Catalysts Propelling Healthcare Industry Change 2018 — John G. Baresky

…Marketplace Catalysts Driving Healthcare Industry Change…

Digitalization, Consolidation, Private Equity, Business Model Hybridization, Audience Migration, Amazon, Google, Apple

2018 is set to be an eventful year across the healthcare industry. It has never hovered in place; there will be an array of significant changes impacting clinician, commercial and consumer / patient interests. Looking ahead, these are primary catalysts formulating new developments, directions and marketing / sales opportunities in healthcare…

Widespread Digitalization / Data Technology Investment

Digitalization and strategic healthcare data management will become even more pivotal; healthcare organizations will be making decisive decisions regarding it. Many will be forced to bite the bullet and make long needed, expensive upgrades just to keep up. Those with sound data management resources will be looking at ways to optimize them further. More progressive entities with robust data management resources will be forging ahead to adopt new methods; widening capabilities to accelerate processes and develop competitive advantages based on data management.

“Healthcare data comes in many forms, from post-visit feedback surveys to numbers of what days and times are the busiest so clinics can properly staff their offices. Data can predict when a patient will get sick so that preventative action can be taken, create personalized healthcare plans, and potentially limit the spread of diseases before they grow out of control”

Hospitals / health systems, healthcare product manufacturers / service providers, payers and medical researchers increasingly see data management technology as a significant difference maker in their respective clinical / business initiatives; it enables them to do more with less. Depending on the organization, data / technology investments will be in robotic process automation ( RPA ), organizational integration, telemedicine, internet of things ( IoT ), digital / mobile marketing proficiency and artificial intelligence ( AI ); select “small enhancements” will lead to digital transformation quickly.

Audience Migration: Broadcast vs. Digital Venues

Healthcare entities of all kinds are increasingly selective of how to deploy their communication, marketing and promotional funds across broadcast and digital venues. Broadcast television audiences continue to decline and shift. 2018 will see decisive changes in broadcast versus non-broadcast budget commitments by healthcare interests optimizing connections with their customers. Mobile has incredible momentum and there is an ever-increasing selection of alternative digital / social media venues offering a robust variety of content for audiences to choose from; healthcare marketers will more closely align their deployment of funding to reap more proof-positive ROI results.

The new sources of quality content and distribution venues are being embraced by a growing variety of audience members. Acorn, Amazon, DirectTV, NowFacebook, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Sling TV and other video / content streaming services present intriguing options for digital marketing, brand marketing, content marketing and other stakeholders to capitalize on. This increasingly challenges the status quo of traditional broadcast television promotional strategy and spend.

Reach and frequency factors still apply; advertisers / marketers can’t afford to spread themselves too thin. The grim reality is they can’t be everywhere at once and will prioritize spend accordingly. Digital offers a series of ways to accurately and quickly assess true audience engagement. Mobile via smartphone or tablet provides technically reliable, easy access to content for viewers on the go. Broadcast venues will need to re-justify themselves, (perhaps through price concessions?!) or risk having healthcare advertisers / marketers allocate even more resources and funding in favor of digital. The broadcast vs. digital forum will see more sharp, distinct decisions unfold as digital accelerates fundamental changes in the way providers, payers, service companies, manufacturers, consumers and patients communicate with each other and marketing / sales strategies align with these changes.

Consolidation Momentum Continues

Favorable economic conditions with imminent financial and competitive pressures will drive stronger consideration of the merger acquisition strategy option for many healthcare entities in 2018. It will span the healthcare industry including manufacturers (pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic), service providers (hospital, health system, infusion services, PBM, specialty pharmacy, etc.), insurers (health insurance carriers, managed care organizations, other risk management entities) and technology firms (data management providers, software companies). Many healthcare entities are seeking ways to decisively bolster their position and do not have the right combination of time and resources to do it organically; combining ranks with a competitor, even with regulatory approval risks and ROI risks, will be an increasingly popular strategy.

Private Equity Stalking Larger Prey In The Healthcare Sector

Private equity flexed its muscles in the healthcare sector in 2017. STADA, PharMerica, Steward Health Care and Kindred Health are just 4 examples of private equity taking the lead or being a strategic partner in healthcare mergers and acquisitions. There is much more to come from private equity players as they can very selectively deploy their increasingly ample funds as struggling companies seek to re-position themselves and organizations seek to spin off non-core or under-performing units. The intense competition, investor impatience, sector churn and merger / acquisition fervor in the healthcare sector make for the ideal opportunistic environment private equity flourishes in.

