The health sector is currently undergoing two radical changes. The first is the replacement of the old fee-for-service model with a more patient oriented one. This new model focuses on patient outcomes and satisfaction as well as transparency. The second regards the healthcare recipient. Today, consumers are not only more health conscious, they are also empowered.

As expected, these changes are affecting medical marketing strategies. For instance, with the empowerment of consumers, doctors are no longer the key decision makers in the buying of medical products. Thus, to marketers, these changes are both an opportunity and a challenge. Here are five marketing trends to watch in the healthcare industry.

1. Doctors No Longer Make Purchasing Decisions

After the enactment of Obamacare in 2010, hospitals bought up physician practices in what can only be described as a buying spree. But with these purchases, a new problem arose. Hospitals now had to coordinate services between these practices and other hospitals. Integrating these services with the healthcare delivery system also became necessary. Hospitals found the solution to this problem by way of an integrated healthcare system.

A secondary effect of these purchases was that doctors who were once self-employed now became employees, which put them at the same level as nurses who completed a certified masters in nursing online or an ADN to NP program. According to a Jackson Healthcare report, hospitals employ 21% of doctors. And because they are now employees, doctors no longer make crucial decisions about the buying of medical supplies.

2. Consumers Research the Internet before Accepting a Doctor’s Decision

Advances in technology, and especially the internet, have given rise to the empowered consumer. Patients no longer accept a doctor’s decision without consulting the internet first. This capacity to research medical conditions and medication is unprecedented in history.

Patients now view their treatment as a collaborative effort between them and a doctor. A report by Pew Research highlights this phenomenon. It found that seven out of 10 Americans consulted the internet for medical information last year. One in two researched the credentials of health professionals while four out of 10 did a search on hospitals.

3. Marketers are Focusing on Consumers and Payers

Doctors are and will continue to be the main target for healthcare marketers. Despite their diminished role in decision making, they still have an important part to play in the buying of medical supplies. The MM&M/Ogilvy CommonHealth Healthcare Marketers Trend Report confirms this fact.

About nine out of 10 marketers surveyed in the report said that doctors were their leading target group. But, marketers are waking up to the importance of consumers and payers and are targeting them as well. The report also found that 56% of marketers considered consumers and payers to be next in importance to doctors.

4. The Rise of Digital Marketing

Thanks to the internet, the digital marketing model has now overtaken the traditional one. The MM&M report found that healthcare marketers are using social media and mobile apps to market their products. Hospitals are not being left behind either, as they are using digital platforms to market their services.

Changes in the healthcare industry inevitably result in changes in healthcare marketing trends. The first new trend is that doctors no longer make critical decisions about the purchasing of medical supplies. Consumers are also researching the internet before accepting a doctor’s decision. As a result, marketers are focusing on these consumers and payers. Finally, healthcare marketers have switched to digital platforms to reach their customers.