mHealth Monthly Mashup: Release 9.0 – best practices for developing healthapps for the pharmaceutical industry (part 2)

Michael Spitz

Ignite Health

(Continued from mHealth Monthly Mashup: Release 9.0 – best practices for developing healthapps for the pharmaceutical industry (part 1))

As our interview with J. Michael Smallwood continues we hear how agencies are uniquely positioned in mHealth development, how pharma can enter the mobile health space and what the future of mobile health looks like.

MS: Previously you mentioned that a big driver for success is in taking an agency-centric approach to mobile development for pharma. How are agencies uniquely positioned?

JMS: Often being deeply embedded with the brand team is a prerequisite for answering the fundamental question “To go mobile or not to go mobile?” And should that question be answered in the affirmative, then agencies are often best positioned to go about implementing it, thanks to their prior work with the branded content—so long as they are able to advise clients with a deep understanding of mobile strategy, the technical landscape, and proven experience in mobile standards and design. Dedicated teams composed of technology, creative, and strategy—all focused around mobile—allow for agencies to offer best in class mobile vision and execution for clients. And nowhere is that more important than in minimizing risk and ensuring compliance.

“A proven key to success is getting the regulatory folks involved as early as possible”

MS: Tell us how agency medical and regulatory expertise is well-suited for and ultimately integrates into mobile development.

JMS: We’ve learned a great deal from our account teams and clinical strategists on how to expedite med / leg review processes. A proven key to success is getting the regulatory folks involved as early as possible, encouraging their direct participation and buy-in from the prototype phase all the way to quality assurance of the final mobile application. Along the way client education should be a huge part of your process, from initial planning throughout review and deployment. Share usability and design guidelines from Apple and Google, usability studies and market research, all interspersed with your own insights. Being able to comment on and review actual prototypes and builds is vital, an ongoing process of setting expectations, encouraging feedback, and incorporating recommendations from iteration to iteration, refining the outcome every detailed step of the way.

MS: What advice would you give pharma for entering and flourishing within the mobile health space?

JMS: First and foremost, clearly identify your objectives, audience needs, and criteria for success. Next, differentiate your mobile offering, and ask yourself what unique value proposition your mobile app will fulfill in an already crowded space with numerous health apps often already providing educational value within the same disease state. And lastly, approach the creative process with a holistic view regarding how mobile fits into your overall digital strategy, with a strong emphasis on the importance of it being just one audience touchpoint of many within your larger communications plan.

“First and foremost, clearly identify your objectives, audience needs, and criteria for success.”

MS: Speaking of unbranded health apps, do you think pharma can nonetheless play an important role there, too?

JMS: Very much so. I think there’s truly an unlimited potential for unbranded pharma apps. As the number of smartphone and tablet devices continues to increase, we see growing opportunity for meeting a wide degree of patient and consumer needs on demand throughout the healthcare space, and pharma is particularly well-positioned to provide the capital investment, research, and commitment necessary for mHealth to ascend to the next level of hyper-localized and customizable engagement. The emergence of the ePatient welcomes and at this point even demands a mobile presence—that of providing healthcare data, support services, and opportunities to engage well-beyond and often exclusive of the prescribing information. Emerging global economies open additional doors for pharma, as academic and advocacy organizations have already paved the way using even such remedial technologies as RSS feeds to create meaningful healthcare educational and compliance programs worldwide.

MS: What do you see as the future of pharma mobile health?

JMS: We have the ability to leverage the power of connectivity and cloud computing to deliver healthcare professionals with real time patient data, enabling critical decisions to be made independent of location. We have the ability to track dosing and measure adherence in real-time, potentially revolutionizing compliance issues. We have the ability to diagnose patients conveniently and non-invasively, expediting care and saving lives. And perhaps most importantly, we have the ability to track and measure everything on an unprecedented scale to provide immediate and impactful feedback and even predictive results truly exemplifying what people are calling the “quantified self”. But in order to make these technological advancements reality, and that reality everyday practice, we’ll have to work hard in educating and shaping the industry guidelines to put patient needs first ahead of all else. So I actually see the biggest impact of pharma apps in terms of influencing regulatory and policy decisions that ultimately redefine how we communicate, treat, and benefit the ultimate end-user: our patients. And I’m personally very, very proud to be a part of this revolutionary, inspiring, and life-saving process.

MS: Thanks for joining us, Michael.

JMS: My pleasure.

MS: Next month, we’ll focus on some great examples of pharma mHealth apps. Check in then!

About the interviewee and author:

J. Michael Smallwood is VP of Technology at Ignite Health, where he oversees all aspects of digital production and technical development. With a unique ability to attain brand objectives through innovative technical solutions, Smallwood has helped shape the digital offerings of numerous pharmaceutical clients throughout the United States. Prior to joining Ignite Health he was the founder and CEO of Syndicated Methods, Inc., a mobile startup with top-tier clients and partners including Apple, Google, and Blackberry.

Michael Spitz is VP of Digital Strategy at Ignite Health, with offices located in New York City, New York, and Irvine, California. Spitz combines his passion for technology with more than 15 years of clinical content expertise to help engineer healthcare communications solutions across numerous treatment areas for many of the pharmaceutical industry’s major companies. Follow @SpitzStrategy on Twitter for his daily – often hourly – updates on all things digital for the ultimate benefit of patients worldwide.

What do you see as the future of pharma mobile health?