If You Want a Provider Advocate, Collaborate!

Healthcare.gov’s abysmal launch in October led to November’s question about keeping your health insurance plan. Kindly put, the website launch was a political disaster for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and its continued implementation.

Although technology “glitches” surround the website, the launch difficulties are a harbinger of things to come. The difficulties will not only be limited to technology implementation or the availability of insurance plans, but also in meeting the provider mandates of PPACA. On top of the Meaningful Use mandates, providers will be challenged with increased oversight, quality measurement and patient engagement. The bad news is, even if PPACA is eventually overturned, healthcare delivery changes and the growth of consumerism will challenge providers. Just as efforts before it, PPACA will have a lasting effect on the commercial model whether it dies on the vine or continues.

A long time ago I was told, “Marketing drives the bus, and sales is the engine.” As pharmaceutical marketers drive the bus forward, they face new challenges navigating the landscape and cost containment issues.

Under PPACA, accountable care forces healthcare management to be even more top down from organizations such as ACOs. These groups’ integrated nature allows for even greater influence over providers. ACOs will dictate treatment protocols, narrow prescriber access and decrease product coverage. Also, as NPs, PAs and pharmacists become more integral, decision making will become decentralized and harder to address.

This top down management includes the patient as potentially the most integral part of the care team. PPACA pushes the patient and consumerism into the healthcare equation with quality measurement and increased information access.

Pharma marketers are on top of changes and have identified healthcare consumerism as an important PPACA effect. No longer does the payer-provider only marketing model apply. Now it has to be payer-provider-patient. The increase in patient management and growing consumerism in healthcare means marketers must consider empowering the end users on the brand bus to engage in the treatment decision and fight to stay on that bus. Research shows an informed, empowered patient is more likely to engage in healthcare decision making.1 The question for pharma: How to address the new patient reality efficiently and effectively. Instead of using the cost prohibitive eight-cylinder blockbuster engine of the past, can marketers move to a hybrid engine or maybe even mass transit?

As a marketer, I would look at constructing the hybrid engine to continue, as Michael Golub, MD describes it2, to address marketing priorities. However, as Golub notes, pushing individual brand programs does not necessarily meet the prescriber’s interests—your product may be one of 50 they work with.

Maybe it is time to consider mass transit marketing—a contextual title for collaboration that improves industry access and communication. Someone who prescribes 20 products daily, may find it helpful to have a tool that delivers or seamlessly integrates information on all products—not just one. Collaboration does not mean brands give up independence. Collaboration marketing seeks areas where brands can work together using a tool or process that creates value or helps stakeholders in the healthcare system.

Due to PPACA, the next few years will change the pharma marketing landscape dramatically. Marketers mapping the workflow of their target providers can identify areas where collaboration helps providers and helps contain the cost of sales. Marketers who use collaborative tools to help the provider workflow will be rewarded. In the market, the brand will see improved prescriber access and an increase in brand equity for providing solutions to the PPACA implementation. Back at the office, marketers will be rewarded for having a significantly more efficient brand bus.


1. Langer G., “Connectedness and Continuity: A Prescription for Patient Engagement,” Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Value & Science-Driven Health Care, Feb 2013.

2. Golub, M., “Bridging the Gap Between Brand Marketing and Physicians’ Interests,” PM360, Nov 2013 37-39.

  • Stephen Casey

    Managing Director of MedAdvocacy LLC. Steve’s more than 25 years of commercial experience includes carrying the detail bag, brand management, the c-suite, consulting and business start-up. MedAdvocacy assists innovative product marketers by streamlining communication processes and collaboration.


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