The point of care has undergone momentous change in the last decade. The doctor’s office has been transformed by EHR, IoT, and cloud-based connectivity. Entirely new care settings have emerged in the form of telemedicine and app-based care. Online pharmacies such as Express Scripts and PillPack are taking over. The entire healthcare ecosystem—from shopping for insurance to booking appointments to delivering test results—is happening online. Mass digitization is well underway, and it’s changing where, when, and how people receive care.

Point of care marketing has evolved in turn. Only not quick enough for pharmaceutical companies to figure out how to use emerging channels to their full potential. And while healthcare marketers play catch-up, new trends are emerging—trends that make clear that the next decade won’t just be as revolutionary as the last. It will be infinitely more so.

Ultimately, for pharma brands to leverage POC marketing as a differentiator, they’ll need to tailor their efforts to the structural changes brought about by healthcare’s mass digitization, and take proactive measures to prepare for the sea change that’s to come.

A Better Approach to Point of Care Marketing

The increasing diffusion of potential patient and HCP touchpoints is a remarkable opportunity for pharma brands, but taking advantage of it will require an adjustment in the way we approach POC marketing.

In today’s data-rich environment, allocating ad spend against HCP target lists for the salesforce is akin to buying a grab bag when you already know what’s in it. We don’t need to keep doing POC this way anymore, because we have access to the information that can help us sort the good spend from the bad. Demographic data, search data, prescribing behaviors—there’s an impossibly large wealth of information resting at our fingertips just waiting to be applied to POC. We just need to use it—and too many marketers are still buying share of voice when they should be buying influence.

To take advantage of emerging trends in healthcare, marketers must embrace a new strategy for targeting in the POC channel—one that uses diverse datasets and algorithmic learning to define target audiences based on a much broader set of criteria. These include not just HCP prescribing behavior, but their likelihood to react to different types of marketing materials, the access and affordability of a product to an HCP’s patient base, the availability of different kinds of touchpoints in an HCP’s office, a variety of geographic factors pertinent to both an HCP and their patients, and more. This more nuanced, more purposeful approach to audience targeting presents an opportunity the size of which cannot be understated.

Point of care as a channel is more impactful, more outcomes-driven than ever. But without a deep understanding of how exactly healthcare delivery is changing, POC marketers will remain in the stone age, using tools that no longer work. A really good POC media plan will be able to hone in on the highest-impact HCPs and patient groups—those who are not only likely to be influenced by POC marketing, but are in need of influencing. In healthcare marketing, “preaching to the choir” means waste. We have to concentrate our resources on generating engaging conversations with patients and HCPs who need our clients’ therapies, and who aren’t already reliable users/prescribers, and who are capable of being moved.

One way to achieve this is to use extremely granular test and control groups to make sure you are not only capturing high-fidelity data, but are able to act on it confidently and quickly. This would require working at the patient level rather than at the doctor office level in order to provide a more unique insight and a much better informed point of view. Then you could layer in an evaluation not only of similar patient populations, but physicians, office settings, access, affordability, and a variety of demographic metrics to get more nuanced. This jump-step in patient focus coupled with a granularity of surroundings would enable you to achieve the type of precision not found in the industry.

Point of Care and the Larger Picture

As complex and diverse as the POC is, it’s just one medical marketing channel among many. As such, it’s important for pharma companies and their agency partners to let their overarching media strategy inform their approach to POC marketing. Getting a patient into a physician’s office or on a telemedicine call is one of the final actions marketers are trying to inspire, and the innumerable upper funnel actions that precede this pivotal moment are worth just as much investment.

Though the POC landscape will continue to evolve, there’s little question that POC marketing will remain a core component of pharmaceutical companies’ healthcare advertising strategies for the foreseeable future. The ins and outs of POC marketing will change as the broader POC space changes, but the marketers who are able to leverage these evolutions into compelling patient engagement strategies will be able to drive real outcomes for pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, and patients alike.

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