Addressing the topic of the healthcare industry in an insightful, rational, and unbiased way – and in the midst of the current emergency - is not a simple thing to do. But Erika Mallarini has done just that in her new book La salute alla prova del mercato (A Go to Market Approach to Healthcare) published by Egea. New digital tools, growing needs of patients, as well as the fluctuations in cost of therapies are all leading to an overhaul of the services offered in the entire health system. In addition to this, more and more often health providers are finding themselves having to rethink their service offering, keeping the customer top of mind, with personalized treatment plans to meet every need.
We reached out to the author, Erika Mallarini, to ask her to tell us more about her book.
Your book comes at a very complicated time for people and for the healthcare industry in general. Did Covid-19 shape the reflections you make in your book in any way?
The emergency has made the contents of my book all the more relevant. As we can see right now, it’s impossible to deal with an epidemic without being proactive, acting responsibly toward the community. The relationship between public and private players in the healthcare industry and the people they serve must be rebuilt on new trust paradigms. La salute alla prova del mercato focuses on questions such as patient centricity and trust management, providing readers with concrete tools for building up citizen empowerment.
The subtitle of your book, Andare oltre l'orientamento al prodotto (Moving Beyond Product Orientation), alludes to a new approach to the customer and the market. How does this play out in concrete terms?
Traditionally, the strategy of the healthcare industry centered on products and services. With consumption intermediated by health professionals, the technical characteristics of the offering was the standard of comparison, while the need was a functional one. And competition in healthcare was extremely limited too. Products for the most part were unique, and as such not substitutable, and service provision was guided by so-called Path Diagnostic Therapeutic Care. The evolution of the patient journey, the genericization of drugs, the development of innovative therapies requiring new selection methods for target populations, the entrance of new players and incumbents changing roles and organizations: all these factors fuel the need to find new approaches to the market. It’s not enough to have a product; you have to get it on the market. But marketing strategies borrowed from other industries provide an awkward fit for the healthcare and pharma industries with all their peculiarities. My book offers specific go-to-market paths differentiated by type of service/product and user category, and for each one illustrates methods for selecting and managing channels, to include digital.
In the introduction, you discuss the need for a disruptive model in the context of healthcare. Can you tell us more about what you mean by this?
There are three types of innovation: incremental, breakthrough and disruptive. The first is about enhancing the features associated with a given product, the second refers to a new product that incorporates a technological core that differs in some substantial way, and gives customers bigger benefits compared to existing products in the industry. But the third is the real game changer: disruption means launching a solution that is totally new, one that can’t compare with anything that came before. In the book I give the example of Kymriah Novartis, an innovative cancer therapy where they use the patient’s T-cells, reprogram them in the lab to detect and destroy cancer cells, and then reinject them back into the patient. Kymriah isn’t a drug – and it has set off a disruption in the paradigms for finding the cure for cancer. In healthcare we need a disruptive approach: to build a relationship with the patient we need to learn to expand the borders of the sector.
A large portion of the book is dedicated to the advent of digital. How is digital influencing the healthcare industry, and how will it continue to do so in the future?
The digital transformation constitutes the main disruption in the sphere of healthcare. Digital has upended the relationships among the players, with the entire continuum of care feeling the effects: prevention, diagnostics, outpatient and inpatient care, life support systems and so on. Digital is generating knowledge (just think of artificial intelligence), facilitating accessibility, and these days distancing as well, and boosting production capacity. With AI we can learn more about the patient, with telemedicine we can provide healthcare remotely, with chatbots we can manage the care 24/7. Covid-19 is speeding up the launch and proliferation of new digital technologies. But as far as applying them in the field of healthcare, there are several obstacles in the way. The first is cultural: some professions will disappear, services will be modified with consequences for the people who organize them, many healthcare companies will see their roles change considerably. Those who successfully anticipate the change will find themselves at an advantage. But the reality is that many players in the industry have not yet fully grasped the scope of this epic evolution. “Go to Market” comes into play here too: interpreting weak signals to drive strategy in the only winning direction: the one that centers on the customer.
Series: Leading Management
Date of publication: August 2020
Format: paper and e-pub
La salute alla prova del mercato is available at the following link: http://www.egeaeditore.it/ita/prodotti/sanita-e-salute/salute-alla-prova-del-mercato-la.aspx
SDA Bocconi School of Management