Healthcare Business Model Hybridization Strategies

Pure play business models in healthcare could be a thing of the past. Plenty of companies are going over the wall to diversify and verticalize. CVS / Aetna, UHC / SCA and Humana / Kindred are prime examples of companies going outside of their comfort zone when it comes to bolting on new assets. Health systems are developing / acquiring more physician specialty groups, partnering with semi-competitors (example: Walgreens / Take Care Clinic and Advocate Health) or marketing their own health insurance plans often times with a carrier partner.

“Both the health insurance and the hospital business are being reshaped by M&A”

The FTC and other government regulators frowned upon the mega-billion Anthem / Cigna and Aetna / Humana mergers and derailed the Walgreens / Rite Aid / Fred’s deal (forcing Walgreens to acquire a lesser number of Rite Aid stores and left Fred’s out in the cold without it gaining any Rite Aid units). This sets the stage for companies risk adverse to antitrust scrutiny to consider an alternative to competitive consolidation — yet still apply assertive merger & acquisition strategies. Business model diversification through acquisition will have increasingly popular acceptance in creating innovative and competitive organizational combinations accompanied by intricate integration challenges.

The Amazon Factor

2018 will reveal Amazon’s healthcare strategy with greater clarity. It has widens its variety of healthcare items and applied for pharmacy-related licensing in several states yet there are rumors it will be more focused on medical devices.

“Amazon is casting a long shadow over the health-care industry; the prospect of the giant Internet retailer entering the business is beginning to cause far-reaching reverberations for a range of companies, roiling the shares of drugstore chains, drug distributors and pharmacy-benefit managers, and potentially precipitating one of the biggest corporate merger deals this year”

Either way, a variety of pharmacy and managed care partnerships (UHC / IngenioRx, Walgreens / Prime Therapeutics) have gotten underway plus the pending CVS acquisition of Aetna demonstrates retailers assertively solidifying market access strategies with payers — something Amazon has not yet demonstrated. Amazon will soon take the next big steps in its healthcare initiatives and generate a ripple effect of competitive responses — perhaps this will trigger Walmart to reveal its hidden healthcare / pharmacy strategy to assert itself against Amazon as well as CVS and Walgreens.

Google And Apple Accelerate Pursuit Of Consumer / Patient Sector

Google and Apple have each explored ways to further their reach into healthcare. Google acquired Senosis Health and made other strategic deals as did Apple. The FDA cleared AliveCor’s Kardiaband as the first “medically approved device” accessory for the Apple Watch. Apple and Google are vying for the lead in engaging the dual consumer / patient marketplace. It’s a tricky environment as patient privacy is paramount, accuracy / reliability critical and the healthcare industry is deeply regulated.They will have to win over consumers / patients, clinicians as well as regulators with technology that consistently measures and communicates health data on the fly while keeping it confidential. Don’t be surprised if one or both of these companies develops advanced strategic alliances with established medical diagnostic / patient monitoring manufacturers like Abbott, Boston Scientific, GE, Medtronic, Philips or Roche.

Moving Forward…

On the bio side, there are several industry changing drivers offering amazing potential including gene therapy, tissue regeneration and organ transplantation. Technology is an amazing enabler when it comes to healthcare developments, its impact cannot be overstated. Clinician intellect is the paramount resource in aligning technology with patient care; medical practitioners and researchers continue to be the core catalysts in formulating bio breakthroughs. Combined with the above factors, the stage is set for another “traditional” year of the new and unexpected in the healthcare industry. Those companies which more quickly recognize opportunities based on these changes will have the advantage in their marketing / sales initiatives and revenue goal achievement.

Thank you for reading this article. Check out these other stories on healthcare marketing strategy; connect with me further through LinkedIn or my other social media venues…

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John G. Baresky — Brand Marketing, Product Management, Digital Marketing, Marketing Leadership, Product Launches, Marketing Strategy, Digital Strategy, Social Media, Market Access, Market Research, Marketing And Sales Collaboration

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