For health and wellness, what are the technology tools that pharma can utilize? asks Digitas Health

New 'm.book' on mobile technologies recommends more engagement by pharma marketers and patient-assistance services

The expansion of mobile communications is well documented—there are now almost as many mobile phones as people on the planet—and smartphone and interactive-tablet usage is growing exponentially. How the pharma industry can capitalize on this is the subject of what Digitas Health calls an m.book, “The Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Going Mobile,” 2012 edition. The contents are a compilation of presentations and discussions coming out of a meeting Digitas Health held last November to identify key technology trends that healthcare marketers should be paying attention to. The specific technologies: Quick Response (2D) barcodes; HTML5 vs. Flash; augmented reality; audio tagging; and location-based services. Data are use of these technologies are presented, as well as compiled data on consumer and industry trends.

“Today’s healthcare consumer’s use of mobile communications is high and growing,” says Geoff McCleary, group director, mobile health, at the Philadelphia-based agency. “A patient, upon receiving a diagnosis or prescription, is likely to engage with her social network to find out issues about that action; health and wellness info are increasing a part of what is being researched and discussed in mobile channels.” And for the pharma industry that would want to be part of that discussion, the challenge is “how to present relevant information that assists the consumer.”

All of the discussed tools, one way or another, are able to add information to an action that the consumer might already be engaged in—checking in at a doctor’s office, making a purchase at a retail store, interacting with other media (such as the ability of audio tagging to enable a consumer to download information about what is being seen during a commercial). Meanwhile, the debate (such as it was) over HTML5, the evolving code for presenting content via mobile channels, versus Adobe Flash, the established method for presenting graphics on websites, is mostly over, with HTML5 becoming the choice for most programmers, and Flash increasing its compatibility with HTML5, says McCleary.

The m.book encourages brand managers to assemble teams to evaluate how to deploy these mobile tools, and to engage in what Digitas calls interactive prototyping, so that the techniques can be evaluated in forms that the consumer would actually see, rather than static scripts or storyboards.