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Pharma and the iPad

Way, way back when Apple’s iPad was first announced – you know, a year and a half ago – I predicted openly on this blog that it would be a game-changer for eHealth. Which goes to show that even someone as crystal-ball-challenged as me can get it right – sometimes!

At least 6-8 pharma companies (so far) have already committed to deploying the iPad to their sales forces, and I predict that it will become the new standard for delivering marketing messages, implementing eLearning and eCommunications, and facilitating territory management. In short, the iPad will displace the laptop.

And this means that an awful lot of applications will be re-designed for the new platform.

So here’s my new prediction for the rest of 2011-2012 – it’s going to be one freaking mess. Fun, because it’s the iPad, but a big tangled digital mess nonetheless.

Why? Because each company is going to have to “piecemeal” over a bunch of legacy functions and apps, from a variety of vendors, plus each department in the pharma company that communicates electronically with the field force will be throwing their stuff into the electronic stew.

Let’s say the iPad initiative starts with a major brand, or a therapeutic area. And the initial focus is on eDetailing. Do you realize how quickly, and how chaotically, everything else will start jumping on board once the initial commitment is made to go iPad? You’d like to think there was a master plan somewhere, right? Someone thought through all the ramifications and made a big-picture blueprint? Yeah, right.

The mess is already happening to the first wave, because this is how the transition will go initially:

As I was saying to one of my clients a few weeks ago during our brainstorming lunch, it’s just going to be the wild west for a year or two, and much of the true potential of the iPad will not be realized because we’ll be too busy moving the used furniture into the new house while still putting up the drywall.

The solution to this will come from the vendor side, and it will take the form of an “engine” underneath to

  1. handle the data flow,
  2. consolidate content management, and
  3. provide a common UX (User eXperience) interface to multiple applications.

It will allow much easier “plug-in” capability for new apps and give an integration layer that all the onesie-twosie apps we’ll see in the first wave won’t have. The user experience will be the starting point, not the afterthought. I’m guessing that one or more of the eDetailing and eTerritory providers are already working on this. I would be surprised to see this come out of the eLearning camp.

It’ll be a bit rocky getting there. But of all the vendors peddling apps and solutions for the iPad, keep your ears tuned for someone taking this approach (and having more than vaporware to show). That’s where the big win will be.

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