A surprising number of people have felt the benefits of this digital healthcare shift over the past 12 months. Booking a doctor’s appointment on the app – rather than queuing up in the cold at the local GP at 7.30am – and getting medical advice over the phone is quick, easy and painless, and most importantly reduced the risk of catching Covid. Many have also benefitted from a free six-month trial of Headspace via Brands2Life’s Vitality scheme, which has provided some much needed calmness in amongst the chaos and uncertainty of 2020 (and has unsurprisingly seen subscriptions soar since last March, reaching 65 million users worldwide).
Telemedicine and digital health apps have boomed since the start of the pandemic, against a backdrop of overwhelmed hospitals and countless cancelled doctors’ appointments. While other industries, such as travel and hospitality, haven’t fared so well, digital health start-ups like Babylon Health, Livi and Unmind have seen huge surges in demand, as well as more interest from investors.
But it’s not just mindfulness apps and virtual care start-ups; big tech companies have also entered the fray with the likes of Google and Apple partnering with governments around the world to help develop track-and-trace programmes. More recently, Amazon launched its online pharmacy in the US and is building plans for a move into the UK – which has sparked much controversy among the pharmaceutical community, fuelling concerns that it will take such a large share of the market that local pharmacies won’t be able to keep up.
As the shift to a more decentralised, digitised healthcare sector continues and with competition from big tech looming, the onus is on companies to communicate the benefits of their healthtech innovations in a clear, concise and patient-centric way. So, with the vaccine roll-out underway and the prospect of an end to Covid-19, what communications tools can firms use to adapt to changing consumer attitudes and a shifting healthcare landscape?
From video GP services, mental health chatbots and online prescription management through to AI drug discovery and supply chain robotics, the breadth of what constitutes ‘digital health’ is constantly expanding. New innovations are coming to the fore and competition is hotting up with the UK’s healthtech sector now employing 127,400 people in 3,860 companies, generating £24 billion for the economy.
With that in mind, marketers need to cultivate a brand that ‘cuts through the noise’. As discussed in our recent healthtech webinar, communicating your proposition involves more than just showcasing the product – it’s not just the what but the why. For example, how is your business creating real improvements in mental health? How is it helping to tackle taboos in women’s health? Or how is it supporting the NHS, through cost savings and time efficiencies?
This is important for all companies but particularly if you’re a new player on the scene. Devising a big PR or digital activation campaign might get you headlines but ensuring consistency across all consumer touchpoints and honing in on your key messaging will help you build the brand.
Whether it’s on the website, via social channels or through earned media, your customers should feel like they’re on a seamless user journey, be able to instantly recognise the brand and understand what product or service you’re offering.
Taking a targeted approach with communications will also help key messages land more effectively. As a consumer campaign, it could be exploring the use of relevant influencers that become an advocate for your brand or for B2B, you could look into a paid strategy on LinkedIn to engage with specific healthcare professionals and organisations.
As so many successful start-ups have done in the past, take on the Monzo mindset of creating a direct feedback loop between users and product developers to adjust, refine and improve your product or service.
Whether through user research, creating an online community/forum or purely speaking to users through your social media channels, the best way to scale is by listening and understanding your users’ needs for continued iteration. Consumer insights can also be used to inform your communications strategy and create playful and engaging campaigns, just as Spotify has done over the years with its year unwrapped campaigns.
While the pandemic has no doubt accelerated innovation in this area, challenges remain. According to McKinsey, there is still a gap between consumers’ interest in telehealth (76 percent) and actual usage (46 percent). Concerns around data security, patient safety and lack of in-person contact need to be addressed and dealt with sensitively. Becoming a trusted brand doesn’t happen overnight but building on the STEM knowledge and experience within your organisation and communicating this clearly will help enhance authenticity.
The pandemic has accelerated innovation across the healthcare sector and healthtech players are in a hugely advantageous position. Through clear and concise communications, we can help healthtech companies win the trust of consumers and partners and spotlight the amazing work they’re doing in science and medicine to transform our world.