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Developing smartphone Apps for GPs to recommend to patients - Sarah Eglington September 2012

11.9% of doctors currently recommend smartphone apps to patients versus 88.1% that don't how would you describe this result?

Firstly, you need to consider the demographic of the patient list. If a GP sees a high percentage of elderly patients then smartphones are unlikely to be relevant. Secondly, there's simply a lack of high-quality Apps available for patients. GPs would not want to recommend any App to a patient. It has to be from a reputable company that the doctor trusts and contain GP-reviewed, clinically-approved content.

The top six most commonly recommended apps are dietary, exercise, NHS direct, BMI calculator, blood pressure monitor, diabetes tracker what are your impressions on the type of apps that doctors prefer to recommend?

If you think about the most prevalent disease areas at the moment then these type of Apps focus on them. Recommending Apps to patients is about improving the service a GP can offer beyond the consulting room and about patients taking more responsibility for the management of their own conditions. Using an electronic means of tracking health values can help to improve the control of a disease and also help the GP to achieve their QoF contract targetsfor example.

Many doctors say they don't know enough about apps or don't own a smartphone as the reason to not recommend them how should pharma approach this challenge?

Pharma is always looking for new and cost-effective ways to engage with GPs. Over the last couple of years we've seen a move away from the traditional rep-based communications and a move to more digital-focused communications . Digital solution providers are well-placed to educate GPs about the benefits of Apps, either for their own clinical purposes or to recommend to patients. There are a number of opportunities for pharma to work with leading digital solution providers to improve access to digital platforms such as smartphones or tablets. In addition, having a website that allows those without smartphones to perform similar tasks may extend the audience and allow GPs the ability to recommend both.

The most important benefit of a smartphone app for patients was supports self management what do you think this indicates?

Patients have long expressed the desire and willingness to get more involved in managing their own conditions. Making an appointment to see a GP can often be seen as an inconvenience and therefore is often put off. Being able to monitor your own condition and just see your GP when essential is a plus point for patients. It also has huge benefits for the GP in terms of them spending their valuable time on treating patients rather than just monitoring patients. Outcomes are likely to be improved if the patient takes responsibility for their condition and works with the GP to manage it effectively.

Only 18.7% of doctors would recommend an app to a patient if it had been developed by a commercial organisation (17.2% said no and 64.1% said maybe) what are your thoughts on this response?

GPs need to be unbiased. They need to be certain that the App benefits the patient and not the commercial aspirations of an organisation. However, there are plenty of opportunities for GPs to work in partnership with reputable organisations including pharma to develop and review Apps that are patient-centric. GPs need to be confident that the App will not merely be used as a marketing tool for the company.

However, 63.5% of doctors would recommend an app from a pharma company if it was endorsed by a patient group or charity what does that suggest and what does this mean for pharma moving forward?

Joint working between industry, healthcare and the third-sector is developing all the time. The work of patient groups and charities, GPs and pharma are all focussed around the patient. Whether it's raising awareness of conditions, funding research into specific therapy areas, developing treatments or providing care, collaboration between the three groups will help them all achieve their common goal which is to ultimately improve health outcomes.

What advice would you give to pharma regarding developing apps? Particularly in regard to promoting to patients via the doctor.

Work with a reputable developer who can provide high quality, clinically relevant content. Reputable developers will be those that have GP-led or peer reviewed content, relationships with relevant patient groups and charities. Most importantly, the key to success is to use high quality channels to get your App out to GPs so that they can start recommending it to their patients.


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