London, England — Not long ago, a client described a particular patient type to me. They want to do better, she said, but all the responsibilities of day-to-day life just get in the way – or at least they think they do.

As she went on, I realized that I absolutely knew this person. It’s someone who makes a new resolution every morning (and sometimes every night). It’s someone who has low-calorie recipes and daily workouts bookmarked, but always seems to end the day with a glass of wine and a lounge on the porch. Someone who couldn’t even name her primary care doctor although she’s really meant to go more regularly, for years. Maybe you have a friend or family member like that? I know I do. It’s me.

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Apparently there are quite a lot of “me” out there. So, maybe it’s no surprise that people are looking to their doctors for a new kind of prescription – one that isn’t all about medicine, but is more about hope, a chance to do better (again).

Here’s the real headline from Digitas Health: Substantially more patients would take a prescription for a mobile app than would readily accept one for a medicine.

They interviewed 2,000 people living with chronic disease (respiratory, cardiology, CNS, gastroenterology and diabetes) this June and found that 66% would accept a prescription for a medicine from their doctor, but 90% would take up the offer of a mobile app. They also found that people who choose to use mobile health aren’t always the newly diagnosed (or people trying to figure out how to live with a disease for the first time). In fact, over 60% of active mobile health users were diagnosed over three years ago. (More about the initial findings).

There are ton of new ways for doctors – and brands – to put mHealth to work for their patients. Here are a just a few that we’re talking about right now:

  1. Connect people to support each other: Aetna has a new app called WellWithMe. It lets friends invite each other to join them in three healthy activities every day, one from each of its three categories: Move, Eat and Grow. They aren’t all hard-core fitness and good eating either. Under Move, you might grab a yoga class, but under Grow, you could read for 30 minutes. We dig that this app promotes broader wellness and brings people together to celebrate little changes.
  2. Work on any device: It’s easy to think app when someone says mobile, but text messages can be an incredibly powerful wellness tool, too. And, they actually reach the households that overindex for health challenges like obesity and diabetes. (Pew Research reports that households earning $30,000 or less send and receive an average of 60 texts a day, double the number handled by $75,000-plus households). That’s why Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and Share Our Strength (SOS) recently launched “Dinner Made Easy,” a text-based nutrition education program designed to get families thinking about simple shifts for better health.
  3. Bring medical wisdom into real life: In the spirit of go big or go home, there is one company that has created an app so smart that it’s almost like taking a doctor or nurse home with you. The company is Welldoc and its latest release is a prescription-only app for diabetes management called BlueStar.  It interacts with the user throughout the day, checking in on glucose levels and making real-time suggestions about what what to eat or when to retest. It periodically sends patient data to their physician via an automatic e-mail or fax. A few major national employers — including Ford Motor Co. and RiteAid — have already agreed to reimburse employees who use the app through their prescription benefit plans.

Huge thanks to Sam Cannizzaro for this find. If he keeps sending us stuff this good, we’re going to make him start writing.

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Posted by: Leigh Householder

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.