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Pharma Has Moved Past Education in mHealth

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At the PanAgora Mobile Pharma BizTech Conference last month in New York City it was clear, pharma has moved from simply discussing "what is mobile?" and "what are other industries doing?" to "how do we integrate optimal mobile experiences into our marketing mix and implement advanced mobile marketing techniques?" There was healthy debate focused on topics such as big data, privacy, local versus web-based app development and the FDA’s classification and regulation of mobile apps and devices. All in all, the conference showed that pharma had evolved in its understanding of mobile and mHealth.

The FDA, Apps and Big Data

Legal and regulatory attorney, Darshan Kulkarni, discussed how the FDA is categorizing mobile apps and devices as level I II or III medical devices. He noted there were a multitude of issues surrounding FDA compliance, and new devices are making it more difficult to determine if, and at what level, a product is defined for use as a medical device. And although Kulkarni recommended companies enlist the services of an expert on FDA compliance during product development, the message was clear that pharma must know in advance how the FDA will regulate their mobile products.

Dr. Andrew Litt, Chief Medical Officer at Dell, took on another major mHealth issue, big data. His focus was access to the large amounts of data that technology has afforded researchers, health care professionals, patients and caregivers. He stated the goal is to use the data to personalize treatment to a specific person. For example, he mentioned that pills are being developed with microchips that are powered by a patient’s stomach acid. The chips send data via Bluetooth to a patch worn on the chest, and collect information like when the pill was taken and the lot number of the pill.

Dr. Litt went on to mention that data such as genome analysis produce huge amounts of data, nearly three terabytes. And, this data that once took weeks and months to analyze now takes four to six hours. Of course, this level of computing power and amount of data lead to major concerns around safety of the data and privacy. He warned the audience that this problem must be solved. He noted that today health records can be purchased on the black market for $50, and this is simply not acceptable.

Finding the Need They Don’t Know They Have

Finally, Jamie Manning, Digital Services Manager for Biogen Idec, quoted the statistic that 64% of health care professionals are using three devices every day, smartphone, tablet and desktop computer. And although computers are still being used the most often, smartphones and tablets are being used regularly for information gathering. He challenged the audience to figure out exactly how HCPs are using the devices and create specialized apps that meet their needs.

Intouch’s Executive Vice President, David Windhausen also spoke at the conference, giving examples and discussing strategies to create real connections through mHealth. He tied together many of the topics discussed at the conference, stressing integration to build the optimal mobile experience. And even though these topics sounded new, they were simply the evolution of technology and pharma marketing. At the end of the day, the pharma industry has evolved past simply gathering information about mobile and embraced this technology as part of their future.

For more information and insights from the conferences Intouch associates attend, click here.


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