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Perspectives

Marketing health care through a new lens

Health and life sciences bring marketers to the table

Time is of the utmost essence in health care. A quick response in a medical emergency can save lives. Successful surgery can improve a patient’s outcomes over the long term. But speed and expertise aren’t the only capabilities that health care and life sciences organizations are investing in these days. Behind the scenes, organizations in both industries are taking a deeper look at how they reach patients through the lens of their marketers.

Strengthening health care and life science brands

It used to be that billboards advertising emergency department wait times were among the most visible health care marketing tools for hospitals—a practice designed to seek an edge among patients. Today, many health care and life sciences organizations are looking for new ways to strengthen their brandthrough an array of sophisticated campaigns and channels driven by the CMO.

For starters, often marketing leaders are at the forefront of advances such as mobile access to health care. Such innovations are worth notice considering that among the top 20 pharmaceutical markets in the world, eight are in emerging countries with a growing middle class, according to a Deloitte life sciences industry report. Then there’s the boom in medical breakthroughs: In 2017, drug approvals hit a 21-year high, creating the fastest succession of approvals since 1950. Marketing leaders are often front and center in the discussions about how their brands should be positioned to take advantage of these trends.

In broader terms, the landscape of providers, medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies that comprise these industries are commonly becoming increasingly intricate. To keep up with these changes and players, many CMOs are working to ensure that patients and other participants across the health care spectrum understand the advantages of specific types of care and medical products.

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Growth in complementary industries

Importantly, many CMO roles are evolving differently in health care and life sciences settings. For CMOs working in health care, their responsibilities now typically include improving patient engagement and enhancing the patient experience. For instance, a CMO might be involved in communication campaigns for patients deciding when and where to have orthopedic procedures. In other cases, many health care campaigns are playing a key role in helping expectant mothers decide where to give birth.

In the universe of life sciences organizations that include drug and device manufacturers, health care marketing leaders often now require a combination of marketing and therapeutic knowledge. Those skills can be critical, considering the full suite of customers in the life sciences ecosystem, including patients, payers, physicians, and other partners. CMOs in this capacity should consider what these parties need, how to build relationships with them, and ultimately how to drive growth.

Both sectors are priming for a surge in global health care spending, which is projected to increase at an annual rate of 4.1 percent through 2021. That’s more than triple the annual growth rate from just a few years ago. Aging populations, advances in medical treatments, and rising labor costs are among the factors anticipated to drive spending growth in the years ahead.

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CMO leadership in action

In hospital networks and among other businesses that provide health care services, CMOs should try to stay ahead of these challenges. They can accomplish this in a few ways:

  • Challenging teams to anticipate patient needs that are not currently being addressed through marketing practices.
  • Examine what competitors are doing and how they’re serving patients to look for opportunities to market to patients.
  • Build marketing sensibilities into business and strategic planning efforts, especially when the organization has disregarded this discipline.

Similarly, marketers at health and life sciences organizations can help address growth challenges. They should be asking a series of questions. Their goal should be to help marketers drive their teams by:

  • Devising specific plans to include underserved populations in health care marketing actions.
  • Identifying therapeutic areas that the organization should be addressing but has perhaps overlooked.
  • Ensuring that marketing has an influence on research and development activities across the organization.

To fully serve as a strategic advisor in these areas, CMOs often need perspective on the science behind the products. While the traditional role of CMOs commonly involves putting themselves in the mind of the end user, marketers in health care and life sciences settings also should consider being able to understand and communicate the science behind the promotion. Some of the most effective marketers are able to blend traditional marketing capabilities with the hard science and an understanding of the diseases, mechanisms, and the patient journey, to name a few areas.

Ultimately, CMOs should have a seat at the leadership table to help their C-suite peers think through these concerns. Health care and life sciences organizations play a critical role in our collective wellbeing. These organizations are often well-served when they prioritize the contributions of marketers to their growth and success.

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