iPads for Sales: Take Action or Watchful Waiting?

Author: Stacey Homan

Will the iPad kickstart a pharma sales and marketing revolution?” popped up on my twitter feed recently. A few key facts from this excellent post:

  • US healthcare professionals are the fastest area of iPad uptake.
  • 1 in 5 physicians plan on purchasing an iPad within the first year of the device on the market.
  • 35% of Proscape’s medical device and pharma clients are already using iPads.

At my last medical device company, we outfitted our sales reps with iTouchs when they were first launched loaded with videos, animations and images they could use in their sales pitches.  Since they have so little time available to speak with customers–only a minute or two–the iTouch platform was perfect to quickly show a video or medical illustration without using their slow and unwieldy laptop.  The iTouch is one click and one swipe to “on” — by the time a laptop fires up, the physician would be long gone. The iPad has both positives and negatives over the iTouch; it has a larger screen for ease of viewing and is more powerful.  However, it can’t easily slip into a scrub pocket and is heavier to hold up for a longer video if shown at the scrub sink or in the OR (possibly needing two hands instead of one to hold up).

With all the talk about iPads, it’s easy to jump ahead, buy a bunch and implement them in the field.  However, there are some pros and cons to the iPad versus waiting that you should note:

Heck yes! We should buy some iPads tomorrow!

  • The iPad is here and has been on the market for almost a year.  It has been extensively reviewed.  In short, you know what you are getting when you make the purchase.
  • Some of your reps may already own an iPad, making the initial purchase less expensive.  However, if you are deploying any internal, corporate apps or programs you may need to check with your IT department in case they need to add security features due to SOX regulations.
  • Apple is very, very good at creating smooth interfaces and easy, intuitive user experiences.  Your reps should have no problem picking up and using an iPad/iTouch right out of the box.
  • Many physicians already own iPads, making them instantly comfortable with the technology.

Hmmmm…Maybe we should wait and see what Android/Windows has to offer…

  • Starting in 2011, there are going to be an abundance of new tablets on the market with features the iPad does not have. Do you want an USB port for memory stick or physical keyboard access? Expandable storage? Would you like a camera? The ability to video conference? The current iPad does not have these features.
  • The lack of Flash means many websites are unviewable with the iPad.  Videos/animations will need to be rendered into an Apple-friendly format to play (they will not play .wmv files).  Also, any apps you would like to create need to be created within Apple’s system and adhere to their requirements, including the lack of Flash.
  • Thinking ahead, Apple is a closed system.  If/when you decide to upgrade, a different tablet may be better than the iPad.  Will you be able to transfer any custom made apps from Apple’s system to Android or Windows? Anyone who has an iPod plus an Android phone knows how difficult it is to transfer music from iTunes to the phone.  Now, imagine that with an expensive, custom designed app…

Of course,  this is based on the current iPad, not any new versions that may or may not be launched (in, say, April 2011).  To sum things up, quality time should be spent on what you want to do with the device, the types of apps you wish to deploy and the features you would like included.  Work backwards to figure out if an iPad is the best choice for you, while keeping your rep’s needs in mind.

At the end of the day, the iPad, iTouch and upcoming Android/Windows tablet devices are just vehicles for consumption; the real value and innovation in this space is the emergence of mobile apps (mHealth).  By 2015, 500 million people will be using mobile healthcare apps.  My upcoming posts will highlight some of the apps that are already out on the market, regulatory concerns and the general direction of this emerging technology within our marketing departments.

Have you seen iPads in the field?  If so, how was it being used? Was it successful or challenging or both?

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Related Articles:

A Physician’s Review of the iPad: the iPad Goes Live at BIDMC

10 Ways Apple’s iPad is Changing Healthcare

One response to “iPads for Sales: Take Action or Watchful Waiting?

  1. Pingback: iPads for Sales: Take Action or Watchful Waiting? | Good Promotional Practices at AdPharm Blog

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