An important trend contributing to the consumerization of healthcare is the transformation of select prescription categories to over-the-counter (OTC). The OTC medicines and natural supplements market in the United States is worth $46 billion, with the cough, cold, allergy, and sinus medication category posting $9 billion alone.

In 2017, Congress stipulated that hearing aids would join the ranks of pharmaceuticals, eyeglasses, and diagnostic tests with an OTC category. The OTC Hearing Aid Act of 2017 instructs the FDA to create a class of OTC hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.

For companies evaluating the OTC hearing aid category—as well as companies in other industries sizing up their OTC markets—what insights may be gleaned from categories who already have made that transformation? OTC categories create significant value in the U.S. healthcare system and also provide lower prices, improved access, and more choices for consumers. The main brake on OTC markets is inertia in physician and consumer behavior.