Friend or Foe: The iPad and the iPhone


By Bob Mason (@BobMasonPalio)

Whether youre ready or not, iPad and iPhone apps are invading the business world and the pharma industry is no exception. As the workforce becomes more mobile, the ability to complete tasks and access information remotely will become even more indispensible to medical professionals in the future. While tablet devices are nothing new to the industry, the touch screen and portable technology delivers a range of previously impossible options.

Sure, the technology has some short comings. For example, the iPad, like the iPhone, doesnt allow applications to run in the background, limiting users from performing several activities at once the way theyre used to on a laptop. They also may not blend well with the corporate enterprise. Some users have found that iPads are blocked at the device level from active synching, meaning they dont communicate well with corporate systems. Or apps havent been developed that integrate with legacy ERP systems. Users may also face barriers due to Apples incompatibility with Adobe Flash. As a result, many eDetailing programs are not supported by the iPad. Of course, its just a matter of time until developers design programs specifically for the platform, overcoming this challenge.

The reality is, no tool does everything well. But what the iPhone and iPad do better than its predecessors is enable users to consume media in new and exciting ways. Tuned for Web, music, movies, books and games, they provide digital marketers with more opportunities to reach the target audience with robust, relevant Web, mobile and email experiences and interactions well beyond the limitations of earlier mobile devices.

And, some analysts believe theres a fundamental paradigm shift occurring in how we use computers, with a move away from desktop and even laptop systems to lower-powered, more portable devices that access data in the cloud or back at the corporate office via lightweight, specialized applications.

For pharma, iPad and iPhone apps present the following opportunities:

Eye-popping visuals – The iPad, with its 9.7- inch screen (compared to the constraints of the iPhones 3.5-inch screen), provides the ability to access larger, beautifully rendered interactive applications. Need a refresh on the human body? Explore different body systems with Blausen Medicals human atlas, an app that uses 3D animations to make anatomy come alive.

Marketers should be working with developers to take advantage of the tablets large display and multi-touch technology to bring exciting innovations to display and video advertising. Applications that bring information to life in a visually informative and interactive way deliver an experience that cant be matched by traditional collateral (or any other electronic platform).

Fingertip access to information – Reference applications let you take information with you and access it from anywhere, at any time. Need access to information about any of the thousands of drugs sold in the market? Check out Epocrates. This app shows drug interactions for up to 30 different drugs at a time and comes with several health calculators. No longer simply a textbook, the app provides intelligence with the swipe of a digit.

Along with a catalog of information, apps designed with interactive capabilities further engage users. Youll turn pages like a book in your lap. And you will love it. Youll read written content that is augmented with video and graphics, gathering as much information as possible. Other apps are designed to aggregate information sources, pulling everything together in one place.

Access to a greater audience – According to a recent survey conducted by Epocrates, one in five physicians is likely to purchase an iPad. A recent report from market-research firm Manhattan Research indicates that the number of physicians who own smartphones will increase from 64% to 81% by 2012. As the amount of time a physician spends with reps decreases, iPhone and iPad apps provide a new platform to connect and get in front of medical professionals. Adoption of these technologies is estimated to increase as applications become more sophisticated and robust.

Powerful Presentations – Put dazzling effects into a slideshow with more video, particularly for instructional purposes. Apps like Keynote have easy-to-use tools that let you add elements such as tables, charts, media and shapes to slides. Or, drag and drop photos, promotional materials or videos into the presentation. Interactive presentations increase the effectiveness of any program whether thats delivering training to the sales force or used as a marketing vehicle.

Currently, more than 140,000 apps are available at the Apple store with more coming every day. These 25 have been identified as ones that are revolutionizing healthcare. Users will tell you the iPad is fun and engaging. Like the iPhone before it, its a technological powerhouse with a multi-touch screen interface that is revolutionizing how we consume media. Isnt it time you joined the revolution and made friends with iPad and iPhone apps?

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