Obtaining funding for your digital health project

biomedical_catalyst_programmeWe often get approached by individuals who are often healthcare professionals or research students looking for expert help to turn their innovative digital healthcare business plan into a tangible and commercially viable product. However, many of them struggle to progress their business plans to the next level as they lack the capital required to invest in product development. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs will be painfully aware of high hard it can be to secure a loan from a bank or attract private funding from an investment firm or angel investor. So what other sources of funding are out there for healthcare innovators?

I recently attended a workshop called the Biomedical Catalyst Programme (BMC). The event which was organised by the Digital Health Special Interest Group in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) gave attendees the opportunity to hear about the BMC funding programme and how it is relevant to innovators in key areas of Digital Health which clearly address unmet clinical need. The objectives of the workshop were to learn how the BMC programme works, explore the types of projects that could fit the programme’s investment criteria and understand some of the important considerations for exploiting products and services into the healthcare sector.

It was interesting to hear that at present only 4% of projects that receive funding are in digital health. I was astonished by how low this figure was, but felt reassured to hear that the TSB panel stated that they want to encourage more digital health investments. To learn more about the scheme visit: www.healthktn.org/digital-health

If you have an idea for a new digital healthcare product and need some expert digital development and marketing assistance to help you bring you product to market, then get in touch. You may also find our white papers and other resources such as our App Business Planner useful documents when producing your business plan.

Genetic Apps Launches

genetic_appsThe last 6 months has been an exciting time in Genetic Digital’s growth and we’ve established ourselves as one of the UK’s leading experts in the area of health and medical mobile app development.

We’ve built some highly innovative apps for the likes of the NHS and pharmaceutical brands and we recently completed the development of our first MHRA approved app which we believe to be only the second app in the UK (the first one being Mersey Burns App) to carry the CE mark as a class 1 medical device.

As a result of this specialism we’ve launched a dedicated website called Genetic Apps which will contain specific content relating to our health and medical app development services. Over the coming months we’ll be adding more new resources and insightful blog posts to help you keep up to speed on this fast evolving and innovative area of digital and mHealth.

What is the Google Hummingbird Update?

What is the Google Hummingbird Update?No Google haven’t started to breed hummingbirds, we’re talking about the name given to their recent update to their search engine algorithm. And although the Hummingbird is among the smallest of birds it has most certainly created a huge amount of discussion and debate within SEO and tech communities. So much so, that since the update happened around the end of September it even got featured in a Telegraph newspaper article.

So what’s all the fuss about and how big an impact is Hummingbird likely to have on SEO strategy?

What exactly is Hummingbird?

Essentially, Hummingbird consists of a new technology called the Knowledge Graph. In a nutshell the Knowledge Graph is Google’s attempt at a creating a more intelligent search engine and one that tries to get inside the mind of someone carrying out a search to better understand what type of information they’re really after. Because of the huge volumes of digital content that now exist on the web, Google’s users are having to be more specific in the way they search and to do this they’re having to type longer phrases into Google and in some cases they’re often having to completely rephrase their query if Google was way off the mark first time round. And all this is frustrating and time consuming for Google’s users which isn’t great for the brand, which now has shareholders to keep happy!

So what Google is now capable of doing, similar to a human mind is make connections between items and answer complex questions. It does this through its semantic search capabilities, to the layman that means Google is analysing all words used in a search query to better understand the true meaning of the phrase we have typed in. This is a subtle move away from just simply providing a set of search results and web pages to delivering meaningful answers. For example Hummingbird will more greatly consider question words like “how” “why”, “where” and “when” in search phrases.

Another thing built into the Hummingbird update is conversational search or ‘hot wording’ as Google calls it.

I tried it out myself and asked Google “Where is my nearest GP” and to my amazement Google served the ‘Find Services’ page on the NHS website at the top of its search results. Exactly the type of page I’d need if I was indeed looking for my nearest doctors surgery. So it does look like Google is able to intelligently connect up the words and provide users with highly relevant content. Eventually, this technology might reach the point of understanding text on a more nuanced and human level, a scary and yet thrilling thought.

How does this impact SEO?

However, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Its best practice guidance remains the same: create original, high-quality content, but I do believe healthcare marketers now need to think beyond simple therapy/disease or product and service based keywords and think about the types of sentences they’ll be typing in. To do this well you really do need to understand your target audiences’ information needs and the different stages they go through as part of their decision making or purchasing process.

