The middle of the year is a great time to reflect on the first half of the year – and think about what’s ahead for the next year. The Digital Health Coalition recently asked pharmaceutical companies about the technology trends impacting their business today and what they see as important over the next year. While privacy ranks highest, our analysis indicates that it is also an area where most marketers feel confident with the plan in place – in other words, it’s a trend, but not a concern. We learned that mobile remains a key technology shift and trend along with “beyond the pill” and social media in terms of importance. When asked about the same trends for 2019, and what they see increasing in terms of importance, technologies such as sensors, chatbots, and AI (artificial intelligence) make the biggest moves up in terms of importance in the future. In other words, it’s the balance of what is impacting the business today and also preparing for what will have a major impact over the next 1-2 years.
Layered with the following highlights are commentary from the DHC Advisory Board, who were given the option to either support or challenge how specific technologies trended.
“Privacy and security is a big concern, so I’m not surprised to see it as an important trend. But one could look at the next three – mobile, Beyond the Pill, and social – and fear we’re stuck in 2005. Dig deeper, though, and these trends signal a focus on the customer, both patient and professional. Mobile and social reach them where they are, devices and apps make their lives easier, and services beyond the pill provide an improved experience. While the ideas themselves may seem archaic, they signify pharma’s acknowledgment the industry still has a long way to go.” – Wendy Blackburn, EVP, Intouch Solutions
Pharma marketers are playing catch-up on mobile marketing innovations because the numbers are so compelling. The Pew Research Center found that 60% of smartphone users seek information on health conditions on their mobile devices, and that percentage will only increase. The macro evidence is even more compelling: in 2018, 71% of alldigital minutes in the U.S. came from mobile devices; the average browsing time on mobile was 87 hours, versus 34 hours on desktop. The accelerating migration to Progressive Web Apps – using modern web capabilities to create an app-like experience – will mandate mobile strategies in the very near future. – Robert Palmer, Chief Innovation Officer, HCB Health
The chart above shows predicted trends by marketers, with changes from the mid-year trends highlighted in red.
Linda Ruschau, CCO of PatientPoint, offered this insightful caution as readers apply the survey results – “Rather than calling Point of Care a trend, I’d think that it’s an essential strategy that continues to evolve. Brands have been part of doctor-patient conversations for 30 years through Point of Care, and the channel now offers more innovative digital and mobile touchpoints than ever to connect patients with information they need to live better lives. As doctors are more pressed for time and patients are more overwhelmed with information, there’s abundant opportunity for brands to leverage new point-of-care digital solutions to more meaningfully connect with doctors and patients, and the enthusiasm for that potential is reflected here as marketers look to 2019.”
DHC note: Stay tuned for the release of the latest DHC Physician Survey Infographic on Physician Attitudes towards Technology Trends to understand this subject more fully.
David Davidovic, Founder of PathFoward, offers three concluding observations and hypotheses:
1) People attribute greater importance to what they are familiar with or that which they see every day, i.e. these days we are bombarded with privacy and security news, and the nature of this audience lives in mobile, social and digital services
2) People attribute lesser importance to subjects they know less of, or perhaps trust less, such as blockchain and VR/AR – and not too far AI
3) Based on this we can confirm the “first-grader’s soccer team theory of industries” – where everyone chases to where the ball is but completely ignores where the ball is going to be
Digital Health Coalition’s Co-Founder, Mark Bard, summarized with “analyzing current and near term technology trends is a critical exercise for any brand team and organization. However, when organizations place too much emphasis on current market drivers they often lose sight of what may be important over the next 2-5 years. Companies must learn to get comfortable with emerging trends such as AI, machine learning, and the rapid proliferation of data from various sensors so when these trends become a market reality they have the strategy, insights, and infrastructure already in place. The challenge of trendspotting, and aligning strategy with innovation, is that companies and brands must often balance the current brand plan execution with predicting where the market will be in the near future.”