The healthcare landscape is changing fast, and one piece of the picture is taking shape right in your own neighborhood.
The arrival of a new breed of retail-based medical clinics on the scene has given patients an additional avenue of support for their healthcare needs – and marketers an additional audience for their message.
The Rise of the Retail Clinic
National drugstore chain CVS has introduced MinuteClinic® to branches in 27 states and the District of Columbia, while Walgreens boasts 400 Healthcare Clinic locations – and both lists are growing. Walk-in clinics have also been appearing inside select supermarkets across the U.S.
The trend shows no signs of slowing: Accenture projected that the number of walk-in clinic locations would grow from 1,418 in 2013 to 2,868 by 2015.
For as fast as these clinics have popped up, consumers have eagerly followed. No doubt that “convenience” is the name of the game here, but there’s money to be saved as well: clinics’ fee schedules are straightforward and made easily available, allowing consumers (some of them newly insured, others paying out of pocket) to shop around more easily than they might among traditional healthcare providers.
While this new environment develops, the attached retail brands are taking the opportunity to realign their messages to emphasize all-around health. CVS made waves in early 2014 when the company announced it would be rapidly phasing out the sale of tobacco products, the first retail pharmacy to do so, despite the billions in substantial lost revenue at stake – revenue they intend to make up through the MinuteClinic® services.
Of course, medical professionals have warned that walk-in clinics and their close cousins, urgent care facilities, are not adequate to completely replace primary care physicians and emergency rooms.
But making physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners (and in some cases, MDs) so accessible has given patients not only more choices, but also a new resource for information about their health and the products and prescriptions they use to manage it.
Pharma marketers, are you paying attention?
Many a marketing dollar has been spent on influencing the traditional healthcare provider, be it primary care or specialists. Meanwhile, physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners and other “auxiliary” health professionals have been overlooked.
The time to start looking is now, because the frontline of healthcare is not in the same place, literally or figuratively, that we’ve been used to seeing it. If anything, it has advanced in a huge way towards consumers.
Walk-in clinics are now likely to become one of the first lines of defense against common ailments and injuries, not to mention wellness services like flu shots and other immunizations, sports physicals, pregnancy tests, and smoking cessation and weight loss counseling.
The ability to fill a prescription minutes after having it written – and pick up a few groceries and household items at the same time – means this part of the sales funnel is drastically narrowed. The distance between diagnosis and treatment may be literally a few steps to the next counter.
Where does the healthcare marketer step in?
The practitioners staffing these clinics are not only more accessible to patients, but are generally more amenable to sales reps, perks and other tactics that many traditional physicians choose to avoid or evade. And with today’s digital marketing tools, there are myriad new ways to reach this audience with targeted messages.
Think of what that might mean for adoption and compliance, for new product launches, for patient education. The potential here cannot be overstated.
So my reminder to marketers navigating the fluctuating healthcare landscape is this: you need to be constantly re-evaluating your target audiences. Take a 360-degree view of your messaging and strategies and look for those opportunities you might be missing.
Pharma is typically a slow, cautiously moving industry, but there’s greater risk in waiting until the tide of walk-in clinics has crested to start thinking about how healthcare brands can benefit.