Key considerations for pharma in the mobile health market
Simon-Kucher &, Partners
This article outlines a preliminary approach and provides key considerations for pharma companies as they assess unmet needs, outcomes, and objectives related to their future mobile health (mHealth) ventures.
Mobile health (mHealth), or the use of mobile tech applications for health-related objectives, has been a prominent target for developers. High unmet needs in patient outcomes and increased scrutiny in the healthcare industry present significant industry growth opportunities.
A 2011 study projected that the 2012 global mHealth market will be $1.3 billion: up from the $718 million generated by 40,000 available mHealth apps in 20111. As the market becomes more crowded, it will become increasingly important to produce effective, highly utilized mHealth apps that enable valuable outcomes.
Pharma’s role in the burgeoning mHealth market is recent – likely because objectives for mHealth in pharma remain ill-defined. Pharma companies have a unique set of business outcomes, including the potential for brand differentiation or increased pharmaceutical demand. As companies better understand what role mHealth can play in achieving these business outcomes, the objectives for pharma become clearer and allow for the development of effective pharma apps.
“A 2011 study projected that the 2012 global mHealth market will be $1.3 billion…”
This article outlines a preliminary approach and provides key considerations for pharma companies as they assess unmet needs, outcomes, and objectives related to their future mHealth ventures.
Integrating consumer unmet needs
Successful mHealth entry will start with a comprehensive knowledge of unmet needs across stakeholder segments in the relevant indication. Patients and providers (app consumers) have varying needs regarding compliance, monitoring, or treatment protocols that if neglected, can hinder uptake and app utilization.
For example, within many chronic indications, high unmet needs in patient compliance have driven development of disease management apps, whereas within acute indications, such as oncology, apps aim to supply providers with in-depth treatment-related information. Understanding the nuances between therapeutic areas, pharma products, patient segments, and physician segments will be necessary for optimal clinical and business outcomes.
Additionally, secondary stakeholders, including payers, are often concerned with healthcare resource utilization that results from high non-compliance or misinformation. Though it may be unfeasible for an app to directly impact payers’ coverage of the pharmaceutical, an app can be used to potentially demonstrate reductions in resource utilization for a therapy via anonymized research. These needs can be secondary considerations, though integrating payer perspectives may have powerful effects as mHealth gains traction.
“Successful mHealth entry will start with a comprehensive knowledge of unmet needs across stakeholder segments in the relevant indication.”
Unmet needs in the relevant indication will lay the foundation for developing an optimal mHealth entry strategy that serves specific consumer segments and produces impactful business outcomes.
Assessing the impact on pharma-business outcomes
Pharma’s next step will be to assess whether an app that targets key needs can ultimately impact business objectives for the pharmaceutical product itself. Assessment of various scenarios can help to first elicit the relationship between the app and the company’s pharmaceutical product.
The various app scenarios can include different functionality combinations, hypothetical clinical outcomes, whether the app is branded to a product / company or unbranded, whether it’s interconnected or personal, etc. Stakeholder responses can then be quantified to generate baseline utilization and behavior change forecasts. The high-level questions will be: How do consumers perceive the app and how does it impact their app utilization? How does the app presence and associated clinical outcomes impact the brand image and / or pharmaceutical product utilization?
“…while patients are eager to utilize mHealth, physician uptake is more conservative…”
Delving into these questions across consumers segments can reveal nuances that would ultimately impact app utilization. A report released early 2012 showed that while patients are eager to utilize mHealth, physician uptake is more conservative, physicians state that apps can be disruptive to practice if they are difficult to integrate2. Similar barriers to utilization might be balanced out as outcomes-based-reimbursements for providers may drive physician mHealth uptake.
Integrating stakeholder perceptions to account for drivers, barriers and trends will elucidate the true value of the mHealth product. Most importantly, conducting market assessments early in the app development process allows the pharma company to tweak its strategy as necessary and avoid unnecessary investments in app development.
Establishing the optimal strategy for the mHealth app
Finally, pharma will need to combine these elements into a defined strategy. The strategy will be unique for pharma in that it will involve two sets of objectives: outcomes for consumers and resulting business outcomes.
In terms of consumer outcomes, the pharma company will want to select the app “combination” that resonates most with patients and physicians. Will consumers be more likely to use this app given its specifications? Using analysis across dimensions of unmet need, usability, and value perception, pharma can target the specific combination that optimizes utilization of the app and in turn, produce favorable clinical outcomes.
This analysis will need to be taken one step further to establish business outcomes. Assuming optimal utilization of the app, will brand perception be impacted or utilization of associated pharma products affected? Through insights gained in the preliminary analysis, pharma will need to delve into the link between the app and its pharmaceutical product. How much do clinical outcomes associated with the app impact perception of the pharmaceutical product? What is the resulting impact?
Based on the results of this analysis, pharma can begin to set internal expectations and develop arguments for pursuing mHealth development. Business outcomes may not be favorable from the start, but it is important for pharma to explore innovative strategies and optimize its opportunities.
“…the pharma company will want to select the app ‘combination’ that resonates most with patients and physicians.”
The mHealth space has become increasingly fragmented as various types of mHealth developers enter the market, each boasting unique advantages and offerings. Even if the impact of a pharma app on its business outcomes is minimal, missing mHealth opportunities will mean forfeiting potential influence in the mHealth market to a stronger competitor (or potential business partner). By systematically approaching the app development process, pharma can focus energies on producing an app that not only improves clinical outcomes, but allows it to improve brand / pharma product utilization.
As the mHealth market booms, opportunities for pharma will be bountiful. But assessing these opportunities early on in the app development process can produce a mHealth product that is not only effective for consumers, but provides business opportunities for pharma’s main business: pharmaceuticals.
The mHealth market is evolving, as the market matures, there will be shifts in how apps are utilized and regulated. mHealth apps are already gaining traction in the US as in 2012, the FDA recently drafted guidance for apps associated with medical devices. Though a similar story may be distant for pharmaceutical apps, is there potential for pharma-focused FDA guidance? If so, will it impact consumer utilization of both the pharmaceutical and the app? Though these are bold questions, it will be up to pharma companies to test these waters.
Pharma’s space in this fragmented market is still being defined, but bold and conscientious approaches to entry will determine the opportunities for pharma mHealth. With a systematic approach that addresses unmet consumer needs, accounts for utilization drivers, and assesses the potential for business outcomes, a pharma can lay the foundation for a successful, sustainable mHealth strategy.
About the author:
Manasi Kulkarni is a Consultant in the Life Sciences Division of Simon-Kucher &, Partners. She focuses on assisting clients with the strategic development and commercialization of pharmaceuticals and biologics. Her projects have supported clients in pricing and market access strategy development, clinical trial design, stakeholder engagement strategy and value story development. Manasi graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Molecular Cell Biology and Public Policy.
For further information, you can contact Manasi Kulkarni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simon-Kucher &, Partners is a global consulting firm with 625 professionals in 25 offices worldwide focusing on Smart Profit GrowthSM. Clients range from blue chips to mid-sized companies across the globe. Founded in Germany, the company has almost 30 years of experience providing strategy and marketing consulting and is regarded as the world’s leading pricing advisor.
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