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The degree of trust that any industry’s consumers place in its most established authorities can have profound impacts on the nature and range of the products offered, the complexity of the transactions, and, ultimately, the prevailing business models that will determine the industry’s success or failure. Consider the recent global financial crisis. While many traditional financial institutions have survived this international recession, the faith that many personal investors once placed in the accepted “market authorities”—including investment house advisors and portfolio managers, many of whom encouraged consumer expectations of unfettered market growth—has been severely damaged. This erosion of trust has fueled increased regulatory scrutiny of the sector, skepticism among its core and peripheral constituencies, and a reevaluation within the industry itself of the kinds of products and services that will be most desirable to its consumers. A powerful analogy can be drawn between the worlds of finance and health.
Today’s patients distrust many aspects of the healthcare system—the regulators, the medical gatekeepers, the drug producers—and grow continually more resolved to take charge of their own treatments. The well-publicized examples of unsafe drugs and the rising cost of healthcare are key drivers of today’s movement toward “patient- centricity.” As out-of-pocket expenses increase—due to the dwindling levels of insurance coverage, rising co-pays and large numbers of people completely uninsured—patients insist on knowing more about potential treatment options, and demand that this information be supported by real-world evidence. At the same time, expanding knowledge resources, such as the Internet, provide consumers with the opportunity to proactively learn more about their own or their loved ones’ medical conditions, treatment options and to even interact with other patients around the world. Consequently, patients play a crucial role in today’s healthcare, and that trend appears poised to escalate and drive further changes in the industry.
“Patients would rather not be passive consumers of healthcare services,” says market analyst Richard K. Miller, president of Richard K. Miller & Associates and author of the annual Healthcare Business Market Research Handbook, now in its 14th edition. “Given the choice, they want to know about their health and medical condition, what healthcare services would cost, the efficacy of prescribed treatments and the clinical competence of their physicians and hospitals. Fortunately, such information is increasingly available to them, and the effects on the healthcare system can be highly beneficial.”
Individuals are becoming more informed, choosy consumers. Moreover, their charge to take over their own healthcare goes even deeper than traditional approaches to health. In some cases—more than imagined by many industry experts—patients already opt for lifestyle changes over prescription medicines when possible. In addition, consumers insist on evidence, such as examples of real-world outcomes from patients like themselves, before they will pay for a treatment or endure one that might not produce the desired outcome.
With patient-centricity and consumer disgruntlement both increasing, the biopharma and healthcare industries must ask themselves: what will it take to regain consumer trust and how will these trends affect our business?
Patients and their advocates have an unprecedented amount of information sources available to them. The nature and degree of proactive engagement in treatment options among consumers can impact the regulatory, discovery and business aspects of health.
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