A 2021 McKinsey study showed that overall use of telehealth and health-and-pharma apps during the COVID-19 pandemic rose as much as 38 times over previous figures, yet patients remain unenthusiastic about pharma apps. Pharma companies can change the direction of these trends. Taking a cue from personalized medicine and making judicious use of embedded pharma analytics can evolve apps to help practitioners deliver better care and patients achieve better outcomes.

The pandemic accelerated public adoption and acceptance of telemedicine and health apps, but the gains in enthusiasm aren’t spread evenly: As of approximately 2015, an industry survey indicated 66% of downloaded apps were pharma-related. But a more recent 2021 survey suggested that many consumers found pharma apps “mediocre.” A little insight into what’s working in remote health could boost pharma companies whose apps are lagging in popularity.

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Telehealth streamlines and personalizes patient experiences — pharma should deliver the same

Telehealth app usage has skyrocketed during the pandemic (along with a 300% increase in investment in the industry), with varying levels of satisfaction from users. Many current digital health providers seek to overcome the impersonal nature of remote healthcare and wellness by making their app user experiences highly personalized. With sophisticated use of data analytics and user-input data, apt analysis of medical and health history, and leveraging leading-edge technology to provide tailored responses and gather feedback, many digital health experiences are very much customized to each patient.

Consider industry-leading devices and apps like Fitbit and Apple Health: While not healthcare delivery apps, they track data in real time to construct a unique, customized profile of the user and deliver individualized recommendations. They also integrate with many other third-party health and wellness-tracker apps. 

Welldoc Inc.’s BlueStar app, which has been marketed as a digital assistant for diabetes patients, is specifically attuned to the patient’s personal condition, including “standard” physical activity tracking such as pedometer and heart rate sensor (like Fitbit or Apple Watch), but can also be integrated with glucose monitors and clinical care team workflows, sync with pharmacies and labs, and give the user tailored messages about healthy lifestyle and managing their condition.

This all runs contrary to medicine’s traditionally paternalistic “leave it to the pros” or “one-size-fits-all” approaches. The holistic, personalized approach that analyzes factors across a patient’s health (physical and emotional) has proved popular among patients and set higher expectations for personalized care. 

Pharma, on the other hand, currently appears to be lagging behind the engagement curve, remaining largely closed to even customer/patient feedback. Another frequently cited consumer issue with pharma products is that the impersonal nature of drug information leaflets can be daunting to patients. Many customers would likely respond well to an app experience that takes into account their individual health history and includes the ability to ask questions about their medication outside the pharmacy.

Analytics help practitioners and patients: Potential use cases

For practitioners: Understand patient backgrounds, spot drug interactions

Pharma companies wishing to improve patient outcomes by embedding pharma analytics into their practitioner-facing apps are in the challenging position of needing to focus on their core competencies rather than getting too far into the weeds during development. 

Embedded pharma data analytics in personalized care give practitioners a stronger grasp of patient background, health, other conditions, and possible drug interactions. They can also be used to show overall effectiveness, gauge the likelihood of side effects, and sync with patient info to help practitioners make better prescription choices. 

For patients: Personalize the patient experience, improve outcomes

Pharma data analytics can also create a deeply personal experience for patients, including tracking activity when possible/appropriate, and prompting interactions with the patient and with care teams.

Embedded pharma analytics can be used to display the likelihood of successful outcomes based on patient backgrounds and behaviors, both as a guideline for providers and as a motivator for patients. Creating a line of communication between the patients and the pharma provider also serves to increase engagement, driving better outcomes and a more positive perception of the company — as well as creating an additional repository of patient data from interactions with the app.

Buy and embed pharma analytics to achieve fast ROI and better app quality

Pharma analytics in apps will deliver more value if app makers focus on letting the pharma company play to its strengths, like patient wellness, clear communication about products, and effective treatment in conjunction with a care team. Choosing to buy and embed analytics from a third-party provider can be the quickest way to deliver analytics features, scale them with the business, and handle the sophisticated compliance needs that medical data can present.

Not having to build the entire pharma analytics infrastructure from the ground up allows the pharma company to get to market more quickly and ultimately deliver a better user experience. With the right analytics partner, pharma apps can truly deliver on their promise: improving care and outcomes for countless patients.

>>> Infusing analytics into apps and workflows seems daunting. Simplify it.

Learn the steps

Matt Madden, Sisense’s Senior Director, Go to Market, has over 20 years of experience in the data and analytics market. He’s held roles in sales and marketing, all with the goal of helping organizations make better decisions with their data.

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