Predicting is risky, but who can resist? The teens brought us mobile-friendly websites, iPDFs, native content, satellite radio spots, and ramped-up marketing automation. Most of this we saw coming.


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Given the rate of technological change and accumulating terabytes of healthcare data, it’s a pretty safe bet that the twenties will include a few surprises for medical marketers. Here are a few possibilities.

  1. Take me to the pilot

    Health system consolidation will continue, and evidence that patient care quality declines after hospitals merge will continue to accumulate. This will elevate the role of care navigators, those healthcare professionals who specialize in integrating multiple caregivers to achieve what providers call “patient-centric” care. As a result, care navigators will emerge as the new gatekeepers that medical marketers need to reach.

  2. I want a new drug

    Continuing political pressure on big pharma to cut prices will give rise to a new kind of marketing ploy: the drug ROI spot. “Minute-clinic” ads on social media and infomercials on cable will tell consumers how their drug costs amortize down to pennies per unit of quality of life. The more sophisticated marketers will drive viewers to branded apps to help value-track a drug, complete with pop-up refill reminders.

  3. Are you experienced?

    Higher deductibles have caused increasing numbers of consumers to become more selective in their choice of providers. As this trend continues, more “experience” brands, following the lead of One Medical, Hims, Roman, and CityMD, will flood the market offering bespoke healthcare.

  4. Make a new plan, Stan

    As healthcare providers continue to consolidate into larger entities, system-owned health plans, or “pay-viders,” will pop up everywhere. As a result, hospitals will push wellness and prevention as never before—some opening gyms—and offer discounts on procedures and room charges for members who join their programs, in effect, becoming a new kind of health club.

  5. Going mobile

    Increasingly, providers will go to patients where they live or work to deliver basic services. One example is Harvard Medical School’s The Family Van (“Wellness Within Reach”). This will cause online advertising-leading-to-booking-appointments to skyrocket.

  6. We are the champions

    Weary of the cost of celebrity spokespeople and wary of the skepticism toward social media influencers, medical marketers will recruit ordinary patients to become product champions—and turn them into celebrities with their own shows. Think “The Voice,” except it’s “The Patient.”

  1. I’m only sleeping

    Look for sleep apnea to become America’s number one health worry. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) technology will be combined with Bluetooth for a cordless, tubeless solution that will become as ubiquitous as smartphones and digital assistants. Advertisers will place lullaby jingles on these devices.

  2. Rip this joint

    With baby boomers getting hips, knees and other joints replaced in record numbers, medical device manufacturers will sponsor dance clubs for surgery patients. Music will range from golden oldies to Roddy Ricch and Billie Eilish—whatever calls for low-impact bending and flexing, movements that promote better outcomes.

  3. She blinded me with science

    Spurred by growing awareness of gender bias in the lab, enviro-science celebrities such as Greta Thunberg, and movements such as #MeToo, this will be the Decade of Women in Science. No longer will research pioneers such as Rosalind Franklin be overlooked or Nobel laureates such as Linda Buck be the exception. More women will assume leadership of pharma and other science-related organizations, and we’ll all be better for it.

  1. All you need is love

    Reacting to an increasingly competitive world in which diseases of despair (e.g., depression, alcoholism, substance abuse) continue to rise, marketers will tack their brand messages to that immortal standby: universal love. Remember “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”? It’s coming back, but instead of a caffeinated, carbonated, sugar-loaded drink, it might be an immunotherapeutic or a CRISPR-edited gene therapy the world is treated to. Love sells.

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Rob Kinslow is Vice President, life sciences for KHJ Brand Activation. Journalist by training and writer by trade, he has developed award-winning brand strategy and content for health and medical organizations for more than 30 years, beginning in the hospital world.

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