The super-convergence of science, communications, and technology not only demands proven success in each, but the strategic chops to integrate that expertise across everything done in health. Let’s discuss the difference that makes all the difference in the world…
Arguably no industry is larger, more complex, and stubbornly unpredictable as healthcare—and certainly none is more important. With $3.2 trillion and counting currently spent annually in the US alone, a fifth of overall GDP at $10,000 per person is ostensibly dedicated to health and healing—yet providers, payers, and all health system stakeholders still need to be, as Klick Health CEO Leerom Segal has said, “inoculated against the future.”
The threat? Exponential change across every aspect of the business, continuous disruptive transformation at each touch point that demands real-time analysis, data-driven insights, and agile recommendations, with the immediacy, flexibility, and testability to flourish in today’s dynamic—some would say chaotic—healthcare market. The vaccine? Not only understanding the present, but accurately foreseeing what lies a week, a month, and five years ahead.
Despite the urgent need and palpable excitement, commonly cited trends aren’t particularly interesting, and few themes connect the diversity of thinking underlying them all. The usual suspects like “Big Data,” “interoperability,” and “personalization” are already clichés, a laundry list of buzzwords and catch phrases everybody keeps repeating and nobody seems to fully understand. What’s lacking is a cohesive framework from which to contextualize them.
The better trend lists such as those from PwC and Pew Research are compelling, but remain fragmented, begging for a simple story to tie all the disparate elements together. Perhaps we need to take a step back and discover the essential components of our health reality, and define what we actually mean when we say “trend.” By first describing the core elements of today’s health systems, we might better anticipate the future, and what we’ll need to succeed.
Three Points of the Triangle
Systems naturally lend themselves to analytical or synthetic thinking, the a priori vs the a posteriori of Kant, or the battle royale between Plato and Aristotle: the one among the many, or the many among the one—the world organized into but a few foundational essences deduced intuitively, or described through a plethora of categories that multiply inductively by way of experience. Attempting to simplify complicated trends, let’s go full-Socrates.
Bear with me for a second, and consider everything in healthcare described as a mix between three essential components: Science, communications, and technology. If you buy that, then identifying them, describing their respective goals, and showing how they interconnect, healthcare trends start to make sense—not as an ad hoc speculative list, but as three vectors starting at the respective points of a triangle, and driving inexorably toward the center.
Medicine historically spans from Hippocrates to Salk, from struggling to understand the human body to actually treating it. The evolution of medicine and science are intertwined, the body and mind successively explained through the lenses of philosophy, physical mechanics, thermodynamics, and now data and even quantum mechanics. The business of medicine is similarly science-driven: research, development, and distribution; diagnosis, treatment, and adherence.
From clinical trials through approvals, launch, maturation into expiry, the pharmaceutical sciences cover the gamut from drug design, action, delivery, and disposition. The top line goal is improving and extending life. Clinical information from efficacy to safety to proper use permeates every step of the way; multiple and greatly varied stakeholders throughout the healthcare system need to receive, understand, and share this highly specialized information.
Translating scientific information to such a broad and diverse audience demands its own unique expertise, a capacity to understand the clinical details and the best and most compliant way to communicate them. Healthcare marketers therefore need proven expertise in everything from pharmacology to brand positioning, market research to messaging, from FDA/OPDP regulations to copywriting—and for audiences from HCPs to patients and their caregivers.
The goal is facilitating and encouraging dialogue, answering questions and providing information to physicians seeking the right treatment solutions for the right patients, and for patients who have become increasingly involved in their own care. Whether helping with disease education or diagnosis, access or adherence, complex information must be simplified and shared within an increasingly digital, thoroughly regulated industry system.
From the first tinctures and splints to the latest surgical techniques and scans, technology has been equally fundamental to medicine. And from the abacus to IBM Watson, information technology has played a central role throughout the patient journey. A thorough mastery of technology is therefore necessary for practicing medicine, developing and distributing drugs, and facilitating communication between constituents across the health system.
The goal of technology has always been to improve both science and communications. But today a singularity has been reached resulting in what Eric Topol has called “the creative destruction of medicine”—where the convergence of computers, the Web, social media, mobile/wearables with genomics and predictive modeling has blended science, communications, and tech at their core, driving toward a world of limitless possibility, and experts with multiple specialties.
