As the year comes to a close, healthcare executives and advertising leaders take stock of what has happened and what is to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to evolve, forcing companies to adapt to a constantly changing landscape filled with fluid consumer expectations. Meanwhile, several other key healthcare-related trends have bubbled to the surface over that period.

Below are some reflections on 2022 and predictions for where the industry is heading in 2023. 

“Frankly, we’re going into a period of a bit of uncertainty. If you look at how resilient biotech, pharma and life sciences have been, they’ve been resilient for many years because of the great products they produce,” said Norstella CEO Mike Gallup. “But even for them, we keep saying there’s a recession, so how does that affect payers? How does that affect jobs? How is that going to affect being able to pay for drugs and reimbursements? There’s going to be a lot of focus on this.”

“Life sciences companies realized they needed to do more with less to combat ongoing financial pressures. Despite COVID-19 pandemic restrictions loosening, medical device and pharmaceutical representatives are still struggling to get the same in-person access they had to healthcare professionals. Remote and hybrid-first workplaces have become the new norm and hospitals and health systems realizing their busy physicians don’t need to continue seeing those representatives in person to still remain up to date on new skills, products or treatments,” said Florian Geier, PhD., VP and head of strategy and pharma sales at Level Ex. “This shift has created an urgent need for medical device and pharmaceutical companies to bolster their omni-channel sales and marketing capabilities, with engaging content that can be used not only at virtual visits, but across a variety of complementary platforms, such as conferences, websites and hybrid peer-to-peers/training events, to reach healthcare professionals where they are in today’s hybrid world.”

“Inflation is top of mind for everyone right now, and it’s driving a need for more consumer control in all areas, including healthcare,” said Kevin O’Brien, president of enterprise solutions at EngageSmart. “As we head into 2023, a key way for healthcare companies to meet this increased desire for control is offering myriad payment options. The more flexibility patients can have in both how they pay (with options like PayPal, Venmo, or other digital wallets), and when they pay (with options like AutoPay, payment plans, and alternative financing and BNPL), the more satisfied they’ll be with the organization as a whole—and the more regularly companies will receive payments on time.

“New brands in women’s health, mental health and online products and services have continued to increase. As consumer interest and purchasing power increase across all demographics, it’s important for these brands to lean into branding and marketing, emphasizing long term customer loyalty,” said Diana Brooks, chief vision officer at The 3rd Eye. “As consumers place more emphasis on transparent conversations relating to their health, we anticipate seeing more health and wellness brands, both legacy and startups, hone in on relationship and community building with their audience in a way that’s authentic and speaks to them.”

“In 2022, data impacted every aspect of pharma marketing. And in 2023, omnichannel engagement (OCE) will continue to change how, when and where patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) interact with and consume information. But to implement OCE successfully, our industry must embrace OCE as a philosophy, rather than considering it an execution or distribution model,” said Lauren Westberg, EVP and managing director at PRECISIONeffect. “Everything including segments, strategies, marketing technology stack, staffing, must be considered and evaluated. Data and insights that guide the decisions we make, such as Navigator 365 will continue to be a critical success factor. And with deeper adoption of OCE, the role of pharma marketers will evolve. In 2023 they may have more operational responsibilities such as transforming audience interactions and derived engagement data into well-defined and well-packaged leads for sales.”

“One thing which I am looking at and I can see the industry looking at are further efficiencies of the monies that they’re investing,” said Doceree CEO Dr. Harshit Jain, a 2021 MM+M 40 Under 40 honoree. “How can you be more targeted? Because now that marketing budgets are being cut, monies are limited. So how can you use these resources even more wisely in reaching out to your physicians and your target audience even more effectively?”

“While the credit markets are currently more restrictive than the beginning of 2021, we expect deal activity in the Pharma Commercialization market to remain very active,” said Larry DeAngelo, managing director and head of Houlihan Lokey’s global business services group. “These businesses continue to be viewed as ‘non-cyclical’ and as safe havens in a period of broader market turbulence.  We continue to see very active interest in these businesses based on their attractive defensive characteristics and very supportive secular growth trends.”

“Marketing trigger data will change this paradigm by connecting anonymized, aggregated data on patient visits to brand.com to follow-up HCP visits,” said Veeva Crossix CEO Asaf Evenhaim. “By capturing engagement data at critical moments in a patient’s healthcare journey, trigger data will connect patients and HCPs with improved speed, relevance, and timeliness.” 

“In 2023, forced to navigate trickier patient journeys and constrained marketing budgets, specialty patient services will be forced to rethink how to reach the 80% patients who never reach the Hub,” said RxWare CEO Yishai Knobel. “Patient journey continuity will become a key theme, and vendor interoperability will become table stakes in every RFP.” 

“While the response to COVID underscored the incredible ingenuity of our pharmaceutical industry, it also highlighted many significant issues in our healthcare system,” said Amit Phull, MD, medical director and SVP of strategy at Doximity. “Disparities and inequities persist, burnout is a significant threat to our healthcare workforce, and potentially life-saving hospital space is not always readily available. In 2023, we will see more and more hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturers leveraging digital technology to expand access to care and innovative treatments. From mobile medicine to remote clinical trials, healthcare innovators and care teams across the U.S. will place greater focus on health equity and shift more care to the convenience and comfort of patients’ homes.”

“Patient enrollment into manufacturer programs will be an area of focus for life science brands in 2023 because up to 50% of the time, patients do not pick up their medications from the pharmacy,” said Karina Castagna, SVP of access and adherence at OptimizeRx. “Digitizing patient enrollment into manufacturer programs at the point-of-care will become a priority to improve awareness since only 1 in 5 patients and less than 50% of HCPs are aware of support services.”