The New School in Healthcare

The New School in Healthcare

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Dr. Susan Dorfman

Justin Freid
James Woodland

The future of healthcare lies in smart connections. Nearly all of our myriad healthcare interactions are already captured and tracked, but there is an immense opportunity for pharma and life sciences brands to inject intelligence into those connections to affect health outcomes. Outside of healthcare, today’s technology leaders give us hints of how we will be able to foster smarter connections. Think of all the individual fish that become a school, swimming in a coordinated manner, larger than a shark.

Few are doing it better or more imaginatively than Amazon. Not only has Amazon smartly connected purchase history, media consumption, and channel preference patterns to offer consumers unparalleled, personalized experiences, but they are currently beta-testing a new kind of store that allows people to enter, choose items, and leave without the time-consuming annoyance of having to wait in line to check out and pay. This new innovation connects technology, customer, and brand in a meaningful and unprecedented way. Across their offerings, Amazon offers an "always-on" service that communicates personally with each user across preferred channels, all based on smart connections.

So how can healthcare marketers use the power of smart connections to move from our current “shoaling” behavior to the more coordinated and powerful “schooling” behavior? It may seem like a far-off dream, but there are numerous examples of this “schooling” already in progress.

From Smart Office to Smart Home to Smart Pharma
Picture this: A busy university medical center utilizes an Uber-like technology to connect patients with available providers, cutting patient wait times to less than 10 minutes, improving patient satisfaction, and increasing referrals. This smart connection takes place on whatever device a patient uses, whenever he/she needs it, and links to the electronic health record.

The technology is used to not only create a better patient experience but to also enable better communication streams among clinicians, patients, and providers. This is already happening, and it’s just the beginning. With these systems integrated across phones, watches, and other devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, brands will also be able to leverage point-of-care EHR messaging as well as new SEO tactics to ensure that these virtual assistants pick up the right content from Web results to respond to voice search questions. Currently, it’s predicted that voice search will be used for over 50% of Web searches by 2020, so all brands need to take this change in technology and information access extremely seriously.

From Multichannel to Transmedia Storytelling
Picture this: A newly diagnosed COPD patient is researching her condition and goes online to download materials. Later, the patient sees a pharma ad while watching TV; meanwhile her physician is reading journals and meeting with sales reps. This all occurs via different mediums, but somehow the message is consistent throughout, building legitimacy and trust. A brand’s story is told over time and across media, with personalized messaging tailored to the audience.

As media evolves, we foresee much more integration of complementary channels and story soundbites that make navigating from channel to channel an “adventure.” We see the integrated use of digital, direct mail, print, email, and mobile using soundbites of information to deliver a comprehensive story over time. This rapidly evolving form of “transmedia” marketing is the future of customer engagement, as it represents a multifaceted concept that bridges narrative, branding, persuasion, and media psychology. Storytelling is the underlying thread that creates the transmedia experience, connecting consumers to a consistent brand story across multiple media platforms.

From Consumer and HCP Strategies to an Integrated Healthcare Experience
Picture this: A highly followed blogger who is an influential voice among diabetes patients works side by side with her physician, an advocacy group, a leading medical society, and a pharma company’s diabetes franchise to help identify, develop, and deliver the beyond-the-pill resources.

This is already happening, and will expand to become common practice. We will continue to see a proliferation of social media usage by both patients and physicians, and a blossoming of new models of patient-physician relationships. For healthcare marketers, an opportunity lies in integrating consumers’ and physicians’ messaging strategies, media choices, and communication plans as we strive to improve experiences on both sides. Each group has its own “journey,” and physicians and consumers need to be considered individually. But it is also important to see them as partners when they cross paths before, during, and after healthcare interactions and related life events.

From Shoaling to Schooling
Although pharma is at the core of healthcare, literally creating life-saving and life-improving medications, it has been on the sidelines when it comes to connecting healthcare experiences. The time has come for this to change! By “schooling” rather than “shoaling,” pharma and healthcare marketers can play a role in elevating the customer experience to approach the level we now expect of Amazon, Google, and Uber.

In the sea of information that's available, smart connections will identify what data is relevant to which party at what time and on which platform, so that insights, services, and messages can be delivered in the most convenient and powerful way.