Earlier this month, Apple’s iPad hit the streets of Europe. In the US, the company sold more than two million in the first 60 days of its release and, although we don’t know sales figures for Europe yet, consumer interest has been feverish. 2010 predictions of more than 6 million units worldwide no longer seem ambitious. Apple kicked off its European iPad sales in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, with universal availability expected before the end of the year.
The news pictures predictably showed lines of geeky young men desperate to get their hands on the newest tech-toy, but the iPad is already starting to carve out a niche as a tool for pharma. On the doctor–patient front, for example, there are established European projects that point to improved clinical care driven by tablet PC usage. One example is the use of 800 pre-iPad tablet PCs by the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. Speaking at the recent Health Informatics Congress in Birmingham, project manager Jawad Chaudhry said that the number of patients seen by staff with tablets increased by 20 to 30 per cent per week because clinical staff were not having to revisit their offices between appointments.
In a blog post published the day after the iPad’s US launch in January, consultant Steve Woodruff noted: “An iPhone screen is pretty small. A laptop is inconvenient. An iPad which can be used for data lookup, data entry, point-of-need multimedia education and reference and access to electronic health records — what’s not to like?”
In the sales and marketing space companies like UK-based Interactive Medica, supplying software services to the pharma market, believe the iPad’s combination of speed and ease of use will revolutionise the sector. Richard Jenkinson, the company’s Managing Director, says, “The iPad can bring to life product information for sales staff whilst also collecting data that can be subsequently used in profiling and segmentation strategy.”
One word of caution, however, comes from GSW’s digital labs. Writing on the “What’s Your Digital IQ” blog, Darcy Kelly acknowledges interest from clients asking if they should be kitting out their sales forces with iPads. His answer is ”No”. Kelly says it’s a good idea to buy one for the team to test drive, but it would be premature to order in multiple units to support a group-wide tablet initiative, such as rep e-detailing. He thinks the iPad is great for training and presentations, it is good digital signage, and it works in waiting rooms where patients can get information right in their laps. But it’s not practical for sales reps, he adds, drawing attention to the lack of Flash support on the device and pointing out that many e-detailing platforms run on Flash. This would mean re-building e-detail content as an Apple app then training reps on how to plan, and deliver, presentations in app format. Kelly concludes that while the iPad is probably not the right tablet for rep e-detailing, there are other tablet computers on the way. These, he says, will deliver more performance for your business.
Let the debate begin!