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Paperless Pharma – Improving the State of Healthcare Through Mobility

By Ken Parmelee

Relative to the exciting world of smartphones, iPads, and mobile applications, the topic of ‘Paperless Pharma’ might certainly seem to be a rather retro and uninspiring topic. But let’s stay the course on this – the discussion over what it really means will literally reshape the Pharma business in coming years. Underlying the obvious, there are some ideas that will pop up here that are significant to Pharma’s future.

Going paperless, in and of itself, offers the usual tactical productivity gains: cost reductions, better auditing and the like. But it is hardly transformational when looked at in this tactical way. This is merely making a paper process digital. What we need to do is look beyond the tactical, and discover what becomes strategic in making the move to a paperless Pharma world.

To discover what is groundbreaking and strategic requires us to take a deeper look at the areas of process improvement and automation. As referenced in my last blog post on this topic, Mobile Creates Bigger – Much Bigger – Borders for Pharma and Life Sciences, smart pills like those being developed by Novartis and others are changing the way we can detect and monitor drug ingestion, interaction, and reaction, among other things.

The key driver behind these technologies is that we now live in a world of more and more connected devices. The smart pills data, for example, is read by a near field device such as a watch, a phone, or an electronic bandage. That data, in turn, can then be sent automatically back to monitoring systems via a mobile phone, WiFi, or through syncing with other connected devices.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic for a doctor to be able to remotely scope out the vital signs on a patient and tell that patient exactly how they are doing? In a sense, it brings the idea of the old ‘doctor’s home visit’ (yes, doctors did do this once) back, and allows physicians to raise their level of personal interaction with patients without the need for non-existent or undesirable travel time by either.

Some people are skeptical – many are concerned about personal rights infringement, which centers on such questions as: ‘How do I know that chip isn’t monitoring and checking things I’m not aware of?’ and ‘Who has access to or who else may be accessing my data?’ As with all monitored things, there is always the potential to misuse the data, but the odds are very small that this will prove to be the case in the vast majority of cases. In situations where such data might be more sensitive (perhaps if the patient were, say, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company) security can certainly always be stepped up to meet the requirements of any given situation.

On the other side the argument, the medical advances that clearly should and will be made with all of the additional data and analysis that becomes possible, will change medicine as we know it; and it will, without a doubt, lead to much better patient care.

Minor risks are worth taking. Some of us strongly believe that the benefits far outweigh most concerns. Where many of us are in agreement is that by embracing today’s technologies, the drug and medical industries can be fundamentally improved. There is definitely interest is such improvements from consumers, as well as for the overall life sciences industry itself.

Aside from consumer concern over allowing data to be collected, there is the issue of having access to the data. Data in and of itself is valuable for any single doctor, but that data will only become extremely potent if the data can be shared and accessed easily. Systems for this purpose – which are able to share the data while fully protecting patient privacy, are springing up, driven by the accurate perception that the need for digital patient records is now reaching a critical juncture.

Numerous Medical Possibilities

If you were you to look up ‘Diabetes’ on the App store, for example, you would see many mobile applications that do various things such as tracking carbs, insulin use, and so on.  These are all simple standalone applications. At a deeper level, consider these: As a consumer wouldn’t it be great to automatically get timely refills of needed medications? If a person medicine-dependent, wouldn’t it be powerful to see the result of not staying compliant? What if you could receive alerts on your phone if you were low on Vitamin C, or close to dehydration, or any number of other day to day items that are not life threatening, but add to quality of life.

From the medical practitioner’s perspective, a doctor armed with data reflecting such information as how the body of patients react to all kinds of stimuli and medications over time, will be far better able to manage the care of those patients. Such monitoring will also provide key leading indicators of potential health issues and possible disease far earlier in time (long before a patient is likely to display overt symptoms), and will allow doctors to proactively inform patients of such problems and issues, and to begin early discussions of treatments or other ways to resolve those problems and issues.

Doctors today typically don’t have an hour by hour view of how much of a given medication is taken. Taken to the next level, having this information then also provides the information on how a patient’s body reacts when the medication is taken, an hour later, or when at rest vs. while active, and so on – many combinations become possible to monitor.

Unless a person is under constant monitoring this data would not otherwise be knowable. For pharmaceutical and medical device companies, a doctor will be able to verify efficacy, discover interaction issues, and provide valuable information to allow for the fine tuning of medication dosages to actual use. This alone will allow life sciences companies to make significant new improvements and will drive entirely new developments and improvements in both medical devices and drugs.

