Last week, I had the privilege of once again attending the Digital Pharma East conference (put on by my friends at ExL Pharma). I have attended most or all of these annual events in past years, and have enjoyed watching it grow and morph. Grow it has – this time there were about 600 attendees, and a very full exhibit hall! Kudos to the team (Bryon Main, Jason Youner, Jayson Mercado) and the two co-chairs (Marc Monseau and Shwen Gwee) for an exceptional job organizing and running the show.
When covering these events, I tend to give immediate, real-time impressions and factoids via my @Impactiviti twitter account, then after a few days reflection, write up a blog post giving higher-level observations and thoughts. This post is that!
1. The Mobile Bandwagon – The exhibit hall was filled with companies showing off mobile tech, and one entire extra conference day was dedicated to mobile. As well it should be – mobile is rapidly becoming the new normal. Frighteningly, we saw plenty of statistics showing how woefully behind the 8-ball many pharma (and other) companies are in having even their basic web sites mobile-optimized – let alone having a well-thought out mobile strategy. The awareness that mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are rapidly moving into first-screen status simply has not sunk into the place where practical implementation is being done. That will change!! (note to pharma clients and vendors – this is the lowest-hanging fruit imaginable).
2. Mobile is huge – The adoption rate of mobile devices among doctors (especially iPhones and iPads) is breathtaking. These devices are being integrated increasingly into the healthcare delivery chain. Pharma companies are (or should be) looking for ways to add value and provide service outside of merely peddling drugs. Get some innovative thinkers working on mobile approaches – not mere e-detailing or e-signature apps, but whole new ways of providing information and connectivity among patients, healthcare professionals, and industry. This will happen and is happening via mobile – be part of it or be left out of the equation (hint: you don’t want to do that).
3. Compliance and mobile – Not only is mobile-optimization a far easier task to tackle than thorny culture-shift issues like social media, but it may even become a regulatory issue. Did you know that information optimized for a standard website may not show up properly on a mobile device? It’s not hard to foresee a time in the near future when digital information presentation has to be vetted for fair balance, accuracy, etc. across platforms.
4. Sales forces are going to go mobile. And, most exciting to me, I’ve been in contact with a company that reached out to me after I wrote this post in August about having an intelligent “middle layer” engine to make sense of iPad apps/deployments in pharma. They showed me last week what they’ve developed, and I am very encouraged…if you’re looking at deploying iPads to the field, we should talk! Maybe we can keep you from the iPad “freaking mess” I described in that post…
OK, have I made my point? MOBILE IS HUGE! Now, we did discuss many other digital initiatives at the conference, including social media and the like, but I really want to highlight the lowest-hanging fruit that will have the most near-term impact. And that’s mobile. Mobile is not simply “another channel.” It’s the new normal.
Now, onto two other observations – categorize these under “soapbox ramblings”:
– A lot of folks still don’t effectively engage the audience when presenting. We really need to improve. Please read this post and apply as needed. I know we can do better. Some of the presenters, however, were outstanding (including Olivier Zitoun, Aaron Blackledge, and Seth Perlman – I’m sure there were others but I couldn’t be in every track!)
– As these conferences get larger, it’s increasingly difficult to foster an environment of open sharing and discussion. I did lead one “unconference” session, which was quite lively (and could have gone on for much longer – we were just getting warmed up!). Over the past 18 months, I fear that we’re starting to slip back in our more cutting-edge pharma events into the old default mode of up-front presenter and passive audience. We’ve got to pro-actively design sessions to maximize engagement way beyond the old, “I think we have 5 minutes left for questions…” mode.
Oh, and for those who care about such things: Shwen Gwee and I finally found our Texas-style BBQ “home” in Philly. It’s called Percy Street BBQ. Highly recommended!
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