KEY TAKEAWAY: 2016, in addition to being a Presidential election year, is going to bring a wealth of changes in how consumers learn about and make healthcare treatment decisions. DTC marketing must evolve and DTC marketers cannot afford to wait on the FDA to catch up to how consumers are using the Internet for health information.
I was lucky enough, in 2015, to consume a lot of M&M’s during research around the country on DTC marketing issues. Here is a summary of some of the key findings;
1ne: Employees are paying more out-of-pocket for health insurance and prescription drugs which had led to them becoming “consumers of health care”. This means that they are exploring options when it comes to their health care including the use of prescription drugs. It also means that there is a longer path to travel between awareness and action(requesting an Rx).
2wo: Quality of life issues are quickly becoming a bigger factor in determining which prescription drug patients will choose. Patients don’t have time for worrisome side effects and they are using social media more and more to listen to what other patients are saying.
3hree: Trust in pharma companies is at an all-time low and is being driven by the continued media coverage around drug prices. Pharma executives have not stepped forward to tackle this atmosphere and the arguments they make, although based on facts, is not resonating with the public.
4our: Content on drug websites is still difficult to read for most and does not “talk to them” as individuals. In addition, consumers have to go to many websites to get the information they need to make informed and educated decisions.
5ive: The AMA is dead wrong about DTC marketing and unless they listen to patients doctors are at risk of losing their customers.
6ix: There are some health conditions, flu, allergies, where patients don’t feel the need to make an appointment with their doctor to get treatments and would rather consult wit a doctor online. However, patients also want their doctor to better treat them as a patient which means understanding their needs.
7even: Patients do not usually pay attention to fair balance in DTC commercials. If they are interested they go online and read the safety information page but really don’t understand the risks as it applies to them.
8ight: The flurry of mergers and acquisitions means that drug companies are taking on a mountain of debt which in turn will lead to less money for DTC marketing. DTC marketers are going to spend a lot of time struggling to justify their budgets.
9ine: Every health condition is its own unique market. We cannot and should not apply universal marketing tactics for every product and health condition.
1oen: DTC marketers are grossly underestimating the impact of social media on brand objectives as they wait for the FDA to catch up to the current century. Even Boomers are using social media to listen to what people are doing and how they are living with various health problems.
Will DTC marketing evolve? To be honest, I’m not sure. There are some great agencies out there that could help take DTC marketing to the next level but it’s hard getting past procurement and lack of pharma experience.