Marketers need to better understand the types of problems certain groups of patients and HCPs are looking to solve when they go online and the common types of questions they seek credible answers to. Once they’ve done this they then need to think about the actual content itself and make sure their digital content is relevant to those search queries being ‘Googled’. It’s also important to try and determine what format is most likely to appeal to and engage those audiences when they first come into contact with that content, i.e. static web pages, videos, infographics, images or a combination of them all, as this will help to reduce bounce rates which will also help secure high rankings.

One beneficial result of Hummingbird should be that it creates a more level playing field for smaller healthcare organisations that specialise in a particular aspect of healthcare or focus on a specific therapy/disease area.  The high volume, generic paid search keywords are often dominated by large multi-national organisations that have a diverse brand portfolio and deep pockets that enable them to win the Google Adwords bidding war. But because of the more generic nature of their web content, this means that they are at a disadvantage when it comes to the less predictable nature of semantic search results. The Hummingbird update should enable smaller niche companies that have the ability to produce unique, informative and fresh content specifically relating to that niche, gain a higher ranking in the search results when a precise and complex search phrase is used.

However, one negative linked to Hummingbird is that as Google accelerates its movement away from Google keyword search to Google semantic search, Google will encrypt all future search results, which means that they’ll no longer provide any data whatsoever within web analytics packages on organic keyword referrals. For us marketers this means that we are going to be completely in the dark when it comes to knowing which keywords are sending people to our website and more importantly driving and assisting conversions from the organic search results. There’s more on this topic in my other post titled: “Google Analytics no longer providing organic keyword data“.

Need help?

If your organisation has been hit by Hummingbird and need expert help to better understand what changes you should be making to your healthcare SEO strategy to get your site performing well in the organic search results then get in touch to request a Google Hummingbird Impact Assessment.

A Quick Guide To Healthcare Twitter Hashtags

Healthcare Twitter HashtagsWhether you’re a new or seasoned Twitter user, you’re likely to come across confusing hashtags but these short links preceded by the sign (#) are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them.

On Twitter, the hashtag turns any word or group of words into a searchable link. Any Twitter user can categorise or follow topics with hashtags. They make it easier to organise content and track discussion topics by grouping them into keyword categories. So, if you wanted to tweet about Breast Cancer, you could include #BreastCancer in your tweet to join that existing conversation. You can also click on a hashtag to see all the tweets that mention it in real time, even from people you don’t follow.

Hashtags make it easier for people to monitor what’s happening in the conversation rather than having to try and guess what topics you should search for. By having a conversation on Twitter using hashtags, you also make it easy for any other Twitter users to join in and contribute to the conversation.  This is how people from the healthcare industry are trying to share information and engage in conversations with as many people as possible. By being active on Twitter doctors, nurses and all other professionals working in the healthcare and pharma sectors can reach out directly to individuals from all over the world to spread knowledge and awareness on various health related topics.

How do I create a hashtag?

There is no preset list of hashtags. You can create a brand new hashtag simply by putting the hash before a series of words, and if it hasn’t been used before, then you’ve created a new hashtag.  Hashtags are not an official feature of Twitter. This makes it difficult to find the origin or reason for a hashtag (particularly if it’s a weird acronym) or stop other users adopting a hashtag that’s already in use.

If you want to find out which healthcare related hashtags are already in use and which ones are most popular and trending, you should check out Hashtags.org and the Healthcare Hashtag Project. These sites will help you to discover where healthcare conversations are taking place and discover who to follow within your speciality or therapy area.

Most of the time the keywords used in the hashtag itself will give you a clue as to the subject matter of conversations taking place, for instance the hashtag #pharmacist will mainly consist of conversations around pharmacy but others like #s4pm are less obvious.  Using Twitter search is often the best place to start, so in the case of #s4pm, you would do this search and Twitter will then reveal that #s4pm relates to the Society for Participatory Medicine, including the Journal of Participatory Medicine and e-Patients.net blog.  If Twitter reveals very little then <Hashtags.org is one of the other better websites to use also. Again the Healthcare Hashtag Project often provides some descriptive content for a particular

And what about the @ symbol?

The @ symbol does something completely different. Using @ before a person’s Twitter handle will tweet him directly, letting him know you have written to him via the @Connect tab. A hashtag will not. So if you are trying to reach someone directly, don’t use a hashtag.

