Private View: Healthcare apps

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Abby Mansfield
Abby Mansfield

According to Apple, more than 500,000 apps are available for the iPhone. So when I decided to look at apps for health care brands, I was surprised that there weren't more. But after trying out a number of them, I get it. It's hard to create a good app for a branded pharma or device product.

Apps aren't about stopping power or delivering one brand message. They are about being used, so they'd better be useful.

The other thing is that apps  demand something of the user. Print and TV just require someone to read or watch. But if you ask your target to search for your app, download it, and then it turns out to be lame, you've failed to support your brand and you've wasted your target audience's time.

The good apps were simple,  and performed a useful function. The not-so-good fell into the “why would I want that?” category, despite nice design.

We're just at the start of digital, mobile health care, so who knows what we'll download (if that's what we'll be doing) in five years. For now, apps are all the rage. And some brands get how to make them work.

• My LAP-BAND® from Allergan
In addition to what you'd expect in a category such as bariatric medicine, this app has features to support patients long term. My favorite, TransforMe, lets patients upload their own photo and shows how they'll look at their target weight. That's motivation.

• NovoDose from NovoNordisk
This insulin-dosing guide keeps all key information on one screen, letting physicians easily tap between brands, dosages, and other details. Simple and straightforward.

• iChemo Diary from Merck Oncology
This app lets cancer patients and caregivers track their experience with therapy. What makes it special is the ability to instantly generate a report and email it to the physician.

• Similac Strong Moms from Abbott
This goes a little overboard, but it appeals to smartphone-addicted new mothers. It has tools to track nursing, sleeping and napping in real time—and even a journal to record poop color and consistency.

• Prognostic Scoring ­Calculations from Celgene
Designed for HCPs who treat myelodysplastic syndromes, this app does something I can't begin to understan—calculate International Prognostic Scoring System and World Health Organization Prognostic Scoring Systems scores. Useful for those who know what to do with those scores, I imagine.

• Puffometer from Teva UK
The only app I couldn't download and try myself (it's from the UK), the Puffometer asthma app lets patients know when their inhalers are low and need to be refilled. Provides a valuable service and drives compliance—sounds like the perfect app.

Abby Mansfield is SVP, Creative Director at Topin & Associates.
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