1st December 2020
Our Healthcare team discusses the challenges and changes in the industry.
In this digital age fast, efficient digital is the norm. Users expect websites to load in microseconds and to be able to access advice products and services at the touch of a button. Yet the healthcare industry is lagging behind; even the most progressive organisations are impeded by complex regulations and compliance requirements which mean that attempts to join the digital revolution face significant hurdles and often fall short of requirements.
Coming from the pharmaceutical industry, we understand first-hand the many challenges faced by healthcare and some of the potential solutions and approaches to consider.
We want to talk to you about three of the primary limitations that are holding healthcare organisations back from embracing the digital age: compliance (and the fear of non-compliance); a lack of investment in digital; and the lack of a single, trusted platform that performs all of the functions required by the industry.
The most significant issue is compliance. In a stringent industry, where compliance is key, organisations that have spent years perfecting compliance in print media have a fear of changing from the (compliant) norm, to digital, which, where healthcare is concerned, is largely unchartered territory. This is understandable; if you use and trust a process that you have invested in previously, why would you change it for something that has compliance risks and complex technological and matrices requirements? Add to that the challenge of rolling out changes on a global scale in a way that is on-brand and industry compliant, and it is easy to see why many healthcare organisations have found this difficult.
However, for a healthcare organisation that holds their customers and patients at the centre of their operations, the creation of a compliant method of digital communications should be the central focus. Organisations that stick with their outdated communications systems and even the ones that choose global design systems are asking the wrong questions. They may be ensuring that they are delivering information that the customer needs in a tried, tested and compliant format, but they are not asking if they are delivering content in a way that the customer can engage with and clearly understand.
A further limitation is a reluctance to shift investment from the traditional, offline routes, to digital. There was a time when the most digital-focussed organisations would invest up to 20% of their budgets on digital marketing; today, in order to achieve a digital identity, at least 80% of brand communication needs to be online. This limitation can be further broken down into two sub-challenges: the general disinclination to invest at all and misdirected investment.
The general reticence to invest is often supported by the rationale that there is little point in investing in digital communications when the compliant status quo is working fine, as well as being low maintenance. Throw in the fact that a switch to digital communications will offer negligible returns for the larger scale and considerable revenue of the industry, and the overall reluctance to join the digital revolution becomes easier to understand.
The impact of digital investment may not show immediately in an organisation’s bottom line, but it will be clear in the way that customers interact with the organisation; it’s just not being measured yet. For an organisation accustomed to print media, a world where you can create targeted, specific product information for a set demographic to ensure optimal uptake, correct use and valuable feedback is not even on the agenda. But for digital, it is the norm. By investing in digital, healthcare organisations are investing in their customers’ experience, from start to finish.
However, simply making the decision to invest isn’t enough; misdirected investment is a significant issue. People with little or no experience of digital other than as a client-side user tend to be inclined to stick to what they know. This means opting for tried and tested methods that worked in the past for print media or (even worse) sticking with the same marketing company that they have used for years, but which has rebranded to become digital. These are common yet potentially fatal errors: what worked for print won’t achieve the same results for digital and with the best rebranding and intentions in the world, adapted agencies will fail to maintain traction in the digital world.
Another reason for the pattern of investment and disinvestment is the lack of a single, go-to platform that meets industry needs, compliantly.
Just as it is common for healthcare organisations to stick with what they know in the form of their pre-digital marketing agency or print format content, it is common for organisations to “play it safe” by investing heavily in a platform that has been adapted, rather than created, for their industry. They are then faced with a host of problems. First, they realise that a single investment won’t provide a long-term solution; once an investment is made, continual investment is necessary to monitor and evaluate performance across digital platforms and ensure best practice and regulatory compliance in a complex industry. Only upon review do clients realise that the services or platforms that were adapted once to meet industry or organisational needs are not so easy to continue to adapt; patches upon patches continue to weaken the platform before organisations have to take the painful and expensive decision to disinvest.
It is only when you stop to consider these limitations, which are accepted as an industry norm, that the full potential impact is revealed. What if pharmaceuticals invested more heavily in digital media? What if there was a modular platform that streamlined the process of creating digital data that meets organisational and industry regulations? What if the route to market was expedited to the extent that medical professionals had access to the latest information and resources, wherever they are, 24/7, on-demand?
Digital allows us to extensively test how customers react to and interact with different images, language and communication methods to make sure that the users feel informed, valued and engaged. When evaluated and rolled out properly, it can allow healthcare organisations to get the right message to the right people on a global level branded, compliant and tailored to the customers’ and patients’ needs. The result? User trust, education and loyalty that is not possible to put a price tag on.
Before content can be released to the market, each piece must pass through numerous processes to ensure it contains accurate data and meets strict regulations and organisational terminology for the target audience before being branded and checked again. This multi-agency, often double-handling approach is time-consuming and leads to a significantly delayed route to market in comparison with the potential of an effective digital alternative.
The ripple impact is clear to see; pharmaceutical companies invest heavily in information and educational resources which reach healthcare professionals after significant investment in time and resources, before becoming superseded by the next tranche of research. Medical professionals become frustrated by the void between inception of a product or piece of research and access to it, and invariably stick with products and resources that they know and have already invested in. Patients who are used to accessing information at a push of a button can access very limited digital resources with a continued reliance on off-line information.
As long as investment in digital communications lags behind the healthcare industry’s massive investment in content, it will not be possible for the industry to offer streamlined, branded, reliable and safe exchanges of communication and information across people, processes and platforms. And until this happens, it will not be possible for the healthcare industry to commit to an entirely digital future. Therefore, it makes sense that, in order to get the most out of any digital platform, there must be an investment in human capital as well as digital capital; employees must be upskilled to use them to their full potential in alignment with the organisation’s broader communication strategy.
In order to achieve the many benefits of digital communications, healthcare agencies need to think not just about what digital can do for the organisation, but what it can do for the customers and patients. It’s simple. Big brands put their customers, patients and users first. They recognise that their customers want a frictionless digital experience, and they understand that in order to achieve it, they need to evaluate, measure and tailor interactions to make the biggest possible impact.
Any organisation can send 10,000 emails over and over again, but those emails are of little value if they are not segmented, personalised and measured to see how the recipient is interacting with them. We are excited to be part of something that brings value to the industry by providing information that is targeted, valuable and useful to every user, saving the target audience time and improving their patient outcomes.
The rest of the world has gone through a digital revolution; the healthcare industry may be slightly behind the wave, but that means that it is perfectly placed to expect more, tailored and intuitive solutions that will facilitate communication and information sharing across the world.
We know that going digital can seem a daunting challenge, particularly to larger organisations and those within the healthcare industry in general. We are confident we are perfectly placed to help you on your digital journey.
If you are considering re-evaluating your communications and freshening up your approach in a digitally dominated world, or for a general coffee and a chat about what digital can do for you and your brands, we would be happy to talk to you and help dial up the volume on your beat.