Yes, DTC Presents Problems, But Pluses Can Surprise You

John Marcille

What would this country be if we didn't have something to complain about? After all, America was born out of a difference of opinion, so it stands to reason that finding negativity in something and beating it to death has become something of a national sport.

Just look at the way the managed care industry gets slapped around like a hockey puck by the popular press and opportunistic politicians. Yes, the system has its faults — many of them. But it wasn't long ago that the same media fawned over those same politicians who decried runaway health care costs and pitied Americans who shelled a lot more out of pocket for their care than they do now. Those days seem forgotten.

So it was something of a pleasant surprise when we learned that direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs — a favorite punching bag of the managed care industry — actually has a positive side for managed care companies and physicians. It's not necessarily the "educational" aspect of some ads, though the handful of those that do motivate people to see physicians for unknown or long-neglected conditions is a plus for everyone. No, what's particularly refreshing is that DTC advertising presents health plans and physicians with a few little-talked-about opportunities to mesh objectives with pharmaceutical companies in the name of improving outcomes. Senior Editor Mike Dalzell explains in his cover story.

Of course, not all DTC advertising is public-spirited. One health plan executive we spoke with put it this way: "To mindlessly drive unmitigated demand for drugs makes about as much sense as a two-headed man. What are we doing here?"

He's right, and yet that presents health plans with another opportunity: to help consumers distinguish need from want — i.e., restore consumerism in health care. It won't happen as long as people are shielded from the cost of care. With education, patients who have become accustomed to "near-free" pharmaceutical therapy might be more judicious in their resource use.

Career Opportunities

HAP, a subsidiary of Henry Ford Health System, is a nonprofit health plan providing coverage to individuals, companies and organizations. This executive develops strategies to meet membership and revenue targets through products, pricing, market segmentation and advertising.  Aligns business among Business Development, Commercial Sales, Medicare and Public Sector Programs and Product Development. Seeks to enhance and be responsible for business development and expansion through the development of an effective product portfolio, strong interpersonal relationships and service excellence.

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