25 Popular healthcare hashtags:

  1. #BCSM
  2. #biotech
  3. #digitalhealth
  4. #doctors20
  5. #ehr
  6. #eldercarechat
  7. #hcmmconf
  8. #hcr
  9. #hcsmca
  10. #hcsmeu
  11. #hcsmin
  12. #healthapps
  13. #healthinnovations
  14. #HITsm
  15. #Ideagoras
  16. #LupusChat
  17. #meddevice
  18. #meded
  19. #medtech
  20. #mhealth
  21. #mhsm
  22. #pharma
  23. #premeded
  24. #ptsafety
  25. #s4pm

Need help?

If you’re struggling to get to grips with social media and need expert help to better understand what changes you should be making to your digital strategy to help improve your online performance then why not request one of our Digital DNA Tests.

Google Analytics no longer providing organic keyword data

What does (not provided) mean in Google Analytics?

Many of you may have noticed that for some time now that Google Analytics has been showing the “(not provided)” message in the keyword data section. And while the (not provided) tag was annoying, we still had enough organic keyword data to help us assess the effectiveness of our SEO strategy and measure visits and conversions rates from organic search.

But on September 23rd this all changed quite significantly as Google moved to encrypted searches which meant that all Google organic keyword searches are now 100% secure. When a user goes to Google to search, they are automatically redirected to the https:// version of their Google domain of choice. This encryption means that Google no longer shares any keyword data with website owners, regardless of whether a user is logged into their Google account when conducting a search.

This is great from a privacy perspective and Google has been making major steps to help protect everyone’s privacy but I remain highly suspicious as to why Google has only done this for organic searches only. They are still happy to provide website owners with keyword data if they are using Google Adwords to attract visitors to their site. So Google the money making machine, with shareholders wanting to see increasing profits so they can get a quick return on their investment, fully understand the requirement for website owners and SEOs to be able to track the effectiveness and commercial value of various keywords. And now the only way we can do that is to test the value of key phrases using paid ads in the Google sponsored listings. Pure genius, another quick way Google can increase its revenues and profits. I can’t help but question if Google’s informal corporate motto: “Don’t be evil” still rings true amongst the Board, given these recent changes.

So what can we do to still try and understand the value that certain keywords have on driving good quality visitors and conversions? Here are our some of the tactics we’ve been adopting to get around the issue:

  • Looking at non-Google keywords. OK a fairly obvious one I know and although Bing and Yahoo collectively have less than a 7% share of the search market, you can make the assumption that visitors coming from Bing or Yahoo are on average using pretty similar search terms to that of Google users. The problem you may have is if your site does not get a great deal of traffic in the first place you might struggle to obtain enough good quality data to make an informed decision.
  • Analysing your Webmaster Tools data. At present Webmasters Tools does include search data from encrypted searches but only for the last 90 days so start exporting and saving that data for analysis.
  • Analysing on-site searches. If your site has its own search facility then you can use Google Analytics to capture and analyse data from your site search facility. You’ll then be able to see what key terms users are typing into your site search tool, this will give you an insight into how they search and the various words they use in phrases.
  • Setting up test campaigns on Google Adwords. Using Google Adwords to test the effectiveness of certain key phrases is actually something we recommend our clients do before they embark on an SEO campaign if they have no existing keyword data to analyse. We find that this approach can help to reduce the risk of targeting the wrong phases from day one and because SEO does not deliver quick and immediate results, you don’t want to be committing resource and budget into a keyword strategy only to find that several months later despite seeing increased rankings for those keywords you have focused on, you’re still no better off from a customer acquisition perspective. Using the Google Ad Planner you can easily determine search volume and estimated clicks (on ads) for particular keywords which will help you to formulate your initial test keyword list.
  • Looking at historical data. Our search behaviour has not changed that much so there’s still a lot value in pre-encrypted search data that still resides within Google Analytics. You can check the data to see if there were any seasonal differences worth noting and also to check bounce rates, conversions and assisted conversions too for various keywords.
  • Using Google Trends. Google Trends is a favourite tool of mine and one I like to use quite regularly as it gives me a better insight into for which keywords are trending right now. So if you do notice a huge spike in traffic and you suspect it could be something newsworthy or trendy, but the majority is “(not provided)”, head over to Google Trends and it might possibly give you an idea on what exactly it is that is trending that is bring you the extra traffic.
  • Setting up filters in Google Analytics. Most marketers are not aware of the full range of features available to them in Google Analytics and setting up custom filters is one way great way to really understand how your website and marketing campaigns are performing. You can set up filters for all your “(not provided)” traffic so that it shows you the landing page for each of those “(not provided)” referrals. So even though you might not know the exact keyword that’s bringing in the visits, you can instead filter it so that you can see what page they landed on. You can then look at the keywords that you’ve used in your title tag and in the on-page content and that should give you some idea as to what search phrase might have brought on to that page.

