The Year Ahead: Trends, Burning Issues and Keys to Success


Panorama by on January 23rd, 2014

Happy New Year Pharma Marketers! This is the year when the first public posting of the Sunshine Act will become available. The ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace officially opens for business. And the Obama administration is proposing changes to Medicare that could eliminate the special protected status of three classes of drugs: Antidepressants, antipsychotics and immunosuppressants. Already, that’s a lot to take in and we are barely even a month into the New Year.

So take a deep breath and then let out a sigh of relief, because here at PM360 and Panorama we have you covered. We asked people from across the industry to let us know three important things for the year ahead: What factors/issues will keep marketers up at night? What will be the biggest trends of 2014? And what are the keys to having a successful year in 2014? If you want to stay ahead of the game and look back at 2014 with a smile on your face, then follow our prognosticators’ guide to the year ahead.

Issues Sure to Give Marketers Insomnia

1. New Competition: “Google, Microsoft, Turkcell, AT&T and others are investing in completely new approaches to diagnostics and care,” says Leigh Householder, Chief Innovation Officer at GSW. “These outside influencers bring bold new perspectives and high expectations for what healthcare really could and should do.”

Householder explains that this is part of a bigger trend of innovation from outsiders that is happening because of something called “collaborative competition,” which Cindy Gallop, former Bartle Bogle Hegarty chairman described to Householder as: “When everyone in a sector competes with everyone else in the sector by doing exactly the same thing as everyone else in the sector is doing.”

That “sea of sameness” can be dangerous, because as Householder explains: “It takes only one brilliantly innovative bullet to take an entire industry down. That’s something to stay up nights thinking about.”

2. EHR Adoption: “The shift from a carrot to a stick for adoption of EHRs by physician practices is going to complicate matters for marketers,” says Jay Carter, Senior Vice President, Director of Strategy Services at AbelsonTaylor. “To the side of the good, EHR will encourage more empowered patients to better understand their care, and that will lead to more inquiries online about the brands that they are treated with. On the other hand, many practices will move to integrated delivery networks. That’s going to reduce the ability of pharma to make sales calls, to sample and to educate these physicians while following the rules of the networks. Further, it will complicate an already complex contracting environment.”

3. Midterm Elections: Carter also points out that this will be another Congressional election year. “Get ready for a whole host of candidates to beat up on our industry in order to gain the favor of the very health-conscious 65+ population,” he adds.

4. The ACA: According to Nancy Beesley, Chief Marketing Officer at HCB Health, 2014 will be in many ways be the opposite of 2013. Whereas 2013 was a year of uncertainty and change as we witnessed the advent of Obamacare. In 2014, we will see the dust settling.

“Device makers now understand the implications of the medical device tax to their bottom line, and they are making the necessary adjustments,” explains Beesley. “For some that might mean a headcount reduction, and for others finding new revenue streams for existing products. Bottom line companies will have to both cut overhead and increase sales to deal with this hefty little tax. Meanwhile, pharma manufacturers, who have looked at their pipelines with the knowledge that FDA approvals are slowing, are putting their best foot forward with drugs they know will have a great shot.”

Brad Jersey, Founder & CEO at The nLIVEn Group, believes another element of the ACA to keep an eye on will be the quality of healthcare delivered in light of the continued and accelerated shortage of primary care providers. Additionally, Jersey says the continued government regulations/intervention on the accessibility and delivery of healthcare in this country will play a big factor for marketers in 2014.

5. Internal Fear: “There are many eternal forces that will continue to impact our industry over which we have little control: Payers, the FDA, generics. But that’s old news,” according to David Ormesher, CEO of digital marketing agency closerlook, inc. “The biggest cause of sleeplessness this year won’t be the external factors that every brand shares in common. It will be the internal fear that we aren’t being bold enough. That the temptation to repeat past tactics will overcome our secret desire to take risks, show leadership and make a difference.”

Add all of those factors up, and as Ormesher says, “It’s a good thing that most of the leading insomnia drugs have gone generic, because no one in pharma should be sleeping well in 2014.”

The Biggest Trends of 2014

1. Digital Health: David Davidovic, President of consultancy pathForward LLC and former Vice President and Global Head of Commercial Services for Roche and Genentech, says to keep an eye on how technologies are being applied to the delivery and management of healthcare. This includes ambulatory trackers and devices, new office and hospital-based technologies, and the maturation and broad implementations of patient management systems based on healthcare informatics.

“Basically, ‘the Internet in everything,’ ” explains Davidovic. “A big barrier is the lack of proficiency and even comfort in all of this among many executives who think that everything is just a fad or a new shiny object. Some may be, but the revolution of digital health is here to stay. Are you ready?”

