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Julian Upton is Pharmaceutical Executive's Online and European Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pharm Exec talks to AstraZeneca's Jenny Streets about the new AZHelps mobile and social media platform.
Last week AstraZeneca expanded its patient support offerings to include AZhelps, a new platform to help patients manage information across their medications through their mobile devices and on social media.
The centerpiece of the program is the AZhelps mobile app, which gives eligible patients prescription savings, personalized healthcare information, lifestyle advice, and the ability to connect with the AstraZeneca Information Center via phone or Twitter. The drugmaker has described the program as "a new way for people to take charge of their health".
Pharm Exec talked to Jenny Streets, AZ's Senior Director of Customer Experience + Innovation, who led the team behind the AZHelps program, about how the app was developed and what distinguishes it from other products in the mobile health space.
PharmExec: How does the AZHelps app advance on other available healthcare apps and programs?
Jenny Streets: In an increasingly connected world, patients are looking for resources and brand experiences that not only meet their basic needs, but also help improve their lives. Along with this, they expect faster response times and increased convenience as well. Both the AZhelps app and website provide AstraZeneca an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with patients and deliver tips and resources designed to help make their lives better, as well as provide savings offers for eligible patients.
Can you describe the development process behind the app’s design and functionality?
Our approach was to develop natively for iOS and Android (iOS + Android account for ~96% of OS penetration globally). By developing natively, we were able to design the optimal user experience for all form factors across Apple and Android devices, and enable agility in program maintenance and enhancements. Functionally, the core utilities of the app are operated by an API middleware with integrations across AZ’s Global Content Management System (CMS), multiple 3rd party partner capabilities, and HIPAA compliant reimbursement data processing.
How do you think patient’s digital activities and demands have changed over the last three or four years?
AstraZeneca, like many companies, saw its mobile moment occur last year - so we knew more patients were looking for us via their mobile devices and we saw an opportunity to remove some of the friction (or difficulty) from managing your health in the "on-the-go, I-need-savings, I-need-a-reminder, I-can’t-remember" health moments that all patients live with. So to meet this need and the changing habits of patients, we created this mobile-first program that would provide savings, tools and resources through an app, SMS and mobile sites in those moments.
Did you involve patients and other stakeholders in the program’s development process?
AZhelps was developed cross-functionally, led by the Customer Experience + Innovation team at AstraZeneca. Teams from brands, IT, regulatory and marketing sciences were actively involved from the design, development, and delivery of the program. While patients weren’t directly involved, patient insights sourced from market research, user experience testing, social listening, and SEO analysis were central to development.
To what degree does the app/program offer a two-way conversation between the patient and the drugmaker?
Many consumers have grown accustomed to interacting with companies via social media. There is an immediacy and transparency to it that many prefer. Consumer expectations for the pharmaceutical industry are no different and our goal is to be there for our patients in this way.
When it comes to answering patient questions via social channels, we are working hard to provide answers in the most human, supportive, and timely way. Since the launch of the program we have developed over 60 tweets and Facebook responses that are individually tailored to each patient. Given the regulations our industry operates under; we prefer to take personal conversations off public social media in order to protect the privacy of our patients. We encourage those who have questions to have a one-on-one conversation with an AstraZeneca representative, who will address their concerns compassionately and privately.
How was it decided which AZ brands to include in the program? Will other brands be included in the future?
The AZhelps program is multi-faceted and currently not all brands are included in every part of the program. The program includes the mobile savings card, which is a core utility of the program and a new delivery channel for savings cards. 16 AstraZeneca medications (all with a commercial savings program) are accessible through the mobile savings card. And 12 of these brands have the mobile card available for download on their mobile sites.
The program also includes the AZhelps App, which includes the mobile savings card and other core utilities of the program, i.e. Simplified mail-order reimbursement, one-tap refills, reminders (medication and refill) and tap to call or tweet our information center. Nine brands are currently in the app and five additional have started onboarding.
We intend to keep the patient and the utility goals at the core of the program as it evolves. We are in a constant state of testing, learning and optimizing and anticipate on expanding the program to include more brands and features.