Healthcare Advertisers Look to Veteran Markets in 2020

By Tom Aiello

The healthcare industry is growing, but behind that growth is uncertainty and complexity.  Healthcare is finding significant upside by creating value that can solve and thrive in that uncertainty.  Veteran healthcare represents an example of this, and healthcare providers, manufacturers, and pharmaceuticals seek to gain a share of this $50 billion market.

To tap these opportunities, there is increased advertising.  Zenith’s newly issued Healthcare Advertising Expenditure Forecasts cite that global advertising expenditures by healthcare brands will grow 3.6% this year to $36 billion.  Brands are diversifying into new channels, like military veteran media, because of media inflation and declining ratings in traditional channels. 

 Mission Act is Fueling the Veteran Market Opportunity

In June, the Mission Act was implemented, enabling more veterans to receive care at local community providers instead of the traditional VA Medical Center setting.  Before this, only, 8% of veterans could use the VA’s community care programs.  But the Mission Act expansions to access means roughly 40% of the VA population will be eligible now to see a doctor within the community.

A Congressional report from the Commission on Care estimated that unlimited access to community care for veterans could cost over $100 billion each year.  While not expected to go that high, in the 2018 fiscal year, 1.7 million veterans used some form of private care. That number, based on the VA’s eligibility projections, meaning that just over a half-million veterans will be added to the pool seeking private care.

Emerging Example:  Urgent Care

Prior to the launch of the Mission Act, the VA did not have any benefit for veterans allowing Urgent Care, which is highly popular among civilian patients.  The new benefit allows veterans to use urgent care providers in their community. 

Since June, the VA has signed up nearly 5,000 urgent care providers in their network so far, and the VA's deputy undersecretary of Health for Community Care, Dr. Kameron Matthews, said she wanted 2,000 more.

These urgent care providers are looking for direct selling channels to inform eligible veterans of their benefit and the local convenience they represent for non-emergency room needs.

 The Post-Mission Act Veteran Patient Journey

Healthcare advertising increases are coming from shifts into different parts of the healthcare journey.  Direct advertising is being replaced by educational campaigns.  The challenge to advertisers is that veterans have a different patient journey than the average American, and even that is in a state of change. 

The unique veteran patient journey became the foundation for patient marketing when it was created in the study, Veterans: A Significant Force In The New Health Economy.  But now advertisers are updating it with recent changes from the Mission Act that has created shifts on veteran diagnosis and treatment.

This patient journey incorporates veterans’ different options for care in addition to technology, which has enabled greater access to health-related information.  These veteran patient journeys are the blueprint for successful advertising to veterans. Understanding them enables advertisers to influence the veteran patient journeys and activate programs along with them. 

 Implications for Healthcare Advertisers in 2020

Healthcare providers should be looking to create more compatibility with VA healthcare. Veterans who have Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, United Healthcare, or any civilian insurance can use it in conjunction with VA healthcare.  Helping Veterans solve this will create more value for the patient.  

Healthcare providers need to help veterans understand their coverage options under the Mission Act.  Millions of veterans who are qualified for VA healthcare can now use it to access community care. This means faster and more consistent payments for providers and a larger pool of accessible patients

Pharmaceuticals and manufacturers must understand what the VA will cover in areas that civilian healthcare may not. In those instances, it makes sense to better activate veteran patients through VA healthcare channels to increase sales and positive patient outcomes.

Advertisers who build these approaches with the understanding of the veteran patient journey can activate through direct selling channels.  Because of the digitally empowered patient journey, advertisers can now apply a veteran-centric approach to media planning.  Veteran-specific media channels must be evaluated to include military publishers, social, programmatic, and addressable media using proprietary veteran and retiree lists.

Better veteran patient understanding, including cultural insights and important nuances of how to access their healthcare options, mean that military-specific creative will be more relevant to veterans.  Sometimes insights will vary by the era of military service.  Content marketing around veteran-specific healthcare and lifestyle are proving successful with educational-focused communications for veteran patients.

In some ways, communications to veterans must innovate in the same way that healthcare is transforming into a new hybrid of VA and community care. In 2020, advertisers will pace with the veteran healthcare shifts created by the Mission Act.  Collectively, these changes will redefine veteran healthcare for years to come.