by Eva Augustyn
Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally targeted their communications at doctors, pharmacists and health care professionals since direct communication with patients is heavily regulated and restricted (particularly outside the U.S.). However, technological developments have triggered a new era in healthcare; the era of rising patient sovereignty. More and more patients now compare experiences in web forums, google information on treatments and arrive at their surgery sufficiently well informed to debate their doctor’s advice.
Web-based Personal Health Records (PHRs) created an initial flurry of excitement in the industry, but the latest health-related applications for the iPhone take even greater steps to put patients in the driving seat of their healthcare experience. The ‘My Life Record’ iPhone application, for example, allows users to access and share their medical records, including medical imaging and lab results. ‘ePocrates’ and ‘iPharmacy’ allow users to browse information on thousands of drugs including dosages, side effects and interactions, and to search for a pill’s profile by entering its colour and size. ‘Symptom Navigator’ helps users match medical symptoms with treatments, ‘iEyeExam’ offers a quick eye test and ‘MyNetDiary’ lets users analyze and plan their diet and track body fat and muscle percentages.
These applications are just a handful among a plethora of technological and software developments that are increasingly exposing pharmaceutical companies and their products directly to patients. They are a vital reminder of two things: 1. The growing need for these companies to manage their presence before this audience, and 2. The growing demand, and expectations, of all consumers for tailored and useful content, especially within digital channels.