Certainly none of these foundational elements ever exists in isolation: You can’t have science without technology, and communication is central to the scientific process itself. But the incredible, inter-dependent advances in all three have recently redefined how we think of the respective components to the point none can be meaningfully understood alone, and healthcare perhaps becomes best described as a Venn diagram showing their seamlessly interacting relationships:
Although all three elements are connected, the relative extent to which each plays a role for a particular expression is key. And most importantly, we can use such a diagram to meaningfully define and talk about healthcare trends by describing how the relationships between the elements shift over time. For example, let’s number the elements (1) to (3), and assign letters to their overlap; e.g., consider the area shared by science and communications only, designated as “A”:
The FDA/OPDP regulation of pharmaceutical marketing content has historically fallen into this area, devoid of technological considerations. But as we’ve seen, digital tech has transformed how healthcare audiences communicate with each other and with pharma/device brands. So a powerful trend, visually expressed, is the FDA gradually shifting from “A” to the center, “D”. Verbally expressed, “FDA draft guidance for digital and social will increase…”
What this shows is how every important healthcare trend from 2016 onward can be described in a similar way, essentially how they drive the industry toward better integration of the three elements. That helps provide context, meaning, and prioritization across the larger and more comprehensive and integrated science/comm/tech story. Extrapolating from here, any meaningful “healthcare trend” is defined as a vector driving from the perimeter to the center:
Let’s continue the exercise by starting with the overlapping sectors within the Venn diagram, and then cross-referencing each to the transformative changes taking place within the healthcare industry, like we did for the FDA/OPDP regulatory example shared above. Instead of starting with an ad hoc trend list, we can instead show how the three elements distinctly come together to satisfy the expectations of brands, professionals, patients, and their caregivers.
Trend: “The Humanization of Healthcare”
Digital (3) has enabled “C,” instantaneous, global, real-time, two-way communication, radically transforming how people communicate (2), and the expectations between all audiences. The ability to quickly and easily access information and connect with others (2) has in turn transformed how people view and interact with medical science “A”. That has resulted in the “ePatient Revolution” and pharma/device brand focus on DTC and the patient POV, to “D”.
The shift has also transformed medicine itself (1), encouraging HCP/patient communication, and a more holistic approach to treating the whole patient instead of just the disease. That has lead full circle back to data being shared “B” between empathetic docs and engaged patients “D”. The end result of this trend is better communication between physicians, their peers, their patients, and back to brands. An integral part of the process, the patient is the ultimate end-user.
Implications for healthcare marketing are enormous, with a focus on personalization, dynamic content, and infusing the physician/patient conversation with renewed energy. Events like Klick Health’s MUSE embody the integration of science, communication/art, and technology, encouraging the ideal blend of head and heart, expertise from diverse fields “meeting in the middle” and united with the singular goal of improving outcomes and extending lives.
Trend: “The Point of Care Everywhere”
As medical diagnostics (1) become more sophisticated “B,” specialists at the point of care are given increasingly flexible, mobile, and efficient communications resources “C”. These in turn revolutionize the way biometrics are acquired and shared (2), transforming telemedicine “A”. These drive data integration points “D” expanding the point of care experience outside the physician’s office, closing the data loop with patients and their wearable devices (1).
We’re already seeing steps in this direction. Apple’s “ResearchKit” will connect thousands of patients directly with brands and institutions, while docs will “prescribe” more and more apps for patient support. Klick’s data-driven approach to Multichannel Marketing/NPP connects audiences across every touchpoint; we digitally learn more about each segment the more they interact, paving the way for seamless communication between brands and audiences.
Trend: “The Evolution of Privacy and Propriety”
Social media “C” has redefined “privacy” and societal norms regarding the transparency of personal information (2). From financial transactions to family photos, once unheard of digital sharing practices are now the norm, directly impacting healthcare communications “A”. Not only are patients openly sharing their health information within blogs and forums, but wearable tech “B” enables sharing with peers and pros, ushering in consumer health electronics “D”.
Although HIPAA and other regulations will remain the bedrock of healthcare information privacy—as well they should—this shift into sharing, transparency, and heightened openness is already becoming the norm. As “Digital Natives” mature into leadership roles across pharma, device, and managed care, traditional roadblocks will begin to vanish. An entirely new and refreshing way of communicating will bring even more humanity and data ubiquity to the industry.
Klick Health: Converging At the Center
The “triangulation of healthcare” has already redefined how we understand and practice medicine. The evolution from reactive treatment to proactive management, prevention, and ongoing wellness hinges on the transparency and fluidity of information, and the integration of once fragmented disciplines into a singular vision driving toward personal empowerment and the Quantified Self.
Along the way Klick Health leads the charge by defining our own trends and revealing what’s possible. With proven expertise and in-house capabilities across each point in the triangle, we understand that the optimal balance between head and heart, data and emotion, is found by infusing our work with innovation, creativity, technological finesse, and the passion for improving and extending life.