2. Data, Data and More Data: “Change is best facilitated by data,” says David Rear, RPh, President of medical and scientific communications agency Advanced Clinical Concepts. “Our industry has one of the largest data sets available and it’s growing bigger every day. The increasing ability to identify patient level diagnostic and prescription data will allow us to identify patients at risk and better target them, even within individual physician practices. This will accelerate the trend away from targeting physicians based on prescription volume and toward those healthcare providers who have patients in need of optimized care.”

Householder from GSW gets a bit more specific and says that “comparative data” will have the greatest potential to change healthcare moving forward. Comparative data lets people see what other people like them are actually doing compared to what is expected of them. For instance, an electronic power bill that displays your cost compared to your neighbors or an app that displays your relative time running around a park.

This information, according to social scientists, gives people the “social proof” they need to make real behavior change. For example, Householder mentions one experiment in which a simple sign telling people that “most people in this hotel reuse their towels at least once during their stay” increased reuse rates by 26%.

3. More Mega-mergers: “In the agency world, people will continue to talk about mega-mergers of networks and the inexorable shift to the network agency model,” says Carter from AbelsonTaylor. “And at least two big pharmas will move away from a network deal to get ‘new blood,’ and at least one big pharma will threaten to do a re-pitch to get a lower cost.”

4. Price Transparency: Jersey from The nLIVEn Group thinks one trend people will not be able to stop talking about is: “Greater ‘price transparency’ on the part of institutions and healthcare systems as patients assume more responsibility for a greater share of their healthcare costs.”

5. Content Marketing: “The ability to create and collect valuable and relevant information, will play a greater role in 2014 and beyond in attracting and retaining customers by facilitating an ongoing dialogue that is oriented toward greater information and improved patient care,” predicts Rear from Advanced Clinical Concepts.

Ben Putman, VP, Director of Emerging Technology and Media at JUICE Pharma Worldwide, adds: “Let’s have no illusion—it is a big shift. Content marketing forces us to take our thinking to a new place—focused on what people want to hear instead of what we want to say. It aims to take the selling out of marketing. Our regulated industry will be challenged to provide the regular valuable content that drives this inbound marketing machine. However, with the growing momentum I see, by the end of this year, we may find a world where great marketing has been completely redefined as consistent great content.”

The Keys to a Successful 2014

1. Accelerated Responsiveness to New Innovations: “Most of the industry maintains a ‘wait and see’ attitude which makes sense in some cases because it is a big unknown as to which technologies or platforms will take off,” explains Davidovic from pathForward. “However, the industry needs to maintain a watchful eye and a quick decision-making mindset in order to jump in early enough and not miss opportunities. Exploring, experimenting, piloting and learning are the new must skills for companies.”

2. A Reputation Facelift: “No one thing is going to make or break the year for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, however the industry’s reputation still needs to be repaired and there’s no time better than now to take action,” says Rear. “We are entering an election year and the debacle surrounding Obamacare will keep healthcare front and center. The industry needs to work together to shift away from being a victim of past mistakes and take a forward-looking, leadership role in helping people understand how the industry, healthcare providers, academia and government can collaborate together to improve the lives of citizens around the globe. This will require leaders who are willing to take some risk, do things differently, and create the discomfort that is required to truly facilitate change.”

3. Focus on NPs, PAs and EMRs: Zoe Dunn, Principal with Hale Advisors, believes one of the keys to the New Year will be implementing better ways to communicate with nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.

“These important healthcare professionals receive very little time and energy from the pharmaceutical industry, yet they are prescribers in most states and of most medication, and more often than not, spend much more time with patients than doctors,” says Dunn. “They need patient education materials, updates on research and insights, and a voice in achieving better health outcomes. We need to hear from them as well. Pharma needs to find better channels for these communications, perhaps using professional and personal digital tools.”

Dunn believes one way pharma can do this is by finally figuring out the best way to take advantage of EHRs/EMRs.

“When we talk about Point of Care, electronic records are becoming the key to entry in the conversation, and it’s the Wild West out there with so many disparate platforms,” explains Dunn. “That doesn’t mean it will be like this forever, though, so we’ll need to be ready to provide value when the dust settles.”

4. Streamlining: “If 2013 was about change, 2014 is about streamlining,” offers Beesley of HCB Health. “We’ll see manufacturers looking for ways to digitize everything, no longer because it’s cool, but because it’s mandatory in today’s world. With Accountable Care ahead, manufacturers will have to think beyond just teaching and training the doctors—they now need to focus on streamlining the doctor’s job and making it easier.”

According to Beesley, this means creating tools that enable doctors to monitor their patients remotely on smartphones/tablets to help offset the increase in patient loads and demands on the doctor’s time. Tools such as simplified and digitized diagnostic apps can also make office visits more efficient.

“Streamlining will eliminate waste, and in many areas, the herd will be thinner at the end of 2014,” says Beesley. “But the herd that is left will be strong, smart and best of all, agile.”

