Pharma has long been characterized as lagging behind the rest of the marketing industry in terms of branding effectiveness and overall media impact. Regulatory guidelines in the industry are the largest contributor to this delta.
While regulatory restraints continue to give an unfair advantage to traditional consumer categories, the gap in media and marketing effectiveness is rapidly shrinking. Much of this is due to consumer acceptance of Rx communications. At the same time, Rx marketers are using all the latest communication channels to reach their customers at multiple points along their health journey.
So what accounts for the overall surge in Rx effectiveness in the last few years?
The recent Point of Care Conference (POC3) held in New York City a few weeks ago identified significant trends.
According to presenters, advertising spending in POC is growing at a 10% CAGR and is approaching 10% of the overall DTC spend (about $500mm of a $5bb market). The key driver behind this growth is “accountability.” Most POC programs can show pre/post ROI through actual Rx lift. That’s not something you will find in the food advertising category. Replacing CPMs with ROI accountability has flooded the POC market with pharma brands because the risk has largely been taken out.
But the story continues to evolve from there.
Point of Care as a definition is also evolving. Once the domain of pharmacies, waiting rooms and exam rooms, POC is following the mega trend of “Consumerism in Healthcare.” The rise of urgent care centers in every community and mini-clinics in pharmacies illustrates that the way the patient (consumer) uses healthcare has moved beyond the old primary care model.
According to the National Association of Urgent Care, there are over 10,000 urgent care clinics with an average of over 15,000 visits each year per clinic. You know this retail trend is here to stay when you now see even slow-to-adapt hospitals putting out community urgent care centers.
It was also pointed out at the POC conference that smartphone usage and wearable tech arguably identify a point of care as “anywhere the consumer is interacting with healthcare messaging.” This is an area of explosive growth opportunity and yet one that has had innumerable starts and stops. One only has to look at the thousands of health apps used once and then discarded. Media and marketing companies are rapidly working to increase utilization and engagement in this area.
While innovations like tele-health, retail clinics and wearable tech are all relatively new and powerful evolutions, what everything has in common is a technology backbone that ultimately links back to an HCP’s electronic health record (EHR). Toward the end of the POC3 conference, Joe Meadows from “Think Patients” said it best to the audience: “If your strategy does not heavily integrate with EHRs within two years, your brand will be left in the dust.”
There are numerous EHR offerings and they all have one goal in common: They streamline the HCP visit to its core essentials in effort to deliver the best standard of care with the maximum amount of efficiency. While we can argue that something has been lost as the care provider glares at their screen instead of us, we cannot underestimate the power and influence that system imparts on the imprinting of the HCP’s prescribing behavior.
One of the biggest deficiencies in many EHRs happens to be the dearth of consumer-friendly education. Closely following that deficiency is the lack of ease with which patients can get information on their health portals. Significant opportunity remains for marketers that can provide “educational marketing” in the visit flow and make it easily accessible to the patient following the visit. Additional opportunities to appropriately influence Rx activity exist in the e-prescribe moment and at the pharmacy counter with triggered financial services (starter and compliance program incentives).
As medicine continues to get more personalized, the push to focus on vertical patient groups with highly targeted media will only increase. This final trend is the one that will continue to propel POC marketing to an accelerating share of the Rx marketing spend.