Apple’s new Passbook app, available on iOS 6 devices, may provide the perfect platform for pharma to launch a digital co-pay card that can update automatically, send reminders and deliver real-time data.

Our most interesting email this month comes from Joan H., who’s curious about one of the hot new features in iOS 6:

Dr. Mobile, A friend just showed me how she keeps her Starbucks card in Passbook on her iPhone. I love how it shows up on the lock screen when she gets to her favorite store! That got me thinking. Could we do the same with co-pay cards?

Our work benches in the Mobile Rx labs are littered with the latest and greatest devices, including many shiny iPhone 5s. Although there’s a lot to love about the newest Android hardware out there—like the Nexus 4—and we’re certainly fans of ice cream sandwiches, there are a few features in iOS 6 that are worth devoting a month to looking at. Joan’s question is probably the most significant for pharma marketers as Apple’s Passbook definitely represents a fantastic co-pay opportunity. Let’s dig in!

The release of Apple’s iOS 6 in late September 2012 brought a number of significant advances and refinements to its mobile platform, including the replacement of Google’s Maps app with Apple’s own version, improvements to Siri, Facebook integration and FaceTime over 3G and LTE connections. iOS 6 has met wide adoption by iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users, achieving installation in over 60% of compatible devices by mid-October 2012. All of the new features are of interest to pharma marketers—particularly those who have made the leap and launched native iOS apps—but Passbook represents a unique opportunity to provide a richer co-pay experience more deeply integrated into patients’ and caregivers’ lives while maintaining strict compliance with regulatory concerns.

Passbook is, in many ways, Apple’s answer to the super-hot mobile payment and transaction space. The mobile industry is highly focused on replacing physical wallets with virtual ones, moving the extremely valuable transactions into their devices and earning a fractional cut on each. Although Apple is one of the largest e-commerce retailers in the world (number three according to Internet Retailer) and has more credit cards on file than anyone else (more than 225 million as of June 2011, according to Apple), they’ve opted to focus on enabling transactions rather than processing payments.

Passbook is designed to bring all your boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, loyalty cards and more into one place. With Passbook, you can scan your iPhone or iPod touch to check in for a flight, get into a movie or redeem a coupon. Wake your iPhone or iPod touch and passes appear on your lock screen at the appropriate time and place.

Passbook is a native iOS app that ships with iOS 6. It looks like a collection of “cards” that appear within a wallet. The cards within the app are smart versions of their paper cousins, maintaining a connection to the underlying data at all times. Pictured on the opposite page, for example, are a stack of loyalty cards, an American Airlines boarding pass and a notification from the app that says you are near the airport. By taking advantage of iOS 6’s geolocation capabilities, cards can automatically appear on the phone’s lock screen when the user is near a redemption point.

It is worth noting that Passbook currently only works on iPhones and iPod touches running iOS 6.0 or higher. This specifically excludes older Apple devices, as well as any Android, BlackBerry or Windows 8 devices. Passbook cards need to be installed into the Passbook app before they can be used. Cards can come from within other apps, from websites and from emails. In all cases, the official “Add to Passbook” button is becoming a more familiar sight for iOS users.

On launch, Passbook presents a view of all available passes and users can tap a card to open it full screen. Merchants can scan a barcode/QR Code off the phone’s screen (for point of sale systems that support scanning off glass screens), or can manually enter a code for redemption. One-time use cards, such as Fandango movie tickets, are easily removed from your Passbook once they’ve been used.

Passbook represents an ideal opportunity to integrate co-pay cards into the mobile experience. Although Apple has modeled the experience more for store loyalty cards and event passes or tickets, a number of the included features lend themselves very well to the co-pay experience:

Ease of development. Passbook cards can be easily added to an existing co-pay program with relatively little investment on your behalf. The cards themselves have a limited number of fields and options available, which helps to keep the development cost low. Unless you require a physical interaction like a magnetic stripe to swipe, Passbook cards can replicate all of the barcodes and QR Codes that you might already be using.

Ease of installation. Passbook cards can be installed from within a patient website or from a confirmation email after patients have enrolled in a CRM program.

Live updates. Cards can be updated after installation to include new information. Special offers can automatically increment or decrement on the card including the amount of refills or savings remaining.

Geo-located to pharmacies. Patients can optionally configure the card to use their favorite pharmacies as geofenced reminders, triggering the co-pay card to appear on their lock screen when they enter the pharmacy.

Time-of-day reminders. Passbook cards can also pop up on the lock screen at specific times of day with customized messages. This lends itself well to pill reminders, with the ability for patients to set their frequency on your website before downloading the card.

Analytics. In addition to the data that can be learned from regular co-pay card use, the use of a digital co-pay card presents the opportunity to add additional tracking and reporting to co-pay usage. This can help complete a picture of the co-pay redemption funnel.


This new app, available on iOS 6 devices, brings all of your passes (movie tickets, boarding passes, retail coupons) into one place as digital cards that automatically come up when you are near a redemption point.

We expect that all of these benefits will drive higher usage and redemptions among iOS users.

Our Klick Labs’ team has built a sample co-pay card that you can install in order to experience how this might work. Simply visit on an iPhone, iPod touch or Mac OS X computer to give it a try. It should take you to a page on our Digital Rx blog from which you can Add to Passbook, which should give you a Rellyant co-pay card on your phone (Rellyant is a made up brand we use for demos). This particular card has been configured to give patients 20% off their first five refills, with a live countdown that decrements every time the card is used. The card is geofenced to two sample pharmacies (a specific CVS in New York and Klick’s office), which will cause it to appear on your iPhone’s lock screen if you arrive near either of them. For more information, view the back of the card by tapping the i button in the lower right corner.

  • Jay Goldman

    Jay Goldman is a Managing Director at Klick Health and leads Kick’s Sensei Labs team in addition to heading the company’s Innovation group. He is a co-author of the New York Times bestseller “The Decoded Company” and has been published in the “Harvard Business Review.”


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