CHPA: Economy, social media changing how America shops 'health'

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — In excess of $102 billion. That's the value over-the-counter medicine delivers to the U.S. healthcare system, Consumer Healthcare Products Association leaders shared with attendees of the CHPA Annual Executive Conference held here Friday morning.

Fully realizing that value and even enhancing that value is now the focus of the association — whether it's through consumer education, industry advocacy before Congress or through innovation — that's the direction the association is pushing toward moving forward. "The pace and extent of change and our challenge as business leaders to build teams that embrace change drove us to this year's theme 'Game Change,'" Colin Mackenzie, this year's CHPA AEC chair, and president of North America for GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. "It is important that we understand the landscape of that change so we make this a competitive advantage for our industry."

Paul Sturman, CHPA chairman and president and general manager of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, helped frame that landscape in light of evolving mobile shopping technology and how that is continually influencing the decision pathway for the consumer.

According to Sturman, 40% of smartphone and tablet users have downloaded a health-and-wellness app. And almost 90% of consumers take their doctor recommendation to their social sites — Facebook, for example — for a second opinion.

Today's economy also continues to have an impact on the course of health care.

"People are doing a lot more with a lot less," Sturman said, noting that economic concerns are still driving the consumer in search of less expensive, more efficient healthcare solutions. "Today we package products. Arguably down the road, we'll package health," he said. "Today's point of purchase will [evolve into] the point of care in the future."

And Sturman noted that retail pharmacy will continue to expand its retail healthcare offerings and become points of care for a number of disease states — diabetes, high blood pressure, hair loss — if those pharmacy operations aren't doing so already. "The retail setting is going to offer more opportunities than just purchase," he said.