Race to the Killer App Redefines “Digital marketing.” Does Pharma Have a Role?

Last week I wrote about keas.com and their approach to adding "Care Plans" content and health guidance to their version of Electronic Health Records. For me, this was just more evidence that the evolution of digital marketing is happening and accelerating the trend towards Consumerism. Where can pharma/biotech marketing fit and not be marginalized?

Using the word "killer" in reference to health care could be considered bad taste. But the software world, where the term "killer app" is commonplace, is insinuating itself mightily into the future of patient and HCP marketing. This goes way beyond "Oh, we're moving more of our budgets to the online space", (3%?) or "We need to find new ways to detail doctors."

No, what I am speaking about is the the idea that technology, or rather, marketing technologies, are on the verge of changing pharma/biotech marketing wholesale.And maybe its good news.

In my email yesterday, I got this:

Medscape iPhone Ap

My MedScape newsletter makes me privy to an iPhone application that basically could be the basis for a an ePocrates (http://www.epocrates.com/) solution for patients. I had written about this a few months ago as a way to better educate patients, which unfortunately opens an ever bigger gap with doctors as THE authority on your health — but ePocrates stuck with HCP and launched it on YouTube months ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwwujfwLHOk).Also, an article from Apple on one hospital season uses it for everything (http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/profiles/memorial-hermann/.)

I especially find the "FREE iTunes" offer particularly odd since it is from MedScape — what am I am going to do? Buy the "Greatest Medical Hits" or "Songs My Doctor Played in His Waiting Room" collections? Humor aside, this is a great, common sense, advance for consumer-controlled health education and self-management.

Although when you see the YouTube video, the focus is still HCP — the fact is, MedScape gave a consumer (me) access to this data and education source. Ok, so typical consumers will not get it in the least, BUT this is a prime example and opportunity of consumer-facing technology that empowers the patients, undermines the doctor and once again makes the definition of "pharma/biotech digital marketing" a 52-card pick-up game.We need to stay relevant and in front of patients.What if pharma/biotech companies invested with epocrates to create a consumer version of this application?

Pharma/biotech, late to the party, is accelerating rapidly towards embracing the Consumerism mantra. In this example, how could the industry give more power to the consumer through the iPhone and get something in return?

With an iPhone app like this who is supplying the content? MedScape? What is their sales model? Can phama/biotech get in?  Can a brand elevate itself beyond to where brands really live — as facilitators. Then they can have the credibility to actually supply content to a patient on their phone, not as drug-pushers, but as the scientific experts. Maybe technologies like this will actually allow the marketing to help redefine the bad image the industry has — the Diovan Franchise Brand should be able to provide THE final word on blood pressure. Genentech BioOnc should be THE expert in making cancer understandable to all of us. 

Embracing credibility and authenticity might be a requisite move to get in on the killer apps as they come forth. Content is still king. And here is the ultimate litmus test: would I forward an article or Alert from
MedScape to my friend who's mother suffers from the condition
described? What if the article was authored by a leading scientist/KOL on a brand team? I just might.

(Update: and lo and behold, one of the creators of Gleevec, a true miracle drug, was allowed to speak to the public..maybe somebody gets this. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/science/03conv.html?_r=1&emc=eta1)