Going into the final month of the year, inVentiv took a look at what could impact pharma marketers in 2018, and it's identified half a dozen high-level trends for the year ahead.
Those trends range from maturing technology innovations to marketing around patient hero stories that inspire but also normalize people with chronic conditions. And they're "changing the opportunities and focus for our clients,” Leigh Householder, managing director of innovation at inVentiv Health, said.
Some of the big-theme trends originated in 2017 or even earlier, but they're just now maturing to opportunity status. For instance, technology innovations like artificial intelligence and augmented reality will begin to play a bigger role in healthcare next year as they move from novelty experiments to real-world tools. A pilot program by England's NHS, for instance, uses AI as a first contact point for patients and puts a machine in the place of what would traditionally be a human healthcare provider, Householder noted. The NHS pilot actually incorporates another of inVentiv's trends, too: the shifting front door to healthcare.
The shifting front door, whether a new kind of technology interface or pharmacists taking on a larger role in ongoing contact and care of patients, has been evolving for years, but it's become more important for pharma companies to understand and incorporate it into their strategies.
Another trend she pointed to is the emergence of hero stories, in the past year showcased by individuals who broke through with poignant or meaningful tales of helping others, such as boaters in Texas who braved dangerous hurricane floodwaters to help victims. In healthcare and pharma, those can manifest as showing more real people who are living complex lives with chronic diseases, for instance—people who are simply “living normal,” Householder said.
“You can imagine why this is happening now when so many once life-ending diagnoses have become chronic diseases. Whether you’re talking about COPD or cancer, cystic fibrosis or AIDS, people are living for decades longer than maybe they ever expected,” she said, pointing to an outspoken advocate, Claire Wineland, who has cystic fibrosis. Wineland has talked to media outlets about "'what happens when you have an illness and you're never going to be healthy? Does that mean you're never going to be anything other than the sick kid?' We're increasingly hearing from voices like that of people who just want to normalize disease," Householder said.
Another example is the introduction of Julia, a muppet with autism, on "Sesame Street." Julia helps kids understand what autism might look like in another child, and although she has differences, she's just another one of the gang.
Householder is working on a follow-up white paper about what these trends mean for pharma, but she offered some initial thoughts about ways pharma can adapt. Understanding how people use technology and creating better user interfaces more quickly, for instance, is one area where pharma can improve. Another is at the new and shifting point of care.
“In the new journey in healthcare, how do we be relevant, useful and impactful at the new points of care? Whether that means an artificial intelligence interface, a call delivery of a prescription or a true care interaction with a pharmacist, how are we going to take the plans we have today and evolve them to the places that people are increasingly receiving care and making healthcare decisions?” she said.