Time for pharmas to sow mHealth tech into consumer, provider relationships

When it comes to mobile healthcare technology, there's a startling void by a key critical player in the chain: pharmaceutical companies.

And it's a void that must be addressed sooner rather than later given how prescription medicine is woven into the healthcare scenario.

As we reported this week, it's clear the pharma industry is more than a bit behind the curve when it comes to embracing mHealth tech and even adopting the simplest of Internet technologies. A new report reveals just about 33 percent of pharmas have mobile optimized their product websites.

If that scenario isn't dismal enough, the pharma mHealth app landscape is even more disappointing. Of the more than 50 pharma companies surveyed, two thirds had just one mobile app for healthcare professionals or none at all.

Yes, you read that right--some of the biggest movers and shakers in the healthcare industry haven't done anything with mHealth tech from the very basic step of enabling websites to be accessed via mobile devices to creation of a single app.

Before all the press teams and media reps at pharmas start shooting me emails about taking them to task over the present situation, I will admit that pharmas, an already heavily regulated industry, is likely the most gun-shy and cautious entity when it comes to embracing new tech. I understand the reasons behind that.

But then again, getting a Web developer on board to ensure providers, payers and consumers can access a website via a smartphone or tablet doesn't require years of review or heavy scope work. Creating a basic mobile app that lets the same population access features now available using a PC isn't brain surgery.

As our coverage of the pharma mHealth scenario notes, the pharma industry hasn't made much if any progress even in the past year--a year in which some of the biggest mHealth innovations are taking place (i.e. Apple's HealthKit).

A 2013 research report revealed pharmas were lacking clear objectives and have not developed well-defined action plans, and more worrisome is that a year ago most "do not know where they're headed when they start developing a mobile strategy," according to a report. 

Now 12 months later the outlook is just as dismal.

The current pharma mobile gap is described by the Manhattan Research Digital report as a "critical blind spot" given that nearly every physician is now using mobile devices for work and research efforts and the number of consumers tapping smartphone for healthcare needs is growing every day.

Given all that it's more than a bit disappointing that pharmas are so behind when they should be a leader given the efficiency, cost savings and enhanced treatment mHealth tools can provide to patients as well as pharmaceutical companies.

As the Manhattan Research Digital report notes, mobile is a must-have for pharmas and it's time they got moving, and moving fast to catch up. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)