Lisa Banket
Cofounding Partner/Publisher
Taren Grom
Cofounding Partner/Editor-in-Chief
Heather Hummel
Project Coordinator
Dan Limbach
Producer, Webcast Network
Denise Myshko
Managing Editor
Kim Ribbink
Features Editor
Robin Robinson
Senior Editor
Marah Walsh
Cofounding Partner/New Business Development

PharmaVOICE Editors' Blog

Monday, March 26, 2012

Where's the "Angry Birds" for Pharma?

If you aren't familiar with Angry Birds, you have successfully avoided one of the biggest crazes in game apps. But if you're like everyone else, you've either played it, or you at least know people who have played it. The most recent version, Angry Birds Space surpassed 10 million downloads in its first 3 days, on top of 700 million total downloads for the franchise to date. That's an impressive adoption rate any way you measure it.

The Life Sciences industry has been quite active creating hundreds of apps for HCPs, sales reps, and adult patients. You can see a fairly comprehensive list on Pocket.MD, organized by sponsor company, category, condition, and device. The apps run the gamut from HCP reference apps to monitoring and disease management apps. Lots of diagnostics, personal logs, and calculator apps. My cursory search for game apps in this space came up wanting. No blockbuster "Angry Birds" for pharma yet, but that doesn't mean a good game app doesn't exist. It may just not have exploded onto the scene yet. Please leave a comment if you know of a healthcare game app that has hit the big time. I'll continue searching, and I'm hoping you can help.

I believe there is a huge underserved niche just waiting to be filled. Here's what I'm hoping to discover, or see emerge in 2012. Imagine an app that was as fun as Angry Birds, sponsored by a pharma company. I envision a game app for serious children's diseases, such as Leukemia or Juvenile Diabetes. The app would allow the child (and parents, siblings, & friends) to better understand the basics of the disease, and how it is treated. The game would work best if it is not a literal interpretation of the disease and treatment. No medical-grade illustrations of blood cells needed.

Imagine a herioc adventure, where the player battles the enemy (Leukemia cells). Certain aspects of the disease and treatment may be embedded into the game mechanics and design, such as a cartoony Luko Beast (the enemy), a Super Amazing Keemo Attack lauched from a steampunk-themed catapult, and a Totally Rad Ray blasted from a Star-Warsian gizmo. (Five minutes of noodling is in no way going to produce a great concept, so don't put too much stock into these specific examples).

The levels in the game could mirror the stages of treatment, from diagnosis (finding the enemy), to initial treatment (attacking the enemy), to maintenance (keeping the enemy from returning).

Obviously, you can't expect 10 million downloads (or 700 million) as with Angry Birds. However, knowing that some diseases have millions of sufferers, plus their friends and family, and you can see there are ample populations of people who could benefit from an app that speaks to the level of the young patient. In playing, the child may feel like they have some control over the outcome of their disease in the game (by progressing through levels), and in real life (by taking their medicine and going to all scheduled treatments).

The opportunities for collaboration between research organizations (Leukemia Research Foundation), Pharma companies (makers of chemotherapy drugs), and healthcare providers would be substantial.

A successful app would not only help subdue the fears of a scared child, it could also improve awareness of the disease, influence acceptance among the patient's peers, and aid in fundraising for research foundations.

In order for the initiative to work, the game must be well-designed, engaging, and not a retread of another game. It absolutely cannot be a thinly-veiled marketing piece for a drug brand. The execution of the game itself is paramount. Therefore, an accomplished game app developer (for iOS and Android) would likely have to be brought in.

If it costs $150,000 to develop an exceptional game app, with the appropriate partners promoting the app, it could be a huge success for all stakeholders. A few hundred thousand downloads would drive a lot of awareness and understanding across the disease spectrum.

What do you think? Is there a place for game apps in healthcare? Have I missed some popular game apps?What are your ideas for a breakthrough mobile game app for Pharma?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Social Media's 20:1 Rule

Does anyone really trust this guy?
Take a look at your last 20 social media posts - blog posts, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.

How many of those were pitching your products or services?

I recently read a very interesting post that suggests you should give helpful information freely and without strings 20 times for every "Pitch piece" you post. If you have five posts that are selling something, you should have over 100 informative posts in any given channel.

This is not easy. We're busy. We barely have any time to blog or tweet, so how are we going to come up with 20 helpful posts for every one we send out there with an "Ulterior motive?" After all, how can we sell something if we don't promote it?

The article reasons that people who are trusted tend to have more influence and are more successful using social media than folks who are always asking for something. Many top bloggers have over 100,000 monthly viewers. Some have millions. You'll see several common traits among the most trusted names in social media.
  1. They post often - usually at least once a day, sometimes much more
  2. Most of their posts are insights, information, and useful tips without a sales pitch attached
  3. They point you to other useful sources of info - they are not afraid to send you away from their channel
You trust the clerk who sends you to another store for the right product. Your needs are ahead of theirs. They may lose a short-term sale, but in the long term, they also win, because you keep coming back to them.

It takes work to maintain this ratio, but it can be done. Over the next month, see if you can do it. If it means only posting one pitch piece and 20 informative pieces, so be it. Practices become habits. Giving more often is a good habit to have.