Turning Patients onto Tablet PCs - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Turning Patients onto Tablet PCs
Tablets in the waiting room speed up the check-in process while providing health information to patients

Pharmaceutical Executive


Phreesia CEO Chaim Indig
From pamphlets to posters to informational magazines, doctors' offices are teeming with direct-to-patient promotions, and patients are starting to overlook them. To cut through the clutter, one healthcare-technology company created a device that replaces the common intake clipboard with a digital pad that collects patient information and responds with branded information.

Dubbed the PhreesiaPad, this device resembles a streamlined tablet PC with a ruggedized shell and a software program that is relatively simple to navigate. Patients enter their personal data, and the device produces a questionnaire allowing them to provide details about their ailment. Returning patients can use the pad to check information to make sure that it's up-to-date and list the reason for the visit. The system doesn't diagnose patients, but it uses information gathered from tailored questions to provide health information relating to the answers patients give. The data is then stored in an encrypted database—compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—and only the physician and staff have access to the information.

Here's the best part: Pharmaceutical companies can sponsor on the device branded or unbranded healthcare information that is targeted only to patients with appropriate diagnosis, and its wireless ability allows patients to click through to the Web for more information or to sign up for e-mail campaigns. Pharm Exec talked to Phreesia CEO Chaim Indig to learn more about this new marketing tool.

Why put a tablet PC in the waiting room?

So much media at the point of care consists of mass-marketed posters, brochures, pamphlets—but none of it targets the individual. We were looking for the best input and message-delivery device. We needed something that had a touch screen and was really simple to use. Finally, we needed a device that we were able to roll out to thousands and thousands of doctors at an affordable price.

How does your tablet work?

The system is fairly intuitive. The unit has no buttons, to avoid confusion, and has an embedded card reader that can read credit cards and certain insurance cards. It handles the entire intake for every patient, new and returning. And when the patient finishes inputting his information, the system delivers a very targeted point-of-care message to the patient.

How do you deliver the proper message to the right patient?

We do it by targeting them appropriately, based on the aggregate data we collect from questions, not based on any individual identifying information. At the end of the intake process, we deliver one very targeted message to one patient. Every time a patient walks in, he or she registers using the machine, thereby eliminating the clipboard and the sign-in sheet. We've been working with top-tier teaching hospitals to help us design specific, clinically approved intake questions.

For example?

Questions that help the doctor and the patient think about and identify any potential issues, which in the end means better healthcare. It generates questions such as, "Are you comfortable with your diabetes? Do you know your blood pressure?"

How do you choose what information is generated for which patient?

Putting your message out to everyone in the world is not as powerful as putting the right message out to the right people. If you're a pharmaceutical company, you don't necessarily care about reaching every patient in the doctor's office. If you are marketing a hypertension therapy, you want to make sure that people with hypertension on your therapy receive a specific type of message. And people not on your therapy, but also with hypertension, potentially receive a different message—one of adherence or one of brand awareness. And that message might not even be brand awareness; it could be things that highlight specific benefits of the therapy.

How do you present this system to the patient?

At the end of the intake, we present an interactive, targeted point-of-care message. It takes up a good portion of the screen, but it's not a banner ad. It's interactive. So it's like taking the screen and delivering a message that speaks to that patient at that moment in time. And it could just be three things to talk to your doctor about. Or it could be a sign-up page for the brand's program.

Can you give me an example of how this technology can be used to market to patients?

A good example would be hypertension. We are working with a pharma company that wants to help the patient understand the therapy they're on and understand questions or topics that they want to talk about with their physician. Questions include, "Do you understand what high blood pressure means? Do you feel comfortable that your blood pressure is under control? Do you understand that adherence for blood pressure is probably one of the most important things, so once you get your blood pressure under control you want to keep it under control?"

At what point does the marketing component come into play?

In this specific example, the pharma company is stressing a hypertension program. This marketer understands that by driving the specific conversation, it's been able to significantly increase the total market size in that practice and, thus, its slice of it. Because the pharma company was able to drive specific questions about long-term hypertension care, it was able to move people to more-specific therapies. The company's name and the name of the program were also prominently displayed on the screen. Awareness of this program increased by 63 percent in an independent study among clinicians, because patients were asking about this specific program. Dialogue between physicians and patients regarding hypertension increased 76 percent, which led to a significant increase in prescriptions.

What's the reaction been from doctors and patients?

The reaction from physicians has been incredible. Patients are excited that their doctors are finally adopting technology and that they, themselves, are being involved in the process in the waiting room—there's nothing worse than the 30 minutes of wasted time. In turn, doctors are now able to involve their patients in the clinical process and just get better clinical information.

What does a system like this cost, and who pays for it?

There is no cost to the doctor. We're building up the network, and then pharmaceutical companies pay only for the right to advertise. So it's like any other advertising program. Pharma companies tend to pay for a percentage of the patients in a physician's practice. They would never pay for the whole kit and caboodle. No one company is a sole advertiser.

What is the cost compared with other marketing opportunities, such as posters or health-information pamphlets?

For the impact it has, it's significantly more cost-effective. With a pamphlet, the patient has to go search out the material. And doctors don't have information for every possible ailment. So when you're sitting in the doctor's office, and you are a diabetic male, you might not want the pamphlet on erectile dysfunction. Or, even if you have diabetes, that doesn't necessarily mean you're searching for a better way to control your blood sugar. I often hear people say, "I'm still fighting to keep my cholesterol in line, and I take Lipitor." And I say to myself, These people just don't necessarily know that there are other therapies that could get it down 5, 10, 20 percent more.

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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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