Mobile Apps & Search to Enhance Doctor-Patient Discussions

The sheer power of the mobile device. Power at our fingertips that grants access to an amazing, vast center of knowledge. Working with digital tools, how deeply we can engage an audience is dependent on how well we can take that knowledge and turn it into something consumable, usable – a seamless integration into our lives. Websites, apps, mobile sites, social media and integration with technology offer so much potential – begging to be organized into more instinctual ways we can understand, interpret and interact with the information we seek.

The ultimate goal as a digital strategist is to have my audience participating in an experience so immersive that they focus solely on the content they’re exploring, making it something they’ll remember and re-use.

There still exists a large gap between what the pharma industry is offering via technology, where the actual potential lies and what is needed.

As an example, technology has already begun to revolutionize the doctor visit with physicians now making mobile devices and search a seamless part of their routine. Data supporting physician use of mobile devices use can be found here: “What’s Pharma’s Impact on the Mobile Health App Space?” via MedCityNews.com. An interesting fact:

“…More than half of physicians said they were integrating tablets in their practice, most of them iPads, a survey last year revealed. About 75 percent of physicians said they owned some form of Apple device, according to a survey…”

In the article, there is more detailed data on many other apps from pharma via connected links from HIT Consultant and Pocket.md.

Additionally, in “The Doctor’s Digital Path to Treatment,” Google and Manhattan Research interviewed 500 physicians to get a snapshot of the adoption of search and mobile devices as part of their daily routine.

Here are a few stats from that study:

  • Physicians perform an average of 6 professional searches a day
  • 68% of physicians are prompted to use a search engine because a patient seeks more information during a consult
  • 84% of physicians search on condition related keyword terms. Only 17% search on pharmaceutical manufacturer terms

Search and the fact that a mobile device may already be in a physician’s hand during a patient visit offers a unique opportunity: Let’s use that device to better communicate information about a disease or condition to the patient in a way they are more likely to understand. Technology allows touch interaction, video provides a visual means of understanding. Memorability even comes merely in the form of awe in how cool an app may be, leading one to explore others like it.

A great example of an education tool for doctors to use with patients is the (now neglected!) AFib Educator App (Available on iPhone and Android/Google Play). You can read more about the app on iMedicalapps.com, but with its launch, sanofi-aventis set out on an adventure to educate patients about Atrial Fibrillation, giving an easy way for doctor’s to explain it. Disconnected from the brand, the app was built to educate, offering life-like but animated videos showing a normal hearth rhythm vs. an AFib rhythm, with bonus X-ray and EKG videos to boot. Here are a few screenshots:

Done well in its time, it’s been disappointing to see it fall to the wayside. It’s been neglected since 2011 in design, quality and user experience. Most probably don’t even know it exists, but every doctor I’ve shown it to has found it to be interesting and helpful, always saying that pharma should invest more in efforts like this to help patients understand their health.

Despite not being kept up, the AFib Educator app still provides great value, but thinking at an even higher level: The use of interaction and video on mobile devices in doctor/patient conversations to explain a condition or disease can facilitate a more productive discussion, foster education and hopefully lead to increased interest in health and, therefore, healthier people.

It doesn’t even have to be an app, as we know video and search go hand in hand.

I hope we see more of this in the future. If you know of any apps like this that are out there please do share in the comments below!

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