It all Sounds Great, but can This be a Reality?

From a pure technology perspective, gathering the data is simple. The power of what we have discussed previously requires software and hardware systems, interaction between them and the automation of analysis. Add to this the powerful ability to automate ‘process.’ Capturing the necessary processes for how data flows and is analyzed is the key to creating great value. It would be the failure to capture these processes that would render a mobile solution less valuable if not a failure.

The impact on patient care and the possibility of truly individualized medicine are in reach given enough data. For an individual one of the important points is that this has minimal impact on a patient’s life. While quality and reliable medical care would be at the forefront of consumer concerns, drug innovation, drug trials and investment will all benefit from smart monitoring technologies.

The investment to bring to market the next blockbuster drug is one of the largest expenses that Pharma companies shoulder. With all the research and development cost upfront, a company’s ability to weather failure is minimal. When coupled with pressure to drive down costs of medications, patent expiration and regulatory compliance, Pharma companies need better field data faster – much faster – to ensure their products perform as expected while not creating other issues. That is a very tall order.

Which, finally, brings us to how could all of this really work? The software, hardware, institutional knowledge – this is admittedly still a fragmented undertaking. Most research efforts here tend to be focused on resolving specific issues and providing a solution for that specific piece. Interoperability and ‘process’ are beginning to come together, but there is a great deal yet required to make the real value of paperless Pharma pay off.

But these efforts have begun, and mobility has been – and will continue to be – the key driving force to making it happen.

Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

Mobile Predictions 2011 – Hey, I Have Some Hindsight!

By Ken Parmelee

OK, the new year has turned a corner (it’s almost February!) and I now have the priviledge of doing a bit of Deep Dev prognostication, but with a little bit of hindsight - having waited until almost February to get them posted. I’ve read the rest (that’s real hindsight for you), now I’ll give you the best! (OK, that was tongue in cheek; really I’m just a little late in delivering – but I hope I’ll provide a bit of focus on some things that may be a bit less obvious than something like: Android and iOS will do battle in 2011…)

Web & Mobile Experience Meld

The view of mobile and web and how they work together has been an either/or proposition - that the mobile app should simply be the same as any company’s web site or that it be a unique mobile experience. We will be seeing that the mobile and web strategies will drive together to create seamless experiences between the two. Think about when you use a banking app online from your computer. There are typically many more features and functionality on the website today. When I want to set up bill pay, for example, this is not usually done via a mobile app. The well designed experience will allow a flow-through of features from all mobile devices to tablets to computers. You will see a lot of new mobile products that aim to fill those gaps.

Device Diversity Broadens

Yes, – you haven’t seen anything yet on this front. With ever changing form factors and features there are many choices out there for mobile devices. This will not only continue but will actually broaden as device manufacturers look to grab segments of the market. This is not exclusive to the mobile device you carry, but to any number of devices designed to track, monitor, report, and play.

You will see them at restaurants and kiosks. They will be in soft drink machines, delivery trucks and your own car. If you want to check out some really cool devices check out fellow Mobile Masters blogger Peter Semelhack’s business venture, BugLabs.

You may sometimes not even really be sure what you are looking at when you see a mobile device in the near future. They are beginning to look like squares and all kinds of things. What is important is that the consumer makes their device choice based on what they want to be able to do with it. That then allows for the checking of whether the applications we need are available for the devices we think we want. All your lifestyle apps that will allow you to manage your home security system, setup DVR recording…are not always available on all platforms.

The advantage is that there are devices that suit everyone’s needs. In corporate more and more companies are supporting personal devices, but without restraint this is a security and management nightmare. You will see most companies adopt a supported devices scenario. In this way individuals can select from a number of different devices, but the company maintains the control they need

Mobile Gets Personal

With ‘access everywhere’ having now become a way of life, there will be more and more software designed for automation and ease of use. This goes for anything from shopping without your credit cards to controlling your car remotely. There will continue to be more focus on preferences, likes and interests. While the purpose of all of these apps is to improve “lifestyle” the sheer number of them will in many ways reduce the value.

How many apps have you downloaded and hardly ever use? The apps that will really impact will be those that most closely align with personal processes. Not just easy to use applications, but applications that handle things for you, provide a distillation of information and notify us of important items.

