Concierge & Coaches: Mayday for Patient Engagement in Clinical Trials?


About five years ago, Amazon launched its contribution into the already crowded tablet market, the Kindle Fire.  While at its core it was like many other Android based tablets, Amazon built Kindle Fire’s user interface from the ground up.  It included some innovative features unseen in other similar products.

One of the more innovative features was the Mayday Button.  This service was available by tapping the life preserver with the word “Mayday” written on it.


Doing so put the kindle user in direct contact with an Amazon technician.  The Kindle user receives audio and video of the technician.  The technician receives audio from the Kindle user and can see their screen.  Amazon’s goal is users wait no more than 15 seconds after tapping Mayday.

There’s a lot of info on Amazon about the Mayday service.  One of the most interesting things I saw was this entry in the Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: This seems like a weird thing to invest so much time and money into.

A: We strive to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and this is just one more way we are working to achieve that goal.

No doubt, this is marketing overstatement. But it conveys Amazon’s focus on making customers feel they are the center of the company’s products and services.

Can we say this of any clinical trial sponsor?

In our last post, we discussed survey results highlighting the importance of direct contact via phone or in person with health providers.  No matter how you slice it, it’s clear that healthcare is intensely personal.

Jonah Comstolk recently reported on Novartis’ efforts to bridge the digital and interactive divide in patient engagement.  They did this by providing coaching tools to patients through a clinical trial app. The app was first discussed by Joris Van Dam of Novartis at an event hosted by The Conference Forum in September 2016.

The app has several functions:

  • Reminds patients of upcoming visits
  • Helps patients prepare for visits
  • Connects patients to a clinical trial coach

It is unclear if the experience is as rich as that utilized by Amazon. Nevertheless, tools such as these are important to helping us understand what works when it comes to patient engagement.  Whether they succeed or fail.

Pharmica’s Take

Basically, the pharmaceutical industry should prepare to fail before it can succeed in deepening patient engagement and focus.   How can they do this?

  • Develop small-scale, efficient experiments to flesh out the value hypothesis for any patient engagement approach.
  • Identify low-risk studies as targets for innovative approaches
  • Structure experiments so you can compare them to existing baselines

These steps will yield understanding which will advance a company’s knowledge around what works with patients.  It will also likely spawn other new ideas along the way.