With an increasingly older, larger, and chronically sick population, the recent news of a projected shortage of physicians (90,000 by 2025), while more optimistic than previously reported, is a sobering statistic. At the same time, Obamacare will elevate projected demand for healthcare services by another 2%. Medicine, once considered a lucrative and illustrious career, is now far less attractive to our elite and most intellectual minds. All of these factors combine to leave the United States with one of the most expensive yet least effective healthcare systems in the world—and with challenges that are only projected to increase.
What will the impact be, you ask? It’s simple supply and demand, the two most powerful market forces that comprise economic theory. With physicians representing the shortage in supply and rate of insured increasing, the power to influence healthcare decisions is shifting back into the hands of consumers. Compound the doctor shortage with a shift in individual patient focus on self-care, wellness, and prevention, and you have yourself a patient-centric movement lying in wait.
The future of patient marketing lies in the Connected Health movement. Contextual understanding of your consumer (day-parting, device-parting, and emotional and informational needs) will give rise to new opportunities through content, channels, and tactics that deliver ROI. Look for the rise of mobile personalization, wearables, tele-medicine, and patient-owned wellness programs that generate rich data (e.g., Weight Watchers) to lead the way in defining the new patient-focused frontier.
The survival of the fittest brands has officially begun, and only the most adept will succeed in this changing environment. Investing marketing dollars into predominantly consumer initiatives will become the new normal. Marketers who haven't jumped on board better do so now, or risk being left behind by more prepared peers. Dust off your patient pull-through strategies; you're going to need them.