Indian pharma lags on digital adoption: EY

Indian pharmaceutical companies lag their global peers in digital adoption, and less than 10 per cent of them have a comprehensive strategy in place, a study by EY has revealed.

While Indian drug makers have armed medical representatives with mobile apps and tablets, the use of digital tools to gain customer insight, stakeholder engagement and disease management is limited.

EY surveyed drug firms and hospital chains in the country and found over half of them were in the beginners’ stage, which meant that there was either no strategy in place or use of digital technology was limited for interaction between medical representatives and doctors. Around 40 per cent of the companies were cautiously adopting digital strategy with selective strategies and limited channels of engagement. 

Sriram Shrinivasan, global emerging markets leader (life sciences), EY, said, “The industry is currently in a ‘perfect storm’, given pricing pressures and demands not just from the domestic market but also on the global front as well as supply-side pressures. Domestic markets continue to remain a key focus area for the companies. To fully realise the potential of the market, the sector can no longer ignore the digital wave characterised by increasingly informed patients and physicians, new range of customers and new disruptive market entrants.”

Shrinivasan said there was a need for the firms to move away from the traditional ‘increase feet on street strategy’ to multiple touch points across digital platforms. 

He said digital adoption would help companies improve sales force productivity and also enable them to comply with the government's proposed code of marketing practices which bars companies from giving freebies to doctors to push sales.

The EY study found multiple challenges to digital adoption and many of them were not technological but organisational, cultural and regulatory in nature. Organisational silos (87 per cent), lack of authentic and enough digital data (75 per cent) and regulatory risks (73 per cent) were cited as the top three reasons for limited digital adoption. 

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