As a company with a heritage in and focus on healthcare, the digital revolution is not the only revolution we are helping our clients navigate.
The Affordable Care Act – aka the healthcare reform bill – has the potential to turn every industry that touches health upside down. Healthcare reform is only the first chapter in what is likely to be an extended debate about medical care in this country – this week's election results show that quite clearly.
The US is now spending more than 15% of its GDP on healthcare. You'd be hard pressed to find a politician or a health economist who believes that healthcare reform is going to turn that trend around, or who believes that cost will become less of an issue in the future.
Traditionally, efforts have been made to obscure the cost of health care. Patients may know what their co-pay is, but not what the actual cost of their pill is. Likewise, you'll never find a menu of costs in a hospital lobby, and the only people who know what an MRI runs or how big a bill an afternoon in the ER generates have learned those numbers the hard way. The years ahead are going to change that because there will be huge forces looking to squeeze costs out of every corner of the system.
The road ahead for corporate and marketing communicators in this area is clear: We have to be transparent, proactive, and aggressive. The issues of cost and value are too important to be left for others to define.
On transparency, we have a duty to patients and healthcare professionals to make the value of every healthcare intervention clear. We have to explain when a treatment can save the system money by reducing long-term costs as may be the case in diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. And we have to explain what it can mean to patients, as in cancer, where small advances, repeated again and again, can give families months or years together that are only possible because of the extraordinary investment of life science companies.This is not a subject for the timid. Concerns about cost are not going away. Companies that can't make a bold, forceful value argument to the public are not going to be able to make a bold, forceful argument to the government or payors or physicians. Focus on reimbursement has become just as important to life science companies and healthcare providers as safety, regulatory affairs, or business development.
Jim Weiss is chairman and CEO of WCG.