Digital Disrupts Diagnostics

As healthcare marketers, we need to understand the idea that the future of the business—no matter which healthcare industry it is—is digital. In the past we haven’t thought of digital marketing as critical to the healthcare business—because it hasn’t been. The thing to understand is this: A convergence of multiple forces from outside the healthcare industry is coming at an increased velocity. History shows that most companies ignore the signs of disruptive change—which the pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries are both experiencing—and fail to act quickly enough.

We can look to companies such as RIM (BlackBerry phones), Kodak (film) and Nokia (mobile phones) as excellent examples of companies that misstepped or acted too slowly to address disruptive change. Nokia discounted the disruption potential when Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android) announced smartphone plans because Apple and Google did not know the mobile phone business.

The trends are clear:

  • Your Customers are Digital: Most purchase decisions—certainly healthcare decisions—start with a simple web search and continue through a journey of information seeking that includes many digital marketing properties. Patients and HCPs desire personalized experiences, service and information to help them learn and manage a condition.
  • Commercial Strategies Need an Overhaul: Digital disruption erodes traditional competitive strengths in manufacturing, distribution and an expert, well-trained sales force. No healthcare business is immune to the ongoing digital disruption and it has fundamentally changed two things: 1) The dynamics of the market and 2) The speed required to stay competitive.
  • Brand Building: In a fragmented, often commodity business environment, the greatest protection against price erosion, market access problems and generic or white label competition, is your brand. Often the first and only interaction with a company or brand occurs in online channels. Brand planning must adapt to the 21st century. People expect companies and brands to evoke pride in association and a special experience or added value—all of which occurs in digital channels today. The brand also needs to be a business tool with the potential to leverage better pricing power and preserve the financial stability of your organization.
  • Big Data and Customer Insights: These need to serve as the foundation of an ongoing digital strategy and transformation. According to the consultancy Bain & Company, organizations that treat data strategically are five times more likely to make decisions faster, three times more likely to execute the intended decisions and two times more likely to deliver higher values of financial performance.1

The trends are clear, but how to drive the needed change in large organizations is not. Many leading healthcare companies are showing the signs witnessed by Nokia, RIM and Kodak prior to losing their dominant positions. However, only about 30% of organizational transformations succeed.2 In my next column, I will talk about finding the intrapreneurs—the entrepreneurs inside the business—the first step in taking the path to the organizational transformation success needed in today’s diagnostics and pharmaceutical industries.


1. Forrester Research.

2. Scott Keller and Colin Price, Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage, (Hoboken, NJ John Wiley & Sons 2011).


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