Posts Tagged ‘ePatient’

Granted, no one expects pharmaceutical web sites to exude the fun and games of say, The 21st Century Beetle – Rock ‘n’ Scroll, one of this year’s Webby Award winners. But even in their own category at the 2012 Webbys, pharmaceutical brand web sites were conspicuous by their absence. Of the five nominees, the lone branded drug site was FluMist’s Pick Your Nose—a clever take on Medimmune’s nasal alternative to the flu shot that made the cut for the second year in a row.

The real innovation in the category came from entries that were decidedly un-pharma. So much so, this looked more like the anti-pharma web awards. Which is a shame, really. Because the concept that seemed to resonate most with the Webby judges is one that also resonates with today’s empowered, engaged e-patients: helping healthcare consumers make informed choices. There’s nothing inherently un-pharma about that, is there?

So take note pharma. Here are ideas you can use.

Idea #1: GoodRx. My personal favorite and also the People’s Choice Webby winner, GoodRx aims to make prescription drugs more affordable for everyone, with or without health insurance.

GoodRx finds the lowest prices on 6,000 Rx drugs.

Co-founded by two ex-Facebook guys, Doug Hirsch and Scott Marlette, the site gives consumers the same kind of tools they use to find the cheapest TV or airline tickets. Just type in a drug name and zip code to compare prices from major US chain stores, mail order pharmacies and even some local stores. Plus there are store coupons, info on pharmacy discount plans and links to drug companies’ own discount programs.

What’s stopping any pharma brand web site from helping consumers search for the best prices for their product? Nothing. Except maybe fear of instilling sticker shock? But consider the alternative: at GoodRx, patients can also search brand vs. generic pricing. Talk about sticker shock then! Or they can use the GoodRx iPhone app right in the doctor’s office to get their doctor to write a prescription for the brand that best fits their budget. Maybe it’s better to head them off at the pass with your own product price search. Or, at the very least,with an easy tool that lets me check my health plan’s coverage or co-pay.

Idea #2: Ask a Patient  This year’s Webby winner for Best Web Site: Pharmaceuticals is all about patient empowerment. was created by Consumer Health Resource Group, LLC to help individuals research drugs and health care topics. home page

This year’s Webby winner for Best Web Site: Pharmaceuticals is all about patient empowerment.

If GoodRx is the Expedia of pharmaceuticals, then AskaPatient is the TripAdvisor. Instead of commenting on hotel accommodations, consumers review their medications, sharing side effects and success stories, and rate their experiences on a scale of 1 to 5. According to the site’s FAQ’s the average rating for all drugs in the AskaPatient database is about 3, which equals “average” or “somewhat satisfied.” After perusing a fair number of patient postings, I found as many high fives as low ratings. But like many other consumer product reviews, they are only one piece of the puzzle. (One person’s dream vacation can be another’s nightmare, after all.) However, AskaPatient certainly brings those dry adverse event profiles on the (mostly) unread PI’s to life.

What’s the big idea here for drug makers? I hardly expect them to open their web sites (or even their Facebook pages, for that matter) to consumer side effect complaints. On the other hand, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the elephant in the room. An honest discussion of side effects as part of real patient stories can go a long way toward managing expectations and improving adherence. My dream web site: one that compares side effect profiles of all drugs in a  category, in much the same way that auto makers openly compare the stats of their cars with the competition. Maybe next year?

Idea #3: Help I need help. The branding of this OTC line of single symptom remedies is childishly simple. And simply brilliant. From product names (Help I Have a Headache)…

Help Remedies delivers on a simple brand promise: less.

to plain Jane biodegradable packaging… to contents (uncoated, uncolored, single active ingredients), Help Remedies has cornered the market on less—less drug, less dye, less confusion. The HelpIneedhelp web site is an exercise in simplicity itself and a beautiful showcase for the brand.  There isn’t a single happy patient cliche in site.  (The only people on the site are in the simply produced, tongue-in-cheek videos.) The playfully restrained design invites interaction and makes it simple (that word again!) to learn more, find a store or buy online.

The message for pharma? Simply, help me.

Help me understand my condition and your treatment. Help me find a way to afford it. Help me manage side effects. Help me any way you can. With simple and personal language. With  easy-to-use tools. With relevant support. With whatever YOU would want if you were in MY shoes. Help me.

Then maybe we’ll see more pharma innovation at next year’s Webby Awards.

Two seemingly unrelated events occurred at 8 pm on Wednesday, February 16. Each breaking new ground in information technology.

  1. IBM’s supercomputer Watson handily trumped human champions Ken Jennings  and Brad Rutter in the final episode of Jeopardy‘s three-day “Man vs. Machine”.
  2. AstraZeneca (@AstraZenecaUS) hosted the first ever pharma tweet chat (#rxsaves) on patient assistance programs.

The timing of these milestones is not their only synchronicity. Far more significant is the impact that Watson’s brainpower could have on the central issue of AZ’s chat (and of our entire health care system, for that matter): getting the right health care information to the right people, right when they need it. Watson’s ability to communicate in natural language, while applying 1000’s of algorithms to the content of a million or more books in the blink of an eye, could well be the answer—a prospect not lost on the folks at IBM.

