The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated foundational changes in how we think about health and wellness for ourselves, our families, and communities. But perhaps the most enduring impact will be the resulting evolution of how we interact with the healthcare system, healthcare professionals, and, frankly, how we as regular consumers have become more equipped than ever before to take agency over our health.
This shift has come down to one simple, undeniable truth: The healthcare journey no longer starts at the doctor’s office or a visit to the hospital, it now starts at home. This deinstitutionalization of healthcare has powered the growth of home-powered-health. Some of the shifts are the result of an overall attitudinal change in how people perceive hospital care due to irreversible images of COVID’s impact on their community. And with this, the remainder of the shift has been the result of the successful navigation and control of one’s prevention, diagnosis, and care at home. With virtual consultations and at-home testing proving to be highly effective (logistically and financially),there is a re-evaluation of institutional care and a push to prevent and diagnose earlier at home1.
While it is too early to fully ascertain what this will mean for the future of pharmaceutical marketing and for health brands overall, one thing is certain: marketers need to prepare for the inevitable inclusion of home health and the potential that the home could very well become the epicenter of healthcare management2.
We believe that for pharmaceutical and wellness brands to stay relevant and top of mind, there are core areas that must be considered in the immediate future.
TECHNOLOGY PARTNERSHIPS THAT DRIVE EARLY LOYALTY
Technology adoption is the conduit that drives confidence with home-powered health brands, and we now have the need and opportunity to bring technological solutions into the fold as a key part of the brand experience. These steps can be as simple as a diabetes brand/company partnering with a CGM solution or a Cardiovascular brand/company establishing partnerships with apps that monitor regular heart health and circadian rhythms. The goal for brands is to reinforce belief among patients that their company exists to help patients live better lives during treatment and beyond. By driving awareness in this increasingly altruistic manner, brands bring potential patients into the funnel quicker, and ultimately earn brand loyalty and trust.
MAKE CAREGIVER SUPPORT A PRIORITY
While there are largely positives to HPH, between taking care of loved ones and focusing on other responsibilities, the potential of amounting burden on caregivers cannot be underestimated. With an increasingly ageing population, caregivers will find themselves stretched beyond their limits, 3and we must account for limitations of the caregiver support system. The ability to effectively engage caregivers is not complicated and comes down to one simple necessity: Make it easy for them to find relevant and validated information. Whether it be via digital, print, or social news sources, there is an opportunity to develop targeted and easy-to-find resources for caregivers providing access to the information they need with minimum effort. Caregivers are no longer an add-on in the health journey, but rather unique stake holders with their own unique needs. For example, a caregiver who is managing a cancer patient will have completely different challenges and support requirements than those of a caregiver who is managing a patient with wet AMD. We need to be acutely aware of these unique nuances and be prepared to address them accordingly.
FOCUS ON THE INTERACTIVE EXPEREINCES
Perhaps one area where pharma can effectively and realistically learn from the consumer space is how to turn customer engagement into customer experience. As of now brand engagement within the pharma/healthcare space is highly static, but with patients choosing to be in the comfort of their own home, engagements need to be intuitive, reactionary, and adapted to each patient’s needs. The use of AI and machine learning on websites or assistance portals needs to become a mainstay. The algorithms are already in place and now is the time to make them relevant within healthcare. From virtual experiences with various diseases that immerse caregivers or patients in the metaverse to creating real time in-aisle activations with functional foods, the more brands support caregivers, the more brand preference will become entrenched.
CONNECT EARLIER IN THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS JOURNEY
The sheer volume of patients who will need consistent healthcare, who feel comfortable in receiving medical consultation online, and who will be looking to prevent chronic conditions earlier to avoid institutional care is immense in scope. We see the opportunities for brands to rethink demographic segmentation and engagement, and work to redefine the health “moment.” Recognizing the health “moment” earlier in the journey opens the ability to zero in on and meet doctors, patients, caregivers, etc.at the critical moments when behavior triggers start to form. These entry-point opportunities will be unique and will undoubtedly affect the individual health care journey. For example, how do you capture the moment for fiber in All-Bran? You understand the early triggers consumers have when faced with elevated cholesterol, or a need to lose weight or reduction in sugar from their diet. What is the moment for a lung cancer treatment? Think about screening communications and engaging with patients and caregivers preemptively.
Home-powered health is still very much in its infancy. We see clear signs of opportunity and growth, from the changing demands of consumers to products offering early at-home testing, to convalescent support as indicators of this growing market. The ongoing migration to at-home is already underway across every other industry, especially tech, and it is starting to make in-roads within health and wellness. There is a need and space in the home for these newly transformed guests. Pharmaceutical and wellness brands have an opportunity to proactively guide their self-evolution and become a true partner to patients, caregivers, and physicians, beyond entry at the point of need.