May 17, 2020

How patient-centricity can drive brand relevance

healthcare services
Digital health
Ed Rhoads, Partner, Prophet
4 min
brand relevance
The latest Prophet Brand Relevance Index, offers plenty of insight into what consumers find indispensable. They reward organisations that are obsessed w...

The latest Prophet Brand Relevance Index, offers plenty of insight into what consumers find indispensable. They reward organisations that are obsessed with creating unique experiences, and their preferred brands are those that aren’t just practical and dependable, but also inspiring and inventive.

A close look at the healthcare brands we measure shows they are, to a certain extent, holding their own. But our Index also reveals dangerous weaknesses. Unless established healthcare brands act quickly, consumers are likely to abandon them wherever possible for the coming onslaught of tech disruptors.

Our Index, based on tens of thousands of consumers ranking brands on 16 key attributes, finds that healthcare providers are already extremely relevant to consumers. In fact, providers earn above-average scores in three out of four of our core relevance drivers: Customer obsession, distinctively inspired and pervasively innovative. Their only weakness is ruthless pragmatism, where they stumble on such attributes as “Is available when and where I need it” and “Delivers a consistent experience.”

Insurers, though, do poorly and lag most other brands in each of those four drivers. Their performance is especially bad in “Makes me happy,” “Is available when and where I need it,” “Delivers a consistent experience,” “Is modern and in-touch” and “I trust.” This group is led by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana and Anthem, with only Blue Cross Blue Shield performing above the BRI average.

To some degree, the discrepancy between providers versus insurers makes perfect sense. Healthcare providers offer patients hope, care and solutions. Insurance companies are often viewed as necessary evils, sometimes seen as stubborn gatekeepers or deniers of choice.

But the BRI, which also serves as a barometer for shifting consumer preferences, indicates big trouble brewing for all healthcare brands as tech disruptors continue to tiptoe onto the field. And when we overlay our relevance findings with our research on how healthcare organisations are transforming themselves to become more patient-centric, we get a better sense of just how behind the curve most healthcare brands are.

Healthcare’s slow shift to consumer centricity

While all four drivers of relevance are equally important, we’re most concerned about healthcare’s poor performance in those areas linked to ruthless pragmatism. That’s where technology companies have been most disruptive. The top names in our Index, including Apple, Amazon and Google, all continually astound consumers with their availability, consistency and dependability.

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Brand relevance

Right now, those tech giants have made only relatively small forays into healthcare, and no one knows yet how they’ll decide to compete with traditional companies. But when they do, we’re certain they will find ways to make their offerings easy-to-use and inherently digital. They excel at eliminating pragmatic pain points, such as “Is available when and where I need it,” which is precisely where healthcare brands lag.

Providers and insurers should be looking over their shoulders, working even harder to make the shift to consumer centricity. That means becoming fully digital, leveraging data and analytics for new insights and learning to evolve more quickly. They need to strive to become true partners in people’s health journey, not a stumbling block.

At the same time, they should be working hard to sharpen their natural advantages, including the three attributes where healthcare brands shine:

Forge emotional connections

When people feel well, they’re happier and more productive. Staying healthy (and protecting their families) means everything to them. Don’t be afraid to look for more ways to ease worries, smooth aggravations and spark smiles in every step of the patient journey.

Stoke the inspiration engines

Consumers are desperate to take charge of their health–they want to eat better, sleep more deeply and exercise smarter. (It’s no surprise to us that Fitbit, a tech brand rapidly reinventing itself as a health partner, is ranked as one of the most inspiring in our Index.) Find new ways to empower and reward people for making healthy choices.

Polish your purpose

Consumers admire brands with a higher calling. They know that treating diabetes, delivering babies and encouraging wellness matter more than a pricey new gadget or a new style of sneaker. The BRI shows that making your organization’s mission and purpose more transparent, and more visible in all aspects of marketing, dramatically increases relevance.

By building on their strengths and shoring up their weaknesses, healthcare brands can leverage their unique role in consumers’ lives, becoming even more patient-centric. It’s no longer enough to meet peoples’ needs. Brands have to become indispensable, inspiring and innovative.

