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Healthinnovations on QR codes in pharma & healthcare marketing.

To begin a QR code or Quick Response code is a 2-dimensional barcode which can be linked to a website or contain extra documentation, there’s one over there to the right of you, give it a try.  The convenience of a QR code is the fact it can be uploaded to any smartphone or i-pad at a click of a button through a scanner app.  You can see where I’m going with this can’t you, it’s a real time saver and in-line with lifestyles that denote a lack of time and a need for mobility.

Ken Honeywell described in his post aimed at General Healthcare Practitioners, how QR codes can be used to promote practices and supply patients with information on future procedures.   In a recent article on PSFK describing a protest by Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights, and Oasis, ‘Consumer Action Cards‘ were used against Hershey’s child labour practices.  These small cards were placed on Hershey’s products in local grocery stores, containing a basic headline with a QR code to lead previously unlinked members of  the public to an online campaign site and has proved extremely productive.

We can see from the above reports that QR codes promote interaction at a grass-root level.  Doctors are already using them to interact and market their practice with patients and non-profits are empowering consumers all over the US to print out these tags and place them in community stores.

Let’s talk about doctors first.  It would follow that if doctors are already comfortable using QR codes, shouldn’t they be comfortable receiving them?  The biggest complaint we hear from doctors is their lack of time and the need for pharma to market to them at their convenience, which is fair enough.  This could take the guise of e-detailling, hashtag searches or a google-search type marketing, the commonality being these can all be stored, referenced and viewed at a later, more convenient time.

Why are doctors comfortable with QR codes? Well if you think of it barcodes are used every day in hospitals and practices to check and order medications.  And not just by doctors, nurses will also use barcoded information extensively over the course of a day and may welcome receiving extra QR coded information on medication packaging.  There is also the mobility aspect which doctors have integrated into their every day working lives.  Think about an e-detail that has to be inserted into a desktop or transferred to a mobile device.  Why not send the link via a QR code, one click and the information is uploaded to a smart phone or i-pad and on the road with it’s mobile owner.  An e-detail that might be a bit too long?  Provide a Customer Action Card in the drug info pack that could contain links to whitepapers or any extra information that might not usually be read in the references.

These Consumer Action Cards or CAC’s as they unfortunately abbreviate to, are far from it, they promote interaction and empowerment with consumers born of a barcoded society, everything in their consumer life has a barcode, at the cash till or on the consumables they take home.  The Action in the title is just that.  Extra drug safety information at the pharmacy, here’s your Consumer Action Card containing safety tips, relevent links on your illness, links to the pharma manufacturer and who to call for Adverse Events; feel free to upload this to your i-phone and carry the information with you at all times.

These cards should not be designed to replace legally required literature on a drug ad or medication packaging.  These cards can be designed to further patient empowerment and self-efficacy promoting interaction with an easily scanned code, giving extra information with each medical purchase, each medical ad.  These codes can be uploaded and used in conjunction with speech apps or other media to aid people with a disability, and are already being used in healthcare based Assistive Technology.  These codes could help promote health literacy as it stands today as well as leading to a more convenient and time-saving form of marketing to help doctors in their research into new products.  And the icing on the cake, you will have patients and customers physically interacting with your awareness and marketing campaigns.

There’s alot to be said about CAC’s!


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Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio,, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

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