Digital Check-up

Have you taken your vitals on the latest in digital health technology? If not, it might be time to put on the cuff for an examination.

By Katie Weiler, Managing Editor

Technology in any field is dynamic, and attempting to keep up with the latest trends can be quite overwhelming. In Pharma, specifically, digital health includes many facets, and it’s growing at a record pace.
 
In a recent Forbes.com article, “Digital Health: Will Pharma Follow or Lead,” it mentioned a disconnect between the conservative pharma industry and technological innovations that are emerging – from hand-held ultrasound devices, to electronic medical records, to the latest apps such as smart phone arrhythmia monitoring. Reasons for the disconnect included a “watchful waiting period” or perhaps “yesterday’s brand managers, sales reps and administrators … are missing what many define as the next revolution since the personal computer.”
 
Regardless of the lag time, the pharmaceutical industry will be affected by the digital health explosion, and it needs to keep abreast of what’s happening. According to the Forbes article, “the touch points for pharma are numerous and represent areas for engagement and support. On-demand information and analytics will shift the focus from bed side ‘rote memorization’ to ‘augmented digital expression’ where a differential diagnosis and interventions come with the aid of a hand-held computer screen.”
The article continued to say that clinicians will adopt consumer conventions and work in an online setting. “The days of typical case studies and efficacy charts will be replaced with a richer, more compelling presentation that is consistent with what this ‘techno’ generational will simply expect.”
 
The next generation also has grown up with electronic gaming, which can play a role in the digital pharma world. In last month’s column we discussed Jane McGonigal’s philosophy on that connection, and within the last month another digital game has been released. Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly & Co. have teamed up and launched a type 2 diabetes educational game called Complications Combat. 
 
The game is available for desktop and iPad users, and the objective is to manage type 2 diabetes and its complications by clicking or swiping the complications and “friends,” which are the healthy steps recommended to manage the condition, and to maintain patient health for as long as possible. During the game, users learn about the wide range of complications and positive lifestyle choices. As the game becomes more difficult, users virtually experience “first-hand” how challenging it can be for physicians and patients to take into account all of those considerations at the same time. The game can be played at www.complicationscombat.com and iPad users can download it on iTunes.
 
Of course, pharmaceutical manufacturers will not be directly affected by all aspects of the digital health movement, but they must be informed to learn how their products can be streamlined into the process. For example, they may want to provide electronic warning labels that can be easily transmitted to prescribers or pharmacies; or perhaps applications that help match medications to a patient’s medical records. The possibilities continue to evolve, but there’s no question the time is now to shift from traditional ways of thinking and producing to the efficiencies digital technology brings.

Published in the June 2013 edition of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine 

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