Pharmacy is rightfully and increasingly defining itself as being in the business of health and wellness, as opposed to being only in the business of dispensing medications. As such, the marketing conducted by pharmacists and pharmacy organizations should reflect this. With health marketing, we are attempting to influence individuals, voluntarily, to accept, reject, modify or abandon a behavior (eg, quitting smoking, checking A1C levels, becoming more adherent with medications, losing weight) in favor of a healthier lifestyle. This mindset likewise comports with a growing emphasis on patient empowerment and the need to help them self-activate so as to better manage their disease(s) and condition(s).
Marketing theories can be of great assistance to providers of health care. Chichirez and Purcarea conducted a review of health marketing theories and behavior change.1 They describe health marketing as a component of social marketing, which uses commercial marketing principles and techniques to influence a target audience. A major feature of health marketing is that it recognizes positive behaviors more so than attempting to punish negative ones. There are a number of marketing and related theories such as the Theory of Planned Behavior, Social Cognitive Theory, Self-Efficacy Theory, and the Health Belief Model. This and other health marketing theories certainly have unique aspects upon which to focus, but most have at least some elements in common. For example, different messaging content should be applied to different persons depending upon a number of factors; it is advantageous to garner social support for the patient to the extent possible; and bolstering the patient’s confidence to make the lifestyle changes is more effective than warning them of dire consequences if they do not.
Pharmacy managers need not be theorists, but understanding the principles that motivate individuals can not only help promote more positive outcomes for your patients but can also assist you with educating your staff to ensure that they apply these same principles in dealing with patients and with peers.
Additional information about Marketing Theory can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.
1Chichirez CM, Purcarea VL. Health marketing and behavioral change: A review of the literature. J Med Life. 2018;11:15-19.