Mobile makes users more likely to switch brands: survey

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Geoff McCleary, VP and director of mobile innovation at Digitas Health
Geoff McCleary, VP and director of mobile innovation at Digitas Health

According to a recent survey by Digitas Health, more and more brand decisions are being made in the exam room in a dialogue where smartphones are taking center stage.

Researchers surveyed 2,000 consumers across 20 diseases in five therapeutic categories (allergy and asthma, cardiology conditions, neurologic conditions, diabetes, gastroenterological conditions), and all users had to have owned a smartphone to participate.

Patients who used their smartphone in the exam room were 80% more likely to switch medications and twice as likely to ask for a brand name; when doctors use their mobile device in the exam room, patients were 30% more likely to switch medications.

“It really speaks to the value of mobile sitting in the exam room,” said Geoff McCleary, VP and director of mobile innovation at Digitas Health. “When you have those conversations [in the exam room], you're more likely to take an action or consider an action. It's a huge facilitator.”

Manhattan Research's recent "Cybercitizen Health US 2013" study pegs the US mobile health audience at 95 million, with 38% of online smartphone users agreeing that their device is "essential" for finding heath and medical information. The analysts also found that cystic fibrosis, growth hormone deficiency and acne patients are the top three therapeutic segments that are "most likely to be mobile health users."

But prescription drugs are not always easily compared. They come from a pharmacy via a physician recommendation. They don't sit side-by-side on a shelf. So, just what is it about an iPhone or an Android that's putting users into a so-called “switch mentality” when they get in the exam room?

“I think it's the education and the access to information,” explained McCleary. “When you're more mobile active, you're more likely to make these decisions, or more likely to be in this 'switch mentality,' and this education and access to information guides better decision-making from physician or patient.”

The idea that the empowered patient is accessing more content and, as a result, making more informed decisions is hardly new. But what's compelling about this data is that it's facilitating the kind of dialogue that marketers love: when patients begin to weigh in on which brand they prefer.

And it's not only mobile sites that are driving this conversation. Apps, too, are looking to play a part. Digitas found that nine out of 10 patients would use an app recommended by a physician; while, only two out of three patients would fill a prescription prescribed by a physician.

“That's where our industry needs to look,” said McClearly, “You can take a digital therapeutic and it will improve the outcome. From a brand standpoint, if there's going to be an app prescribed, it should be yours, because it should work best with the drug treatment.”

And the issue is compounded for “multiple device owners.” Those power users—defined as having a tablet or additional device—were 30% more likely to talk to a doctor about a mobile site or an app, and access a drug by name; and were twice as likely to access in order to switch medications.

Now, with a clearer understanding that mobile users are more likely to seek out information, and as a result switch medications, what kinds of mobile apps and websites are they looking for? What app would a physician want to prescribe these empowered patients?

“I think physicians want to know that their patients, when they leave the office, are going to take the medication they've been prescribed and engage with their own healthcare,” McCleary said. “It's a big challenge for them to keep patients on track and find why they went off track. I think any tool or resource that the physician can provide, whether it's an adherence app or its 'tip and tricks' to help you stay on track, or whether it's just information to connect with others—any of those options is going to add value.”

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