Consumer shift offers opportunity to pharma

Faced with rising out-of-pocket costs and complex treatment plans and armed with new social media tools and more information, pharmaceutical customers are changing the ways they purchase drugs and their role in drug use. This shift is creating valuable opportunities for the life sciences sector to benefit from deeper insights from the individuals using their products, according to a new report by PwC’s Health Research Institute.

“Patients are exerting greater control over their healthcare and they want their medication experience to be effective, personalized and meaningful,” says Karla Anderson, principal, PwC. “If their expectations are met, they’re more likely to follow the proper course of treatment and remain engaged customers far longer. Drug makers that tap into critical information about customers and their behaviors in order to adjust business strategies will be well-positioned to demonstrate value in the new health economy.”

Drug companies have long communicated directly with patients, through advertising and focus groups. But in today’s complex and competitive environment, PwC analysts believe that a more sophisticated customer segmentation strategy is needed. Pharma customers expect the same focus on their needs that they experience in other industries such as retail, banking, and travel. When drug makers adopt a more customer-centric approach, the result is more engaged patients who “own” their treatment plans and better manage their conditions.

The Health Research Institute’s report, “Customer experience in the pharmaceutical sector: Getting closer to the patient,” includes survey results from more than 700 U.S. consumers about their preferences and behavior in drug treatment selection and use. According to the survey results, consumers are seeking the same convenience they receive in other settings. PwC’s researchers found that consumers are willing to pay 19 percent more for a “no wait time” prescription, while affluent baby boomers and Gen Xers with chronic conditions are willing to pay 52 percent more. Also, treatment costs are the top reason people stop taking medications. An estimated $213 billion is lost each year in the United States due to wasteful or unnecessary treatment linked to lack of adherence and medication mismanagement.

PwC’s researchers also found that baby boomers with multiple chronic conditions have less medication adherence than average but are willing to do something about it. Some 41 percent want do-it-yourself pharmacy health screening stations, while 37 percent want a mobile app to monitor vitals and provide contextual understanding of their prescriptions.

Almost all of the respondents to PwC’s survey said pharmaceutical companies did not play a role in their diagnosis and treatment decisions, suggesting that current pharmaceutical education and communication has had limited impact. And the company’s report also highlights defining elements of the next generation patient including appetite for personalized information and real-time feedback, active participation in care and treatment, convenience and on-demand services, and options for comparison shopping.

“Understanding consumer behavior isn’t a one-time event – rather, it should cover the full lifecycle of a drug,” says Paul D’Alessandro, PwC principal and Customer Leader, Health Industries. “As empowered consumers take on more responsibility in their healthcare, drug makers must find ways to create meaningful experiences and relationships with them.”

Posted: December 2013

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