Many coming changes to the health landscape will disrupt conventional approaches to marketing and affect the future of health care. Who decides the value of certain pharma products? What does an aging population or sedentary lifestyle mean for healthcare costs in 2020? How will the trend of self-medicating patients influence the pharma industry? What do home genome kits and affordable DNA analysis mean for the future of health care? And what about e-prescribing and pay-for-performance systems?
The Role of People Outside Pharma in the Valuation Process
Perhaps the biggest change that will affect healthcare marketing is that pharma companies will no longer be the ones who decide what pharma products are worth. In fact, multiple groups, including policy-makers, payers, and patients already take greater roles in the valuation process. This trend will grow as healthcare costs continue to rise.
While traditional marketing exercises were effective in stimulating a demand for new therapies—some of which only offer minor improvements to current clinical practices—this custom is increasingly considered wasteful. Patients and other non-healthcare professionals will weigh the cost of developing certain therapeutics against the benefits they promise a certain population. The size and health status of a population that can benefit from a certain therapeutic will also factor into its valuation.
In general, this will impact how doctors make decisions and how pharma markets medicine to doctors; they will need to prove efficacy, safety, and economical benefits of their product and provide evidence that the product can improve a patient’s quality of life.
The Impact of an Aging and Sedentary Population
With an aging population and a general increase in the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle along with dietary changes, more people will develop and live with chronic diseases by the year 2020. This is a burden on developed and developing countries alike, and it contributes to a growing global healthcare bill. The demand for cheaper medications will rise, along with the need to market these therapeutics in a competitive landscape.
The pharma industry’s response to the perceived strain of a surge of patients with chronic diseases is to conduct formal evaluations of the effectiveness of current medications, both clinically and economically, to streamline their portfolio of products and reduce the waste of redundant therapies. With increases in healthcare costs to both the private and public sectors, the valuation of medications that perform similarly will require reassessment, and the accessibility of generic alternatives may improve.
The Growing Trend of Self-Medication and the Influence of Patients
The trend toward self-medication continues to grow exponentially; 66% of adults in the US and about half of all Europeans research their conditions or symptoms online. Health blogs and disease-specific forums have roused a patient population that, for better or for worse, is able and willing to self-diagnose and research therapies in the name of self-medication. Even major software companies are hopping on this trend and developing services for people who want to record and store their own personal health records. With increased access to healthcare information on the internet, patients become more influential on which products should reach and remain on the market.
Cheaper Genome Services and the Demand for Personalized Health Care
Popular personal genome services like 23andMe give individuals unprecedented insight into their family histories and tendencies toward certain health conditions. Access to cheap gene-sequencing testing and the ability to analyze a patient’s disposition toward developing certain diseases will in turn create a demand for targeted medicine and personalized health care. While the practice of gene sequencing offers an efficient method to assess a patient’s unique health requirements, it also means that pharma companies will need to provide similar products and services supported by targeted marketing strategies.
E-Prescribing and Pay-for-Performance Systems
Many governments around the world, especially in Europe, encourage e-prescribing to reduce errors. Because healthcare payers can provide doctors with important clinical information at the point of sale, doctors can more easily make decisions regarding medical prescriptions. In fact, US doctors who use e-prescribing say they are more likely to recommend generic alternatives or plan-preferred medications.
E-prescribing, along with electronic medical records and remote care practices, creates access to outcomes data, which can inform safety, efficacy, and cost, and assess the relative value of different medications. Furthermore, the ability to record and compare this kind of data opens the door to pay-for-performance systems. In other words, pricing of various medications could—in the future—fluctuate depending on their effectiveness.
The Future of Health Care for Pharma Marketers
These predictions for the future of health care mean that pharma companies will need to collaborate more closely with all the people involved in health care, differentiate their products and services more clearly to determine their value, and still find a way to reduce redundancies in the development of therapeutics that offer little improvement to current practices.
The days when value could come purely from a company’s product offerings are gone. Pharma marketers need to consider the patient’s inclination for self-medication, the doctor’s role in e-prescribing, and pay-for-performance systems. Along with a demand for personalized health care, these trends will significantly alter the healthcare landscape in the years to come.