There were two red-flag stories in the news last week. Neither item is a surprise, but they signal disturbing trends for healthcare marketing thought leaders. The headlines say:
- 1 in 5 Older Americans Cutting Back on Health Care to Save Money – Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
- Spending growth on physician services sinks to record low – American Medical News
The stories behind the headlines are an everyday reality for most private practices, hospitals and physician groups. But now the decline in healthcare spending is quantified, and the reasons are documented. The question for healthcare providers and marketing professionals is: Is it time to seriously rethink your marketing strategy?
The nonpartisan EBRI report tells us that “More than 20 percent of Americans age 50 or over report saving on health costs by switching to cheaper generic drugs, getting free samples, stopping pills or reducing dosages, and nearly as many skip or postpone doctor appointments for the same reason.”
The EBRI found that these reductions were almost equally prevalent among households, whether they reported increasing or decreasing their annual spending. “Even for those who reported that their spending was unchanged, 16.5 percent reported making prescription drug changes, while 11.7 percent reported skipping or postponing doctor visits to save money.”
We wrote about the “Silver Tsunami” in a previous post. Every day of the next five years, about 8,000 Americans will turn 65, Altogether, about 79 million boomers will exit the workforce over the next 20 years.
The American Medical News item—citing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary—reports that consumers continued to cut back on health care in 2010, which led to record-low growth in spending on physician services and moderate-to-low increases in spending on other health care services and products.
“Consumers had fewer hospital procedures, filled fewer prescriptions and visited the doctor’s office less frequently. People remained cautious about their health care spending because of losses in private health insurance coverage, lower median household incomes and general financial uncertainty, according to the report. Total spending on both office-based physicians and clinical services grew by only 2.5% in 2010, the slowest annual growth rate since the federal government started keeping track in 1960.”
We’d like to hear from you. Is your medical marketing plan already on track with these consumer trends? What services, products and/or healthcare marketing gateways do you have (or intend to create) to more effectively reach prospective patients, especially older Americans?
Check out the complete news items and then please share your thoughts below. Is it time to seriously rethink your healthcare marketing strategy?