Marketers of higher-cost healthcare products and services often face huge barriers in breaking through the information gaps and misconceptions of patients. To reach patients, marketers are focusing on decoding the maze of treatment options.
"It is clear that customers lack clear information and knowledge on the details behind these 'high cost' services," said Bill Tourlas, senior VP of innovation and engagement at SPM Marketing & Communications, a firm that focuses on the healthcare industry.
It's important that providers offer a range of options for the consumer, particularly when out-of-pocket costs could come into play, said Jenny Cordina, a partner at consulting firm McKinsey who works on healthcare issues.
"There's a real lack of transparency to consumers on what options and choices are available to them," she said.
Although patients are likely to research treatment costs online, Cordina said, they rely on their physicians to learn about the care options available to them.
"When it comes to care choices, the physician is one of the most trusted sources," she said. "A lot of times consumers don't have insights from other channels."
Some marketers point to the value proposition of higher-cost treatments, mapping out a range of communications steps based on the patient's journey from diagnosis to treatment.
"When we market products that are branded for rare diseases, they do come with a hefty price tag," said Terese Kung, executive director for strategy and innovation at healthcare marketing agency Harrison and Star. "It's about being transparent and based on an understanding of what value it provides—it's about the life you want to live and the person you want to be."
An example of a type of treatment for which marketers need to exert more effort explaining to consumers is cancer care. For Patti Winegar, co-owner and managing partner at SPM, breaking down complex treatment information into easy-to-understand nuggets is key.
"How do we translate super-complicated science into easy-to-understand information so that consumers can make a smart choice?" Winegar said.
To reinforce the core messages, SPM's campaign for National Cancer Institute-designated cancer care centers included a television spot along with online components with four key questions to ask before entering into cancer treatment.
"We send messages to help (patients) make these complicated decisions in snackable bites," Winegar said.
Ultimately, marketers note, the principles that underlie the marketing strategies for higher-cost treatment and services are the same as lower-cost ones, with the goal being to help patients and doctors make the most informed decision.
"In the last 15 years, between the rise of the digital age and the evolution of the healthcare environment, people are more empowered than ever to take control of their own health decision," said Christine Lindquist, senior VP and healthcare practice lead at FCB Chicago.
"Our role is to provide information about available options, to help patients and their doctor make the best best decision for them."