According to the Deloitte 2012 Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers they want better service, increased used of technologies to improve service and coordination of care, social media, and transparency about performance. To U.S. consumers, health care is intensely personal. Opinions about the “system’s performance” are based on personal, often local, sometimes painful and frustrating experiences. Nonetheless, they are satisfied with the care that they or a family member receives but unhappy with the health care system as a whole – perceiving it to be complex, fragmented and expensive. Affordability is increasingly a problem for consumers. Though consumers do not know the true costs of services used, they are increasingly concerned about the costs for which they’re responsible – premiums, co-payments, deductibles and others. And the economic downturn had a negative impact on their use of the system forcing many to delay needed treatments, and undermined somewhat the sense of security many feel who have insurance coverage. So what does this mean for pharma marketers ?
Deloitte says that to reduce health costs and improve the effectiveness of the system, consumers must be engaged to play a more direct role. Consumer passivity is costly: not filling prescriptions and taking medications as directed, not managing chronic conditions that result in acute events, not scrutinizing treatment recommendations to discern what’s necessary care and what’s not, not considering costs associated with treatment options and the performance of local providers, are fundamental gaps. This is a fundamental change for most consumers especially those in the Greatest Generation. Boomer’s tend to be skeptical of the establishment so becoming more active in their health care should be easier for them. However we all need to consider that time is the new currency and that patients may not have the time to try and navigate the system. This is the area where technology can be a real advantage.
The role of pharmaceutical marketers
Pharma marketers have to do more, a lot more in fact, than simply talk about health conditions and products. They have to provide more in depth information on their products and be more transparent about side effects and patient outcomes. When it comes to caregivers we should provide all the information they need so as to reduce the stress of managing care for those under their care. This means not just links to credible sites it means content that addresses their needs to know and makes them informed and engaged patients and caregivers. The model of a product website with some disease information is outdated.
The real power of the Internet is to connect people with information they need but this power can be a huge barrier when there is so much health information online. The shift to digital marketing by pharma is admirable but unless pharma spends the money to help patients become more empowered a lot of agencies are going to be collecting a lot of money while patients and consumers remain frustrated. This is also true for insurers who seem to be getting the message via the implementation of new technologies.
We can’t wait for things to change for once pharma marketers should be on the forefront of change as healthcare undergoes a transformation.