mHealth Apps: Brands missing both ends of the Patient Journey

mHealth Apps. As the saying goes, so much sound and fury signifying nothing. The stats are abysmal: 26% of health apps used only once 75% of all Apps get deleted within 3 months due to people not want to spend the time learning how to use them* 90% abandonment after 6 months** 57% of apps brought in fewer than 500 downloads** Just look at what IMS uncovered in an incredibly thorough mHealth App analysis last fall. Over 46,000 health-related Apps reviewed. Even with the rush-to-App that has occurred, there is a chasm between the good intentions of the Brand/Company and the needs of the patient. This chasm can be overcome. Frankly, to avoid irrelevance, it must be overcome. As with most marketing, it means using common sense, but it is not easy. As with many corporate marketers, they must look beyond the obvious opportunity to the human reality. The first problem is that even with a good User Experience, most Brand Apps crow about how helpful they are, and how important it is to track and monitor. And yes, that is important…early on, with the newly diagnosed, newly treating.   Thus, the majority of mHealth Apps are focused on functional recording of the person and their condition. Sure that works for a while, but we humans are tricky — we change. We evolve. Even the person who lead the IMS study, Murray Aiken, noted: “Researchers observed that the beginning of the patient journey is front-loaded with Apps, but as consumers soldier on, help becomes harder to find.”** The true patient insight is best captured by a Social Listening quote I once read from a Stage III Breast Cancer patient. It all comes down to recognizing and planning for the eventual emotional and spiritual evolution of the “sick person”. Why is poor adherence so universal across conditions? There are many reasons — but a big one? People do not like thinking of themselves as a “sick person”. Same with App abandonment. All that recording, monitoring, checking and logging eventually leads to an obvious insight: “I am not my sickness.” I even asked some psychologists to review a dozen well-known mHealth Apps with me and discuss their view. Here is a sample of what they told me: Since this is just the beginning of the Digital Era/mHealth, this is actually the right time to experiment, fail, learn from it and get it right. For clients, don’t fall in love with the idea you had, but the need you can serve. When planning for an mHealth App to support your patients, simple view it through the Patient Journey, in it’s simplest form. If your mHealth App does not litmus test itself against the Patient Journey, then stop and re-visit the project. To be reminded of the human point-of-view, I would put this on my wall to challenge myself:                   I leave you with one mHealth App (in Beta) that embraces this evolution of the human being from”sick person” to “new normal.” StandWith (). This App offers all the functional tools, but also provides the ability to — and here is where the evolution of need occurs, especially for the chronic patient — buy groceries, gifts, get a cab. In other words, it let’s you live. Do yourself the favor and read this inspirational article:     * Pew Internet Trust, 2012 ( ** IMS mHealth App study, 2013 (

*Pew Internet Trust, 2012 **IMS Health, 2013

I hate predictions, so here goes!

the future next exist 7.7

Don’t you feel it? Everything seems to be moving faster. Have we sped up? No, we are being led by the Speed of Digital.

When the Unilever head of marketing, worldwide, declared “Digital is dying,” he made it clear it was dead as a  separate “thing” or media or channel: it is ubiquitous. That it true. My old boss, Charlie Tarzian once told me, in the year 2000: the Internet is elastic, you make of it what you want.

For all of you who study and read our industry, sometimes a moment occurs when the lens comes into focus.

I would say that the paths and predictions I see emerging are:

  • A 5-screen world (the 5th being your car…scary, I know.)
  • Multi-channel switches over to Omnichannel (as many non-Pharma companies have)
  • Biopharma starts to form health consortium’s and partnerships with the other members of the healthcare eco-system.
  • They become more transparent and use their Medical Regulatory Legal process not as blockage against the world, but the home of wise guidance for how to engage and be safe in the world that is crowding in all around of us, e.g. Social Media.
  • Biopharma, already learning the process of manufacturing biomarkers, starts to build devices. (After all, Samsung announced it was manufacturing an RA treatment.)
  • Biopharma companies will take their extra cash and enter the world of tele-medicine, hospital networks and other parts of the healthcare system.
  • Emergence of Social Customer Service.
  • Richard Meyer of World of DTC blog believes Pharma companies should create their own communities* — the link is below. I think CML Earth was the first I know of. I agree with him — after all, why not sub-franchise Patients like Me to Novartis?

But none of this — or any of 100 other predictions — comes true without one thing. The Biopharma C-Suite.

I have seen a lot of research lately that seems to be hand-wringing from CMO’s and CEO’s over how to control this Speed of Digital, how not to fall behind but leverage it for business.

Has anyone seen examples in Healthcare — beyond Biopharma — where they see Digital Transformation work? Please share your own predictions or shred mine!



Melanoma rages, ASCO raves, families cry, patients wait and hope hope hope.

Yesterday my family, which runs a local melanoma foundation that is associated with WISTAR Institute (a truly great foundational science group), had our annual 5K run/walk we call Run4Cover. Our 9th year. If you do not know about WISTAR — and the amazing Dr. Meenhard Herlyn in the center of the poster — then you should. And if you are not keeping your kids (or yourself) off the tanning bed and have not matured past the Sun Worship stage, then shame on you. Seriously. This is such a common sense preventable disease, but once it gets going, you are not left with a lot of options. Until now. As I volunteered at the runners registration, I saw so many family running teams with their loved one’s face on their t-shirts; I spoke to many individuals touched by this scourge of a disease — dad’s, mom’s, sister and brothers. But it was only a few weeks after ASCO, the major annual oncology conference. The news is exciting, more promising than ever — and not one person I spoke to heard anything about it — even those in remission who hear that ticking clock in their lymph nodes. Check out this ASCO wrap-up quote and follow the link below to the full story: The long-term results (abstract LBA9003) show that the combination of ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab produced an unprecedented median survival of 40 months for patients with advanced melanoma, which is nearly double the overall survival previously reported with either agent alone. “Just a few years ago, the median survival for patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma was as little as a year or less…. So it’s truly remarkable that we’re seeing a median survival of over 3 years in this trial,” commented lead author Mario Sznol, MD, professor of medical oncology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “Even in the latest era of targeted and immunotherapy agents, the median survival is, on average, only about 16 to 18 months with any new treatment alone.”** Now I know oncology marketing is doctor-focused. But it is the patients who should be partnering, not just following, their doctor. It is easy to sit back and read all about “breakthroughs” like for Merck’s new treatment (coming soon), but the companies should be making armies of informed, empowered patients. If Merck has a “breakthrough” then shout to the hills! If BMS combo-therapies can extend life for years, then as a patient, bang on the oncologists door and demand to know everything about it. Last, I leave you with two photos. One, from the Run at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. For all that pain, look at how people celebrate and fight back with positive energy. Second, my sister, the president of the whom in over 10 years has organized the first ever melanoma global researchers conference. Who has worked with the FDA. Who has given tirelessly and never asked for anything but the satisfaction of seeing people heal, find solace, or find answers through WISTAR’s help. Wistar poster Run4Cover 2014     Yervoy has a patient program called “Your Voyage.” Kudos to them. Because that is exactly what it is — a rocky, hard, scary voyage. But now we have hope, hope, hope. Thanks, Kate. * **Thanks to MedScape for the ASCO news clip.