Need help?

If you’re struggling to get to grips with the encrypted search issues in Google Analytics and need expert help to better understand what changes you should be making to your web analytics strategy to help you measure your digital performance more effectively then get in touch to request a Google Analytics Assessment.

University of Southampton Liver Traffic Light Calculator App

University of Southampton Liver Traffic Light Calculator AppGenetic Digital has completed development of the University of Southampton Liver Traffic Light Calculator iPhone App.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust

The live ‘traffic light’ calculator is a test for liver disease suitable for community use that could enhance assessment of liver risk and allow rational referral of more severe disease to specialist care. The algorithm used within this calculator only works with assays done by University of Southampton University Hospital Trust. It must NOT be used with individual test results from other hospitals.

Liver disease develops silently and presents late with end-stage disease; as a result, one-third of new admissions die within the first few months, and death rates have doubled in the last 15 years.

To learn more about the App and to download it for free visit the iTunes store


We’re shortlisted for a PM Society Digital Media Award!

Genetic Digital has been shortlisted as a finalist at this years PM Society’s Digital Media Awards. Their LinkedIn campaign for Britannia Pharmaceuticals has been shortlisted under the ‘Social Media’ category.

Damon Lightley, MD of Genetic Digital comments: “As a young but fast growing agency, to have our work credited by a highly reputable third party is superb news. We like to push the boundaries when it comes to digital and many pharma companies have shied away from using social media as a way of communicating with their target audiences. Our LinkedIn campaign has demonstrated that social media is more than just Facebook or Twitter and the success of this particular campaign has clearly shown that the social channel can indeed generate some great commercial results for a pharma company looking for innovative and less competitive ways to reach out to healthcare professionals.”

Turning your clinical pathway into a mobile app

It has been reported that health and wellbeing applications are estimated to make up approximately 40% of new smartphone apps currently being developed. Health and medical related apps have the potential to be adapted and used by healthcare professionals, helping to revolutionise the sector and reflect the digital age we live in.

There has also been a lot of discussion around providing HCPs with greater access to clinical pathways and care maps so that they can easily check medical guidelines on the go to help ensure that they are implementing a specific task in-line with best practice.

So, does it make sense for healthcare organisations to create handy mobile apps that HCPs can quickly and easily access on their smartphone so that they can check to make sure that they’re following the correct procedure?

Here are 5 key areas for you to consider that will help you to make an informed decision.

1. Does the pathway already exist already?
Because clinical pathways exist to promote efficient patient care based on evidence based practice they are more often than not available in a paper format but trying to track them down can be difficult. If the pathway already exists in paper based format then it’s more than likely that the pathway can be re-produced to work as an app, providing that there is a clear process that can be followed.

2. Can the pathway be used in its current format or does it need modifying?
Generally clinical pathways refer to medical guidelines. However a single pathway may refer to guidelines on several topics in a well specified context, for example both paediatric and adult pathways for a single indication, so it’s important to imagine the user and the point at which they may need to engage with the pathway. If the pathway is overly complex covering a number of topics, can it be reproduced in a number of different flavours making it easier for the end user to access the correct pathway more quickly?

3. Additional help information and any other relevant reference points.
Using the devices functionality a user will be guided through the process by answering relevant questions about the patient and their symptoms. In some cases the answer may not be entirely clear but developing the pathway as an app allows you to include additional information in the form of text, images and video to help clarify points and questions. In addition to this if there are other reference points that are relevant to the pathway, links can be built into these to help provide further explanation.

4. Test the app with local teams to check its effectiveness, sign off and launch the app and tell everyone about it.
As with any new tool, it’s important that you test it thoroughly before launching it for use by the whole of the department/organisation. Testing should involve making sure that each end-user can fully complete each specific task on the app that you set them. If they are unable to do so then you will be able to identify whether the app has a technical glitch or if the user journey is not clear and thus making it confusing for the end-user to complete the task. It’s also important to make sure that if the app is designed for use on multiple devices and operating systems, i.e. iPhone, Android, iPad, Blackberry, Microsoft etc, then make sure that you have users in your testing group that will be trialling the app on each of the devices and platforms that you will want the app to work on.

