Today is partly cloudy. The forecast is slightly different.
Yesterday Apple’s Steve Jobs made some announcements that stand to bring change to the way we communicate. First, beginning Monday that the “digital hub” would be moving from your PC to the iCloud. Second, Apple is adding Twitter to its iOS-5. What does that have to do with us, you ask?
Well, while FDA’s DDMAC still struggles to figure out how this new-fangled Internet thing works, the thing continues to evolve in ways that affect the way health care communication happens.
Right now, everything is tied to one’s personal computer. The concept of the Cloud is not new – think Google Docs – but for Apple to move into the sky takes things to a whole new playing field (or cloud). Why? Because we are becoming increasingly mobile – and now our technology is following suit.
Consider that the i-Pad has sold over 25 million units since it came out. And smart phones – who can count how many are out there? That means that we are more and more gathering and digesting our information on the go. That would include health care information.
According to the venerable Pew Internet & American Life Project (to which we should all daily give thanks) mobile access to the Internet is on the rise. And that is particularly true for minorities. From the 2010 Mobile Access report – “African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos continue to be among the most active users of the mobile web. Cell phone ownership is higher among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites (87% vs. 80%) and minority cell phone owners take advantage of a much greater range of their phones’ features compared with white mobile phone users.”
This week’s developments mean two things. First, mobile access becomes more important. Second, so does Twitter. If you aren’t there thinking about it, you had better get there. Right now, by my admittedly inaccurate count, there are about 130 pharma-related Twitter feeds and endless more among patient groups. In the future, people will have more access to information and greater ability to share it via Twitter. That is something to plan for.
The pharmaceutical industry has long been behind the curve in the development of Internet and social media based resources because, as a highly regulated industry, there is a need to be mindful of regulatory parameters. Those parameters continue to be something of a mystery as FDA engages in an undisclosed and ever-lengthening process for developing some guidance.
In any case, however, it would be a mistake for industry to sit on the sideline and wait for the FDA Godot to come in with answers to a million questions. Even if Godot does show up, there is still going to be a lot of ambiguity and process associated with clearing up the environment.
So now is the time instead to stare up at the sky and think about what you might like to do in the future, considering clouds, access – particularly by minorities, and a greater ability to share. Because the future is not approaching as languidly as it used to when after the invention of the television it took 25 years to appear in our living rooms. The future isn’t 25 years away. It begins Monday.