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Jun 14, 2021

Long haul Covid, the brain and digital therapies

4 min
Neuroplasticity expert Ashok Gupta tells us about the symptoms of long Covid, how it affects the brain, and digital therapies

It is estimated that around 10% of people who get Covid-19 develop long haul Covid, a debilitating condition that can last many months and cause breathlessness, exhaustion and pain. 

Research is underway to find out who is more likely to get it and how to treat it. Here neuroplasticity expert and owner of Harley Street Solutions in London Ashok Gupta tells us how the condition affects the brain. 

What is long Covid exactly? 

Long Covid is when patients who have experienced Covid-19 go on to have continuing symptoms for weeks and months afterwards. These symptoms can include breathlessness, exhaustion, brain fog, gastric issues, pain, and post-exertional malaise. It is estimated that around 10% of Covid-19 infections may result in developing long haul symptoms, and in the USA, this may be affecting over 3 million people.

How does it affect the brain?
Here at our clinic, we hypothesise that it is due to a malfunction in the unconscious brain, creating a conditioned response that keeps the body in a hyper-aroused state of defensiveness. At the core of this hypothesis is the idea that we are here because our nervous system and immune system have evolved to survive. We are survival machines!

When we encounter something such as Covid-19, the brain perceives it as life threatening, and rightly so. And in the era of the pandemic, with more stress, anxiety and social isolation, our immunity may be compromised, and therefore it may take longer for the immune system to fight off the virus and recover. 

If the brain makes the decision that this is potentially life threatening and we get to the stage where we’re overcoming the virus, a legacy is left in the brain; it keeps over-responding to anything that reminds us of the virus. Even if we’ve fought off the virus, the brain will react in a precautionary way to stimuli reminiscent of the virus. 

The brain may get stuck in that overprotective response, and keeps stimulating our nervous system and our immune system, just in case the virus may still be present.

What symptoms does this cause? 

These signals cause a cascade of symptoms including breathlessness, extreme fatigue, brain fog, loss of taste or smell, headaches, and many others. And these are caused by our own immunes system.

In the case of long-haul Covid, symptoms in the body get detected by a hypersensitive brain which thinks we’re still in danger. The brain then chronically stimulates the immune and nervous systems, and then we have a continuation of a chronic set of symptoms.

This isn’t unique to long-haul Covid. Many patients develop chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes known as “ME”, for example, after the flu, a stomach bug, or respiratory illness. Covid-19 may be a severe trigger of a form of chronic fatigue syndrome or ME.

How does long-haul Covid affect mental health? 
Anxiety is a very common symptom in long haulers. It can be frightening to wonder about what may be happening in your body, and what the prognosis is going to be for one’s long term health. Reaching out for support for mental health is crucial for long-haulers.

How does neuroplasticity treatment work for long-haul COVID patients?
We have been working with patients for two decades with a brain retraining programme using neuroplasticity or “limbic retraining.” 

We believe that through neural rewiring, the brain can be “persuaded” that we are no longer in danger and to come back to homeostasis. But to be very clear, we are not saying it is psychological in any way, but we believe there are novel ways of accessing the unconscious brain. 

We recently worked successfully with a 56-year-old male with long-haul Covid, who prior to contracting Covid-19 in March of 2020 was running half-marathons and cycling, but afterwards he struggled to get off the sofa for months. Within 3 months he’s now back to 100% and  running half marathons again.

At our clinic, we train the patient to be able to recognise those subtle unconscious danger signals on the periphery of consciousness. This, coupled with supportive techniques and the natural hallmarks of good health such as sleep and diet help prepare the patient to respond to perceived threats that might trigger the response. 

The natural state of our brain is to default to protection. The brain prioritises survival and passing on our genes to the next generation, over any other impulse. It cares more about that than you feeling healthy and well. Protective responses are evolutionary, and are the right thing for the brain to do – it’s survival. 

What digital therapies or apps are proving effective at treating long-haul Covid? 
It seems that long haul patients are availing themselves of many online therapies and services, including meditation apps and wellness websites. We have an online neuroplasticity “brain retraining” video course called the “Gupta Program” which hosts 15 interactive videos and many audio exercises. This is proving very popular with long haul patients, and we are currently conducting a trial to test the effectiveness of this therapy. 

What is the danger of leaving long-haul Covid untreated?
The longer it goes untreated, we hypothesise that it may become more entrenched in the brain, and  become chronic in the longer term. Therefore we advise all patients to get help and advice as soon as possible.

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