Mobile health and the future of life sciences marketing

Mobile health and the future of life sciences marketing

2018-05-17T19:17:33+00:00 April 4th, 2018|Healthcare Marketing, Physician Demographics|

Medical professionals are enthusiastic about the possibilities for treatment offered by the rapid development of mobile health technology. Among the 734 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants surveyed for the 2018 Annual Healthcare Professional Communication Report from Healthlink DImensions, over 87 percent of respondents said they thought wearable devices had the potential to improve patient care and medical outcomes. For life sciences organizations, this widespread interest in the potential of apps and remote monitoring devices is a vital consideration.

Health insurance payers, medical device makers and pharmaceutical companies may all benefit from communications strategies that account for the emergence of mHealth and the burgeoning optimism from healthcare providers. An expanding market for wearables may drive innovative products, new approaches for marketing and, most importantly, advances in diagnosis and treatment. With these factors in mind, businesses can develop appealing physician communications that look ahead to the changes that are currently taking shape in how we manage health on a daily basis.

What doctors want out of wearable devices

"Medical professionals see a range of potential uses for mHealth devices."

Medical professionals see a range of potential uses for mHealth devices, beginning with empowering patients to do more to manage their own well-being. In addition, the findings could be useful for tracking chronic conditions and encouraging compliance with a medication regimen. Over time, devices might be used for collecting objective data and to develop feedback systems that send health-oriented alerts and notifications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provided detailed guidance to life sciences organizations developing mobile medical apps. Like other types of medical devices, the agency regulates programs based on their level of risk and striving to promote greater safety and effectiveness. These restrictions are focused on apps that either make a mobile device function as a regulated medical device or as an accessory to one.

However, researchers and healthcare facilities must still overcome numerous obstacles to make the broader adoption of mHealth strategies feasible. While wearable devices for tracking general health and fitness for personal use have long since become a familiar sight, advancements in using a similar approach for clinical purposes are still getting off the ground. A report published in Science Translational Medicine noted that some of the major challenges include:

  • The need for more high-quality research and data.
  • The costs of implementing new systems.
  • Concerns about patient privacy, regulatory compliance and security.
  • Technical challenges in gathering and storing findings from sensors in electronic health records systems.

Recent developments in mHealth

Though there is still much research and innovation yet to come, mHealth has made a number of promising leaps in recent years. According to Medical Economics, more than 165,000 apps have launched over the past 10 years. With the implementation of  21st Century Cures Act in 2017, the FDA excluded a range of health-related software from the stricter regulations that apply to medical devices, allowing a faster path for many programs to come to market.

Early 2018 brought progress for several apps and devices that could have important long-term implications for diagnosis, monitoring and treatment. mHealth Intelligence reported in February that regulators cleared a wearable device employing machine learning technology to detect seizures by measuring electrodermal activity. When the user experiences a grand mal seizure, the device alerts caregivers through text messages and email, resulting in a faster response and fuller documentation of the condition.

Later the same month, the Palo Alto, California-based firm, Cognoa, announced the first steps toward FDA approval for a mobile platform intended to diagnose autism earlier. The program gathers data from a child's activity at home to identify risks for behavioral delays, providing data to specialists and guidance for parents. Regulators designated the AI-driven program as a class-2 medical device, allowing the company to begin marketing to healthcare providers and payers while continuing to move toward full clearance.

New products continue to appear at a rapid pace, even as medical professionals are still determining how these digital tools can play a larger role in clinical applications. Most of these devices and programs are still oriented toward personal care and generalized advice, rather than providing expert guidance from specialists. However, the emergence of more precise and reliable mHealth products and increased buy-in from providers could transform this landscape in the near future.

Doctor holding tablet.Many doctors are interested in finding more uses for mobile health devices.

Targeting physicians with tech-oriented messaging

For life sciences businesses, the rise of mHealth apps and devices could point the way for effective marketing efforts. Marketing and sales teams hold the attention of healthcare providers by connecting them with information about interesting advancements, educational opportunities and, especially, ways to serve their patients better. Offering insight into the latest news on apps designed to enhance or streamline the functions physicians find most valuable, like tracking chronic conditions and improving treatment adherence, could be a crucial step in engaging medical professionals.

Maximizing the effectiveness of these messages requires segmentation and thoughtful customization driven by business intelligence. Organizations enable the deep engagement necessary for a lengthy purchase journey by directing targeted medical email marketing initiatives to the providers who are most likely to benefit from them. When marketers build their approach around extensive, reliable data, they can make wiser decisions in their campaigns and deliver improved outcomes for their organizations.

A successful approach to physician email marketing begins with a database of current contact information and institutional affiliations. Focusing on the specialties of healthcare providers and the demographics that they serve can offer a sense of what types of mHealth products would most benefit their patients. Businesses can then gain a fuller picture of the needs of these physicians by looking at treatment insights based on insurance claims, revealing what conditions they frequently manage and the methods they have used in the past.

Mobile health is poised to make a major splash in the medical world, impacting the ways doctors gather key findings and remotely administer care. Life sciences organizations can achieve results by taking note of the key areas of interest for medical professionals and tailoring messaging accordingly. Education and opportunities in changing technology can be a cornerstone of marketing and outreach efforts for pharmaceutical, health insurance and medical device companies.