5 ways healthcare communication is evolving
Healthcare has been irrevocably changed by COVID-19. Everybody had to learn about COVID-19 on the go, which highlighted the importance of good communication in healthcare.
At Siilo, we’ve long known that communicating and collaborating is critical to delivering high quality patient care, but COVID-19 has exposed the personal strength of our medical professionals and the inflexibility of our current healthcare systems. Now is when mobile technology can truly come into its own as an essential tool for treating patients with real-time insights from around the world.
Here are five ways that we see healthcare communication changing in response to the impact of COVID-19.
Proactive users – on the professional side
Medical professionals will increasingly search out tech solutions to better coordinate with their teams. They won’t wait for administrations to impose new regulations; they’ll find and use the tools they need themselves. This was already the case before COVID-19 thanks to the ongoing shift from analogue to digital workflow tools, but the importance of mobile, asynchronous communication shot to the forefront when the pandemic struck.
In order for medical professionals to pick up a new tool, however, there are a few things that healthtech companies should keep in mind. We need to consider that these professionals have very little time, and their top priority is making their patients’ lives better. It might seem obvious, but when the core user base of a product is dealing with human life every day, solutions should focus on efficiency in delivering high quality patient care.
Secure data streams – lock down those mobile devices
Healthcare information security will be paramount, and medical professionals and administrators alike will seek out communication mediums that can promise complete—or as close to—safety when discussing patient information.
“Authorities formally insist on so much security for medical information, particularly patient data, that effective communication through official channels (pagers, faxes, intranets, etc.) sometimes can’t take place,” Sassan Sangsari, Medical Director of Siilo Germany, explains. “At the same time, they silently tolerate use of unofficial channels like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger because these apps allow clinicians to work more efficiently.”
Because of the ubiquity of mobile devices, healthcare providers will be seeking out apps and platforms that can deliver ease of use like commercial messenger apps while also safeguarding user information. Features like data ephemerality, two-factor authentication, and end-to-end encryption will be critical to succeeding in healthtech.
Distance diagnosis – provide virtual support from afar
With COVID-19, the likelihood of consulting with colleagues and specialists in person has dropped significantly, and the common tools of phone calls and emails aren’t enough anymore to keep up with the rapid exchange of information that needs to happen.
Technology that supports real-time co-diagnoses will occupy a larger portion of the medical professional’s repertoire when treating patients. Telehealth, for example, is taking off primarily as a means for physicians to communicate with patients, and these same technologies will be leveraged to make collaboration between medical professionals easier.
Horizontal hierarchy – everyone gets a say
Medical professionals on the frontlines of care will be able to coordinate directly with regional public health officials and even policy makers at the national level to keep them informed on the practical realities during a crisis. These real-time insights can be delivered to everyone at once at every level of the traditional hierarchy, which can, in turn, immediately affect public health efforts and policies.
Currently, healthcare systems are overburdened by both an influx of patients, legacy systems, and bureaucracy that stymies fast communication of critical information. In a top-down structure, information takes significant time to travel from one person to another. By the time that news from policy makers reaches medical professionals in the ICU, it could be outdated or, worse, impractical.
Network medicine – we’re all in this together
In order to be ready for the next pandemic, whether it’s another wave of COVID-19 or something else entirely, we need to empower our healthcare workforce with the right tools and challenge the antiquated systems that have made crisis response so slow.
That means changing our perspective on what it means to work in healthcare from isolated structures to an adaptive network. Network medicine is about bringing together the combined knowledge of experienced medical professionals through secure asynchronous communication and collaboration with the higher purpose of improving patient care worldwide.
“The speed and interdependence of social media on smartphones are challenging the time-honored processes and cultures we’ve built in the medical community,” Sassan Sangsari states. “The ability to adapt to complexity and continual change has become an imperative, and we need to shift our focus to technologies that allow us to create a future of networks in medicine.”
How can the healthcare industry build trust with consumers?
One of the many ways the pandemic has impacted society is that it has firmly cast the healthcare industry in the public spotlight. From producing ventilators and PPE to developing life-saving vaccines, consumers have looked to pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to keep us safe and find a way out of the Covid-19 crisis.
