At the mHealth Summit, Pfizer charts its digital health destination

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

As mHealth gains ground in the pharmaceutical industry, the app will become as commonplace as the pill. And pharma titans like Pfizer are taking note of that.

"Patient engagement is changing," says Judy Sewards, Pfizer's vice president of digital and data innovation. "We need to evolve with our patients' needs."

Sewards and Dennis Hancock, Pfizer's vice president of global commercial solutions, will be joining forces on the main stage at next week's mHealth Summit to discuss the company's digital health designs. Their presentation, titled "mHealth: Going Beyond the Pill," takes place at 10:20 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9, in Pontiac Ballroom AB during the summit's opening session.

[Learn more about the 2015 mHealth Summit.]

Pharma mainstays like Pfizer see apps and mHealth platforms as important devices in the development of new and existing communications between company and consumer. Hancock points out that in the past, companies too often have been guilty of "launching and leaving" – presenting a solution for consumers, then getting out of the way and not offering any means of support or continued engagement.

With apps, though, pharma can not only determine what consumers want in a medication, but stay in touch with them to share advice, guide them toward continued adherence, and address any problems that come up.

Sewards is quick to point out that mHealth products need to be carefully tailored to the patient population and the pharmaceutical product – it's not all about mapps, she says, and not every product has a corresponding mHealth solution. With that in mind, Pfizer has developed a three-pronged approach. An effective mHealth solution has to:

1. Be useful to patients;

2. Be patient-centered – easy to use and easily worked into the patient's daily routine; and

3. Be committed to the patient throughout his or her treatment journey.

During the presentation at the mHealth Summit, Hancock and Sewards will talk about two of the company's successes to date – Quitter's Circle, an online initiative (including an app and social media connection) designed to help smokers kick the habit; and HemMobile, an app designed to help hemophilia patients and their caregivers track treatment and history and confer with the company on health and wellness advice.

Hancock says these mHealth programs work because they "put the patient first." Furthermore, he says he and company officials have been pleasantly surprised with "the willingness of patients to talk about what they like," so that Pfizer can refine and improve products.

For Sewards, mHealth platforms are more targeted than the simple pill or medication. They're personal, meeting "discreet needs that patients may have that are unmet" through traditional approaches. That might mean helping them connect with others facing the same issues – as with Quitter's Circle – or giving them information and advice specific to their needs, as with HemMobile.

"As the technology advances, the humanity behind it has to stay," she says. "We want to make sure we're looking beyond the shiny object – it's still about the patient dealing with a specific situation."

The mHealth Summit, part of the HIMSS Connected Health Conference, takes place Nov. 8-11 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Winter Harbor, Md., just outside Washington D.C. For more information on the mHealth Summit or the co-located Cybersecurity Summit and Population Health Summit, visit the conference website