Next stop for Watson is not American Idol. It’s the doctor’s office.

On the heels of Watson’s Jeopardy! success the NY Times reported, “IBM will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.”

Wow! Just add a smartphone app and you’ve got a superhighway of medical education straight to the point of care.

Patients need cybernetic assistants, too.

AstraZeneca’s tweet chat opened with a simple enough question: “What is best way to increase awareness of prescription savings programs?” But as the ensuing discussion proved, the answer is far from simple.

Too much disparity in eligibility criteria from state to state, pharma to pharma.

Too many touch points. Should providers be responsible? Or pharmacists? Too little time.

And too few of the really needy and elder populations are within reach of online patient advocates and disease-specific social media, as this infographic from the PEW Internet and American Life Project shows.

However, everyone (soon, I hope!) will have an EHR.

The reasonable use requirements of health care reform have spurred the long overdue adaptation of electronic health records. Why can’t prescription savings resources be tied to these records? Then I could give Watson a ring to find out what’s available for all the drugs I’m taking and find out if I’m eligible. And while he’s at it, maybe he could help me find the best Medicare Part D plan for me? Or that might be a frontier too far.

Heck, we crossed two frontiers in one night. Let’s go for one more!

For social media junkies and pharma followers, there are good reviews of the AstraZeneca #rxsaves tweet chat by John Mack and Wego Health, and a transcript of the entire chat here.

Last week’s ePatient Connections conference in Philadelphia served up a healthy dose of sharing, caring and sometimes daring technologies to empower healthcare consumers. Rather than chronicle the event, which Jane Sarasohn-Kahn and Eileen O’Brien have done so well, I’ve chosen to sum it up with 5 sound-bytes that provide a big picture overview for all stakeholders to follow in engaging, educating and enabling patients and caregivers.

1. “Pervasive is persuasive.” David Rose of MIT and Vitality Glowcaps

For my money, “pervasive is persuasive” should be the mantra of all eHealth initiatives. This brilliantly simple observation encapsulates not only why we should be trying to connect with healthcare consumers through every channel possible, but also how to do it right. David’s point: Put information at the point of decision, where it is most relevant. In our ever more electronically connected lives that could be anywhere and everywhere, from the smart pill bottle in our medicine cabinet to our social networks.

Healthy messaging must be germane to who we are, how we live and what we value, a point echoed throughout the conference, but most notably by keynote speaker Victor Stretcher, founder of HealthMedia.  His 20 years of research on motivating healthy behaviors has yielded this “magic mix”: more relevant messages + less work for the individual = more behavior change.

Tactically, ePatient Connections offered lots of examples of pervasive, relevant and work-saving technology-enabled care. Quintiles’ iGuard medication monitoring service sought engagement with patients at a “critical point in the workflow”, the pharmacy. Pfizer Canada’s Smidge app was designed to promote healthy lifestyle activities in “the downtime between New York City subway stops.” And the popular FitBit device (on backorder until mid-November) goes everywhere you go (even to bed!) to monitor and track progress to your fitness goals.

2.  & 3. “You don’t want compliance. You want the patient to own the experience.” Dr. Danny Sands, Cisco’s Director of Medical Informatics

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s startling nevertheless, because it comes from a healthcare provider who is on the same page as patients. Patient rights advocate, Regina Holliday, put it this way, “We don’t want compliance. We want participation.” Are we beginning to see the breakdown of the barrier between true patient-physician dialogue? I hope so.

As Dr. Sands acknowledged—and Regina’s very moving personal story demonstrated—up to now the medical establishment has been all about hording info, about being the sole authority, even when they don’t have all the answers. But he sees huge power in saying, “I don’t know… Let’s look it up together.”  It’s an intriguing picture: doctor and patient sitting down at the computer together. Will they be visiting your website? I believe there’s huge power in facilitating these conversations.

4 & 5. “Truly advocating for patients is different from marketing to them.” Joe Shields, Director World Wide Innovation at Pfizer

Joe humbly talked about the challenges of his new job at Pfizer, but he certainly understands the ultimate goal, which MS patient and e-patient blogger, Lisa Emrich, put so succinctly, “Stop selling and start supporting.”

Certainly, ePatient Connections offered plenty of insights from patient advocacy groups and patients themselves about the support they need. There was the “compassionate technology” of Sona Mehring’s CaringBridge. The loss of trust when Teva pulled the plug on its popular patient community MSWatch. And the personal struggles with the healthcare system to achieve truly collaborative care, which is in everyone’s best interest, but especially patients.

The take-away for anyone trying to engage healthcare consumers is:

Be pervasive. One social media channel or one killer app is not enough. You have to be everywhere the audience is.

Be relevant. We now have the technology to truly personalize health messages. Make the most of it. “Be a person, not a machine.” (Brooke McMillan, LIVESTRONG) What would you want to know / do / use if you had this disease?

Be a facilitator. Open up and encourage more robust 3-way conversations between doctors, patients and peers.

And be supportive. Target and fill patients’ unmet needs.