Only 5% of drugmakers, medical-device makers and healthcare providers identify as digital-first organizations, a finding that highlights the lack of digital marketing talent in healthcare as well as the industry’s sometimes-slow-moving response to change.

In comparison, 14% of marketers in other sectors, such as retail and travel, say they are digital-first organizations.

The findings are part of a report fielded in September by Econsultancy with Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide and OgilvyRed. The agencies surveyed 150 manager-level marketers employed by healthcare organizations about their views on digital marketing in their organizations.

“Healthcare still follows the pattern that it’s slow to change,” said Stefan Tornquist, vice president of research for Econsultancy and one of the report’s authors.

Still, Tornquist said there are examples of manufacturers that have embraced the changing marketing landscape despite so-called regulatory limitations—even as others have remained resistant to such changes.

“In an industry unused to change, healthcare companies are moving in fits and starts and at very different speeds,” the authors wrote. “On one hand, the study indicates an industry with more questions than answers, a gap in technology and a need for talent. On the other [hand], healthcare marketers are investing in technology and committed to becoming more responsive, flexible and digital.”

Thirty percent of respondents said that digital marketing is still separate from marketing, while 65% said that digital permeates most marketing initiatives or all marketing programs.

While multichannel campaign management excites healthcare marketers the most right now, targeting and personalization, conversion rate optimization and marketing automation are also being closely watched.

And despite the industry’s interest in moving forward with more complex digital marketing strategies, there are cultural roadblocks within companies that do more to limit digital growth and sophistication than regulatory constraints.  

The survey found that 33% of respondents said regulatory concerns and compliance significantly limited their digital marketing capabilities, but a higher percentage—43%—said an organizational structure that is not suitable for delivering effective digital programs was the primary restraint

Almost 90% of respondents said their organizations lack marketers with sufficient digital skills. Digital talent will usually choose to work for a company where they are really wanted, Tornquist said. And that may not always be the case in healthcare.

Pharma companies, device makers and healthcare providers should cultivate digital talent by offering employees a career and support them with prudent investments in infrastructure and technology or by adding more support staff.

“Companies need to be creative in convincing that top digital talent,” Tornquist said.