Monetization Gets Serious

Many companies have made light investments to gain a mobile presence. Whether this was buying a toolkit or paying some developers to get that first app out, this first generation of apps will now begin to show their limitations, expense, security and scale issues. Companies will demand deeper apps with more functionality that is always reliable. These experiences will drive a new generation of value driven apps. Companies will provide more services within their applications. The bottom line for many of these mobile investments will be that must drive more business. If they don’t, they will be seen as failures.

Entertainment Continues to Drive Mobile

What will continue to make us love our devices are the constant stream of entertainment options. Whether it’s your tunes, your Facebook news or Angry Birds there will be more and better to keep us all busy. The new wave will be tighter integration with your other entertainment devices. How great will it be to transfer shows and movies from your DVR whether at home or on the road? With 4G your ability to move data around and share takes a great forward leap. Don’t be surprised if you can play games with anyone in proximity even when offline. Some of the device manufacturers will not want such open access. The winners in this space will embrace P2P in a big way.

Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

Mobile Creates Bigger – Much Bigger – Borders for Pharma and Life Sciences

By Ken Parmelee

I have a pop quiz for you:

  • Q1: What is the Proteus Chip?
  • Answer: You’ll have to wait to find out…(but no, it isn’t a snack that Robbie the Robot cooks up in Forbidden Planet)
  • Q2: We know that smartphone adoption continues to be huge. In fact, in 2011 we expect total smartphone sales to surpass total laptop sales for the first time, a trend that will continue forward and never look back (eventually leaving laptops completely in the dust). We also know that where smartphones haven’t been adopted, feature phones have – with billions of them now in the hands of huge populations in third world/emerging countries – which have adopted and delivered wireless networks in enormous numbers. Wireless access and connectivity is now a given, even at the farther reaches of emerging countries. Given this information, what then is the one key word here that summarizes the advantages of all this mobile device proliferation?
  • Answer: Access

Access to the wireless network. Access to industry. Access to data. Access to people. These capabilities have become pervasive enough and easy enough that mobility is now a true dominant technological force.

That begs the question: How can – or more accurately, how will – this mobile technology tour de force impact the future of Life Sciences and the Pharmaceutical industry?

Wireless Access and Mobile Applications

Mobility now provides users – regardless of whether they are advanced smart phone users in established countries or new users who now finally have true and sophisticated Internet/Web access in emerging countries – with a new and wide array of capabilities right at their fingertips. Easy access to wireless networks and the mobile Web, however, only takes a user and an enterprise to the floodgates of opportunity and possibilities. What’s missing that will turn the locks and open those floodgates?

Mobile applications.

There is very little point in having one (easy mobile access) without the other (mobile applications).

Easy mobile access plus mobile applications allow for much more functional capability in the field. This is generally true across the board, but it will lead to a significant competitive advantage in the case of extremely competitive professions such as Life Sciences and pharmaceuticals. These devices will give reach to amazing numbers of new consumers.

Even more important, we need to take into account consideration that Life Sciences is a highly regulated industry and that regulatory compliance is both strict and required in order to do business. This regulatory environment makes an already challenging industry a much more difficult one within which to do business. I spoke at length in a previous post focusing on regulatory compliance about how mobility eases the regulatory pain for any company in this industry.

So, for Life Sciences and pharma, the requirements to successfully execute on business growth requires easy wireless access, the ability to meet all regulatory compliance issues, and the ability to create and deliver mobile applications out to the field.

Where will pharma see the greatest business opportunities? For the Life Sciences workforce, this explosion is occurring in the developing regions of the world, and is being driven by both smartphones and tablets. Sure, mobile driven competitive advantages accrue in the established countries as well, but in established countries it is a matter of developing superior business processes that provide a competitive advantage.

This is certainly true of businesses in third world countries, but what makes the concept of expanding pharma’s borders truly compelling is the sheer size of raw new opportunities that are now emerging. In the third world, the pharma industry has a unique opportunity to tap into entirely new streams of revenue that simply didn’t exist before. It becomes a matter of using mobility not only to greatly expand borders, but to pull off business land grabs of major proportions.

Cost and Safety

The reasons for this are many, but two of the big drivers are cost and safety. There are still many regions in the world where a laptop is viewed as an expensive business or personal tool. Smartphones, on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive by comparison and allow for use at any time. Whereas as just a few short years ago even relatively sophisticated third world hospitals, doctors and medical clinics lacked laptops, and Internet/Web access, today the vast majority of them have full wireless access through sophisticated mobile devices – iPads and smartphones. Users outside of the pure business environment – such as patients, for example – also have access through feature phones.

