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What’s Next for Pharma and the iPad?

Ron Kane

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This week, I’m with the Intouch Solutions team at the 5th annual Veeva Global Customer Summit in Philadelphia. The Veeva Summit agenda focuses on cloud-based solutions dedicated to the commercial success of the life sciences industry. In Intouch’s world, that means looking at the iPad as a valuable communications tool for pharma sales reps. These conferences always have me thinking about how pharma companies can go beyond the norm … how they can better leverage the iPad to provide REAL VALUE to customers.

As anyone living through the last 35 years or so can tell you, the problem with technology is that we are not always certain how a new technology will be used and if it will have lasting value to those who use it.

Sometimes it comes down to how creatively the new widget is applied. Remember eight-track tapes? Vastly superior sound fidelity to the cassette (my opinion). Which technology won out? The one that fit into a car dashboard of course! VHS vs. Betamax videotapes. Both good quality, but the one with the four-hour tape won the day. Why? Manufacturers of both products didn’t know when they started that VHS would win out because we were going to use them to play movies. Thirty-minute tapes wouldn’t cut it.

I can’t count the number of conversations where the words “we’re looking for WOW” were the goal for the next iPad “App”

Fast forward to today’s pharma HCP marketers looking for a way to communicate their brand value and we have a new disruptive and potentially valuable technology in the gift from Apple, the iPad. We’ve seen early adopters benefit from the halo affect by implementing basic content on the device only to realize that what HCP’s and Reps were excited about was the device. Once the device became table stakes the effectiveness waned. Marketers began asking themselves what was next. I can’t count the number of conversations where the words “we’re looking for WOW” were the goal for the next iPad “App”. Trouble was Wow turned out to be difficult to execute and a bit more elusive than you would expect with such a great new device to display it on. Going beyond the basic print to digital and developing content in the form of “apps” became the next wave of effort for early and middle adopters.

For those who were able to find strong technical and creative partnerships effectiveness and interest soared. Unfortunately managing these complex and completely custom apps to display “engaging” content can be expensive and often takes too long to meet the pace pharma needs. And many Pharma marketers along with their IT department support teams found the work of managing the apps difficult and time consuming as well. Operating system changes by Apple and mandatory changes to content created the need to redevelop content, retest and redeploy, adding to time and cost.

What does this mean for pharma?

If deploying iPads to the field is going to really pay off for the long term they are going to have to rethink the once a year “app” program and start building an incremental strategy for delivering value to the HCP. Give them things they can use in their practice and have something new and particularly relevant to their specialty or situation each time the rep visits. Think value not message. This means having a system that can easily distribute and manage content in the field and one that is flexible enough to be used to build tools that help the physician and works the way the rep works.

Meanwhile, I am going to go see if I can find the tapes for my eight-track player now that I have wedged it out of my 1973 Chevy Vega.

Interested in learning more about the iPad in relation to pharma? Check out these blog posts:

The Product Demo: Making It Work For Pharma

Physicians’ Love of iPads Opens Doors For Pharma Reps

The Rapid Rise Of iPad Use in Health Care


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