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Five Trends to Note in Healthcare Marketing

Gone are the days of healthcare advertising consisting of free samples, branded note pads, a print ad or celebrity spokes person. These elements are still at play, but like its consumers, healthcare providers of all types are becoming savvy, technology reliant and multi-lingual.

Baby Boomers
Baby boomers are the largest users of healthcare in America, simply due to the sheer population size of their generation. Baby boomers aren’t aging, they’re getting better and don’t let a number dictate their actions or lifestyles. Just as baby boomers remain dynamic and active, healthcare advertising is too. Arthritis medication ads feature active seniors; established and trusted brands feature baby boomers and are updating packaging to be more senior friendly; celebrity spokes people are themselves members of the baby boom generation they market to.

Racial Diversity
Just as baby boomers dictate much of healthcare advertising trends, so do members of growing racial and ethnic groups. No longer are healthcare studies, recommendations and ads centered on middle class, middle aged Caucasian males. Healthcare companies know that differences in race, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status bring about different healthcare concerns and issues. Research studies designed to understand how health is affected by these differences affect how care, prevention, medicine and medical providers are advertised to the target audience.

Multi-Lingual Advertising
The concept of advertising and creating healthcare sites in more than one language is new and healthcare companies are beginning to see the benefits. By knowing their target audience and its concerns, advertisers can create media, social media, websites and traditional advertising in a variety of languages. The most popular languages are Spanish, Chinese and Korean. These groups are some of the fastest growing in America and although English is not always a second language, they are often bilingual.

Healthcare and healthcare advertising are no exceptions to the growing dominance of technology in our everyday lives. No longer do consumers go to a self-diagnosis book on the shelf, but now to that book’s website. They also may find themselves at a hospital’s, doctor’s, or drug company’s site, not only finding the answer to the question at hand, but ongoing care, prevention and next steps. Websites, like TV and print ads, showcase patients of all ages, races and ethnicities. They offer information on treating the whole patient, not just the symptoms at hand. Consumers may find themselves going back to the same site or following hyperlinks to partner products and companies.

Smart Phones and Apps
We are all on the go, all the time. Our smart phones (and tablets) keep us connected at all times to the news, our lives and each other. Our smart phones and tablets also keep us connected to our health. Many healthcare companies have developed apps to help consumers track anything and everything from calories, medication, exercise, blood pressure and nearly any other health stat possible. They also utilize advertising on free apps for their products. The use of smart phones, tablets and applications is one of the most lucrative for health care advertising.

Rising Healthcare Costs in the UAE

The UAE has seen tremendous development in recent years, with the largely oil driven economies of the region doing better than many in weathering the challenging financial climate of recent years. Indeed, the UAE saw its economy grow by 4.3 percent in 2011 due in great part to the prices of oil, although certainly helped along by non-oil sectors such as the tourism industry.

However, as many developing and developed countries alike have come to realize, increasing access to modern technology, food and conveniences often brings with it increases in certain diseases and healthcare expenditure in tow. Preventable diseases such as type-II diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer that are often referred to as lifestyle diseases often play a large part in rapidly growing the amount spent on healthcare both by governments and individual citizens seeking care.

The UAE has felt such a pinch quite acutely in recent years, with their expenditures on healthcare rising to approximately US$1,200 per person per year, bringing them into the top 20 countries in the world for money spent on healthcare per capita. While this may be seen as good news for healthcare providers and the pharmaceutical industry, the growing costs and the underlying health problems causing the rapid rise in health spending have serious implications both for the quality of life of the citizenry as well as the financial wellbeing of the countries as they try to ensure access to quality services.

Much of the growing healthcare budget is due to the rapid rise in lifestyle diseases in the UAE and the Gulf region in general. Indeed, 19.2 percent of residents in the UAE have diabetes making it the country with the highest prevalence of the disease in the Gulf region. In 2010, providing treatment for diabetes alone cost the UAE US$5.5 billion annually, comprising 14 percent of healthcare spending in the Emirates.

While healthcare expenditures as a per capita amount rising dramatically, it still only comprises approximately 3 percent of the UAE’s GDP. While this is expected to rise to close to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2015, it still does not come close to the United States, which spent enough on healthcare to equate to upwards of 17 percent of their GDP. However, much like the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Region, the healthcare system in the UAE is largely subsidized by the government, in fact over 70 percent of healthcare spending in the GCC region comes from public sector funding.

However, with the increasing rapid rise in the cost of providing healthcare to the citizens and residents of the Emirates, there is an increasing push to bring in more private sector participation in funding healthcare. It has led many Emirates in the UAE and also other countries in the GCC to begin to consider enacting compulsory health insurance legislation.

So far, only two Emirates have made concrete steps towards restructuring how healthcare is financed through the implementation of mandatory health insurance; Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Abu Dhabi initially required that employers purchase health insurance for expatriate employees in 2005, although it later introduced laws creating the framework for the state to insure all resident UAE nationals under the thiqa health insurance scheme. Abu Dhabi’s initiatives now cover over 98 percent of the population of the Emirate. Dubai on the other hand, had mooted plans for compulsory health insurance in 2008-9, especially for expatriates, although the plans were put on hold with the global financial crisis.

However, in 2012, a draft law for mandatory health insurance at a federal level was briefly published. For the short time that it was available, the draft law conceived of a federal health insurance authority that would work with local health authorities in each emirate and establish how providers would be accredited and regulated. Although it was not laid clear how this would work in practice or how it would interact with existing health insurance regulations at the emirate level.

One thing is certain though, that as healthcare costs continue to rise ever more swiftly, individual Emirates or the UAE as a whole will have to take action in the near future to ensure continued access to quality healthcare services for their citizens. This seems most likely to take the form of requiring employer-provided health insurance coverage, however it remains to be seen how exactly this system would be put into place and managed.