The flip side of the cost coin also involves the cost of safely doing business. A client of mine in the Asia-Pacific region comes to mind here as an example. This client is particularly sensitive to the safety needs of its employees, and this safety issue is a key factor in the company heavily adopting smart phones and mobile apps. Mobile devices now allows individual to do most, if not all of their job remotely.

As a result many companies are making the shift to provide only smart phones and tablets to their field forces, eliminating the highly visible laptop which can make them a very real target for theft or violence. The key to success here is the raw power now available in these mobile devices – they easily challenge laptops in sophistication and capability.

Mobile Apps : The True Keys to Mobile Opportunity

Mobile applications built specifically to meet the deep demands created by a regulatory environment, and that are able to easily take advantage of all of today’s mobile devices – especially Blackberries, iPhones, iPads and Android-based hardware, are the keys that unlock the floodgates of opportunity.

Pharma sales forces have now begun mobile adoption in earnest, and those companies that get there first, with the best mobile apps, will get to participate in the land grab. Even as the size of the potential land grab becomes evident, pharma has reduced its sales forces the world over. At the same time the regulatory requirements have grown ever more onerous (and yes, they are necessary).

As I noted earlier, capturing business processes and insuring regulatory compliance are the central themes to building any mobile application. Imagine targeting the appropriate materials to the various regions of the world, automatically tracking what version of information or advertizing was sent, and dynamically recording feedback. This loop provides a company with a lot of power when it is done via handheld. It also allows for compliance and reduces the possible failures of recording that are common.

Mobility will enable health workers today to directly order medications and access inventories which can greatly reduce the time to get medicines in the hands of those that need them. Mobile applications will also bring the consumers – especially third world consumers – closer to their pharma providers. There is tremendous value in this – and we can easily extrapolate from the US market: look at pharmacy providers such as Medco and Express Scripts. From a consumer perspective, ease of ordering, prescription tracking, and drug interaction notification are all beneficial services. Just the simple speeding up of the ordering/supply process in the third world can affect an entire population profoundly.

Lives (Real Lives) are at Stake

But the land grab for medications in the third world also involves the need to insure that hospitals, doctors and patients all know about the medications that are becoming available. How can mobility impact sales from this perspective? Through consumer-facing mobile applications pharma vendors can provide a means to advertise directly to the public. This accomplishes two key things: mobile apps can and will bring the client closer to the drug providers and their products. Just as important, the industry will be able to pull together field usage data and information that has never been available to the pharma industry before – especially in the case of third world countries.

The ability for mobile devices and applications to gather point-of-presence field data and get it to a valuable endpoint quickly is nothing short of a quantum technology leap. More and more medical devices now provide interfaces that mobile devices can use to collect data from. If a patient opts in, information can be gathered that allows researchers or practitioners to tailor the care of that individual as well as build future models for care. This dynamic accumulation of data is an amazing enabler.

Think, for example, of a poorly controlled diabetic patient. With this dynamic mobile-based data collection and mobile control of, say, an insulin pump, a medical practitioner will help control the diabetes directly by regulating the actual use of insulin. The benefits of this are far reaching as it helps to manage disease and reduce the other issues that are side effects of poor disease control.

The promise that this brings in the forms of disease management and dosage regulation for all medications is enormous. There are companies out there today that have invented all forms of dermal patches that can monitor various body functions and notify a mobile device. The monitoring of the body in this case is facilitated by ingestible chips that send notifications to the skin patch. I know, it sounds far-fetched but it is today’s mobile reality.

While all of this is really exciting, particularly to the techies out there and for the business stakeholders who will have the primary responsibility for expanding pharma’s borders, the most dramatic effect of all of this will be healthier people at a true global level. And that is a very good thing indeed.

Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

Deep Dev: Gotta Have a (Inerrable, Innovative) Mobile Strategy

By Ken Parmelee

Following up on Tony Rizzo’s Mobile Observatory blog posts pushing enterprises to think of mobility as a long term strategy and not a short term fix, and coupled with the discovery by Jason Wong, in his Mobile Gourmet blog post on Mobile Master Moses’ 10 Mobile Commandments, I’ve been thinking a great deal about mobile enterprise strategy, and in particular I’ve been thinking about it based on my mobile applications development field work and interactions with our mobile customers.

