RED HOT Contributors


Hey Pharma! The Time For Better, Smarter Consumer Engagement Is Here



One could not have written a better script and future upside for pharmaceutical companies.  ‘Yesterday’s Heels – Tomorrow’s Caring White Knights’.  

Check out these stats (mostly per Google & Decisions Resources Group):

  • In 2015, mobile searches outnumbered desktop 
  • 1 in 20 online searches is for health-related questions.
  • According to comScore, health topics are the #1 search category on mobile
  • 72% of people with pre-existing conditions, searched for medical info online
  • Half of all patients and caregivers already turn to digital channels to look up formulary or dosing information.
  • After a diagnosis was given, 84% of patients searched about options
  • In a report by Decision Resources Group of 1,000 physicians, over 50% reported their patients are more actively involved in treatment decisions; and these doctors called on pharma to support affordable options, provide relevant information, and make online information more understandable.

To be sure, the latest survey from Medical, Marketing & Media (MMM) shows that 76% of pharma respondents use digital marketing.  However, the channel segregation below shows respondents devoted the greatest percentage of their marketing budgets to professional meetings/conferences and sales reps/materials.  Digital channels, including websites, digital advertising and social media, lagged behind.

More surprising is that only half of both large and small pharmaceutical companies see the growth of consumerism in healthcare as an oppportunity. But that’s EXACTLY where the opportunity to grow lies.  In order to thrive in the new era of value-based care, pharma companies will need to change their marketing strategy toward partnering, and certainly to focus far more on their individual consumer.

Trying to scare politicians away from lower-price reforms with the ‘it will kill our R&D’ excuse is becoming the “boo” that no longer scares the grown-ups.  Both candidates, Trump and Clinton each plan to stimulate price competition from proposed allowances from foreign imports, as well as receive bipartisan pressure to lift the ban on Medicare’s non-allowance to negotiate prices.  Apart from trade groups and shareholders, high-priced pharma doesn’t have many friends.

Payer pressure is bad enough, but if you don’t get into the value-based care game, where consumers (inner ring) and providers (outer ring) are the center hub, you are going to be on the wrong side of a very emotional equation.

Patients have greater financial burdens, due to higher deductibles and greater cost sharing requirements, with varying medication tiers.  Providers are ever-burdened with less time, and now a greater level of risk being put on them to deliver higher quality care, better outcomes, greater patient satisfaction – and at a lower price.

Patients are not just seeking advice from providers. They are increasingly online, and at all hours.  Plus, we’re going to see greater levels of Patient-Generated Healthcare Data with wearables and digital technology.  Plus, half of consumers spend their online time on social media.  (HINT:  Tap into consumer’s behaviors and beliefs, show that you genuinely care, and engage them in ways that let them feel as though you are part of their health team).

My God – the writing is on the wall.  They are practically screaming out what they want and need from you.  Partner with wearable companies, EHRs, start developing ways to capture and then interact with your end customers – specific to individuals and best times to engage.  Find ways you can partner with hosptials, physicians, and ACOs to get into their care pathway – in ways that helps them lower cost to patients and payers.

Yes to predictive modeling, big data, analytics, lots of testing, and customer segmentation.  Yes to retaining some of the traditional marketing – but certainly less.  Most of all, become human in your approach.  Put yourself out there and let people know that you are no longer on an island separate from everyone else.  That your port and your beaches are now open to more boats and more people than ever before.


headshot-2-5Steve Ambrose is a strategy and business development maverick, with a 20-plus year career across several healthcare and technology industries.  A widely-connected healthcare polymath, his interests are in Healthcare IT, population health, patient engagement, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, claims, and chronic disease.  

Recently choosing to leave the tech sector, he is selectively seeking and reviewing new company opportunities in business development and strategy. Email Steveor reach him on Twitter.

We Support OUR Contributors

Get Our Newsletter

 Receive podcast updates
Exclusive insights
Patient Engagement Tips from industry experts
We hate SPAM as much as you do and promise to keep your email address safe.
  • Subscribe to the Podcast