In the good old days, consumers went to their physicians to learn about medical conditions and prescription medications that might be available for treatment. About 15 years ago, pharmaceutical companies started advertising pills and potions directly to consumers (DTC) and changed the nature of healthcare marketing. Today, pharma companies split their marketing budgets between the DTC and the medical professional channels. The results of a new study on advertising in this industry indicates this model will continue along with the evolving ‘collaborative care’ platform.
As much as consumers search online for information on various medical conditions, they must still visit their physician who controls access to prescription medications. And the 2010 Pharma Connect Study from MPG shows that “doctor-patient conversation is still the most influential source of information relating to drug brands.” According to this study, the following touch points are most influential for consumers who obtain a prescription for a specific medication:
- Physician 72%
- Pharmacist/informational website 45%
- Printed material from pharmacy or printed in magazines 43%
Based on these findings, a pharma company should focus on marketing new drugs to physicians. But how do physicians decide which drugs to prescribe?
- Medical conferences 85%
- Discussions with academicians/clinicians 83%
- Journal articles/papers 81%
- Discussions with colleagues 77%
Writing for MediaPost’s Marketing: Health blog, Joe Abruzzo and Mahesh Krishna note that today’s successful pharma companies are using both online and offline touch points to reach patients and physicians. However, these efforts are very much separate. The authors argue that today’s healthcare consumer is sophisticated and likely to want a collaborative rather than paternalistic relationship with key healthcare providers. As this type of relationship comes to the forefront in healthcare services, pharmaceutical marketing may also shift to reflect these changes.[Source: Abruzzo, Joe and Kirshna, Mahesh. Collaborative Care Platforms are the Future. Marketing: Health. Mediapost.com. 17 Dec. 3010. 5 Jan. 2011]