Friday, November 16, 2012

Pharma "eBooks": Imagining what COULD be, not what IS

"Should Pharma companies be developing eBooks for patient education?" That's another pharmaHOTSPOT online "debate" that I am currently having with Zomega's Mike Spitz (@spitz). You can view both sides of the debate here. My view was summed up thus: "Interactivity in eBooks is crucial to help patients. If the pharmaceutical industry is using eBooks as a marketing resource, they should be used as well-documented tools to help physicians pass content onto their patients."

As usual, the debate spilled over into Twitter and now to this blog post :-) @MaverickNY said "iBook format offers a wonderful way to integrate useful content rich disease information in text, audio & video." I will say more about that below.

First, let's make a distinction between "eBook" and "iBook" because there's some confusion. An "iBook" is actually a special form of eBook that can be created with Apple's FREE iBook Author. iBooks are what you find in the iTunes Store and read with the iBooks reader on your iPad or iPhone.

"eBooks," on the other hand, are more general and can actually be "apps" that run on iPads or iPhones. eBooks can be quite complex and limited only by the programming ability, imagination and creativity of the developer. Pharma eBook developers #FAIL in the last two attributes, IMHO.

Two examples of pharma eBooks that I talk about in my video (see below) are (1) "Diabetes and You" by Novo Nordisk, and (2) "Understanding Plaque Psoriasis" by Janssen Biotech.

"Diabetes and You" is an iBook. It's easy to download and navigate just like any other iBook; just flip the pages.


"Understanding Plaque Psoriasis" is actually one "issue" in a serialized publication called "Your Journey to Healthier Living." You must download the special "viewer" app before you can read it. This is similar to my New Yorker Magazine viewer/app. Presumably, when the next issue is released, it will appear in my Journey to Healthier Living library section and available for me to view.

Whereas  "Diabetes and You" is a simple, linear page turner that was probably "repurposed" from a print version, "Understanding Plaque Psoriasis" is like a very beautiful, well-designed customized magazine. You don't simply "turn pages" to read this eMagazine. You can scroll and push buttons to see recipes and take a quiz.

If you combine the first two pages of "Understanding Plaque Psoriasis," what you get is a typical magazine-style ad for Stelara, a Janssen drug for the treatment of "moderate to severe plaque psoriasis..." etc.


I have nothing against this except what I mention in my HOTSPOT video; i.e., this type of branded "hard sell" in an eBook might make it more difficult for "ethical" physicians not on Janssen's payroll to "prescribe" this eBook to their patients who may be taking another drug. So it loses its appeal as a true patient education piece that many physicians might like to see in the hands of their patients.

Anyhoo, back to interactivity and what could be.

As I mentioned, "Diabetes and You" is just a repurposed print book. It has no interactivity to speak of. In fact, it has "faux" interactivity. Here's an example of what I mean by that:


The print version is more interactive than this! In the iBook version, I cannot write anything into the boxes that invite me to do so. And there's no link to an online form that would allow me to use this "tool."

This is is what it is. But what COULD it be?

Just a short review of iBooks Author gives me some ideas of what iBooks could be like. Here are a few features that could make pharma iBooks MUCH more interactive and engaging and, hence, educational:
  • Add text, shapes, charts, tables, and media anywhere on the page 
  • Choose from a variety of widgets that add Multi-Touch interactivity to your book 
  • Add a photo gallery, chapter review, movie, audio file, 
  • Keynote presentation, scrolling sidebar, dynamic pop-over, interactive image with callouts, 3D object, or custom HTML anywhere in your book 
  • Add accessibility descriptions to any widget so that it can be used by sight-impaired readers easily with VoiceOver
None of these features is in Novo's iBook OR Janssen's customized "eMagazine." I am especially miffed that some graphic labels in Novo's iBook are practically impossible for me to read, such as this one:


I invite you to click on this graphic for an enlarged view that you MIGHT be able to read. Unfortunately, Novo's iBook does not allow you to even do this, much less have "voiceovers" to help vision-impaired readers such as people with diabetes... DOH!

Here's my HOTSPOT video:

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