If you were thinking that every person you see these days has a mobile phone, then you are probably not far off the truth. In fact there are 271 million mobile phone users in the US alone and together they send 2.5 billion text messages every day, according to Chris Field at 3CInteractive in his presentation at the recent ePharma Summit in Philadelphia.
What's more, 91% of them keep a phone within reach 24/7 and they open and read 94% of the text messages they receive. All of this represents a huge untapped opportunity for healthcare and pharma in particular.
Manhattan Research estimates that more than 10 million adults use mobile devices for healthcare information in the US in its recent consumer research module, The Future of Mobile Health: Mobile Adoption, mHealth and mobile Marketing.
“Other countries are leagues beyond the US… probably where we're going to be in 2-3 years,” says Meredith Abreu Ressi, VP of research for Manhattan Research.
Right now, Ressi says that most users are mobile browsing, but that will change a lot as more health applications become available. For example, she notes WebMD has reported more than 200,000 downloads of its mobile application since it was launched in November 2008.
The opportunities for pharma are huge and divided into two key areas: compliance and education; and mobile marketing.
Ressi expects more focus on compliance in the future, and sees mobile as one of the best opportunities for success in this area. She uses the example of web-based tools as an area that is ripe for mobile.
“You don't have to sit at your computer or carry your printed PDF with you,” explains Ressi. “We're becoming accustomed to updating every aspect of our lives, so why not something that will help our health.”
Texts can also be used to good effect in compliance and education, with ads featuring a text-back number in addition to a 1-800 number and a URL. “We haven't seen that in pharma yet and I think there are some neat opportunities there,” says Ressi.
As for mobile marketing, opportunities for pharma lie in initiatives like m-coupons as well as more general web marketing on sites like cnn.com.
One of the problems, according to Janet Carlson, founder and CEO of One Eleven Interactive is that too many websites are not ready for mobile.
“Only 5% of websites are mobile-optimized and that's a problem,” says Carlson. “Everybody's mobile-optimized in Europe but the US has been a bit poky about it.”
One Eleven works on initiatives directed primarily to a physician audience, but she says the principle applies to all audiences.
“The key is making everything available to a consumer or a physician the way they want to receive it,” says Carlson. “Let them choose their channel of choice and access you the way they want. Make all channels open to them.”