Devices, apps promote preventive approach
For the three months ended in May, smartphone penetration reached 61% of the U.S. market, according to Nielsen. Penetration of smartphones remained lowest among Americans ages 55 years and older (42%), but this group is catching up fast, as penetration among this demographic has nearly doubled over the past year.
As tech-savvy baby boomers continue to explore ways to extend their quality of life, the healthcare system is moving from a "sick care" model to a outcomes-based, disease-state-prevention model that will eventually incent young and old to better track their health care ‚ — benefiting sales of tech-enabled self-care devices.
Installations of mobile apps used for sports and fitness activities are set to rise by 63% from 2012 to 2017, generating strong potential demand for wearable health devices like heart rate monitors, or HRMs. "An IHS consumer survey revealed that 62% of respondents interested in using sports and fitness apps also were prepared to purchase hardware that enhances the functionality of the software," said Shane Walker, senior manager for consumer and digital health research at IHS.
For those products helping consumers to self-monitor existing health conditions — total multi-outlet annual sales for blood-glucose meters are up 3.7%, according to IRI, and blood-pressure monitors are up 1.5% — even a slightly improving economy is expected to further lift this category. "A lot of [the growth] is due to the economy improving," noted Ranndy Kellogg, COO of Omron Healthcare. "People are starting to take better care of themselves. It’s not that there are less doctor recommendations or less hypertensives," Kellogg said, rather self-diagnostics was seen as a "nice-to-have" purchase.
Gender-specific products target overlooked health issues
The big news in incontinence is Oxytrol, which doesn’t reach store shelves until September. It’s a switched product coming from Merck Consumer Care that brings an entirely new indication to the over-the-counter space — overactive bladder in women.
Some analysts are hesitant to suggest a new OTC category will translate into blockbuster-style sales. However, overactive bladder is a lot like smoking cessation or weight loss in the sense that women don’t necessarily discuss these symptoms with their doctors, according to the National Association for Continence.
Private-label manufacturers are already bullish on the opportunity Oxytrol represents. "When Oxytrol was approved, that was an important product opportunity," said Joe Papa, chairman, CEO and president of Perrigo. "It opens up the category of overactive bladder [to switch]," he said, and that means other overactive bladder medicines like Detrol or Ditropan may have a pathway to OTC.
Targeting men with light bladder leakage in this space, Kimberly-Clark this spring launched Depend Guards and Shields and partnered with former professional football player Tony Siragusa to help promote the product. "Historically, men with light bladder leakage have been ignored by the industry," said Elizabeth Metz, Depend brand director at Kimberly-Clark. "As a result, many men have had to use products that were designed for women or look like they were."
Retailers offer enhanced services to help quit
Even though section 1201 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the section that enables health payers to charge a 50% premium on smokers — won’t go into effect until 2015, smoking cessation will be a growing category in 2014.
This year and next, the retail market is already primed to offer enhanced smoking cessation services to customers. As they’ll be looking to recoup the return on investment in those programs, there’ll be more messaging on quit attempts more often.
And that will spur more quit attempts. "We have 11 million smokers in our market," noted former Safeway chief executive Steven Burd regarding the introduction of the chain’s stop-smoking program in conjunction with the University of California, San Francisco. "Eight million of them would like to quit," he said. "It’s not easy, and we think that working with UCSF and doing a combination of the right smoking-cessation product with some behavioral modification is really the key."
For retail clinics, smoking cessation is one of the chronic care programs that can help increase traffic. "[We’re] piloting enhanced smoking cessation and weight-management programs, and the strong growth we’ve experienced in MinuteClinic’s non-acute services is helping us to reduce the seasonality of the business," Larry Merlo, CEO and president of CVS Caremark, told analysts earlier this year.
To help pharmacies and clinics augment their smoking-cessation solutions, the Foundation for Health Smart Consumers launched a major expansion of its smoking-cessation initiative through the Inspire Program at the annual Retail Clinician Education Congress held in May. A core component of that program is a patient counseling toolkit available to clinicians online to increase the quantity and frequency of smoking-cessation interventions in the convenient care setting.