Thursday, July 08, 2010

Going Mobile: Opportunities Abound for Healthcare Marketers

Ross Fetterolf, SVP of Brand Strategy and Channel Innovation (@DigitalBulldog) and Michael Spitz, Senior Digital Strategist (@SpitzStrategy) regularly duke it out in the think tank of Ignite Health. Today’s battle rages around mobile technology. Let’s catch of glimpse of how they land on three viable solutions for our clients, and propose a whole new idea that might just have intriguing mobile legs:

Spitz: Pharma clients ask me about mobile and social media on almost a daily basis.

Ross: Okay. What do you tell them?

Spitz: I tell them that mobile technology is hard to implement but relatively low in risk, while social media is relatively easy to build but a regulatory pain in the neck.

Ross: Makes sense, but maybe you should consider shifting the conversation from just tactics to how HCPs and patients access their healthcare information. I bet showing how your clients can go mobile will prove much easier than you think.

Spitz: We know from one research study after another that getting healthcare information on-the-go is very important for patients/caregivers, and accessing this info at the point-of-care is of high interest for the HCP.

Ross: Right, so rather than reinventing the wheel, let’s take a look at how Pharma has already addressed these audience needs, and see if we can find any exciting opportunities for innovation that would serve our clients and their audiences.

Spitz: Seems pretty high level. Let’s choose a disease state and see how this approach would apply.

Ross: Diabetes is highly demanding on patients’ everyday lives, so having access to portable information, tools, and resources would prove particularly helpful.

Spitz: So a mobile app for diabetes—let’s see what iTunes has to offer…

Ross: Hold on. Remember, we’re first concentrating on getting vital information to our target audiences, not just building new stuff for the sake of building it. So let’s start with digital real estate that’s already designed and readily available.

Spitz: You talking about

Ross: Yes, the cornerstone of any Pharma branded universe, the website. An excellent example is Sanofi Aventis’ Take a look with your Smartphone, and you’ll see something like this:

Spitz: I see what you mean. The content is prioritized, intuitively arranged, and easy to access through the bold navigation. I don’t have to scroll endlessly to find what I need, and the graphics aren’t broken up or disorienting.

Ross: That’s right, the website has been optimized to recognize the device that’s accessing it, and has been customized especially for mobile to create an optimal user experience, focusing on the top viewed site pages and omitting the others.

Spitz: Repurposing can take some work. Might websites be designed from the ground-up to work both on a desktop browser and for a mobile device?

Ross: Yes, and a best-in-class example of exactly that is Novo Nordisk’s recently launched and its accompanying mobile version. Check it out on your Smartphone:

Spitz: Interesting to see how best practices for mobile, including special layout, navigation, usability, and even architecture, can improve traditional website design.

Ross: The Victoza site is chock full of smart features, including 1-click ordering for patient co-pay info and starter kit materials for HCPs, streamlined registration and news feeds, and similar. What’s remarkably smart is how digital strategies that work well in one channel can actually help perfect the user experience in others.

Spitz: Mobile Option #1 for Clients: Site Conversion to Work on Mobile, check! But aren’t the needs of a mobile user often different from those of a more conventional web surfer? At the point-of-care or on-the-go, don’t our audiences demand actionable intelligence, and interactive resources they can apply in real time?

Ross: Sure, in some disease states that is absolutely the case. If you determine that’s the need for your client and their target audiences, then the time might be ripe for the design of a specialized mobile app.

Spitz: What kinds of apps illustrate this functionality within the diabetes space?

Ross: Consider another example from Sanofi Aventis, GOMEALS, an app designed to provide quick and intuitive nutritional information, such as finding restaurants and tracking food intake:

Spitz: I like how the map, menus, and calorie counters are all integrated into one experience.

Ross: Simple is better, especially with mobile, and particularly with mobile diabetes. You want the app to do as much as it can, but you have to be leery of over-taxing or confusing the user. It’s a delicate balance.

Spitz: Mobile Option #2 for Clients: Original Mobile App, check! But now I’m wondering if it’s feasible to make an even more powerful app without creating overkill or chaos?

Ross: Consider the recently launched “Diabetes Companion” app from dLife, designed to supplement the online experience:

Spitz: What additional functionality does it have?

Ross: The Diabetes Companion app helps patients log and track blood glucose levels with color coded results to help identify high and low ranges over time, find over 9,000 recipes and 25,000 foods with full nutritional analysis, find expert and community answers to over 4,000 diabetes questions, and watch over 400 dLifeTV video segments.

Spitz: So you’re saying that the mobile app can seamlessly stream assets from the full website?

Ross: Yes, that’s possible if you have the available content and infrastructure. And most importantly, if you have the strategic expertise to design it in such a way that users can intuitively access all that information and make it useful.

Spitz: Mobile Option #3 for Clients: Site-Enhanced Mobile App, check! Now that we have a feel for the various approaches available to us as healthcare marketers, do you think we also have some hidden opportunities?

Ross: Absolutely. Imagine combining the navigational simplicity of a mobile-converted (such as or a dual-purpose web-mobile site (such as with the sophisticated tools of GOMEALS or dLife, Consider the possibilities!

Spitz: We could create a branded mobile experience that could provide either HCP or patient users with everything from dosing calculators to interactive FAQs, and even include sophisticated treatment tracker tools that monitor their progress with their disease or medication. Since the app is naturally a part of the mobile device, we could also facilitate direct communication, either through SMS, email, or even phone between the user and the Pharma company, rep, or potentially even a physician. Support could be one click/call/text away.

Ross: Limitless potential. The regulatory concerns are clearly there, but we have expertise in dealing with those challenges. The important thing is to creatively provide our clients with cutting-edge communications solutions, and work with them every step of the way to help them design and implement the very best tools available.

Spitz: Very exciting!

Ross: So, do you think you’re ready to provide some thoughts on mobile solutions to our clients now?

Spitz: Definitely, but I think I may need to upgrade my platform. Can I expense a new iPhone 4, Droid Incredible, and Blackberry Bold? All for work purposes, of course…

Ross: How about you work on the next big ePharma breakthrough in mobile, and then we’ll talk…

Will Spitz build on this insightful mobile foundation and uncover a great mobile solution for his clients, or will he revert to tweeting about yesterday’s catered lunch? What do you think is the next great opportunity for Pharma in mobile? Do you have your own mobile best practices and insights to share? Drop us a comment and let’s keep the conversation going!

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