What’s in a “Digital” Title?

Comparing the digital intensity of Pharma companies.



What makes a company a digital leader in the Pharma space?  People working in Digital Health in Pharma are just like anyone else and like to compare their own efforts with their peers and see how they measure up. To help with this, we’ve been looking to find a measure of how much effort each Pharma company is putting into Digital Health, their digital intensity.

The perfect measure would be interviews and a look behind the scenes to understand the financial investment, managerial intent and most importantly, shift to a digital mindset at each of the big pharma companies. In the absence of teams of analysts and access to each of the companies, we have taken a different approach. We have harnessed the spirit of big data and defined “Digital Intensity” as the number of employees who refer to digital in their LinkedIn title per thousand employees.

This isn’t a perfect measure, focusing perhaps more on the intent rather than performance but it is a good place to start a conversation. Employees are likely to have management support and at least some interest in digital to use it in their LinkedIn profile.  This measure was taken in February 2015 and then again this year and the results are presented below.

“Digital Intensity” of pharma companies

(please click to view image larger)

The clear leader is J&J/Janssen with 4.4 digital employees per thousand. The early and consistent effort that they’ve made into innovation is clear in their leading on this measure. J&J continue to take a broad healthcare focus using technology and apps for screening and payer focused initiatives. This includes its Care4Today platform, Wellness and Prevention subsidiary and a recent, well-publicized initiative with Walgreens.

Novartis, Bayer and Eli Lilly are interesting for the big leap they have all taken in the last 12 months, all with an over 40% increase in the number of “digital roles” versus the average increase of a still healthy 9%.

Novartis have made the biggest splash with high profile deals with Google, Qualcomm Life, Microsoft and their strategic investment with Qualcomm in dRX capital focusing on investing in digital medicine companies. It will be interesting to see how these investments and a 46% increase in “digital” roles deliver for the company.

Bayer have gone from 2nd last in 2015 to mid-range in 2016 in digital intensity and have been making noise with their Grant4Apps initiative and are regular conference goers on the topic of digital health. Interestingly they chose to get out of the diabetes support space, a common testing ground for patient engagement, when they sold their diabetes care unit this year to the new entity Ascensia.

Eli Lilly have executed on what could now be thought of as the standard Digital Health for Pharma playbook; a separate incubator and traditional marketing gone digital with tests in social media and a portfolio of apps.

An interesting case is Roche and Genentech. Roche alone has a digital intensity of 3.1 placing it on a par with Sanofi, GSK and Bayer whilst Genentech has an intensity of 0.6 the lowest of any company. The average reflects how the company has implemented the playbook above and have quietly gone about their work in the field with interesting patient-facing efforts across multiple therapy areas; breast cancer, age-related macular degeneration and Parkinson’s. For Genentech, who seem at least as digital as Roche to insiders, this lower intensity may reflect their closeness to Silicon Valley and perhaps that they are simply too hip to call themselves digital?

The question of whether companies might, in fact, be “post-digital” or be achieving things differently is relevant for the three that look like laggards in this data.

Merck & Co. are a prime example. They are last on the list of companies and with a decreasing digital intensity in 2016. This most likely reflects that the majority of their efforts are through their Global Health Innovation Fund which is outside of the core Pharma business.

Rounding out the bottom end of the spectrum are Pfizer and AstraZeneca, with a digital intensity of 2.3 and 1.9, respectively. Their approach seems to be rather similar, if lower profile, to that of Novartis with an accelerator and a handful of research- and clinical trial-focused initiatives and test programs around specific franchises. Does the lower number of digital roles reflect a lower commitment vs their peers or will they be able to achieve the same impact with fewer people?

The use of the word “digital” in titles is only one step on the path to achieving a digital transformation of a company, let alone an industry. We’d love to hear how you think each of the digital changes at these companies is helping to deliver more impact to patients, payers and physicians.


A trained engineer and avowed gadget geek, Tina Boggiano has spent the past six of her 20+ years in pharma in product development and commercial roles on innovative digital health initiatives. Tina understands both the technical and human sides of digital health design and possesses unique insight into the challenges pharma companies face when trying to innovate in this exciting and evolving space. Tina is a member of PA Consulting Group's Integrated Healthcare Solutions team, helping Life Sciences companies design and build successful digital health tools, solutions, strategies and organizations that align with broader business objectives.

Doug Haggstrom, a trained chemist and engineer, worked in Drug Development before venturing into a career in Strategy, Media and IT development. He has worked within and advised companies ranging from multinationals to startups. He has most recently been advising a developer of patient tools and supplier to the Pharma industry. He is able to bring influences from outside the industry and translate them into a pharma context.


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