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Health execs back online marketing

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Marketing, sales, customer relationship management and e-commerce are health care executives’ top e-business priorities, followed by corporate branding and knowledge management, according to a new study.

Significantly, the study by software and consulting company Skila Inc., also revealed that research and development was way down the list of priorities.

The findings of the study, “eBusiness Edge: Prescription for Health Care,” are important because they indicate that marketing, not R&D, is driving the Internet agendas of pharmaceutical companies. This runs against the conventional wisdom that the Internet’s killer app for pharmaceutical companies would be accelerating R&D to bring drugs to the marketplace quicker.

Mahwah, N.J.-based Skila polled 49 IT, marketing, business development, and e-business executives at pharmaceutical, biomedical supplier and medical device companies.

Asked their companies’ top e-business priorities, 63% of the executives polled named marketing, sales, CRM and e-commerce; the four were lumped together in a category called “commercialization.” Twenty-five percent cited corporate branding and knowledge management, while 10% said R&D.

“A lot of e-pharmaceutical groups that we’re running into are looking at marketing as the low-hanging fruit,” said Elizabeth Boehm, senior analyst a Forrester Research Inc.

Rules and regulations

Pharmaceutical marketing regulations, while strict, are less onerous than those governing R&D. Plus, online marketing initiatives are quicker to develop than online R&D programs.

Online marketing is also cheaper and a way to boost ROI. “Marketing is a chance to increase revenue, as well as cut costs,” said Betsy Donovan, Skila’s VP of e-business. “People are focused on doing everything faster, better and cheaper. This is the promise of the Internet.”

Skila’s findings come as pharmaceutical companies are under increasing pressure to leverage the Internet to cut costs and increase sales to physicians, a traditionally tough sales demographic.

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