There is something we need to add to the entire ‘strategy’ discussion, and after many microbrew beers and a few boutique Napa wineries worth of thinking, I’ve finally figured out what it comes down to…

It’s not just a discussion about strategy – it has to be a discussion that must also reflect what it is that makes mobility unique and what it is about mobility that will deliver new advantages over your competitors.

‘The need for a mobile strategy’ – it’s a phrase that has become the standard theme over the last year for every organization you can imagine. As we work with companies to really look at where mobile can help them, we drive to efficiencies, new markets, direct access to consumers and all other manner of values that mobile can and will provide. But…

But – and it is a huge ‘but’ here, what enterprises most often fail to do regarding mobility, is to think outside the box. Time and time again – even after analysis and building out new cases that answer the issue of what makes mobile unique – organizations will initially want to go for what they know (Tony talk s more about this and the need for a paradigm shift in Part 4 of his strategy series). It is by far the weakest approach to building a mobile strategy – but it is no doubt the easiest.

Consider for a moment why. It’s mostly because the technology and business groups can sell a mobile version of a ‘vital system’ to their leadership. This approach, while easier, will provide the least benefit to a company. So does that mean that mobile versions of internal applications add no value? This is not the case – mobility helps everything, but consider this:

Where leading companies derive true industry-changing solutions is not simply by mobilizing existing systems, but rather by mobilizing services in innovative, behavior driven, role-based mobile applications.

We are well beyond basic application capability for mobile devices, and with the sheer number of tablets and smartphones with data connectivity, more and more truly innovative things can be done. There is simply no excuse for limiting mobile strategic thinking to ‘what you already know.’

Mobile productivity as it is considered by most people in the enterprise is simply a myth. You will put out a mobile version of your CRM system and you will see an increase in sales because your people have access anywhere…Wrong! Only individual sales people who embrace the technology and are personally driven will have any real impact. What about the other 80%? If a mobile CRM app enables me to quickly and easily submit expense re-imbursement requests and get paid faster, it will be used more, but it will still not bring earth shattering change.

Now think instead about, say, a Merchandising application that allows my grocery store stockers to sell additional product on-site at that grocery chain’s specific pricing. I can then incent the stockers to increase my sales with commissions, which also encourages more of a relationship with the client and with customers. This creates significant change in the form of increased revenue streams, faster speed to market and better service to everyone in the value chain.

As you think about your mobile strategy understand that mobile productivity comes not through current systems and processes, but through new, better and more innovative ways of enabling your workforces. Let go of what you already know – the possibilities that can be enabled through mobility are endless! 

Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

Bad Apps = Bad Press = Bad Business

By Ken Parmelee

There is a scenario that is playing out exactly as it did with the Internet boom of the early 2000’s. This scenario comes down to a hot market, a relatively low cost of entry, and everyone rushing to get out mobile apps. The problem is that lessons from the Internet boom and bust have been forgotten.

How’s this for a late 90s re-creation:  mobile app companies, marketing firms and who knows what else, are coming to market with little more – and I really want to say ‘nothing more’ – than an idea. This is great for the evolution of the mobile industry, but bad for today’s eager adopters who do not take the time to ensure they have something scalable, reliable, and secure, which enables them as wireless devices and data plans change.  In the last 12 months, the number of times I have heard this has increased exponentially.

Some of these vendors go out of business, others are not true software vendors, so there is a great initial reaction, but the adaptability and scale of the app is not there. The most prominent recent example is that of Citibank. They very publicly had to disclose a security risk with one of their applications.

To help you avoid these painful and expensive pitfalls here is a list of considerations and questions to use when making choices on mobile applications and vendors.

Application questions

  1. How will the app be initially deployed?
  2. How are updates deployed?
  3. Can the app be removed by an administrator?
  4. Is there centralized administrator control, reporting and security?
  5. What happens when a new device or mobile OS version come out? Is there a charge?
  6. When I want to make a change to my application can I do it in one place, or do I have to support multiple apps?
  7. What are the apps written in?
  8. How is multi-language handled?
  9. How do they allow for offline usage?
  10. Can they handle financial data, medical data, personal data…. securely? How?

