Dear Pharma: Why do you want to build your own adherence app?

Plato was right. Necessity is the mother of invention. In my [Omri’s] case, necessity was a matter of life and death.  My father, diabetic and hypertensive for nearly 20 years, didn’t feel well one Friday afternoon and couldn’t remember if he had taken his medications that day. After telling him that I hadn’t seen him take his medications (not that he hadn’t in fact taken them), he mistakenly took them a second time. It wasn’t long before my dad became very ill, and I realized he had overdosed. If I hadn’t acted quickly, he might have gone into a diabetic coma.

Fortunately my father is fine today, but at the time I couldn’t understand how there were no protocols to avoid these types of dangerous, often life-threatening mistakes. That frightful afternoon drove my brother Rotem and me to develop the Medisafe platform to prevent medication overdoses, and more generally address what we had learned was an enormous medical and health cost issue: medication non-adherence.  

For us, this endeavor is more than building a business. Our personal story and passion to solve this complex problem have been driving our success; in just three years, Medisafe has grown to three million users, is ranked #1 by consumers and healthcare professionals, and is scientifically proven by independent research. We became the leaders because we immersed ourselves in understanding the problem holistically, became avid students of health-consumer psychology and acquired a deep understanding of where the U.S. healthcare system is today, and even more importantly, where it is headed.

Consumers have 2+ million apps to choose from, according to June 2016 data from Statista. With competition for consumer attention at an all-time high, before companies build their own apps, they should first consider the following factors: cost, company DNA, distribution & scalability, consumer trust levels, and the risks & liability involved.

Cost

Cost here is not only the amount of money it takes to hire a developer to create the app, but also time it takes to develop expertise on how to optimize user experience and patient engagement. For a fast-moving startup like Medisafe, it has taken four years of development, usability testing, in-app experiments, deployment of multiple analytics platforms and interpreting results to get to this point. And that’s not including the marketing side, which means tackling the discoverability challenge in a sea full of apps. All in, it has taken millions of dollars, seemingly limitless insights and learnings, and many scars along the way.

Company DNA

Medisafe’s sole focus and core competency is building the best mobile platform possible to tackle non-adherence. We’ve worked hard to ensure our team’s skill sets and culture are well-suited to the task. We foster an environment that encourages risk-taking to stay on top of a crowded and competitive landscape yet; we balance this with utmost care and discipline to ensure we fully comply with established medical, health care and consumer privacy regulations.

Distribution & Scalability

A platform with critical mass - With 3 million users growing organically by 100,000 new users per month, Medisafe can effectively distribute targeted content and well-timed interventions approved by your med-legal teams to thousands of patients already prescribed your medications. To date we have amassed a data repository consisting of 450 million taken doses with billions of associated data points, which translates to statistically significant de-identified insights on patient adherence and related behaviors.

Understanding the patient holistically – At Medisafe we fully subscribe to the statement, “Treat the patient, not the condition.” From the beginning, we understood that patients would not use several apps to manage different medications, nor do they normally decide which branded meds they take. That’s why we developed a singular app that enables users to stay on top of all of their medications at the same time. This benefits our pharma partners by giving them more detailed insight on patient cohorts (e.g. comorbidities, poly-pharmacy behavior, drug switches, etc.) in virtually real-time.

Market and brand coverage – While there are heavy concentrations of Medisafe users with primary chronic conditions, we have a representative sample of users across virtually all therapeutic areas, from the most acute health situations to the most advanced chronic illness. The app has users in over 200 countries and is available in 18 languages. If we work with you on one brand in one country, we can quickly expand our reach to other geographies and disease states.

Trust

In a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2015, just 42% of respondents held a positive view of pharma companies. To put that in perspective, about the same percentage of respondents (40%) thought positively of big oil companies. The strong negative views were comparable as well. With the public already skeptical, how receptive are consumers likely to be to your mobile app, especially if its intent is to get them to take more medications, which flows directly to your bottom line?

By contrast, Medisafe is an agnostic third party that consumers trust, evidenced by our net promoter score (NPS) of 57, which puts us on par with Zappos and above Samsung (54). Further, 130,000 users have rated Medisafe 4.5 out of 5 stars in the Apple and Google Play App Stores.

Risks & Liability

Developing pharmaceuticals and bringing them to market is fraught with risk, but this risk is inherent in your core business model, which you have accepted and learned to mitigate over the years. Developing software in the world of medicine comes with a significant burden and exposure to new types of risk and potential liability.

Consider what happens if your software fails to deliver a notification to a patient’s device or a user’s time zone does not change correctly when he travels, and he misses the window of time to take his medication. What if your servers are hacked and a patient’s personal health information (PHI) is compromised? You are “big pharma” with “deep pockets,” and this time you are in unfamiliar territory.

With three major healthcare data breaches in 2015 and medical information valued 10 times more than credit card numbers on the Black Market, attacks on healthcare systems will only increase. Preventing against cyberattacks and addressing new threats is an ongoing battle, and if you let your guard down for a moment, you’re left exposed and vulnerable.

Medisafe employs cybersecurity experts – including the company’s CTO Rotem Shor – who came from Check Point Software, the largest pure play security vendor in the world. In addition to HIPAA compliance, Medisafe has achieved ISO 27001 certification, a very stringent set of standards and processes that safeguard our users’ data. Getting to this point, even for a company staffed to handle it, took a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

So now tell us, who still wants to build their own adherence app, and who would prefer to partner with a company like Medisafe? If you find yourself in the latter camp or still aren’t sure, please get in touch.

To your health,

Omri and Jon

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