5. Adjust to the New Healthcare System: “The nation’s health infrastructure is being rebuilt to make us healthier without spending nearly as much as we have historically,” says Rob Rebak, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of QualityHealth, one of the largest and most efficient digital patient acquisition and engagement platforms for healthcare marketers. “More than 600 ACOs and government insurance plans are putting pressure on providers, hospitals and insurance companies to deliver more optimal care, both clinical and financial. Up and down the delivery chain, we’re starting to see contracts written and incentives planned to drive the right outcomes rather than simply rewarding services provided.”

Pharma must adapt to this new environment because providers and payers will no longer play ball with them as they did in the past, according to Rebak. This means that the pharma industry will need to completely redefine how it communicates to both doctors and patients.

“Communication offered by pharma sales reps that lack support for positive clinical or cost benefits versus lower cost or generic alternatives will be rendered ineffective,” explains Rebak. “This is also shifting DTC marketing on its head. Gone are the days of succeeding by driving volumes of patients to try and then stay on a brand. In the new model, pharma wins by narrowly-targeting only the most-likely-to-succeed-on-brand patients in markets of access. DTC marketing is going to become all about consumer classification and clinical data. There is already strong demand to find highly targeted patients in areas of access; and we’ll see significant evolution in the types of data-driven marketing platforms used.”

6. Give Big Data to the Patients: Sam Ewen, President and Co-Founder of The Supertouch Group, believes there is a real opportunity for pharma in helping patients better understand the data available to them. And he is not just referring to their personal data but also the opportunities that Big Data bring when it comes to understanding disease, treatment, quality of life and the community that springs up around specific problems.

“Pharma will be better served to empower their customers to look at and analyze the vast amount of information that is out there, while giving them tools that simplify the information and give the information context,” explains Ewen. “2014 is the year Big Data comes to the household.”

7. Turn Big Data Inward: “To stay competitive, healthcare organizations (and those in all industries) need to start rethinking the way we manage our businesses by using data as cleverly internally as we do externally,” says Leerom Segal, CEO of Klick Health. “Much like how companies decode their customers to personalize the user experience (think Netflix, Google, etc.), a huge business case can be made for companies of all sizes to decode the data trail that follows employees on their projects and customize their experience.”

Segal adds that not only can these analytics be used to improve performance, prevent the repetition of mistakes and reverse flagging sales, but implementing data-driven, talent-centric practices have also been proven to increase employee engagement, drive better decision-making and ultimately lead to high growth and profits. Companies such as Whole Foods, Starbucks and UPS have already joined this “decoded” movement to try and reap the benefits Big Data has to offer.

8. Marketing Integration: “The agencies that will be most valuable to clients in 2014 are those with the ability to integrate a variety of marketing skills, and sustain transparent relationships with their marketing clients,” says Michael Roth, Leader, Healthcare at Bliss Integrated Communication. “In truth, the most formidable agencies—big and small—are now collaborating with one another to deliver the best overall products and services to their clients.”

Roth adds that he finds clients are looking for agencies that can be “holistic caretakers of comprehensive digital and social media campaigns.” This means that technical and tactical prowess is no longer enough to be successful.

“Clients will want agencies that have a deep understanding of their business objectives, regulatory requirements, messaging, advocacy dynamics and campaign limitations to take on this ‘managing’ role,” adds Roth. “In 2014, agencies of all kinds in the healthcare space will need to continue to adapt and provide integrated solutions, or perish.”

9. Direct The Conversation: Jersey from The nLIVEn Group thinks it is time healthcare companies make a greater investment around educating patients in order to help them become more actively involved in “proactively managing” their chronic conditions.

“Managing health versus illness should be a goal that would positively impact healthcare costs with high cost chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, arthritis and asthma,” explains Jersey. “By ‘Directing The Conversation,’ as we’re calling it, manufacturers can reach, teach, communicate and educate to deliver brief, yet impactful messaging to not only raise consumer awareness of important issues, but empower them to take positive action.”

10. Confidence: According to Ormesher from closerlook, even though inertia was a successful strategy in the past “when a rising blockbuster tide raised all boats,” that will no longer cut it.

“The biggest cause of inertia is the assumption that we know our customers,” says Ormesher. “We assume that our qualitative research and historical prescribing behavior give us an adequate basis for our targeting, marketing messages and media mix. It’s not true.”

Today, Ormesher says that pharma must rely on broad empirical data when determining who to target, what to say and how to say it. Ultimately, that means capturing data on every single touch point a brand has with its market and distilling insight to drive decisions, including value proposition, creative, message and channel choices.

“The solution for marketing insomnia in 2014 won’t be a new technology or a social media initiative,” says Ormesher. “It will be the confidence that only comes from gaining proprietary knowledge into individual customers and the obsessive commitment to serving them at their unique point of interest and need.”

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