5. Track usage and improve the app where necessary
Even when the app is ‘live’ and in use it’s still important to capture data on its usage and give end-users the opportunity to submit feedback to highlight any glitches or possible areas for improvement. Your end-users can provide you with some useful insights into additional features and functionality that could help make the app even more useful and this can help to encourage more people to download it.

When is an app classed as a medical device?

Recently we’ve seen a number of apps with dosage calculator functions, some award winning, released to app stores but surprisingly these don’t seem to carry the CE mark to show that they have been registered with the MHRA as class I medical devices. There are currently over 11,000 medical apps in UK App stores aimed at HCPs which cover a huge number of disciplines from reference guides to dosage calculators. Everyday more and more are being added but how are HCPs supposed to know if the tools they are downloading have been thoroughly tested and are safe to use?

In the UK there is no official requirement to register smartphone or tablet apps either as software or devices with the MHRA and the guidelines that are available are just that, so it depends on what the app does and the level of patient risk associated with it as to whether it should be classified as a device or not.

MHRA Risk Indication

The European Medical Device Directive MDD 93/42/EEC says:

‘medical device’ means any instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article, whether used alone or in combination, including the software necessary for its proper application intended by the manufacturer to be used for human beings for the purpose of:

  • diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment or alleviation of disease,
  • diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, alleviation of or compensation for an injury or handicap,
  • investigation, replacement or modification of the anatomy or of a physiological process,
  • control of conception

and which does not achieve its principal intended action in or on the human body by pharmacological, immunological or metabolic means, but which may be assisted in its function by such means;

The inclusion of the word ‘software’ means that potentially all healthcare apps could fall under the medical device banner. However the meeting minutes from the Medical Device Technology Forum in 2010 show that the MHRA will apply further criteria to understand if ‘software’ needs to be categorised as a medical device.

  • Electronic Health Records (EHR) – while views apparently differ across Europe, the MHRA believes that if software is purely a record archiving and retrieval system it is unlikely to be considered a medical device. However if it includes a module that interprets data or performs a calculation, then it is likely that this module (or system) may be considered a medical device, depending on the claims of the manufacturer. 
  • Decision Support software will generally not be considered a medical device if it exists to provide already existing information to enable a healthcare professional to make a clinical decision. However, if it performs a calculation or the software interprets or interpolates data and the healthcare professional does not review the raw data, then this software may be considered a medical device.

Now, common sense must prevail but for example, an app that calculates BMI is highly unlikely to fall within their definition of a medical device, but a dosage calculator which produces a recommended dose based on a patients details, would.

Based on the information available and to ensure patients are not being put at risk, if you are thinking of developing an app that will use patient data to either contribute to, or make a clinical decision then you should submit a registration for the app as a class I device with the MHRA.

Notifying the MHRA

If you want your app to carry the CE mark as proof that it conforms to the Medical Device Directive, you will need to notify the MHRA as soon as it is applied to the device. This process involves producing a declaration of conformity which includes a detailed technical document that proves that the design conforms to the directive. As part of the technical documentation you will also need to have undertaken a controlled test and risk assessment to demonstrate that the app supports and improves upon any existing process used to present the same information. Once all the documentation is in place you can submit your registration with the MHRA and your fee for the registration which currently stands at £70.00.

Ultimately there is no definitive answer as to whether an app should be registered as a device and until such a time as regulation dictates that all apps are registered as medical devices, it’s down to the nature of the app and what it does, applied with common sense that will dictate if an app should carry the CE mark.

What would be interesting however is to understand that if apps carry the CE mark, would they be more likely to be seen as a trusted source by HCPs for use within their professional day?

References: d4.org.uk, mhra.gov.uk

NHS Health Apps Library

In March this year The NHS Commissiong Board launched its Health Apps Library with the main aim of  making it easier for people to find health and medical apps that they can trust and which adhere to NHS safety standards in health IT.

With over 40,000 healthcare related apps available globally, a key focus for the NHS is on ensuring that the apps listed in the Library are all clinically safe and suitable for people who are living in the UK.  Dr Maureen Baker, Clinical Director for Patient Safety, and her team  developed a review process that applies, for the first time, safety standards in health technology to health apps.

At the time of writing this post I was able to discover around 70 apps listed on the site, so it is by no means a comprehensive source of information yet. The main focus is on apps aimed at patients but I would imagine that it would also be a useful place to list apps that are aimed specifically for use by healthcare professionals. As we know, many HCPs are using apps in their day to day roles to help perform medical calculations and diagnose patients etc, so adding a list of apps that have been tested and approved for use by HCPs would no doubt be of great value to them.