Vendor considerations

  1. What is the largest deployment the vendor has? What are the app details?
  2. Has the vendor done complex integration, security and authentication work?
  3. What tools does the vendor provide to allow your company to take over development?
  4. Can the solution be either on-premise or hosted?
  5. Are there third parties that can deliver solutions on the vendor platform?
  6. Percentage of business that is mobile devices (not laptops and mobile Web)?
  7. Has the vendor done any very high transaction based applications?

Good luck on your mobile journey! Remember the Mobile Masters are here for you.


Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

GREAT Mobile Apps in a Regulated World – Part 2

By Ken Parmelee

While most of the applications I covered in my most recent post relate to pharma sales activity, clinical trials is another area where mobile is providing innovation that is well worth mentioning.

When a company is trialing a drug, the value of immediate information for reactions is tremendous. And that is an understatement. By placing the right mobile app on the devices of the trial subjects, doctors and internal teams I can insure that the necessary communications loop is closed and I can insure that real-time feedback is provided.  This speed allows a pharma company to process and react to issues very quickly.  There is also an audit trail from the reporting of the issue to the receipt of it by handlers – also captured in real time.

Then there is the case of marketing. When it comes to handling publicity and advertising, pharma marketing is moving to new mobile frontiers.  In recent months, Apple has acquired a mobile advertiser, which it intends to implement as the advertising control for its devices.  Android has taken the opposite approach by leaving advertising open.

Can pharma use these and other capabilities to market their products and create a large awareness of related messaging?  Absolutely! There are many possibilities, including sponsored applications, application banners and making use of the mobile Web, to name just a few.  Emerging techniques for marketing to the mobile user WILL create significantly more responses.  Keep in mind as well that marketing by way of mobile devices will also be able to take advantage of location awareness and personalization to provide ever greater positive user experiences.

Mobile is taking the business world and its data to consumers directly, and this is indeed powerful.  A good example of this is to note how pharma fulfillment companies are providing not only order capabilities, but drug interaction notification, medication lookup and alternative recommendations.  Pharma companies that want to maintain their competitive edge will have to plan for reaching consumers and the best way to do this is clearly through mobile applications.

In the next five years, pharma companies without a mobile strategy will be exposed in ways never before imagined. Get the Mobile Masters on your team started today in planning your mobile future – mobile laggards will not survive!

Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

GREAT Mobile Apps in a Regulated World – Part 1

By Ken Parmelee

The heavily regulated world of the pharmaceutical industry provides the ‘perfect storm’ setting – so to speak – for deploying ‘applied mobility’ (it’s like applied physics, only more fun). This isn’t an environment for your $4.99 AppStore app!

Pharma is rapidly moving from the static world of PowerPoint and paper-based documents to dynamic digital presentations (aka e-detailing) suited for devices like the iPad (it isn’t a secret – iPads are rapidly proving to be huge in pharma). This transition to digital presentations, however, is a highly regulated area, and one that has left a slew of lawsuits on improper pharma marketing in its wake.

So what secret sauce does mobile add to this regulated environment? Well, for starters a mobile device with GPS can automatically capture date, time and location every time a presentation is given – even when a device has no Internet connection. This captured on-the-fly metadata is then delivered automatically into back end systems whenever a connection is available. And? Ah…the ‘and’ here is the invaluable ability to keep a fully auditable history on hand and immediately available to anyone who might need it (including those pesky regulators).

A truly well-designed mobile application removes the variability in quality of records and automates data collection.

Take document tracking for example. A sales person is meeting with a doctor and wants to provide the most recent product information for a drug. Through the power of the mobile app, one can simply enable sending a digital version of the document directly from the field, while recording time and date and the doctor’s information.

All the salesperson has to do is select a file from a list and enter the doctor’s e-mail address. This delights the sales person. Even better, it delights the sales person’s target customer – the doctor, whose time is extremely valuable. The ease of this solution and the delight it brings to both parties here is extremely powerful.

Let’s next consider the serious regulatory issues that pharma companies deal with around drug samples, which have to be tightly monitored, recorded and closely tracked. This has been a paper-based process for many years – and one fraught with failure and poor ‘audit-ability’ due to a lack of process enforcement and loss of records.

OK, so let’s say a pharma sales person has met with a doctor and is going to leave a sample. From his mobile device he can scan the sample’s barcode and capture the doctor’s signature. With a well-designed system, this sets in motion a number of things: there is now a recorded drop for audit purposes, and inventory information for account and drug expiration information. All of which the sales person can set alerts for and pull proactively.

