Is There An App For That?
So far, the few apps that have been released for consumers have been healthcare information dissemination tools, which have
little to do with marketing regulations.
"What you are seeing at this point is a recognition from pharma that it needs to change the way the companies are working
and talking with their customers," Myers says. "People have come out with unbranded work that is about disease state support,
which it appears as if pharma had stepped away from. The apps from Sanofi-Aventis and Novartis are on the cutting edge—they're
using GPS-based technology, which is all the buzz right now."
(GETTY IMAGES / THOMAS NORTHCUT)
Early applications were one-way conversations, but things have changed and new apps that really integrate into peoples' lifestyles
are beginning to appear on the market.
"That appears to be the best way to reach your customer," says Marty Hardim, senior vice president, creative director of media
lab at Palio. "You're not delivering a message, but you're helping patients."
The most remarkable, and useful, applications will be connected to tools like biometric sensors, Gratton hypothesizes. "Suppose
I'm an Alzheimer's patient. My mobile app can constantly monitor my GPS position. If I lose my way, the app can set off a
trigger that alerts caregivers about where I am.
"We are already seeing things like this on the market, but we're probably 12 to 18 months before we start seeing pharma companies
create apps like these and release them on the market."
APPLICATION SPOTLIGHT #1
Sanofi-Aventis worked with inTouch Solutions to create an application that allows users—particularly people living with diabetes—to
track their calorie intake. GoMeals is part of a campaign that includes a interactive Web site and a YouTube channel.
"Applications are just as popular in the diabetes community, so we looked at challenges that patients face where mobile could
be used," says Lynn Crowe, senior product manager, diabetes marketing, Sanofi-Aventis.
One of the biggest challenges for diabetes sufferers is carb-counting—the process of making sure they know how much carbohydrate
they are consuming, which correlates to the amount of insulin that must be injected. While there are plenty of books and Web
sites that can help, few patients can figure their carb intake at a restaurant or do the math on a foreign food they don't
eat on regular basis.
"It's a daunting task that takes years of practice. And people are still not always accurate," Crowe says. "[GoMeals] takes
a tool that was well developed on Web sites and puts it in the hands of people when they need it, such as at the grocery store
or when they're having dinner with friends."
The other big challenge was to create a program robust enough to best the other calorie-counting apps on the market. To do
this, the team joined forces with CalorieKing and built a database tailored to the diabetes community.
Sanofi-Aventis talked with patients and dieticians to determine the perfect mix of tools for the application. These include:
a calorie goal, the ability to track against that goal, and a way for patients to understand the percentage of the breakdown
of the calories that they eat each day. Additionally, the app lists menu items and nutritional value of more than 40,000 food
items. If there's a restaurant that a patient would like to see in the app, they can simply send a tweet to SA's GoMeal's
Twitter account, and the team will try to get it into an upcoming update.
The company made a concerted effort not to focus on the disease state on the app, and instead tailored the program around
making good choices, which, according to Crowe, is a far less daunting task when you are working with a disease that will
last a lifetime.
"There's a bit of a philosophical intention to remember that folks with diabetes are living their lives like everyone else,"
Crowe says. "And we just want to get the tools in their hands to remove some of the barriers they have when they are trying
to be successful with their disease management."