Why Healthcare Marketers Should Focus on the Pharmacy as a Customer Touchpoint
You get sick, you go to the doctor, right? Well, for millions of Americans it’s not always that easy. There are several obstacles that can prevent — or at least deter — patients from seeing a doctor, and it’s these populations that remind healthcare marketers of the importance of the pharmacy as a primary point of care for many.
Let’s take a look at four groups who are more likely to visit their neighborhood pharmacist than their primary physician, and see why the pharmacy is an important healthcare marketing touchpoint:
1. The “not sick enough.” When it’s not bad enough to head to the doctor, most people head to the pharmacy. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a whopping 81% of adults use OTC medicines as a first response to minor ailments. And this is happening several times a year. The CHPA research says U.S. consumers make 26 trips a year to purchase Over The Counter (OTC) products, but only visit doctors, on average, three times a year.
OTC products sold inside the pharmacy are easily accessible, affordable and effective for keeping most Americans on their feet so they can go to work and provide for their families.
2. The 20% of Americans living in rural areas. It’s easy to understand that the farther you live from a doctor, the less frequently you’ll visit him or her. According to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas.
Access to care becomes further complicated as financial challenges threaten the existence of small town and rural hospitals. As of June 20, 2017, the NRHA estimated that one-third of rural hospitals in the U.S. had either already closed or were vulnerable to closure creating medical deserts across rural America and leaving many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care.
Pharmacies can also be more limited in rural areas, but access is available. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), roughly 9-out-of-10 Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy.
3. People who are afraid of doctors. While there’s an actual clinical diagnosis for this condition (iatrophobia, also known as “White Coat Syndrome”), a lot of people avoid doctors because they’re afraid of getting bad news. This is a big problem for health care, especially when you consider a disease like diabetes, which, if left undiagnosed, can lead to blindness, amputations, or worse.
Resources inside the pharmacy can help consumers determine if they have a problem and let them know when they should seek a doctor’s care.
4. The 12.2% of Americans who are uninsured. According to a 2014 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 33% of uninsured adults have a regular doctor, half the rate of insured adults. With health care reform potentially affecting access for millions, more and more Americans will be taking their health into their own hands. Self-diagnosis with the help of sites like WebMD or with an assist from a local pharmacist will be increasingly relevant for Americans without coverage.
There are several obstacles that prevent patients from seeking care inside a traditional doctor’s office. With the vast majority of Americans falling into at least one of the four groups discussed here, healthcare companies and healthcare marketers should give great consideration to the pharmacy as the first stop in the POC healthcare chain.
Stephanie Myers is VP of Advertising Sales for Pursuant Health. Pursuant Health’s purpose is to engage individuals to manage their health and improve outcomes. Our consumer-centric, multichannel platform captures and integrates health-related data to incentivize healthy behavior. This population health data provides high ROI for health plans, employers and marketers of consumer health products. We meet people where they are while they are engaged in their health. Pursuant Health’s population health management platform enables the company to be a one stop shop and great partner for individualized healthcare engagement and incentivization.