Though politically-charged marketing efforts surrounding the Affordable Care Act began long before the act became law on October 1, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies are now also ready to jump on the marketing bandwagon, especially since it looks like Obamacare is here to stay.
With Obamacare in effect, the diagnosis for the healthcare industry is clear: it has caught the big data bug.
“Medicine has entered the era of big data,” Dr. John Henning Schumann, a primary care doctor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, wrote in an NPR blog. “You’ll be regularly by your doctor, other health care providers or so-called to obtain recommended tests like mammograms, colonoscopies and vaccinations. Health plans will use statistics on flu shots administered and other elements of preventive care to boast about their efficiency and to jockey for market position.”
As 48 million uninsured Americans start to consider their options, healthcare providers are eager to gauge the attention of the new customer base. Insurers, hospitals, urgent care centers, and walk-in clinics operated by companies like CVS, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart are all increasing their advertising spending according to Josh Karmon, the VP of advertising at Vitals, a doctor ratings-and-reviews website that draws 12 million monthly visitors searching for specialists. “We’ve seen a 300% increase in hospital campaigns,” he said in an interview with Fast Company.
Pharmaceutical companies are optimistic about their share of the marketing pie as well.
“Pharma’s thrilled ’cause more people now have insurance and can pay their bills,” Karmon says. “Brand advertising is up 70 percent year-over-year in that category” for Vitals, and, with the right tools, an influx of big data could make this advertising more targeted, relevant, and ultimately more effective and profitable.
“Think Amazon or Netflix. If you take a medication or have a particular condition, you’ll get offers and ads tailored to you as a potential buyer of related goods and services,” Schumann says. And, according to Schumann, though HIPAA prevents doctors and hospitals from sharing protected health information with other entities without patients’ permission, the federal medical privacy law called won’t restrict this type of data sharing, meaning we can all look forward to even more promotional emails and offers in our inboxes.
But, there is a silver lining to the possibility that players in the healthcare industry will have to vie for our attention like department stores on Black Friday.
“Patients will be a step closer to becoming true consumers,” Schumann predicts. “There will be more price transparency for health care as demand increases, but not enough to fully bargain shop. As a consumer, you will have more opportunity than ever to express your opinions — through focus groups, consumer boards, and online surveys. To me, this is one of the most exciting aspects of the health care overhaul. As an industry, we flunk the customer service test again and again. Too often it’s the patient’s voice that’s heard least when it comes to quality improvement.”