Taren Grom, Editor
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Patients are consumers and every consumer at some point will be a patient or a least a caregiver for a parent, child, family member, or friend. And as consumers, we have access to more information via more channels than ever before. This is the challenge healthcare marketers face as they look to move beyond mass media approaches to communicate with patients to personalized communications that resonate with a patient or consumer along his or her healthcare journey.
Analysts at ZS define patient marketing as programs and initiatives that support individuals and their caregivers who are already treating an infirmity with a particular brand and consumer marketing as other initiatives (such as disease awareness and DTC) that seek to promote a brand to those not already treating it.
Consumer and patient health needs are increasing as more patients come into the market armed with greater information and bearing a larger portion of the cost burden. Over the past several years, important shifts in the consumer health market have presented both challenges and opportunities to healthcare marketers.
ZS identify just a few:
The Affordable Care Act, which has added millions of consumers with diverse healthcare needs and levels of healthcare literacy to the market.
An aging population, which is adding more seniors, with increased healthcare needs, to the population every year.
Consumers who are shouldering a larger portion of their healthcare costs as more employers adopt high-deductible healthcare plans and out-of-pocket limits increase.
The challenge for pharmaceutical companies and marketers is reworking the traditional commercial model. According to analysts at PA Consulting, the established commercial model needs more than just evolution; fundamental change is required. With many aspects of traditional strategies no longer proving effective, the whole health system is reaching a critical juncture as policy makers and payers demand decisive action on cost, and new models of provision emerge that reward outcomes, not merely treatments.
The traditional model of pharmaceutical selling by demonstrating brand efficacy to prescribers is challenged by provider consolidation, centralized decision-making, payer influence, and patient information.
PA Consulting says the future commercial model of successful pharmaceutical companies must have at its heart the development of genuine partnerships with healthcare providers, payers, and other key groups that prioritize quality patient outcomes.
This means moving on from a volume-based, benefits-selling, blockbuster mindset to forging effective relationships with decision-makers. Pharmaceutical companies must leverage their rich and diverse resources to collaborate on the pressing issue of tomorrow — how to keep a growing patient population well — prioritizing lower costs of care and preventive medicine.
PA Consulting has identified three key strategies. The first is outcome-based solutions demand an integrated approach. Pharmaceutical companies will increasingly be rewarded based on patient outcomes.
This moves the focus from treatment based on indication to proven results for individual patients, removing the incentive for companies to market to volume and increasing the incentive to take part in preventive care. This means two things: working closely with providers on new solutions for specific patient populations and critical care groups and accessing patients who are not engaged by the right regimens, a historically difficult proposition. But pharmaceutical companies can play a role based on accumulated knowledge about specific disease states, data, and patient behaviors. Working with providers on such issues as population healthcare can provide a win-win-win situation: patients receive more appropriate care, providers and payers reduce treatment costs, and pharmaceutical products play a central role in delivering the outcome.
Second, customers are changing faster than reform; the pharmaceutical sector needs to move quickly and win trust. PA Consulting analysts are seeing accelerating consolidation of health systems in the United States and the formation of new prescribing and reimbursement groups in Europe. A key driver is the empowerment of patients and decision makers by the spread of data, emergence of personal health records, and growth of value networks that allow more informed decisions and confidence in an outcome-based approach.
If pharmaceutical companies are to forge effective relationships with other key healthcare stakeholders, they need to be much more than a supplier and really understand the needs and expectations of their customer groups. They must partner with organizations that are addressing the major issues of cost, outcome and care, and become a more integral part of the health ecosystem.
Third, structured account management complements traditional and emerging channels. To build these relationships, PA Consulting analysts say companies need disciplined and effective account management centralized in the new model. But, they warn before every sales manager rushes to a consultative approach it is important to remember that pharmaceutical sales representatives will still be a key piece of the effort.
Sales representatives remain an important route to providing efficacy information and companies can build on this channel to provide additional valuable knowledge, such as around the HIT.
Analysts at healthcare division in Valtech, concur, noting that the business case for keeping “the healthy” healthy is undeniable. Consumers can now leverage technology and big data to monitor the state of their health and practice preventive measures.
Patients are looking to pharma to provide select patient services, but have been severely underserved.
However, those who receive such services place great value on them, and they are willing to provide personal health information to receive free information and/or services. In addition, nearly three-quarters of patients in a recent focus group agreed that social media resources sponsored by, or created by, pharma would motivate them to talk with their doctors about specific pharma products.
Valtech analysts say the “5 Es” hold the key to understanding the dynamics and opportunities of digital engagement with patients. The Internet is the enabler; economics are the trigger; patients are empowered; patients enage; and patient experience drives the choice.
Consumers expect pharma to engage them in ways in which they are already accustomed. Pharma has tended to try a “one-size-fits-nobody” approach that runs counter to a patient-centric model that supports providers, retailers, payers, and, ultimately, patients. Focusing on the individual patient experience — and the subsequent data resulting from this experience — serves the dual purpose of engaging patients and providing the analytics to support product benefit claims.
To build a better message for patients, consumers, and physicians marketers are focusing their attention on creating messages that are focused, content-rich, and provide value to their targeted audiences. When creating content marketing one approach is to use storytelling, which is a powerful and experential way to connect with an audience. Other content marketing tips, according to ZOG Digital, include: understanding audience segmentation; providing strong calls to action; creating unique, bold content that captivates and motivates audiences to share; using engaging medium, such as written, visual, video, and interactive sources; promoting content across a variety of marketing channels; and analyzing user trends to identitfy topics and delivery channels of greatest interest. (PV)