Award: Healthcare Engagement Strategy 2012 Time & Place Award
Winner: Pfizer Israel ‘Public Restrooms’ app
“There are no Public Toilets in Israel”, says Tali Rosin, Public Affairs & Policy Manager with Pfizer Israel, speaking with me about Pfizer’s ‘Public Restrooms’ iPhone app. “which is a fact that amplifies the challenge to overactive bladder patients and women in general. So we launched a GPS app that locates the nearest toilet – restaurants included!”
The app, in Hebrew language for the local market in Israel and available in the Apple App Store, was downloaded over 15,000 times in its first two weeks after launch and reached Apple’s coveted “Top 25” most-downloaded list. It is a tool that uses location-based services to identify the nearest public restroom and share feedback from other users who have rated the facility.
Rosin explains that in Israel, like most of the world outside the US, the pharmaceutical industry is forbidden from marketing prescription products directly to consumers but that disease awareness campaigns provide a mechanism for engaging people without breaking regulatory rules. This, she says, leads to some creative disease awareness campaigns.
“The application was part of a campaign that had mostly TV commercials. But the TV commercials themselves dealt with the situation and not the solution”, Rosin tells me, explaining that the television commercials simply raised awareness of overactive bladder but did nothing else to practically help. But the problem for people with overactive bladder is that they often avoid leaving their homes for long for fear of not finding a bathroom when they need it, she tells me.
“So we thought, we’ll help them so they’ll know where the nearest toilet is, because they do suffer. And whilst doing that, maybe they’ll come to the conclusion that they might suffer from an overactive bladder and then maybe they’ll go to the doctor and ask for help”, explains Rosin, who says that it is not only overactive bladder patients who benefit from the app but anybody who needs a public toilet. “Not only those who suffer from overactive bladder benefit, but also mothers with little children, or anyone in Israel. So this is really practical for Israeli people.”
Rosin says that the app addresses Pfizer’s goal to promote health information while encouraging people to take action and seek help from a medical professional. “Pfizer’s motto is ‘Working together for a healthier world’ and we are really into educating, and promoting health. So if we raise awareness of this problem, which is a huge problem and many people suffer with it, then they will know what they suffer from. And if they go and seek help, it’s great for us”, she says.
The app includes a facility to automatically dial a Pfizer patient helpline from your iPhone. Rosin says that of over 1,000 calls made to the helpline, many wanted to know where to get help. “We received so many calls from people who said they had this problem and asked for help about which doctor they should go to, and were seeking information”.
With the combination of location-based services, social engagement and ratings, and integrated telephone dialing, Pfizer’s app breaks new ground for pharmaceutical engagement with patients. Yet Rosin says there were no major hurdles to cross in implementing it. “I had to obey Pfizer’s standards and regulatory compliance issues, but once you know your material, there are no obstacles. It was not made too difficult”, she says, crediting Pfizer’s multidisciplinary team with the successful deployment. “It’s always about teamwork. It’s the product manager, and the e-marketing manager, and business technology, and regulatory, and medical, and legal, and the country manager that has to approve anything. It has to be, and it is, teamwork.”
To others in regulated healthcare looking to innovate in patient engagememt, Rosin encourages optimism: “Know that you can make it happen… smartphones, and social media, open up such wide horizons that you can really start all over again. Suddenly you have more tools that you were not aware existed before.”
Pfizer Israel, for a simple app that exploits the rich functionality of smartphones and delivers practical help to consumers where and when they need it, we award you the Healthcare Engagement Strategy 2012 Time & Place Award.