Why is Pharma Ignoring a $2.4 Billion Business Opportunity?

App store

By Sven Larsen

Quick, what’s the fastest growing segment in the digital space? Facebook? Twitter? Both of those platforms have posted impressive growth over the last year. But perhaps, the most astounding story in terms of consumer & developer adoption has been the growth of the iPhone Apps store. Mashable reports today that the number of approved apps for the store has just broken the 100,000 mark. That’s an impressive figure. Even more impressive is the fact that in August they estimated that the size of the iPhone economy had reached $2.4 billion.

So where are the Pharma apps? A look at the top 10 paid and free apps doesn’t show a single Pharma sponsored or created application. As one might expect, WebMD is a big player in this space (with their Medscape mobile application) and there are a number of clinical and reference tools for healthcare professionals. But why can’t there be sponsored apps for helping diabetics with their diet or reminding patients to take prescribed medication. Heck, they don’t even have to be sponsored. If Andrew Johnson‘s organization can charge for advice on weight loss or regulation, why can’t there be paid guides for managing pain or tools for tracking blood pressure?

The lack of applications is really just a symptom of the larger issue. Since Pharmaceutical companies have had (legitimate) concerns about how social media could be utilized without running in to regulatory and compliance issues, there has been an industry trend to ignoring almost all activity in the digital space. But iPhone apps, like YouTube and many other platforms don’t carry the risk involved with social applications. The conversation is strictly one way and these new platforms provide tremendous opportunities for education and engagement with the consumer.

As the Pharma industry holds it’s collective breath waiting for the FDA hearings on social media next month, it’s a perfect time for us to explore some of these other opportunities. Let’s work towards the day when a patient can ask his doctor how to track his medication intake and the HCP can respond …

“There’s an app for that.”

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