Pharma boosts tech spending, but not enough

The good news: Drugmakers have boosted their investments in electronic tools for connecting with patients and improving outcomes by 78 percent, a new Ernst & Young report finds. The bad news? That increase isn't nearly enough to outpace similar investments from non-pharma companies. So, if pharma doesn't accelerate, it may lose.

You might recall that Ernst & Young has been exploring "Pharma 3.0," which is essentially its vision for a successful pharma future. By its lights, drugmakers need to move away from a tight focus on products and toward a broader, more holistic approach to improving patients' health. The idea is that, as payers weigh patient outcomes as part of their do-we-or-don't-we-reimburse calculus, drugmakers need to make sure their outcomes stand up to the competition. Plus, engaging with patients helps build trust and loyalty to a drugmaker's brand.

Examples? New smartphone apps from diabetes drugmakers that help patients keep track of their blood sugar readings, their diets, and their exercise programs. Pharma companies are moving beyond diabetes as well, introducing apps that track vaccination schedules, connect patients with cancer drug trials, and more.

Problem is that other providers are also offering disease-management tools and the like, which means that drugmakers risk losing the opportunity to be patients' first choice for those tools. And that, of course, is a missed marketing opportunity. "The next big change in health outcomes is behavioral change," E&Y's global pharma leader Carolyn Buck Luce told Bloomberg, "where medicines play an important part but not the only part." Pharma needs to make sure they get a chance at the whole pie.

- see the E&Y release
- check out Bloomberg's story