Pharma marketing types are no doubt familiar with the four Ps, a rubric that contextualizes pharma vis-a-vis its fellow stakeholders in the healthcare value chain: provider, payer, and patient. Lately some have even added a fifth P to the mix — policymaker.

But this beloved mnemonic may be in for a downsizing. As Sara Holoubek tells MM&M’s Larry Dobrow this month, “We’re moving from three or four or five Ps to one: people.”

“As we move to a model where patients are empowered, people are leading the charge,” Holoubek adds.

It seems fitting that, as new entrants seek to overturn healthcare’s familiar and, in many ways, inefficient business models, this decades-old convention also would be turned on its head and by those seen as outsiders a short time ago.

Our third annual Health Influencer 50 list includes many such examples of doers challenging the healthcare hegemony. Five years ago, most of us did not envision Amazon becoming a dominant player in this space. Yet there they are.

Amazon wisely hired Harvard surgeon turned health policy expert turned The New Yorker writer Atul Gawande to head up its JV with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan, then bought pharmacy upstart Pillpack, whose CEO and cofounder, T.J. Parker, also makes our list.

And healthcare now welcomes a new cast, including fellow HI50 members Apple, Wal-Mart, and 23andMe.

To be sure, plenty of influence is still concentrated in the traditional four Ps, represented by the likes of GSK, Bayer, and J&J. And on the agency side, you’ll find stalwart marketers ranging from Klick Health to Weber Shandwick.

Like the challengers, plenty of pharma vets working for these native healthcare organizations are leveraging their understanding of customers and passion for people to accelerate the path toward a consumer healthcare experience.

To those who long for the old days, who view disruption as sacrilegious, I say, “Get used to it.”

It’s a good bet that no one entity will have a lock on the essential qualities that underpin a Health Influencer. People — with a capital P — will level the playing field for decades to come. Those pharma and agency players who fail to adjust may wake up one morning and wonder where their influence went.


Marc Iskowitz is the editor-in-chief of MM&M