with regards to digital and to social media in particular, and this discussion should focus on the global nature of the internet and therefore consider the cross-boundary nature of how the drug industry should be regulated.
  • To survive in this landscape, Pharma must make inroads into developing a digital strategy – and by that I mean integrate your digital tactics into your overall strategic plan, and at the same time, generate and maintain internal buy-in by developing a corporate digital strategy that integrates digital into the fabric of your organization’s culture and operations.

Thanks for reading!


About me

Hi, my name is Paul Jacobs and I write the Medigital blog, as well as being the Director, Digital Strategy at Sonic Boom, a digital and social agency. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about the digital domain in pharma and medical communications/education.
Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are my very own and do not necessarily reflect those my employer, family or pets. Twitter: @PJ_Medigital
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