Developing a Full Digital Mix Using Mobile Tools

We at Creation Healthcare were asked by eyeforpharma to run a full-day workshop in advance of its recent Mobile Strategies for Pharma conference inLondon. The topic was ‘Developing a Full Digital Mix Using Mobile Tools’, and attendees included mobile marketers representing pharmaceutical companies from around the world.

As a first step, we agreed that, at the end of the day, we would develop official findings for the workshop. We also agreed to share these findings with pharmaceutical colleagues who were unable to attend the conference. The team agreed on the following key themes and ideas as representative of the workshop.

  • Market research in advance is critical.
  • Good digital governance – including the change management efforts needed to drive it throughout the business – must be in place.
  • Technology should result in ‘self-fulfilling brilliance’, where users generate great content.
  • Technology needs to be seamless so that users don’t even notice its presence.
  • Mobiledoes not have to be high tech.
  • Mobileis just another channel.
  • Pharmaceutical websites should be optimised for mobile access.
  • The most likely ‘next big things’ include:
    • more regulation
    • the need to process ‘Big Data’ – i.e., selecting and translating the information we really need to improve health outcomes.

About the Workshop

We began the Digital Mix workshop by sharing a few key statistics, trends and ideas, viewed through the lens of developing strategies to integrate mobile into the marketing mix. Step one was to define the following key terms:

  • eHealth – Using information and communication technology such as computers and mobile phones to access health services and information
  • mHealth: Using mobile communications such as PDAs, smart phones and tablets to access health services and information.

The concepts of eHealth and mHealth are inextricably linked and share the common goal of improving health outcomes. For mHealth to be successful, integration is essential, as activities supported by mobile devices are often a means of strengthening and supporting broader eHealth programmes.

Next, we discussed a few statistics and figures:

  • By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide Global shipments of mobile devices already exceed those of PCs, laptops and desktops.1
  • By 2015, 80 percent of users will access the Internet via mobile device.2
  • According to Manhattan Research, 80 percent of doctors use smartphones and 95 percent use them to access medical information. And the number one search doctors initiate is… information related to prescription drugs.
  • Google estimates that 79 percent of healthcare companies do not have websites optimised for a mobile device; this figure is likely closer to 90 percent amongst pharmaceutical companies.
  • It is estimated that the pharmaceutical industry increased its investment in mobile marketing by 78 per cent in 2011 vs. 2010.3

In addition, we highlighted a number of emerging and existing trends:

  • Size matters: The bigger the company, the bigger the following. Large companies have an opportunity – indeed, a responsibility – to communicate, and smaller companies must really stand out to ‘get noticed’.
  • SoLoMo: This term is an abbreviation of Social, Local and Mobile. As people move from laptops in favour of mobile devices, it might be advisable for some companies to skip the ‘PC approach’ and go directly to thinking about implementing mobile solutions.
  • Closed Loop Marketing: Using CLM, marketers work together with other departments to bring accountability to the marketing spend. The goal of CLM is to track the sales cycle to determine how much return on investment was generated by each campaign. This approach is speeding up because of the growth in tablets, which present the opportunity to ‘close the loop’ between Marketing, Sales, Communications, Finance and other departments.
  • Stick to the core principles of good communication: This comprises three basic steps – Listening/research; speaking in the right kind of language at the right time in the right place; and adapting your approach as needed.
  • You’re going backwards if you’re standing still: Do not wait for detailed regulatory guidance, as it may never come. For a rule of thumb: When developing online content, use the same rules as when developing materials for offline use.
  • Do not suffer from information overload: Digital allows for the delivery of reams of data. Focus on the metrics that deliver your business goals and help you determine what you actually need to do.

Third, we described and discussed an area we referred to simply as ‘cool mobile ideas’.

  • MIAA: Medical Information Anytime, Anywhere gives healthcare providers access to electronic medical records on their mobile devices.
  • MediBabble delivers free, professional-level translations via mobile device directly to healthcare providers. It helps doctors communicate more effectively with their non-English speaking patients.
  • Dr. Chrono is an iPad app for electronic medical records. Doctors are paid by the government to use the app, with the hope that this will reduce the overall cost of care.
  • Quora is an online question-and-answer community that allows users to collaborate on questions and aggregate informative answers on various topics.
  • GlowCaps: Pill caps with a built-in reminder feature that has been proven to increase adherence amongst patients by 18% – 20%.

