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The next healthcare paradigm shift

Public relations can help the move from a paternalistic to a patient-centric system

A pill with 'change' written on itHealthcare is moving towards a more participatory model of shared care that is enabled through information, products and technology, such as new digital channels and social networks. These changes have critical significance for the pharmaceutical industry as blockbusters expire and R&D labs show limited progress and their focus shifts towards emerging markets.

Part of this changed landscape is a blossoming Rx-to-OTC switch environment which is potentially a win–win for consumers and payers, as well as drug manufacturers. Some of the most powerful forces driving change include:
• More opportunities for self-care, through multiple channels, including internet and social media
• Increased treatment options
• Payers, including government and insurers, offering incentives for consumers to take charge of their health.

Drug companies would benefit through important new revenue sources, growth of complementary medicines, innovation in OTC via product segmentation and improvements to existing products. Government and payers would also gain because many visits to the doctor are unnecessary and patients who have been previously diagnosed can manage their condition safely.

Also the most serious health issues of our time will not be solved without patient/consumer involvement and commitment to better health. In fact, transitioning a medicine from prescription-only to OTC can create a highly effective bridge to this participatory system of shared information and patient care. Indeed, an increasing number of more preventive measures and fundamental lifestyle changes are being considered to encourage healthy behaviour.

This dynamic environment opens the door to the creation of a novel information-sharing era that will drive involvement among key stakeholders and impact health reforms processes, which are under way. Rx-to-OTC switches provide consumers with convenient, cost-effective access to safe and effective medicines, without the required assistance of a healthcare provider, but hopefully with the education that enables better healthcare decisions.

The healthcare world of the future, therefore, will include integrated information management systems that would allow us to participate in the conversation surrounding disease states, including tools to facilitate identification, diagnosis and management. This concept of an 'audience aggregation' is designed to capture the attention of people with similar characteristics, providing access to that audience via a third party. In this case to:
• Create a concept of self-intervention
• Make effective use of the shared management system to help consumers manage their own health
• Create a new system that dramatically increases participation and confidence of all stakeholders in support of assisted self-medication.

Audience aggregation and mobilisation, which leverages the demand for better care of the sick, is increasing. To truly improve diagnosis, prevention and management, an effective communications campaign could consist of three parts:
• Medical Gravity – focus doctors' attention on a particular condition and need for proactive engagement
• Medical Education – educate on effective screening and therapy to ensure optimal diagnosis and management
• Consumer Push – build concern among patient population and drive proactive presentation and screening.

PR, therefore, can play a significant communications role to build an environment to engage patients/consumers in individual changes and make information ubiquitous and inescapable. At the same time, digital communications activities will leverage online social channels to reach them directly and invite them to join efforts with other patients for better adherence to a healthy lifestyle.

The Authors

Laura Schoen - Weber ShandwickWeber Shandwick logo

Laura Schoen
is president of global healthcare practice at Weber Shandwick

John Cahill - McCann Healthcare Worldwide

McCann logo
John Cahill
is global chief executive at McCann Healthcare

8th September 2011


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