Welcome to the first in eyeforpharmas series of pharma app reviews. Each month, Tim Scorer looks at how sales and marketing execs can use apps to change behavior, add value, and connect
The focus of this column is pretty straightforwardhealthcare apps, not just mobile apps but also apps that live on social media platforms.
As we are all marketers it seems to make sense to select those apps that interrupt the status quo and change behavior.
That means no Angry Birds, no Mafia Wars, and no Shazam.
Boring of me, I know, but this is work.
If you dont have much app experience, get your phone out, download a few, and play around.
If you own a Blackberry, order a family bucket, sit down, and talk to your kids.
These guys are prepared to learn; kids are the experts.
Its not worthwhile getting all business until you have seen the fun side.
Then consider your experiences and figure out how this new tactical channel fits into your work life.
This is a channel we have to get comfortable with; its not an option to not ask whether it could add value.
When reviewing, four criteria are front and center.
Utility. Its not difficult to plan an app; third-party developers are equipped with the minimum standards with which to make something function. Despite this, its common to see poor build quality and shocking architecture.
Focus. We dont want apps that do everything; my phones got that covered. We want dedication, defined remit, and concentration.
Insight. Has this app been built around an actionable audience requirement thats taken a bit of rigor to get to? Does it keep its customer front and center? Alongside this these tools allow us to solve problems that we could never tackle in the past. We should be forcing our insight process to help feed them.
Diversity. Apples are not the only fruit. The Apple App Store has stolen a march on the slow coaches at Google. But if the app is good enough, surely it should work across at least Android and, if needed, Facebook platforms.
Blackberries have been ignored here; thus far most of the healthcare apps for these devices have been missing key functionality, and the numbers are not big enough to warrant them being a destination.
For the same reasons, I wont be reviewing Etch-A-Sketch apps, either.
But enough of this.
Thumbs at the ready, lets start to dissect some of the recent offerings.
Imagine a world where the quality of a consultation depends on a physicians ability to take a history, where language and culture dont get in the way of diagnosis. MediBabble is a robust history taking and examination application designed to improve the safety, efficiency, and overall quality of care for non-English-speaking patients. Its a professional-grade medical translation tool containing an extensive database of clinical questions and instructions, ordered to fit within the typical consultation style. Its written and reviewed by a panel of physicians, translated by professional medical translators, and vetted by medical interpreters. What makes this a real killer app is that physicians can say what they need to have amended, making it a genuinely organic resource. I gave it a go in two of its five languages (Mandarin and Russian) and it performed excellently, getting it right in both tone and content. Whats more, its free and currently works on the iPhone, with Android being an exciting near term goal. This app could change the space in which we talk to prescribers. Why didnt we think of it?
Here, the app itself is free in Apples App Store and, if you like it, you can pay a one-off fee to get unlimited access to the website, too. The app provides a good amount of digital content to provide UK medical students with a rich media revision resource. As well as having over 1,000 multiple-choice questions, 40 video exam guides, and audio case files, it hosts a forum to discuss online performance with other medical students. This is far from an aesthetic app; content has pretty low production values. It could also do with some structuring and categorization. But for me, this is a good app, using rich media right to help those with 90-hour weeks learn efficiently. Android users must stick to the old ways of revising, Im afraid.
Billed as a great iPhone app if you want to cut down on how much you drink, this quickly calculates units and gives users personalized feedback. The interface is clean and sensible, with the ability to select a drink using one of four drink icons. You then choose the strength, size, and number of drinks. In mid-session, tap on the add drink button to calculate the number of units, which are thenautomatically displayed. There is also adesktop version, featuringa personal drinks diaryand regularfeedback. Its not possible to download your progress, share with an HCP, or keep offlinebig limitations. With no fortified wines but Alco pops galore, it looks like this is aimed at the younger app user. There doesnt seem to be any understanding of what makes users reduce their consumption, which is presumably the aim. When I contrast this against the NHS quit smoking app, which has clear financial impacts displayed, this app seems to be devoid of any end benefit to reducing units. This feels lazy. NHS drinks tracker has been primarily designed for the iPhone but there is a version for other smartphones.
If you are considering a behavioral change app, your first port of call should be iBody. This market has been filled with dozens of little apps concentrating on specific sports or diagnostic measures. Its been crying out for a Swiss army knife of an app. iBody is one of the best health and fitness applications designed to help users get in shape and keep track of their progress. It doesnt restrict itself to simple metrics like BMI and basic exercise types. This app pushes it further, striving to be the whole dashboard of your health and fitness. Beyond BP, weight, and exercise, it utilizes GPS functionality to calculate distance/calories. Most impressive is the use of graphics to summarize progress, breaking down all the factors into simple intuitive displays. It feels as if you have a real partner in your quest for perfection. Another lovely touch is an allowance of four password-protected accounts, healthy generosity from this very tidy app. All this is packaged up with exportable files and regular updates, including integration packages for various Bluetooth/Wi-Fi devices, thus allowing everything fitness to integrate. The one shame: no plans to broaden this to Android. A German gem available in a load of supported languages.
Tim Scorer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is one of the owners of The Hive Group, which consists of the non-traditional communications agency Hive (hivehealth.com) and tech innovation firm eBee (ebeehealth.com). Tim welcomes suggestions for apps to review.
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