Point of care (POC) advertising spend is on the rise. According to ZS’ 2017 analysis on POC, marketers were projected to spend $557 million on POC in 2017. And ZS expects a compound annual growth rate of 15% through 2020, when they are projecting POC spend to reach $847 million. Additionally, approximately 10% to 20% of the brands ZS interviewed reported that they moved marketing dollars from their digital media budgets to digital POC in doctors’ offices and hospitals, which included investments in exam room tablets, interactive wallboards, sponsored apps and WiFi, and waiting room digital TV.

“Interactive touchscreens in the exam room deliver trusted patient education alongside brand messaging while helping physicians better explain conditions,” says Linda Ruschau, Chief Client Officer at PatientPoint. “Additionally, mobile solutions can extend a brand’s reach beyond the four walls of the physician’s office and into the larger continuum of care. We know from decades of research that when a patient better understands their condition, they are more empowered to ask about a treatment which is the ultimate goal of marketers.”

Of course, Don Vergara, Publisher at Remedy Health Media, reminds marketers not to forget the value of print at POC.

“Print has been a proven performer in the space for more than 20 years and at a fraction of the cost of digital in-office programs,” Vergara says. “Delivering similar ROI results at a lower cost allows brands to dramatically increase their footprint (via the number of offices) while blocking out competitors. Additionally, a print piece supports patients before, during, and after their visit by traveling with them from waiting room to exam room and then home for aftercare.”

No matter the medium, marketers see the value in POC. Kristin Patton, Director, Marketing at Shionogi Inc., puts it quite simply: “Not considering POC as part of the channel mix would be a miss for products in most therapeutic categories.”

The Growing Importance of EHRs

“The power of the electronic health record (EHR) at point of care shouldn’t be underestimated,” Patton adds. “Integration in the physician workflow can increase both top of mind awareness and ensure a patient conversation happens at the point of prescription.”

Patton is not the only one who sees the potential of EHRs to help take POC marketing to another level.

“In the future, pharma could run targeted POC content when the EHR system identifies the arrival of a specific patient type—taking POC well beyond waiting-room brochures and TV screens,” explains Dori Cappola, SVP, Media at Klick Health. “This will represent a new frontier, enabling pharma marketers to channel relevant messaging and content to ensure prospects (patients and/or HCPs) are equipped with all the information they need to make well-informed decisions that lead towards positive patient outcomes.”

However, using EHRs to deliver contextually relevant messages within an HCP’s workflow requires pharma marketers to adopt some new strategies.

“The call to action at the point of care is tricky,” says Chris Cullmann, Head of Digital at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, a WPP Health & Wellness company. “There needs to be a transaction that is completely frictionless, such as a copay or prescription solution, or something that combines multiple channels and a delayed mechanism that affords the physician attention for the patient. Whether this is EHR with multiple call to action solutions, an app-based vehicle that can deliver value with delayed communication, or a traditional platform, the savvy marketer will need a measurable analytic to help understand their program and weight of their action.”

Measuring the Impact at the POC

Accurate measurement is certainly something that has come into question in regard to POC. Late last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Outcome Health provided clients with inflated ad performance data—claims that the company has denied. But even prior to that, some marketers have been skeptical of the supposed high ROI that POC campaigns claim to deliver.

“Since clients consider the POC advertiser closer to the end-game of business unit movement, they are placing more pressure on the output of these programs,” says Robert Enos, Media Director at AbelsonTaylor. “Awareness, impressions, and clicks are too far up the funnel. Brand teams investing in POC want to see Rx lift or referral increases—or at least code usage increases, so POC suppliers will need to become more sophisticated in how they measure ‘success’ and may even need to adopt more flexible and spot-on risk-share agreements that promise more than simple extension of program, should results not meet expectation. As for audit of service, there are services such as BPA that monitor placements.”

POC Changes on the Horizon

Despite POC’s growth, a couple of trends could change how marketers approach the channel in 2018 and beyond.

“Teledoc services were mainstreamed in 2017 and patient uptake will continue, especially in dermatology, allergy, and other conditions that are easily described or photographed and have low-risk medications available,” explains Donna Wray, VP at TGaS Advisors. “Deals like the one between Aetna and CVS will further increase the use of clinics. This means that patients will have a lower barrier to obtaining and refilling some types of prescriptions, but this also means that marketing channels based in doctors’ offices will decrease in reach.”

Melissa Johnston, President at Benchworks, agrees: “This uptick in interest in POC advertising may be short-lived as more time, effort, and resources are invested in delivering telemedicine solutions and reaching patients and caregivers outside of the traditional office or hospital setting. But, if we expand our definition of POC advertising to include messages delivered during any patient/physician interaction, then one interesting and intriguing area of innovation will be in collaborating with telemedicine providers to determine how value-added disease state and treatment option information can be provided virtually.”

As Mark Matthews, Senior Strategist at MicroMass Communications, Inc., explains, technology enhancements such as patients’ increased access to health information, more digital dialogue between the patient and physician outside the office, and real-time health monitoring are all fueling changes to POC marketing.

“Marketers will find the greatest value for POC marketing by leveraging technology to provide customized content to patients,” Matthews adds. “This support should address the whole patient to meet the patient’s clinical and psychosocial needs. These solutions improve patient outcomes and provide platforms to deliver marketing and support services. Ultimately, point of care is an ideal opportunity to change patient and provider behavior and align them toward specific treatment goals.”

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