Clinical Business Excellence

Mobile Medical Apps: A Great Way of Reaching HCPs?

Damon Lightley featued in Clinical Business ExcellenceDamon Lightley, Marketing Director at Genetic Digital was approached by one of the editors from Clinical Business Excellence to write an article about medical apps.

The article has now been published and appears on page 8 of the August 2012 issue of Clinical Business Excellence. It is titled: “Mobile Medical Applications: A Great Way of Reaching HCPs?” A PDF version is also available.

Mobile Medical Apps: A Great Way of Reaching HCPs?


The Benefits of E-Details

The benefits of e-detailsThere is no doubt that face-to-face promotion and presentation has been the major sales method of most medical device and pharmaceutical reps for decades. But the chance to sit down for a leisurely chat with the average over worked GP is fast diminishing.   It is an expensive and time-consuming way of getting things done and of getting the message across.  Pharma and healthcare companies are clamouring for more and more people ‘in the field’ as it has been proven that the face-to-face sales approach is inevitably the best.   But with doctors often feeling  “ambushed” by sales reps, is there a better way of making personal contact with physicians and getting information over in a way that does not have them looking at their watches every few minutes?

The Internet offers an option in its global dissemination of information, but if a rep is not sitting eyeball to eyeball with the medical professional, can they be sure they have understood or appreciated the benefit of the information being given, or will they simply move on if they have a question that does not appear in the FAQ list?

Enter the era of presenting information using tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy.  A survey carried out in 2011 found that 70 per cent of the doctors polled, either already used or planned to use an iPad in their working life in some capacity.  So, if a medical rep turns up to do his presentation with an iPad along with a truly interactive e-detail aid the possibility of engaging the medical professional will be increased.

Initially it might be a good idea to hold a brainstorm meeting and ask sales reps to list what they see as the benefits of using tablets. Get feedback from friendly KOLs too and then plan the content, along with a list of all the functional requirements that will be needed.

As you plan your presentation, design your e-detail aid to work and render properly on the various platforms, i.e. iPad, Android etc. This will mean using an intuitive interface. Focus on making any tablet based presentation work fast and elegantly. Don’t try to cut corners with this, you need to make a good first impression, to engage interest from the word go and if there has been any compromise on your design or material it will be obvious.

It is definitely not a good idea to introduce strata of intricacy by cluttering up the presentation with features that are not going to be important to the users. Trying to cram too much in is likely to be the biggest mistake, under the misapprehension that: “The more features your presentation has, the better it will look.”  This doesn’t work. The simplest detail you can manage will invariably be the most successful in terms of your viewer remembering the message and prescribing his or her intent.

The benefit of developing an e-detail specifically for a tablet is that this device has been built specifically for you to interact and engage with any content. For example, one idea that makes a good visual impact is showing how a medical device might work. You can present product catalogues, or perhaps provide a dosage calculator to enable interaction with the medical professional. You could think of including videos or perhaps 3D images.  Try to devise engaging ways to present clinical data and always try to include mode of action demos, and even, for the more fun-loving professional – educational games!

There is no doubt that arriving with a sleek iPad will make your presence feel less intrusive than struggling in with abulging briefcase full of large product catalogues and other sales aids.  As technology races on at pace, it makes sense for pharma and medical device companies to take advantage of the benefits tablets and e-details offer.

Diagnosis apps

Using Medical Apps for Diagnosing Patients

Using Medical Apps for Virtual DiagnosisIn May of this year Isabel Healthcare announced their new mobile application (app). The app is based on Isabel’s checklist system for diagnosis. The App allows doctors and nurses and other health care providers access to the app via iPhone, iPad or iPod touch mobiles.  Diagnosis can be established with the resulting possibility of treatment for patients being delivered faster.  And this innovative tool in the physician’s armoury has claimed a coveted top app rating in Apple’s Medical App category.  Where Isabel has gone many will follow and medical apps are beginning to make their presence felt in the medical community. Taking the Isabel App as an example it has been offered for download from Apple’s App Store with three subscription choices.  Customers can sign up for weekly, monthly or annual options, with the first level, the weekly option, pitched at just under £2.00 to attract the infrequent user.

Medical apps of the type offered by Isabel typically contain many thousand disease diagnostic markers both paediatric and adult and allow doctors instant access to the technologies that will help them make vital diagnoses.  Using a mobile diagnostic app a doctor does not even need to be in his hospital or clinic to diagnose a stroke in a patient and begin lifesaving treatment.  Using brain scan images that can be accessed via a smartphone and with an accuracy proven to be almost as reliable as the results of an ‘actual’ scan viewing, diagnosis can be made instantly.  This time saving ability is vital in the treatment of stroke victims.

Medical Apps – ‘Virtual’ Diagnosis?

Not everyone has welcomed this latest innovation in virtual diagnostics. There have been reservations concerning viewing detailed and complex anatomical images on a small 3.5-inch screen, from where critical emergency diagnoses will be made. However advances in image compression, microprocessors and wireless-data bandwidth, are likely to make this 21st century advance an essential diagnostic tool for doctors. For example, a CT scan image could be sent to a ‘cloud’ of the type that is commonly used as a storage device by PC users.  Downloaded to a mobile app or tablet, doctors could then zoom in to view images in more detail.  The use of this compression method to support any medical app is critical, in particular with the sending of high-resolution brain imagery.  Digital images are very large files to download and in a time sensitive situation such image files would take an hour to download using 3G or Wi-Fi.  Compression of the file overcomes this potential problem.

In countries where patients live in remote locations, this instant access diagnostic tool could prove invaluable.  In local or rural hospitals where medical staffing is limited, the instant access to patient’s results offered via this diagnostic tool, could also prove a lifesaver.

There is no doubt that this new application of technology will make a significant impact on the way in which doctors practice medicine both in and out of a hospital setting.   Gone will be the iconic picture of the consultant, clipboard in hand, with his entourage, visiting the wards.  In its place will be armies of medics with iPads and Android tablets that they can take home with them so that they always have a ‘virtual’ presence in their hospitals.

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FDA to create new guidelines for mobile medical apps

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to propose new regulations for smartphone apps.

The regulations affect a small number of medical apps in the States and provide a clue as to how regulation might develop in the UK.

Around 150 medical apps have been produced to date. These include patient diary apps and calculators for those working in the health sector.

The FDA has now launched a three month consultation in order to devise how it will oversee what it calls “mobile medical apps”. It is focusing on the apps that could present a risk to patients if they fail to work as planned.

These types of apps include those which enable doctors to see medical images on an iPad with a view to making a diagnosis from them.

Other apps that could come under the regulations include those which allow doctors to use their smartphone as an electrocardiography (ECG) machine, apps that calculate the maximum dosage of local anaesthesia based on a patient’s weight and age and apps that collect blood glucose readings to help manage diabetes.

The FDA has already approved a small number of apps for use. These include a smartphone-based ultrasound device and a medical iPhone/iPad app that lets doctors view medical images and X-rays.

Bakul Patel, FDA policy advisor, said: “There are advantages to using medical apps, but consumers and health care professionals should have a balanced awareness of the benefits and risks.”