Kurt MuellerToday the spotlight is on Kurt Mueller, Chief Digital and Science Officer at ROSKA Healthcare Advertising, a full-service healthcare advertising agency using digital solutions to power direct-to-physician and direct-to-patient/consumer marketing.

Mobile is at the core of an increasing number of healthcare services and solutions. This trend is hardly surprising considering how online technology has already impacted the relationship between the pharma industry and physicians, and – more importantly – the interaction between healthcare professionals and their patients.

According to a November 2010 Accenture study, of the 92 percent of users that rely on Web sources for health and wellness information only 11 percent report they regularly turn to drug company websites for health and medical content.

accenture mobile health table

Connect the dots, and it’s clear that people’s adoption of technology is accelerating. And mobile – the personal device people and healthcare professionals have with them at all times — is next on the list. Our increased reliance on mobile apps and mobile websites to access information and advice, turns up the pressure on companies and institutions to include mobile in their marketing campaigns.

ROSKA Healthcare Advertising saw the writing on the wall earlier than most. Kurt Mueller, the company’s Chief Digital and Science Officer, started out in the Mad Men business of advertising at the age of 13 as an apprentice in his father’s advertising agency. In the 1990s he decided to ride the digital wave. He started his own agency and — several decades and many innovations later — sold his company to ROSKA Healthcare Advertising. “The momentum scope of what was happening online, and, now on mobile phones, has taken great partners and resources to scale,” he observes.

In Kurt’s view mobile is not only the future; it’s a medium that benefits both advertising (communicating the value proposition to people/patients on their mobile devices) and the advance of healthcare (creating services that improve how physicians and patients interact).

To date Kurt has lead or worked on dozens of projects helping clients — ranging from pharmaceutical companies to healthcare technology companies — develop advertising platforms that make use of mobile’s unique ability to support a variety of interactions.

There are many ways companies can achieve their objective with mobile, but two stand out. Enabling communication about a drug, service, procedure or device; and enhancing the experience of patients and the efficiencies of providers through innovative “mobile mash-ups.”

QR codes & campaigns

ROSKA was among the first to see the benefits of integrating Quick Response (QR) codes – two-dimensional data marks that can be read through mobile phone cameras and decoded, sending the mobile subscriber to a website or application – in the marketing mix.

As a result, Kurt has developed a range of campaigns and services using mobile codes to improve patient-physician interaction. He has also harnessed mobile codes to enable both parties more efficient information access. This is because mobile codes make content – including videos, photos and information contained in publications and on the Web — accessible to anyone who scans the code using a smartphone.

As much as Kurt is interested in technology like mobile codes, he is even more interested in human behavior, psychology, and what drives people’s acceptance of technology. After all, technology is of no use, unless people use it.

Kurt therefore recommends companies — particularly entrepreneurs or traditional companies seeking to differentiate through innovation —  stay sharply focused on consumers and what it will take to change and reward new behavior.

In his view, all efforts must be aimed at improving the doctor/patient dialogue, improving compliance and persistency, and  generating better health outcomes. “First, physicians need to be made aware.  Next, they need to find really good reasons to engage and care enough to learn about something new.  Only then will they take action.”

It’s a similar path for the patients. “They also need to be made aware of a new mobile application, for example, helping them manage a disease like diabetes. Before they can act, however, it is more about acceptance of their illness and the consequences of not owning their health. How we bring new mobile apps to providers and patients can be related, but tuning the message and channels for that message can be quite different.”

Mobile codes & incentives

Kurt is developing (with his clients and his agency’s technology partners) a variety of new approaches and incentives to encourage patients to take charge of their treatment and participating actively in mobile health monitoring.

But even simple mobile coupons can have a positive impact. Combine this with mobile codes and everyone wins.

A parent purchasing a non-prescription OTC cold and flu medicine for their child can scan a QR code to get information about the right dosage for their child, as well as information about side effects and other tips for helping a sick child feel better. At the close of this session companies can deliver a coupon to the mobile device that can be used at check-out. “The opportunity to make the experience for consumers better – while delivering helpful information to the retailers and the drug manufacturers — is obviously compelling,” Kurt observes.

The applications and campaigns ROSKA is building with clients – particularly its most innovative clients – “push beyond the physical limitations of paper and packaging.” The aim is to “drive people to helpful content, while also notifying – with the consumer’s permission – manufacturers, their distributors, their retail partners, and even clinicians and researchers with statistics and trend information.”

Sequences communications

The interest in mobile codes is on the rise, reflected in a steady pick-up in ROSKA’s business over the last months. Another area high on the radar is mobile Augmented Reality (AR).

“At this very moment we’re working on augmented reality services for clients, allowing patients and physicians to see with great dimensionality what will happen to their own body — whether through a procedure, an implant, or a drug effect — without ever making an incision or asking them to remove a piece of clothing.”

Kurt is also excited about the potential for what he calls “sequenced communications,” systematically programmed human interactions that support a collaborative care model through diagnosis, prescriptions, reminders, or messages. The proliferation of smartphones and connected devices is pushing this communication “far beyond traditional SMS- and MMS-style, two-way communications.”

The pace of change clearly inspires Kurt, show has a clear vision of how healthcare can and must develop to meet our needs in the next decade.

“Move forward ten, maybe even fewer years from now and think about healthcare reform. We are going to have a lot of 20- and 30-somethings who have grown up without health insurance and don’t think they needed preventative care or regular check-ups. There will be a bolus of new patients if the reform passes, flooding the system and there will not be time for over-taxed physicians and practitioners to serve them.”

This is where mobile can deliver answers and results. “Consider how a five-minute conversation with a physician can be extended through mobile conversations and support in managing the illnesses of the next generation. They’re on their iPhones, smartphones, iPads – they’re used to social networking and rapid, continual messaging. Consider how that changes the patient – physician relationship in a very good way.”