From mobile evolution to a mobile revolution

In this article, Neil McGregor-Paterson of Paradigm Communications and David Kaye of Kiosk consider the use of mobile phone technology in building multi-market payer research communities that can offer rich insight into market access challenges and opportunities for the healthcare industry.

The world is undergoing a mobile phone revolution. With a billion new mobile subscribers in the last four years, almost half the world’s population now uses mobile communications. Subscriptions are expected to exceed the four billion mark by 2018.

Emerging markets are the key drivers of future growth. It is estimated that Asia Pacific will add nearly half of all connections between now and 2017. Latin America and Africa will add a further 20%.

And just as the uptake of the mobile phone is on the ascension, so is their utility and importance in healthcare (mHealth). Indeed, given the penetration of mobile phones in developed and emerging markets, and across urban and rural areas, they offer one of the most exciting innovations for the delivery of solutions that improve individual and community-based health outcomes, at a cost that is affordable to the many and not the few. This promise is being driven by new technology innovations and the entry into the market of both small innovators and big business. Indeed, there are currently over 100,000 health apps and increasingly phones are being used by healthcare professionals in engaging with and monitoring their patients.

“And just as the uptake of the mobile phone is on the ascension, so is their utility and importance in healthcare…”

The industry understands the potential of mHealth and many have already adopted mobile phone technology to help improve patient outcomes beyond the provision of their medicines alone. This resonates well with patients, providers and increasingly payers. Whether encouraging lifestyle modifications or supporting concordance and persistence to their medicines, the industry is waking up to the patient, payer and commercial benefits of mHealth.

It is not all plain sailing. In demonstrating the value of mHealth to payers, industry needs to understand what payers value, and demonstrate the value of their solution.

However, in support of market access, use of mobile phone technology can be used here and now by industry in support of their market access planning and programmes. Indeed, they can also be used to assess what mHealth payers’ value. This article focuses on this particular aspect of mobile phone use to consider the opportunities afforded by mobile-enabled payer research communities.

The established way

A critical component of market access planning is engaging with payers who can provide ‘real world’ insight into the potential hurdles to success, while identifying those opportunities that are not readily apparent to industry. Beyond market research, global, regional and local payer advisory boards are increasingly being convened to deliver this.

However, while extremely valuable, the classic advisory board approach has some significant drawbacks. They can be expensive, time consuming and recruiting payers who are willing to share their insights can be a challenge. This is a particularly challenging issue for global and regional teams who don’t have the payer relationships needed to convene highly effective boards. The established model also provides little value in terms of seeking immediate insight in response to a particular challenge, or regular input when tracking a particular issue.

While face-to-face contact with payers is critical, mobile phones provide an additional way of engagement that can overcome many of the drawbacks of advisory boards.

“…the industry is waking up to the patient, payer and commercial benefits of mHealth.”

Why the mobile is such a powerful insight and opinion tool

People have a very personal relationship with their mobile phone, using them to communicate and share information at a time and a place of their choosing. It is this, coupled to adoption of smart phones and the continued uptake of 3G and 4G that makes them such a powerful tool when seeking payer insight and opinion.

While 2G technology that provides digital quality voice, messaging and low bandwidth data accounts for a significant proportion of global connections today, by 2017, 3G and 4G will account for nearly 60% of connections. Given their role and status, it can be assumed that payers have, and continue to be, early adopters of these.

Building a mobile payer community

In the context of seeking insight, carefully created mobile payer communities, supported by bespoke Apps, enable members to respond to specific requests through submission of film, text or picture uploads. With the support of ‘community management teams’ staff that interact with the community members in real-time, rich insight and content is generated. This content can then be used for a wide range of purposes including internal briefings, training and HCP education.

Commenting on the mobile research approach, Mike Sobanja, Policy Director, NHS Confederation and a founding member of a multi-market Payer Community said “The panel members and I are committed to supporting industry in their market access informed decision making. However, this is limited by our ability to commit the time. Using a mobile or tablet at a convenient time is a simple way of sharing my opinion and insights on a particular topic”.

Setting up mobile Payer Communities relies on the ability to recruit those payers who can add true value to a programme. However, the innovative nature of the approach is a draw in itself. Recognising the important role of mHealth in improving clinical management, patient outcomes and managing costs, payers are likely to be willing adopters of a new approach to research.

“…by 2017, 3G and 4G will account for nearly 60% of connections.”

Beyond payer communities

Mobile communities offer a rich steam of opportunities beyond payers alone. Anyone the industry seeks insight from, and hard to reach stakeholders, could be engaged. Examples of where Mobile Communities have successfully been used to provide rich insight include:

• Learning more about dispensing pharmacists and their role in switching from originator products in the Middle East

• Understanding the impact of new management guidelines on clinical practice in Europe

• Understanding the information and support needs of patients diagnosed with cancer in Brazil

• Understanding the day-to-day problems faced by patients living with ADHD in support of physician education

• Identifying patient adherence issues in type 1 diabetes to help address persistence to treatment


The opportunities afforded by mHealth are set to revolutionise aspects of patient healthcare throughout the world, while mHealth is already improving patient outcomes for those prescribed a medicine. The merging of pharmacological and mobile technologies offers the industry significant commercial advantages, and adoption of technology in support of payer communities is one of many steps to success.



About the authors:

Neil McGregor-Paterson is Director of Paradigm Communications. Paradigm’s Global, EU and UK services align advocates behind the market access challenge. Uniquely, Paradigm combines insight from medical, behavioural, social and political sciences in the construction of their programmes. They call this Translational Medicine Plus™

David Kaye is Managing Director of Kiosk. Kiosk is a mobile first agency which specialises in facilitating powerful and intimate connections with hard to reach targets across the globe.

Closing thought: How can we demonstrate the value of mHealth to payers?