Meanwile, keep in mind that on the back end there may very well be a number of different databases in the information loop. Our smart mobile app handily takes care of such composite scenarios, immediately populating all back office databases and/or application servers with the a simple click of a ‘submit’ button.

From the above examples it becomes easy to see that one of the most powerful aspects of mobility is data capture at the ‘point of presence.’ This means putting applications in the hands of people at the most relevant, meaningful time and place to make an impact.  Going back to sample tracking, what happens if I provide the application to the proper employees at the hospital and allow them to directly handle inventories? This closes the interval of inventories, ensures no expired medications are in stock and closes the supply loop to ensure that enough products are available.

There are many other interactions that pharma companies must keep track of that can be automated with mobility, including how often sales folks market to doctors and annual expenses spent for these efforts. Let’ssay that a pharma sales rep sponsors a lunch event to discuss the results of a clinical trial. The rep can take digital signatures on through a mobile device, take a picture of receipts and submit this data instantly. The mobile solution then ties these items together, writing the data to various back end systems (expenses to finance systems, attendees and dollar figures to audit systems, and so on).

Clearly this leaves behind newly empowered mobile users who become far more productive and far better positioned to make smart choices exactly at the time and place they need to.

It is no exaggeration for me to say that by coupling today’s powerful mobile devices with our smart mobile applications, pharma companies now have the ability to not just go paperless, but to really empower their employees and give them a significant competitive edge.

Jump to Part 2.


Ken Parmelee is a founding member of Mobile Masters, focusing on application development and best practices in mobile.  Follow him on Twitter: @kparmeleetx

HTML5 – What’s the big deal?

By Ken Parmelee

If you are asking this question, you don’t get out much. There has been an incredible amount of coverage on this topic in recent months. Let me break it down.

HTML5 is exciting in part because it provides a capability to build an application once and apply it to both desktops and mobile devices.

HTML5 has other powerful features, but this desktop-mobile issue is key. With the fragmentation of browsers and mobile operating systems, this has been a long time coming. Though HTML5 support is becoming a true standard – one which is starting to be implemented widely - it is not yet happening across the board.

The prime outlier today is Microsoft, which in true Microsoft fashion has implemented its own proprietary technology. Perhaps you’ve heard of Silverlight? Even though this is significant, as many corporations have standardized on Internet Explorer (Silverlight’s predecessor), browsers like Google’s Chrome, and Apple’s Safari support HTML5 and can be installed on a Windows desktop.

So why all the press? There can be significant cost savings with HTML5. The developers themselves are less expensive and development time is shorter. There are significant public resources out there for developers too. In the short term it will be interesting to see how Adobe and Microsoft gain/lose market share as the spec is adopted by an ever growing set of browsers.


Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

Bad Apps, or Bad Developers?

By Ken Parmelee

The recent Wall Street Journal article, Dark Side Arises for Phone Apps, points to both malicious and security issues that are coming to light with handheld apps. It’s well worth reading. This issue should be of no surprise. The volume of apps being created, ‘validated’  and put into the market has grown at such a pace the surprise is that there have not been bigger issues on this front.

Mobile apps can be secure and auditable. The first question should always be: Who am I buying from?

Is it a marketing firm, two guys in their garage, or professional developers? Number of downloads is no qualifier and the best looking apps don’t necessarily have much to them (all sizzle and no steak). One of the unfortunate facts of easing development is that it invites these kinds of issues and predators.

Remember that we are not just talking about apps that hold secure information. Once you download an app there is potential that that application will attempt to steal information, wipe your device, or allow access into your device (and possibly back into your business network).

Ultimately the answer to the question is: bad developers – in both senses of the word ‘bad.’ Whether sloppy/inept or malicious… know thy vendor!


Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

Mobile Neck Strain – Now a Thing of the Past

By Ken Parmelee
Here’s something that may look familiar to you. Antenna has noticed in recent times that ‘Road Warriors’ are increasingly reporting neck strain from the unusual positions they find themselves holding their phones. We’ve done some research and as a result Antenna is now launching the “Great Apps for Better Neck Health” campaign.

What the Neck?

By providing great mobile interfaces and app flows, we hope to save the worlds mobile workers from this rash of neck strain issues. What can be created to make mobile apps really usable while running through the airport, paying for parking…is vastly better than the capabilities mobile devices could support even as short as a year ago.

So protect your neck and make good choices for your mobile applications.

Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc.