The reasons the seemingly cutting-edge pharmaceutical industry lags behind in the mobile-application domain are far and wide, say medical marketers, who predict that, in the end, companies’ bottom lines, doctors’ choices and patient health will suffer.

Let’s look at the facts: First, one-third of drug-makers’ Web sites are optimized for mobile devices. Second, less than half of such sites between 1 and 5 years old are mobilized. So says Manhattan Research, A Decision Resources Group Company.

“This gap represents a critical blind spot for pharmas at a time when more than 4 in 5 U.S. physicians use smartphones or tablets for work and research, including such key functions as formulary look up, co-pay resources and clinical information,” according to a study titled “Pharma Mobile Apps and Websites for Physicians: Benchmarking Current Efforts and a Framework for Optimizing Mobile Strategy.”

Monique Levy, a vice president at the research firm, said the study revealed challenges by pharma on the issue of what kind of content to include on mobile site and what should be eliminated.

“Yes, budgets are limited and understanding how to work with MLR [medical-loss ratio] for various mobile optimized website options are barriers to progress, but at heart of the matter is the tricky question of which content and services to prioritize,” Levy wrote in a company blog.

For example, if a doctor wants to prescribe a drug and goes to multiple mobile sites – it’s estimated the average physician has up to four healthcare apps on his or her mobile device – to see what the co-pays are, the site that has the dollar amount more than likely will win out over the site that does not.

Legal ramifications also play a role in the apparent hesitation by pharma to mobilize. The Food and Drug Administration requires the associated risks of medications to be disclosed whenever their brand names are mentioned / published, which would mean figuring out how to efficiently include that information on pint-sized screens.

But when 83 percent of doctors use a smartphone, and 52 percent of adults use a smartphone to look up healthcare information, the excuses don’t stand up, according to the Digital Health Coalition.

“…the world of digital health is moving forward – one project at a time,” said Joe Farris, co-founder of the nonprofit organization. “Within five years digital and mobile business will become part of the fabric of most brands – and their customer experience strategy.”