Pharma's tough road to mobility

From the mHealthNews archive
By Ephraim Schwartz
08:09 am

Pharma, the industry that prides itself on being at the cutting edge of medical research, is simultaneously at the back end when it comes to adopting mobile technology solutions for what is a ready and waiting market of healthcare professionals.

Only 33 percent of all healthcare pharma applications are mobilized. What’s more, 45 percent of healthcare pharma websites on the market for less than five years are mobile-optimized, but only 28 percent of those older than five years are mobilized, according to a 2014 study, "Pharma Mobile Apps and Websites for Physicians: Benchmarking Current Efforts and a Framework for Optimizing Mobile Strategy," by Manhattan Research, a division of the Decision Resources Group.

While healthcare professionals will use pharma sites that make mobile access seamless, the repercussions for the laggards could be serious. Companies like Medscape Mobile Manor Health and many insurers, in fact, are thinking "mobile first," said Monique Levy, vice president at the Decision Resources Group. Pharma, on the other hand, is only hurting itself.

"They lose opportunities,” Levy said. “In today's market where physicians are so pressured by drug choices, pharma needs every shot it can get for physicians prescribing their drug.”

[mHealth masters: Mercy Virtual's Randy Moore on breaking traditional healthcare thinking.]

One example brings the point home. If a physician looking at a formulary can see a co-pay on one site but not the other, that second company will lose the sale.

At the same time, the idea that a pharma company can build an exclusive application for its brand and become the go-to brand for physicians is unrealistic, said Mark Bard, CEO of Digital Insights Group, a market research firm for the healthcare industry. The average physician, he notes, keeps a maximum of four healthcare apps on their mobile device.

There is no single answer as to why pharma lags. Of the top 75 pharmaceutical brands, two-thirds have not optimized for mobile, according to the non-profit Digital Health Coalition.

One reason may be that the more conservative pharma companies know there is still a lot to be learned about what physicians want on a web site, said Bard. He breaks down adoption of mobile by pharma into three categories:

  1. Those that are optimized;
  2. Those who have a one- or two-year strategy to mobilize (keeping in mind that they still need to play with whatever new devices come along in the next six months to a year); and
  3. Those who say they are not getting much traffic, so why upgrade?

Perhaps the last group, as their traffic dwindles, will take the hint.

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