This year’s Dosie awards are now out ( http://www.doseofdigital.com/2011/06/meet-2011-dosie-award-winners/) and I was struck by the high number of diabetes resources that won awards. This led me to ask the question at this week’s HCSMEU tweet-up (Friday’s at 12GMT in case you did not know) as to why this was – why is there such a plethora of diabetes award-winning resources but not for other TAs? There are a number of factors that feed into the answer to this question.
Pharmaceutical company investment
Diabetes is a highly prevalent disease but it is also growing rapidly. It is a disease that has a large population pool, with still high unmet needs but which is also growing in importance globally. This has led to an increase in investment by pharmaceutical companies in the disease area and it is seen as a strategically important disease area by many of the big players.
This impacts digital resources in two ways. Firstly it means that diabetes teams will have access to more resources for marketing purposes. It also means there is more investment in R&D and there are a number of recent new diabetes products and more in the pipeline. New products get more resources for marketing – and new products tend to be including digital resources in their marketing. As a high profile, but highly competitive, disease area there may also be pressure on marketing teams to come up with innovative marketing ideas – e.g. digital solutions.
Active and vocal patient communities
The diabetes community is well established – both online and offline. Diabetics have been at the forefront of some of the early digital communities and they have been very visible and vocal. This effects today’s digital resources in two ways. Firstly it means that there are some tried and tested approaches (so investors can see the ROI) which makes it easier to develop a new initiative based on lessons learnt. It also means that as a community they are more active online and therefore initiatives have higher usage numbers (which impacts both ROI and award winning).
As a chronic disease digital resources are also particularly effective for diabetes patients. Digital tools make it easier to control and track the disease and there are plenty of ways in which digital resources provide real value to diabetes patients (my favourite is still the Go Meals app from Sanofi http://www.gomeals.com/ ). At the end of the day for a resource to win awards it has to be providing value!
Another issue that plays into the disease favour is the fact that there is not the same stigma attached to diabetes compared to other diseases such as depression and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). This makes it easier for a community to form and to openly participate in a conversation. It takes a great deal of courage for a depressive or HIV positive patient to openly talk about it online. Whilst there are resources where patients can do this anonymously there is still a fear that somehow someone will find out.
Technologically linked disease
Given the need for blood glucose monitors diabetes is also a disease that has been more closely linked to technology from an early stage. This also helps when it comes to building resources and patients using the resources. It means that marketing teams are possibly a bit more technology aware – but patients are to a degree too (this may though just be me being optimistic!). It also means that it is easier to tie technology solutions together to provide value (e.g. linking a glucose monitor to an app). Again this feeds into the value creation concept.
So to the answer to my question then would be that diabetes is a disease that patients are more open about, that receives more investment from the pharmaceutical industry and where digital really can provide measurable value. My hope is however that other diseases such as depression will now also get more attention and investment – fingers crossed!