This week, if you've been living under a rock, there is news for you. The i-pad was unveiled by Apple. The i-pad puts together a lot of qualities that many say will change the way we consume communications. The printing press did that. The radio did that. TV certainly did that. The Internet did that. Smart phones did that. Is the pad going to be the next game changer?
You decide. Here is what it does. It combines a lot of what we use now in separate instruments – our phones, our Kindles, our computers, our video watching, or game playing, into one compact ten inch pad with a touch screen that actually works and that has a battery power that lasts for hours and hours (like 10). (Though, interestingly, there is no camera, you can work your photo magic on it, I believe.)
So if the way that communications is changing, we have to think about the way we change our approach to communications. That is hard for regulated industries such as the medical products and financial services industries. And, at least in the case of the FDA, the agency that regulates communication for such regulated industries, has not exactly been nimble in responding to the changing communications environment. At least not with respect to the industry it regulates. As to its own use, FDA has stepped up and has a YouTube channel, a Twitter feed and uses widgets, while the industry is often intimidated from doing so.
In any case, the bottom line is this – both the agency and the industry are behind in responding to the considerable changes in communications that have occurred in the past decade, which has been nothing short of a quantum leap.
And progress is not waiting for them. The i-pad may or may not be all that and more. But it is interesting that one of the things that it will incorporate are all of the many, and now famous, i-phone apps. There are thousands. And they are tailored to individual desires.
Moreover, "Apps" are a place where there are ample opportunities for industry and the agency to show support for the patient and to achieve desired outcomes, as noted before. But where there has been little penetration by the industry and none, to my knowledge by the FDA. For example, perhaps the FDA would think of an App that would make Adverse Event Reporting easier. And while industry has been so focused on the things that it cannot do in the current mixed up regulatory environment, it has largely failed to focus on that which it can do. There are some Apps that support diabetes patients, and some for HIV, but the market is woefully under supplied. What do patients want?
Apps that support patients don't have to be product branded. If they are corporate branded though, they do send a significant message. They say this company understands my needs and is responding to them. They are my partner.
In the end, both the agency and the industry would do well to remember this. There is no "U" in i-pad, or i-phone, or i-pod. The balance of power has shifted away from U – the communicator – to "i", the consumer/patient. U need to be more responsive to i. So a good start for you, as we may be entering yet quantum leap in communications, is to begin surveying "i" the public to start providing me with what "i" need in my communications from you. Don't package things for me that "i" don't want. Don't focus on what you can't do. Focus on what you can. For the i-Man Cometh.