Targeting younger generations, a shift from omnichannel to “omnipresence” and a transition from AI as an emerging technology to one of “automated wisdom” are all key industry trends identified in a CMI Media report out this week.

The Future Outlook in Healthcare report sought to identify some of the biggest trends that will mark the healthcare advertising landscape in 2024 – and how marketers can best take advantage of them. 

Here are some of the main takeaways for medical marketers.

Americans are getting sicker – at a younger age

The first trend the report pinpointed is not entirely a new one: Americans are becoming riddled with chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer. 

However, perhaps more surprisingly, the people getting sick are increasingly getting diagnosed at a younger age.

While there are various factors at play, Justin Freid, CMI Media Group’s chief media and innovation officer, noted that the trend can be partially attributed to burgeoning healthcare technologies leading to earlier, younger diagnoses.

At the same time, younger generations are more conscious of their health, Freid said. 

“The amount of information that the younger generations are educated with when it comes to their own health is at an all-time high,” he noted. The result is potentially “earlier diagnoses and better outcomes.”

In 2024, marketers can seek to leverage the younger generations’ interest in health and self-care by first developing a better understanding of them.

“That will give you a good insight of who they are and how they manage their health differently from the older generations, because it is pretty drastically different,” Freid said.

A continued shift away from primary care

This year will also hold more of the continued shift away from primary care. Understanding where care is happening will be integral for marketers.

First, meetings with doctors are no longer happening at the primary care office by default, the report noted. 

Many patients are instead seeking convenient care at urgent care centers, through telehealth, or at retail pharmacy clinics like those provided by CVS Health or Walgreens.

This is mirrored by a trajectory of patients historically choosing PCPs to be their main sources of health information, which throughout the years has shifted through Google search, Facebook, Reddit and now TikTok.

“Soon we’re going to have large language models with ChatGPT being the primary way people are getting access to [health] content,” Freid said. “It’s about continuing to understand that evolution and not only being on those channels, but also having creative that matches the experience those individuals walk.”

While telehealth use has not reached peak levels it did during the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains a stronghold among patients.

“The fact that I can jump on [a call] with a doctor at 6:30 a.m. before my primary care physician is even out of bed – and can get prescribed something for strep throat – is a game changer,” Freid said. “As marketers, we have to understand that for certain disease states, the care and prescription decisions may be happening with a different set of doctors and a very different location than we were used to.”

From omnichannel to ‘omnipresence’

It seems every year a buzzword evolves into a new one,and that may be the case with omnichannel.

Now, “omnipresence” is the idea of understanding every way an individual could potentially interact with a brand – and how that influences the person on their health journey, the report noted. 

Still, omnipresence also involves insight into numerous other factors – like what medication is available through the payer system in the patient’s particular geographic area, their health plan, and their entire healthcare team.

“How do we make sure that not only the nurse practitioner – but also the oncologist – is well-educated about our clients’ drugs to help give that option to the patient, should it be right?” Freid said.

AI as ‘automated wisdom’

The bright and shiny aspect of AI being the emerging technology of the moment will also have a profound impact as more healthcare companies and marketing agencies look to streamline their processes. 

AI will soon become an “automated wisdom” in working with speed and compliance, the report concluded.

Healthcare marketers will increasingly incorporate AI into everything they do – from audience insights to media planning and buying. This will translate to improved results for clients, Freid said, like generating better audience insights, analyzing vast amounts of data and assisting in ad trafficking.

“If we are able to process this information and make decisions faster, smarter and better, how would that ultimately improve things for our clients?” Freid said. “In many cases, we are able to shorten those processes, do them more efficiently and do them in a way that prevents human error from occurring. [That translates into] more speed to market, getting things launched faster and [implementing] safety nets.”

The end of linear TV

If pharma marketers’ move toward connected TV wasn’t already apparent, Freid said that it will dominate in the next decade, with linear TV receding in impact.

“In 10 years, linear TV is not going to be much of a big deal anymore, and it’s pretty much all going to be in the streaming space,” Freid said.

That means the barrier to entry for marketers will be significantly lower. Where brands previously had to shell out $20 million to break into the linear TV space, that amount can now be lower than $2 million to enter connected TV, Freid explained.

“What I think you will see is significant growth in video spend in the next two to five years because that barrier continues to go down,” he said.