The Sweeping Changes That Are Going to Affect DTC Marketing

The idea that consumers are going to see an ad for a prescription drug and ask their doctor about it is rapidly becoming meaningless. The cost of private insurance and employer-sponsored insurance will remain the primary source of medical benefits. But thanks to rising costs, consumers will now pay more attention to the cost of their healthcare, including the co-pay on branded versus prescription drugs. Most will become smarter healthcare consumers and they are going to challenge everything from healthcare treatments to where and when they get treatment.

According to Pew Internet, 72% of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year and 77% of online health seekers say they began their last session at a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. Pew also states that the most commonly researched topics are specific diseases or conditions; treatments or procedures; and doctors or other health professionals. In other words, the Internet is playing a larger role in patient healthcare. DTC ads may raise awareness but the Internet is going to be one of the leading contributors as to whether a patient asks about a certain treatment or even goes to see their doctor.

Recently, a study in the journal JAMA Dermatology reported that “more than 52% of psoriasis patients say they aren’t happy with their current treatments, and nearly 46% of patients with psoriatic arthritis reported they, too, were dissatisfied with the results.” While this is just one health condition, the statistics are alarming and as a marketer it indicates to me that there is a serious disconnect with current DTC psoriasis marketing. The disconnect is that while psoriasis product ads are all over TV and print, patients are going online to talk to each other about their dissatisfaction with these treatments, especially the horrible side effects of biological agents. The Internet is filling in the missing conversation that DTC marketers are ignoring.

Even with the changes in healthcare coverage and increased use of the Internet for health information, DTC marketers should be aware that most Americans feel that they are healthier than they actually are. In a study commissioned by Aetna, 67% of people believe they need to lose a median of 25 pounds, another 54% believe they can be healthy—even if they’re overweight. As a DTC marketer, this information presents some great opportunities. We need to do a better job of talking about the seriousness of health conditions as it applies to quality of life, since quality of life is an important component of any health treatment. By including patient testimonials of those who made the effort to talk to their doctor versus those who did not, marketers may give consumers something to think about—which in turn could lead to a visit to their doctor to ask about treatment options.

When it comes to healthcare, patients are becoming more empowered—partly because it’s now “their money.” The Internet is going to play an increasingly larger role in treatment choices, but a simple drug.com website is not the way to get patients’ attention. We need content that both keeps people on the site longer and drives conversion. The Internet is too important to ignore anymore.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.

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