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Market shaping for better healthcare decisions

By Tim Warren

The aspiration of any healthcare brand is to demonstrate value, as value is what every healthcare market demands.

The reasons why customers decide to value something are vital, since that determines what they will pay for and how they go about accessing it. Healthcare business professionals need to think differently than they did before.

Value is getting harder to demonstrate

The challenge to innovate in healthcare is exciting, motivating and rewarding, but not always easy. Global R&D productivity is falling and costs are climbing as pipelines struggle to produce step-change products. Considering pharmaceutical agents, it takes about ten to 12 years to bring a new chemical entity to market.

In addition, many global HTA bodies are at capacity with the reviews they are being commissioned to undertake, making an expensive, involved and long process even lengthier.

Furthermore, generic medicines, including biosimilars, are increasingly being used to successfully treat more patients. This puts an unprecedented level of profit expectation on any new product that makes it to market and conflicts with any healthcare system’s need to control costs.

It has been reported that about 66% of new pharma products have an uncertain value and about 45% of launches fail to get close to first-year expectations.

Context always determines value

As much as we try to rationalise it, ‘value’ remains a subjective construct – it can mean different things, at different times in different situations, to different people and different markets/global geographies.

This variance in context speaks to individual stakeholders within a market and, since markets are complex, social constructs, these perspectives can be and are shaped.

But what is value? The Oxford dictionary definition is ‘the importance, worth, or usefulness of something’. This speaks of gain, of benefit, of merit and of helpfulness.

Market shaping turns the traditionally held view on its head

Markets evolve for many reasons, but also by deliberate design, or reshaping. Others (eg, patients, key opinion leaders, competitors, customers, policymakers, budget holders, media) will design your market if you don’t. Thus, if we accept that markets are socially constructed, then we must accept that they can be shaped.

Often with healthcare and pharmaceuticals, we find that the product attributes and profile are pre-established and substantiated; the health economics are balanced for favour.

As competitive healthcare business professionals, there is limited latitude as to what we can do with the product or price, especially with an established cohort of clinical customers.

Differentiating the brand proposition (ie, features versus gains and benefits) is one way to address value gaps, but most of this has been predefined, often by the clinical trial programme, health economic modelling and a global pricing structure.

To maximise value recognition, our biggest marketing opportunity is to shape the market we are selling to. This could be through changing guidelines, shifting expert opinion or even adapting the health system activities, all of which are challenging but infinitely possible.

An example of this was helping a European client to establish the definition of a clinical condition that was anecdotally recognised by clinicians but not cited in the evidence base, and the role of a certain treatment regimen that was more suitable.

As a result of effective market shaping, the European guidelines now endorse the use of the treatment for a defined and accepted clinical condition. So, by market shaping, you are adapting the market to the brand instead of the brand to the market. If we can’t change the product per se, we have to change the minds of our prospective customers within that market.

If you’re not shaping your market, then who is?

Trying to define value based on product attributes alone only goes so far and takes time and effort – those organisations that shape the market so that their product attributes are ‘relevant’ are the ones who seem to win the most, as their relevant value is more likely to be embraced and less reliant on old-fashioned promotion.

A survey conducted by Triducive in late 2020 among healthcare business professionals showed that 82% agreed or strongly agreed that it is important to get market shaping right to achieve future brand success.

As value becomes more subjective, multifaceted and personal, market shaping offers the opportunity for winners – they become relevant. What is exciting and motivating is the plethora of opportunities (to become relevant) that exist through effective market shaping.

Create impetus to implement change

With the recognition that markets are socially constructed – that the shape of them is determined by the motivations, behaviours and actions of the stakeholders within them – this demands that healthcare companies:

  • Ensure that the specific needs the brand addresses matter more to stakeholders
  • Turn expert opinion and real-world experience into credible evidence
  • Equip and mobilise active advocacy that centres on behaviours that need to change.

The future winners are shaping tomorrow’s market, today. Who is shaping yours?

Tim Warren is Managing Director at Triducive

In association with

24th May 2021

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