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Long-Term Planning for Tablets: Think Bigger Than iPad

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You’ve been spending the last few years trying to convince your powers-that-be of the importance of iPads. You’ve been mining your last shred of creativity for tablet-based content for your sales forces. There are iPads stuffed in your desk drawers, doodled on your whiteboards, in your dreams.

But what happens when the iPad becomes passé?
Calm down. It isn’t yet. It was super-shiny when it first launched, and adoption by physicians and pharma alike has been rapid. But let’s be realistic. The iPad is just one brand of one type of platform. There will be more versions of Apple’s iPad, and there will continue to be newcomer tablet devices and platforms, too.

The iPad will be supplanted. This is not a guess.
What could the next phase of HCP detailing look like? It’s an enticing subject for brainstorming. How about something Google Glass-like: virtual-display eyewear controlled by conversational prompts? Pop-up hologram demonstrations? Or other novelties we can’t even fathom?

Regardless of the delivery mechanism, Intouch Solutions’ director of user experience Amy Toft points out an elegant baseline for our work: “Users — whether HCPs or reps — will always expect the same functionality in their business devices that they have at home in their personal devices. The bar is continually being raised. We have to always utilize all of the layers of functionality available to us.”

  • Are we fully considering what tablets can do today? It’s unlikely. Tablets are often being used simply as fancy binders to display a PDF of the paper version of the sales aid. Let’s instead grab the opportunity to use tablets as the location-aware, interconnected, complex devices they can be.
  • Can we use the next couple of years to expand usage of current capabilities? Once invested, technology investments often last for at least several years. This one-to-three-year timeframe gives you a range in which to innovate with a known platform. How can the chosen tablet device be used in new ways to help you meet your goals?
  • Are you brainstorming future baby steps? What could you be doing with current capabilities? What could you do if we had slightly more? If you have ideas now, you’ll be able to jump on updates and improvements immediately.
  • Could the roles of your technologies change? Will an iPad remain simply part of the promotional mix or can it become a more active control central to all HCP relationship activities? Stay tuned for a bigger discussion on this.
  • Are you developing long-term plans to be both platform-cognizant and platform-agnostic? Don’t lock onto just the capabilities that are currently available, and also avoid the pitfall of developing strategy without considering technological capabilities.

Meridith Goulet, director of client services at Intouch Solutions, gave one example of how we can apply thinking for more of the long-term.

“We have to think strategically about pooling assets,” she said. “Often our clients’ thinking is scenario-based — ‘How can I automate this one thing?’ — and it’s on us to answer that need, but also to think more broadly. We have to show them how the technology they’re already thinking about can be used to centralize more of their work.”

One Intouch client is doing just that, using one of our app solutions to not only provide detailing services to sales reps but much more. In addition to detailing assets, they’ve integrated customer relationship management interactions, appointments, peer presentations — and, now, training tools as well. A patient-resource section is the next addition to come online.

“We’ve found a way to pull every piece of the rep’s job into one app,” Goulet said. “And to get the necessary groups interested, we pulled together reports that demonstrated what data analysis and results they could get if they came on board.”

The Possible and the Practical
The challenge of innovation is in balancing creative license with practicality. Understand what can be done, but also weigh that with what should be done. And that may change tomorrow. Consider what is possible immediately, but don’t lose track of what is possible for the future. Push yourself to maximize current resources, and integrate your internal and external colleagues (e.g., IT, sales, marketing, agencies, etc.) to do more. Break out of the silo you’re in and collect as many out-of-the-box opportunities as possible.

iPads and other devices will continue to evolve and provide endless opportunities for efficiencies and integration in pharma sales and marketing. It’s up to us to use them to their fullest potential, no matter what the delivery device or platform.



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