Tunnah’s musings: the biggest barrier to digital healthcare is…

Paul Tunnah


Looking ahead to the Doctors 2.0 &amp, You conference in Paris, Paul Tunnah muses on how pharma and other solutions providers have to remember the needs and limitations of the user when developing new digital, technological and social media solutions for healthcare.

Modern cars are full of amazing technology. I can still remember learning to drive many years ago, when about the most complex piece of technology you would find on a car was the manual choke lever to help get it started during cold weather, or perhaps a snazzy cassette player if you were really lucky.

Now we have no need for maps, because every new car comes equipped with sat nav. Automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, which decide for you when it’s too dark or wet, are common place. Radios tune themselves, or you can simply plug in your iPod and have access to your carefully selected repertoire of thousands of different tracks. But the most amazing thing is the new safety technology coming through that can do clever things like automatically brake if you get too close to the car in front, let you see in the dark and even let you know if you are getting too tired.


“…the most complex and least well understood piece of technology in any car remains the organic bit that drives it…”


Unfortunately, despite all this clever technology, accidents still happen and in the UK, which has one of the better safety records in Europe, around 2,000 people lose their lives every year on the roads due to fatal crashes. This is because the most complex and least well understood piece of technology in any car remains the organic bit that drives it – the human being at the wheel.

In healthcare too we have a mass of exciting new digital advances promising to revolutionise the way we treat disease, or manage wellness, as it is being rebranded. These include things like using online channels or electronic medical records to better connect patients, doctors and the pharma industry, driving real time segmented research and outcomes data that can bring to life the promise of personalised healthcare (‘big data’ as it is now known). Or the promise of healthcare on the move – the world of mobile apps that let us not only track disease management and health, but can also serve as useful public health awareness and disease prevention tools.


“…the success of these solutions is more often dependent on understanding the needs and habits of the user …”


However, one of the biggest problems in realising the potential of such technology, rather like our engineers working in car safety, is taking into account (or not) the user.

I have been to so many conferences that discuss how the latest piece of new technology ‘should’ be the big breakthrough in healthcare – the solution that is finally going to tackle complex issues around awareness, diagnosis, personal prescribing or adherence. The reality, as we all know, is that the success of these solutions is more often dependent on understanding the needs and habits of the user rather than how good the technology is. So doctors end up not engaging with interactive edetails, patients stop using apps and everyone is so concerned about privacy that they remain reluctant to use online medical records.

It is one of the things I have admired, from afar, about the Doctors 2.0 &amp, You conference, which was first launched in 2011 by Denise Silber, a true pioneer of digital healthcare technology. What differentiates this event from so many others is the way it brings together different stakeholders – doctors, patients, payers, public policy makers and experts from the service side – to discuss not only the new technology coming through, but also what needs to be taken into account for it to be effectively used by people.

This year, I will definitely be attending Doctors 2.0 &amp, You, having been invited to moderate a session and act as a British Ambassador for the event, which is very flattering. But it is also exciting to know that I will be able to hear first-hand about some of the sociological issues that are critical to implementing healthcare technology, from all the different interested parties.


“…start by listening to the real issues – the needs and practical challenges of doctors and patients.”


A few weeks ago, I also worked on a webinar with Denise Silber, moderating a discussion about ‘mobile solutions for patients’ and it definitely gave a taste of what is to come. During the hour long discussion, only a minority of it was about specific apps and what they do, the majority was focussed on what doctors and patients want from apps and what developers, including the pharma industry, needs to consider when building new ones.

It has always been my view that the best healthcare solutions come when you get all the relevant stakeholders together to discuss the issues, hence the tagline for pharmaphorum being ‘bringing healthcare together’. It is also my view that the pharma industry must play a key role in this, as it holds the commercial expertise to efficiently deliver such solutions.

But it must start by listening to the real issues – the needs and practical challenges of doctors and patients. So I would encourage you to put down, for one moment, your iPad, mobile or laptop and join me in Paris on the 6th and 7th of June to meet some interesting people face-to-face and discover the real healthcare technology challenges.

Because the biggest barrier to digital healthcare is all of us.

For more details on Doctors 2.0 &amp, You click here.

To listen to the webinar ‘Mobile solutions for patients’ click here.


About the author:

Paul Tunnah is CEO &amp, Founder of pharmaphorum media, which provides digital content marketing and communications solutions for the pharma sector and also manages the industry leading channel www.pharmaphorum.com, a digital podium for communicating thought leadership and innovation within pharma. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

What is the biggest barrier to digital healthcare?