Ten years ago – ten years after the dotcom bubble burst – “digital marketing” was still a distinct discipline within life sciences companies, a distant junior partner to sales and marketing machines built around direct-to-consumer TV advertising and the rep-physician relationship.
Phones were not yet, for most, pocket computers. The Social Network was still in theaters and Facebook’s Like feature had been live only a few months. Drug sales were dominated by mass-market small molecule treatments for hypercholesterolemia, asthma and type 2 diabetes. In the U.S., Lipitor was on top. Incented by the HITECH Act, hospitals were just beginning to implement EHRs en masse. The Senate was this close to passing the Affordable Care Act, reordering the infrastructure of carrots and sticks undergirding healthcare payment and provision in America.
Ten years later, “digital marketing” is still a topic on the conference circuit, but in practice, it’s just “marketing,” which is obviously “multichannel,” and nobody needs a digital agency to evangelize this to them anymore. We are all online everywhere and all the time. Patients proactively inform themselves about symptoms, conditions and treatment options and share their experiences with others. Digital devices and apps help them track their steps, stay adherent and manage conditions. Physicians spend hours each day in their EHR systems, feeding Mississippian data streams that let us understand health behaviors, treatment decisions and outcomes at the population level.
It's been a decade of seismic changes in policy and technology, from the passage of the Affordable Care Act to the rise of mobile health and social media. And these changes have been accompanied by successive waves of revolutionary clinical developments – an explosion of biologics for cancer and autoimmune disorders, immuno-oncology, therapeutics for rare diseases, the advent of 3D printed organs, closed loop insulin pumps and a host of technologies that seem straight out of science fiction, such as nanomedicine, CRISPR/CAS-9 and gene therapy.
This infographic offers a look at how patient and physician multichannel behaviors have changed over the past 10 years, per DRG/Manhattan Research study data – and how they’ve stayed the same (i.e., pharma website usage):