Healthcare Expectations for 2018

January 11, 2018

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2017 was arguably one of the most monumental – and consequential – years for the healthcare industry in recent memory. And 2018 looks to be just as active across a number of areas – from business development in the biopharma sector to emerging trends in clinical trial recruitment and consumer healthcare. Additionally, healthcare reform will continue to be a topic that’s front-and-center, likely to be accentuated given that 2018 is an election year.

Below are a sampling of predictions and trends to look out for in 2018 and beyond.

Biopharma’s Reputation under the Microscope

By Catherine Kyroulis

2017 was a year of high profile innovation and controversial business decisions for the biopharma industry. From exciting developments in CAR-T and gene therapy to record-setting U.S. new drug approvals, highly publicized M&A activity and executive resignations to unorthodox tactics to preserve IP, a lot of ground was covered. Not to mention the ongoing conversation about pricing.

Last year, much of the buzz on the ground in San Francisco at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference was about the “Trump Tweet,” which reverberated within the industry long after everyone had taken their cab ride from Union Square back to SFO. But as many of biopharma’s greatest triumphs and setbacks demonstrated, the importance of reputation management cannot be understated.

This year, we will likely see an even greater emphasis on the need for biopharma companies to communicate about the life-saving therapies they develop and other positive contributions they make to patients and society as a whole. We are now living in the age of an $850,000 drug, and the microscope will only continue to zoom in on companies’ practices, from making decisions about investing in R&D to questioning implications of business development moves. Those companies that are perceived as being authentic among their stakeholders – and have stellar reputations – will have an edge over those that do not.

On the Healthcare Policy Front

By Marc Longpre

Much like 2017, in 2018 the future of our healthcare system and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will continue to dominate conversations in Congress, among industry, in the media and at dinner tables across the country.

Healthcare is still the top concern for Americans looking ahead to 2018 — more critical than taxes, immigration and climate change by a large margin, according to a recent poll. This year, the conversation will shift away from the repeal of ACA, now that there have been changes to the power dynamic in the Senate and a stronger-than-anticipated open enrollment season. Instead, we’re likely to see the health policy conversation hone in on improving access to healthcare – especially as campaign season heats up this summer – and efforts to shift to a system focused on outcomes and value.

Both of these present an opportunity for communicators working in healthcare to better define words like “value” and “access” that are vague and over-used, and also to translate these critical topics into stories that have emotion and will resonate.

Trends in Clinical Trial Recruitment

By Mindy Warner

The start of every New Year evokes reflection and prediction. The clinical trial recruitment space evolved greatly last year with new methods of communication and increasingly sophisticated stakeholders and operations. Looking forward, the following hot topics will maintain momentum throughout 2018, improving how practitioners plan, execute and measure successful recruitment and retention campaigns.

  • Essential digital and social marketing will go beyond patient-facing websites, Facebook and Twitter, with emphases on targeting and analytics.
  • Mobile communications will continue to be influential, as smart devices are increasingly woven into the fabric of daily global life.
  • Patient centricity will remain a priority, as advocacy groups and patients increasingly expect to be engaged in study design, access and reporting.
  • Diversity in trial participants will remain a priority as clinicians work to better understand how medicines work and are effective in different ages, genders, races and other subgroups.
  • The use of wearable technology will expand as clinicians and patients grow more comfortable with multiple uses, ranging from patient reported outcomes to retention.
  • Outsourcing, whether seeking strategic partners or prioritizing centralized IRB relationships, will persist as trial managers’ responsibilities stay on an upward trajectory.
  • Big data will increasingly be leveraged as a recruitment tool, as insights from these data will help find and ensure patients are enrolled in trials that are best suited for their individual needs.

The Intersection between Healthcare and Consumer Tech

By Melissa Zipin

Over the last several years, consumer tech companies decided their shiny new toy would be healthcare. There was tons of money to be made and a huge national – and global – problem to solve. While they were well-poised from both visibility and technology perspectives, they quickly realized the amount of time and money involved in closing deals with any health system.

So, they tried their hands at consumer health. And, while many companies have been somewhat successful, they’ve recognized that in order to make an impact on healthcare overall, whatever solution is developed must have buy-in from not just the consumer, but from across the entire healthcare chain – patients, clinicians, health systems and pharma.

And, moreover, they found that every consumer is incented individually – making any one-size-fits-all approach they may have developed, very ineffective. I think over the next several years, we’ll continue to see mergers and acquisitions from the “big boys” – and winning companies will be the ones who recognize that it takes the entire healthcare chain to work together if you want to really make a change.