Tech Toys 2: Revenge of the App - Pharmaceutical Executive


Tech Toys 2: Revenge of the App

Pharmaceutical Executive



As one of the biggest vaccine providers in the industry, Novartis is well aware that parents face a huge challenge keeping to vaccine schedules for infants and adolescents. Between booster shots, immunization shots, and flu vaccines, it's very easy to forget a dosage.

Enter VaxTrak, a vaccine tracking application that updates caregivers about the latest vaccine information, keeps track of their children's vaccinations, and finds a local vaccination center. Launched in early 2010 and officially promoted as of May 1, Vaxtrak has already been downloaded by 3,000 people—and that's with very little promotion.

According to Farzan, the three main reasons for pharma to consider using the Apple platform are: ease of use, automatic and painless updates, and a built-in maps system that allows patients to identify nearby locations and get directions. Beyond vaccine centers, pharma can use apps to help patients find specialty physicians, healthcare centers, and clinics.

The application eschews traditional branding; it states that it was created by Novartis, but there is no Novartis logo and zero product branding anywhere on the program. The company also made sure that the program includes all vaccines, not just those it provides.

"We decided that the application should not be about one vaccine or another, but around the whole schedule," Farzan says. "But we had to be careful about making sure that the vaccine schedule is up-to-date and can be further updated if the CDC makes a change recommendation."

Parents can change a schedule if they don't want a vaccine at a certain time. And while it does list CDC's recommended schedule of vaccination, Novartis made sure that it didn't appear as if the drug company was making the schedule for the parent.

"We don't want to be too prescriptive with the parent, and we want to give them the ability to delay a vaccine too," Farzan says.

VaxTrak has clearly cut through the app clutter and is resonating with caregivers. The plan now is to educate physicians about the app and get them to recommend it to patients. "There are millions of apps out there so it's hard to find a way to break through," Farzan says. "Our vision is to provide this physicians as a tool that they can talk to their patients about. The channel here is through the doctors."


Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is leading the mobile application charge with two strong programs: Black Bag, for physicians; and its latest addition, CareConnector, designed to provide caregivers information that will help them better care for their patients.

"If you've ever dealt with caregivers who work with patients with an acute or chronic condition, you know that they are taxed," Volpe says. "They are often frustrated and can't find the information they need."

J&J created an application consisting of relevant data points for caregivers to have with them at all times, particularly during an emergency or when speaking with a physician. Launched in December 2009, the application contains insurance information, health provider info, emergency contact data, and lists to keep track of the patient's daily treatment regiment (be it therapy, medicine, or exercise). The inclusion of a journal allows parents or caregivers to write about a situation or even take a photo of an incident (such as a seizure) and email it to the physician.

"The most important thing to consider when building an app is functionality," Volpe says. "You must make these applications so that people can use them. Most developers overdo it—they only need a Volkswagen, but they try to create a Cadillac. We wanted to start out simple, get some feedback, and build out as we see fit."

One big challenge was catering to caregivers that work with patients with many different disease states. To satisfy everyone, J&J built in core elements that cover important caregiver questions, and the company is constantly refining the program through frequent updates.

The whole program took eight weeks to develop and get approved by Apple. The app's popularity got a huge boost after Apple spotlighted the program as a featured application. The team behind the app was glowing over the positive reviews and download numbers.

"We designed CareConnector around the day-in-the-life of caregivers," Volpe says. "We are solely focused on that and we're not trying to sell other products around this—we are in this game for those folks and are trying to make their lives easier."


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