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Pharma and the iPad

Companies are keen to harness the tablet’s usability to increase their sales teams' effectiveness

In the two years since it was launched Apple's iPad seems to be everywhere in the pharmaceutical industry.

One of the groups of users it has proved popular with are European doctors, 26% of whom own an iPad, according to Manhattan Research's 2011 Taking the Pulse Europe study, which also found they spend over a quarter of their professional online time on the device.

The analysts questioned 1,207 practising physicians in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK, and found iPad owners spent 27 per cent of their work online time on them.

But firm details on the scale of its pharma uptake are less easy to come by, although anecdotal evidence suggests companies are very keen to harness the usability of Apple's tablet device to increase the cost-effectiveness of their sales teams.

One of these is Novartis, according to an October 2011 internal memo obtained by the Pharmalot blog. In it the company's head of pharmaceuticals David Epstein said that by the end of 2012 more than 80 per cent of the company's global field force will give up their PCs and instead use iPads to perform call planning, detailing, emailing and communicating with each other and physicians.

In Europe pharma firms like Novartis, Astellas, UCB and Daiichi Sankyo have implemented customer relationship management (CRM) systems that are specially designed for the iPad.

These have tended to be local-level implementations. Novartis' consumer health arm uses such a system in Italy, UCB's Nordics instrumental division implemented one in Scandinavia and Daiichi Sankyo has made the technology available to its UK account specialists.

Many of these systems incorporate closed-loop marketing functionality, which, away from the world of pharma apps could be where the payoff lays for the industry.

However, a US survey last year by Manhattan Research suggested a clear need to optimise iPad and other tablet initiatives.

The consultants' 2011 ePharma survey was conducted online in Q2 2011 among 1,755 practising 'ePharma' physicians (those who who already interact with pharma through digital channels).

It found that only one-third of ePharma Physicians who see sales reps with iPads or other tablets found the experience to be better than reps using other materials or devices such as print materials or laptops.

4th April 2012

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