After working through several exercises and case studies, the group agreed that digital governance deserved additional attention. This refers to the processes, procedures and structures a company puts in place to gain more control of its digital activities, in order to reduce the risk associated with such initiatives and increase the company’s return on investment.

Good digital governance can be achieved in four simple steps:

  • Policies that foster understanding of digital activities and educate employees,
  • Digital Councils that enable high-level understanding of digital activities,
  • Strategies and Structures that are designed to deliver measurable digital results and
  • Change Management, which is necessary to ensure that digital becomes standard operating procedure and is not just a ‘nice to have’.

As we discussed digital governance in more detail, the team agreed that an important consideration is how the organisation’s infrastructure is aligned – i.e., how well-integrated are software and hardware. Pharmaceutical firms are trying to accomplish this alignment via training, customised platforms for each division and bespoke digital business structures designed with the company’s needs in mind. Critically, it was agreed that, no matter where digital sits within the business, it must be part of the overall marketing planning process.

The result of gaining internal stakeholder engagement is that digital activities and approaches will become woven into the fabric of the entire organisation. One way to achieve this is by implementing a branded internal communications campaign that lets people know where the company’s digital programme is headed.

The final point raised around digital governance was where responsibility lies for these critical activities. Amongst pharmaceutical companies, digital is moving from communications to sales and marketing, with information technology (IT) losing out. On the positive side of the ledger, this approach is broadening the reach of digital teams. However, during this transition period, there is a tendency to ‘bolt on’ hardware solutions to address software-related issue, or vice versa. Proper measurement also is a significant area of weakness with a divided approach.

The group next discussed the explosive growth of mobile applications. The following points capture the essence of our discussion.

  • Mobileis currently confronting the same problems as digital did during the past few years. Companies must be where doctors are in the mobile space, rather than just ‘build more apps’. They also need to understand healthcare providers’ preferences when they arrive at their mobile destination and tailor their campaigns accordingly.
  • One app cannot do everything; there’s no such thing as a ‘Swiss army knife’ of apps. The most effective ones are those that target a niche and really deliver what’s promised to those people who are interested in that niche.
  • An important debate is going on at the moment within many pharmaceutical companies about when to use web-developed apps vs native apps. Building an app from scratch, in-house, is not necessarily the right answer.

Before the workshop ended, we presented a very brief summary of some proprietary research developed jointly by Creation Healthcare and eyeforpharma. Here are the highlights:

  • Laptops remain in the lead in terms of hardware, but the movement to tablets and smartphones is growing exponentially.
  • E-mail and SMS dominate in mobile activities, with the major growth areas being in mobile internet development and location-based services.
  • Nearly all respondents are ‘true believers’ in the benefits of mHealth for all – payers, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and patients.
  • The biggest growth opportunities for mobile deployment are in medical education (for doctors), and disease awareness and patient support (for patients).

In closing, it’s worth highlighting one issue that was on everybody’s mind – globalisation. Interestingly, it’s likely not what you’re thinking… The strong consensus is that the pharmaceutical industry thinks TOO globally. Each country requires a different approach and, while processes and templates are useful, ‘too much of a good thing’ is causing scores of mobile initiatives to fail. In particular, legal and regulatory department are struggling to keep up with mobile, and long lead times are potentially defeating the purpose of mobile – i.e., speed.


It’s clear that mobile marketing and communications are here to stay, and will only grow in importance. However, integrating mobile into your overall digital and marketing mix, and embedding it in your organization, is critical to ensure that you achieve the commercial success you seek.

To learn more about ‘Developing a Full Digital Mix Using Mobile Tools’, or to ask us about leading workshop for you, contact Robert.

1 – Gartner Research

2 – Ericsson

3 – Ernst & Young


Photo by Jay Schroderus

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