In March, Deloitte’s Center for Health Solutions (Washington, DC) released its second annual survey of consumer trends in healthcare. The project, which is intended to build a longterm longitudinal study of the healthcare market, refined the analysis that the Center has performed on consumer segments, updates some predictable trends given the current economic environment: consumers are more cost-conscious, and, to some degree, are becoming savvier purchasers of health products and services.
Overall, Deloitte found numerous opportunities for the biopharma industry to interact directly with consumers—at least some of them. Based on wide-ranging survey questions, and a rigorous statistical analysis of the results, Deloitte found that consumers subdivide into six categories (see Box 1), ranging from mostly disengaged (“Casual & Cautious”) to actively involved in healthcare decisions (“Sick & Savvy”). “There were 173 variables subjected to the multivariable linear-regression analysis, so we’re pretty confident that these segments are distinct and comprehensive,” says Paul Keckley, PhD, executive director of the Center. “The second year of this analysis shows some shifting in categories, ‘Shop & Save’ adding almost a percentage point, and ‘Out & About’ dropping by about the same amount, but the categories have basically held up year over year.”
In the survey, 4,001 American adults, aged 18 or older, were polled during October 2008. The results were weighted to ensure proportional representation of the entire country, based on US Census data, for age, gender, income, race/ethnicity and geography. Deloitte says that the survey margin of error is +/-1.6% at the .95 confidence level.
Some specific findings:
- 86% of consumers are currently using healthcare products on a regular basis, including 65% taking vitamins or minerals, 57% taking prescription medications, and 38% using OTC products. More than half (52%) of prescription medication users take three or more meds.
- 73% feel that they have a good understanding of the risks and benefits of the prescriptions they take, with Baby Boomers and those older having a better level of confidence than those that are younger.
- Familiarity with “biologics” (defined as a class of drugs derived from human cells) is low—only 12% say they understand them.
- Six in 10 consumers say they looked online for information about treatment options in the past year; one in three reviewed prescription medication information.
However, health plans and manufacturers are the least trusted online sources.
20% of consumers say they would be likely to buy from a source outside the US if they could save 50% or more; 4% have already done so.
- One in five consumers prefer alternatives to traditional medicine, including homeopathic, chiropractic and naturopathic types; 12% express a strong preference for natural therapies over prescription medicines.
According to Keckley, there is an interesting cross-connection to be made between consumers that want “natural” health products and the low awareness of biopharmaceuticals; conceivably, if these two facts were linked together, consumers would have a higher degree of confidence in biopharm. Overall, interest in genetics-based therapeutics is high, but the degree of awareness of them is low.
Keckley and other Deloitte analysts reviewed the overall survey data to find lessons or challenges for the pharma industry (Box 2). Near-term opportunities include improved adherence and brand loyalty; longer-term challenges are to open up communication channels to consumers as well as healthcare professionals.
“At numerous points, we can see that there is a greater degree of willingness for consumers to switch—medications, providers, and plans,” says Terry Hisey, Deloitte vice chairman and leader of its Life Sciences Practice. “This sets the stage for a sizable impact of such evolving factors as comparative effectiveness, formulary decisionmaking and health communication channels,” he says. PC