Consumers don't find pharma all that innovative now, but there's hope for the future: Study

A new survey finds that while people today don't rank pharma high on innovation, they predict it's coming.

Pharma needs to get more innovative. That’s today's consensus among consumers, according to a new Klick Health study released Monday.

Only 9% of those surveyed as part of the 2017 Klick Health Consumer Survey on Healthcare Innovation ranked pharma and biotech as the most innovative industry in the U.S. While that still got it fourth place out of 18 categories, pharma and biotech trailed leader consumer electronics at 28% and second-place telecommunications at 13%.

However, there is a bright side for pharma, and the health industry overall, in the fact that consumers have great expectations for innovation down the line. More than 90% of the people polled believe that more innovations will come to the health sector during the next 5 years.

So why don't they think innovation is here now? Although the study did not ask questions that would spell out reasons for the innovation gap between current and future perceptions, Keith Liu, Klick Health's senior vice president of products and innovation, said part of the reason may be that people aren’t generally engaged with the healthcare industry unless they are ill. They may simply not be aware of new tech innovations. Another potential reason is that innovation in healthcare is still growing, with devices such as fitness trackers or pharma apps just beginning to become more common. From the survey, only 41% of people said they have ever used any technology for their health. As the internet of things, connected devices, artificial intelligence and virtual assistants, such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, go mainstream, that will help bring more pharma innovation into view, he said.

Pharma companies can help speed that closing of the innovation perception gap, Liu said, by forging ahead with experiments, test runs, trial apps and other technology to benefit patients. The misperception that people are too concerned about privacy or unwilling to adopt health technologies was evident in the results; the majority surveyed said they look forward to innovations in the coming years. 

Still, that doesn’t mean patients are ready to forsake a personal touch in favor of high-tech innovations. When it came to the areas where they thought healthcare innovation might be of greatest use, the overwhelming choice was in helping doctors better treat and also diagnose patients (37%). Another 20% said innovation would help patients and loved ones better manage care and treatment, 19% said it would help prevent disease and 12% said it would result in more personalized medicines.

“While wearables have certainly put some power in the hands of consumers in terms of their health, surprisingly the No. 1 area people want to channel healthcare innovation is in helping physicians better treat patients,” Klick cofounder and CEO Leerom Segal said in a statement. “… This suggests that people still want a human connection and empathy when it comes to healthcare, albeit one powered by technology.”