As Apple Rolls Out Drug Tracking on All iPhones, the Pharma Industry Should Embrace Connectivity

Imagine that you are visiting a doctor’s office. Instead of swiping a co-pay card and filling out a paper form by hand, the receptionist says, “Please move your phone closer. We’re taking Apple Health here.” You swipe your iPhone over the digital kiosk, instantly uploading your current medical card and insurance information. Your copayment is then deducted from your health savings account. Voila! The doctor will see you now.

This scenario is no longer relegated to the distant future. By incorporating drug tracking into its existing iPhone Health app, Apple has done for prescription drug consumers what it has done for anyone with a wallet or a plane boarding pass. This paved the way for an electronic health record (EHR) tool built into the iPhone capable of interoperable functionality.

While this promises unparalleled user experience in the future, drug makers will have to rethink how to build patient support programs into the lives of their patients. In an interview with Charlie Rose, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey once said of the ability of the best technology to disappear: “When you use the iPad, the iPad disappears, it disappears. You are reading a book. You are browsing a website, you are touching a website.” Apple’s drug tracker has that potential. For manufacturers of prescription and traceable drugs, patients will only interact with their products and any related applications as needed, and then the technology fades from view.

Healthcare-related apps are a broad, growing category. As of August 2022, there are more than 2.18 million apps installed on the iPhone, of which 2.4% – about 52,000 – can be categorized as “medical”. The iPhone’s potential to combine one set of tools with all health and related apps (ovulation trackers, heart rate monitors, diet apps, fitness apps, HSA apps, etc.) could save time and possibly money. Once conventional healthcare providers and pharmacies can integrate these tools into their own digital framework, every patient visit to the clinic will be eliminated.

Apple’s new drug tracking functionality isn’t new, and there are now hundreds of apps in the category. Many drug makers have tried to create or collaborate with developers to create such apps on their own, offering sophisticated features that go far beyond mere reminders. However, this barrier of downloading an app and subscribing to an entirely new service was exacerbated by limited interoperability with other apps and services. These tools mostly ran in their own disparate application environment and did not have full workflow integration with the rest of the ecosystem. As a result, drug companies are still licking their wounds from their attempts to compete for patients’ attention with companies like Instagram and Facebook.

Before third parties plan to build an app using Apple’s new capabilities, consider how the mobile landscape has changed in recent years. Consumer expectations for a fast and seamless experience are stronger—think Twitter with its short audio bites or TikTok with its short videos. According to a survey conducted by in 2021, almost 80% of users will opt out of a transaction when forced to download an app. That’s what impatient app consumers have become.

Now that Apple is moving this frequent and very attractive drug-tracking feature to its own walled garden, third-party apps will have to compete even more for patients’ attention. That special moment when it was necessary to captivate the patient, when it was time to take the medicine, no longer exists.

Some argue that Apple has failed in such attempts to capture the target category with its own app (Spotify and Venmo are popular examples). However, unlike the cross-platform music app and peer-to-peer payment app (which Apple Music and Apple Pay, respectively, have been unable to supplant), drug management is a private, single use case where Apple’s privacy campaign has much more to offer. chances of finding a response.

Apple also isn’t about to face the same adoption challenge that those beleaguered apps of the previous decade faced. Patients with chronic or specialty medicines whose prescriptions treat rare, life-threatening or life-threatening conditions interact with various providers for various transactions as part of their usual care. This is a powerful incentive for iPhone use, in which their medical data, including when to take each prescription drug, is preloaded onto the device.

This doesn’t mean that all native iOS health apps are doomed. Conversely, if more patients register their medications on iOS, it will allow large healthcare apps like Epic’s MyChart or CVS Pharmacy to access much more detailed adherence data, forcing patients to give them access to their entire database of their personal data. health data (Apple HealthKit API). framework underlies Apple Health).

For drug manufacturers, the way to capture a patient’s attention for a few short moments is becoming increasingly complex and requires analysis of the patient’s entire journey with its interacting systems and hidden opportunities to “touch” them.

This shrinking consumer interaction window and the need for connectivity goes beyond the healthcare industry. This is just one example of a broader global movement towards integrating complex systems with the power of the mobile phone. (Think of the evolution of smart home apps that now integrate everything from security systems to thermostats to lighting.)

Endpoint: Patients and caregivers will be able to ditch their desktops and use their smartphone for all their needs, from registering at the doctor’s office and filling out forms to tracking medications and everything in between.

Seventy-eight percent of patients with specialty drugs already use their mobile phones rather than their desktops when visiting pharmaceutical sites. They interact with their device in this way all day, every day. This group of patients will inevitably benefit the most from Apple’s drug tracker as their drug data becomes richer and potentially more accessible to third parties. It is now the responsibility of these third parties to prove that they are worthy of the attention of patients.

About Yishai Knobel

Yishai is the co-founder and CEO of HelpAround, a patient gateway for specialty drug manufacturers that simplifies and accelerates therapy onboarding across systems and providers. Prior to HelpAround, Nobel was Head of Mobile Technology at AgaMatrix Diabetes, which makes the world’s first smartphone blood glucose meter. He also served at Microsoft Startup Labs in Cambridge and was an officer in the Israeli Army’s elite research and development unit. Nobel holds an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and computer science.

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