As a result, healthcare companies have an opportunity to build upon this and utilise their marketing to drive greater engagement and trust with consumers. When it comes to effective marketing, it’s vital to remember the important role which visuals play. Consumers increasingly engage with brands through the visual communications and storytelling they absorb while online or browsing through media channels. These visual communications can have a huge impact not only on consumer purchasing decisions but also the relationship between brands and customers.
At Getty Images, we work with healthcare companies throughout Europe to advise them on their visual content. This study forms part of the research for our insight platform Visual GPS, which looks at the key factors affecting consumer decision making and how that impacts their visual choices.
In partnership with YouGov, we surveyed 10,000 consumers globally and have been tracking this consumer sentiment for the past two years. This latest deep-dive into the healthcare industry is part of our wider on-going research, and aims to better understand how consumers in different regions are interacting with the healthcare sector and what motivates their visual preferences.
Our research revealed that many companies are not using visuals as effectively as they could. In the UK, for instance, the vast majority of consumers do not feel represented by the visual communications which businesses are producing – only 7% of British respondents to our global Visual GPS survey say they felt represented. That is even lower than the global average of 14%.
This latest deep dive into the healthcare industry has uncovered some important insights that can help us better understand how consumers in different regions are interacting with the healthcare sector.
Mental health should be centre stage
A key finding shows that mental health remains a highly relevant issue for consumers. Over nine in ten British consumers think it is important to talk about mental health and put it on an equal footing with physical and emotional health. Not surprisingly, 55% of British consumers believe that more people are being diagnosed with depression due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There is a growing awareness of the importance of mental health across Europe. Health and pharmaceutical companies should acknowledge this in their visual communications but do so in an empathetic and compassionate way. Only five years ago, visuals around mental health often depicted people alone, isolated and expressing feelings of shame, whereas now we are seeing a more empathetic and supportive approach to visualising mental health - with an increasing number of positive visuals showing support groups, or individuals proactively seeking and finding support.
Visual communications that show support for mental well-being in a meaningful way will resonate deeply with consumers.
A more holistic approach
Another key finding is that consumers want to focus more on holistic health. Our survey found that the majority of UK consumers place an almost equal importance on emotional, physical and mental health, and almost three quarters (73%) placed the health and well-being of family as a top priority.
It’s important that healthcare companies reflect this. Our research paired with ongoing image testing revealed that consumers want to see visuals that humanise healthcare, so companies should consider visualising inclusive care across intersecting factors such as age, ethnicity and gender. Brands can help establish trust with their customers by highlighting a collaborative relationship between medical professional and patient, as well as ensuring that their visual choices feel genuine.
Technology and innovation in healthcare are gaining traction
Thirdly, eHealth and purposeful innovation was another key finding. Consumers want innovation that will meaningfully support their care. Particularly in Europe, the older generation will pay more for brands that use technology to provide advice and recommendations, while Gen Z & Millennials are willing to pay for self-service capabilities. It’s important therefore for healthcare companies to incorporate purposeful innovation in their visual communication and demonstrate consumers at the centre of accessible eHealth.
Given these insights, what visual content do consumers expect to see from pharmaceutical brands? Our research highlighted three key themes.
- Consumers want to see how healthcare companies fit into people’s lives. Accessible health services are a key factor here. Decision makers should build trust by showing consumers at the centre of a holistic healthcare ecosystem.
- Consumers want to see the emotional rewards others get from using a healthcare company. This can be achieved by building brand loyalty through empathetic and inclusive visual storytelling.
- Finally, consumers want to see people who are similar to them and their lives. British consumers want to see people that look like them and reflect their lived experiences in advertising and brand communication. Decision-makers should ensure that their visual communication is inclusive and authentic and represents the diverse population of the market in which they’re operating.
Ultimately, the key to successful visual storytelling for pharma and healthcare businesses is to ensure that they understand what matters to their audience while establishing trust of care. An important element of this is authentically representing the full spectrum of the population. That means representing all ethnicities, ages, abilities, body shapes, sexuality, religion and genders, to ensure patients of all backgrounds feel included and represented.
Healthcare brands should bear in mind that, as a result of the pandemic’s impact on healthcare systems around the world, consumers may be feeling anxious about whether they will be able to access care if they need it. The healthcare industry has an opportunity to reassure customers and build greater engagement and trust by showing them that they matter through inclusive visuals that represents them authentically at the heart of brand storytelling.