Addressing complex healthcare challenges within the Middle East
The international medical tourism market is booming. With increased healthcare costs on a global scale, the focus on healthy living and ageing has never been so fierce. This has led vast numbers to look at receiving medical care which is cheaper and available in other countries than the one they presently reside.
“There have to be mechanisms, where we can find efficiencies in spend and how providers become acute in making the provision with not only quality in mind, but also cost,” explains Executive Vice President of Fakeeh Care, Sanjay Shah.
“This is a problem the US and UK have been facing. Healthcare providers have a real duty of care to try and seek out how we provide value-based care in order to ensure that healthcare costs do not continually rocket. I think it's welcoming to see some of the digital players coming to this market.”
With vast experience in the UK and GCC healthcare market, Shah noted that medical tourism will remain a focal area for the GCC, in order for the region to understand why patients are travelling abroad, rather than to look at avenues provided directly within the region.
“45% of patients travel for specialist care in areas such as oncology, cardiology, orthopaedics and neuro-surgery. Those areas and sub-specialties are not as well designed and taken care of in the region. This is an area where we have been focusing at addressing quickly, so that medical tourism away from the country is minimised as much as possible.
“We want care to be provided locally and we want it to be of international standard so patients don't feel the need to go elsewhere for their care. We have been investing in providing the latest diagnostic services, but with also nurses and physicians who know how to provide that sort of high-amplitude care.”
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The rise of lifestyle diseases in the Middle East, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, are also playing a significant role in reshaping the delivery of healthcare services in the country, leading providers to look at new ways to cater to these demands.
Nonetheless, the industry continues to face challenges in attracting and retaining talent across the Middle East, something of which has been highlighted within the country’s National Transformation Programme 2020 and Saudi Vision 2030.
“This is an important element. We’re investing to grow and train our own nurses and doctors of the future through our medical college,” explains Shah.
“I think for competitors this will become much more difficult. Legislation and regulatory requirements will mean that some of the other hospitals will find it is difficult to compete, and consolidation will be the obvious answer across the GCC. We are taking part in increasingly trying to secure assets under the privatisation programme.
“You will see the beginning of the stronger players and the survival of the fittest, where some of the minor players will probably fall away or be taken into much larger organisations,” he adds.
“The extension of healthcare insurance is also a positive thing for private-sector providers. The assets coming from the public sector to the private sector, in whatever form, will be an interesting transformation.”
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.