The next great frontier in health care lies not in little blue pills but in information technology, and it seems that big pharmaceutical companies are finally recognizing it. According to a report from Ernst & Young, companies like Merck & Co. and Novartis AG have increased spending on creating mobile apps and educational websites
by 78-percent. In 2010, drug companies began 97 new information technology-focused projects. By comparison, only 124 such projects were begun in the previous four years combined, and a higher percentage of the new projects were smartphone applications. These new apps and services are not just aimed at selling drugs to consumers, but also at encouraging healthy living and adhering to doctors' advice (such as making sure medications are taken on schedule and diets are followed).
The shift in focus is still evolving, however. Big technology companies like IBM
have committed to spending at least $20 billion on health-related technologies. Carolyn Buck Luce, of Ernst & Young, told Bloomberg that pharmaceutical companies had dedicated just "a small fraction of that."