Healthcare News & Insights

Modern medicine: Making a powerful connection

Precision medicine is going to transform health care, but collaboration between health care, technology providers and communications specialists is essential if stakeholders are to understand its true value. In this guest post, Robert Grammatica, EVP and managing director at a data-driven healthcare marketing agency, details the three things we need to consider when developing collaborative strategies. 


A revolution is under way in health care with medical sciences, digital technology and big data emerging as strong allies. From health devices and apps that collect data about a patient and then send it directly to their doctor to precision medicine which seeks to diagnose the exact cause of an illness and then prescribe the best treatment, the healthcare industry is on the cusp of some major breakthroughs in personalized medicine. But what we have yet to grasp fully is that digital health isn’t just about exploiting new technologies; it must also involve the shrewd application of data to make the most of existing resources.

As a communications specialist in the healthcare sector, I am fascinated by how marketing and communications strategies will need to evolve and become ever smarter and more inventive to keep pace with this “precise” future of medicine. And how marketing communications can collaborate with the health industry to problem-solve shared challenges for the best outcomes.

Why collaborate?

Consumers are increasingly comfortable with the idea of tracking their daily habits, and this is paving the way for wearable technology and mobile apps. Tech giants are investing billions in these and other health initiatives, including Apple’s HealthKit, the Calico Project from Google, Samsung Medison and IBM Watson Health.

This shift toward the fusion of technology and data with the healthcare systems means there is a continuous flow of data, providing more precision and transparency for both patients and their doctors. Data-driven care, however, requires data-driven communications to match. For now, the most pressing issue for hospital executives is to look at how to switch from the traditional model for healthcare communication strategies, which is based on mass prescription treatments, to promoting the latest healthcare approaches, such as individually tailored therapies. Solving this will require a level of strategic collaboration and communication between healthcare providers, technology companies and marketing agencies that has not been attempted before.

Communication and marketing in other categories are increasingly dynamic, personal and precise – some of it occurring even in real time. But we need to remember that behind all these technologies are people. It’s true the health industry has digitized a lot of health data. Now, we need the insights to help improve the accuracy and usefulness of information we already have access to and then put together communication strategies that tell people how health care is changing, and how and where care is delivered.

How to collaborate

In order to adopt new tools, capture new types of data and embrace dynamic messaging, providers, insurers, scientists, R&D, regulatory bodies, and marketing and communications teams will all need to come together for the greater good of the people.

We need to consider three things when developing collaborative strategies:

1. Tech for today and beyond

Healthcare institutions need to invest in technology that will improve medical outcomes and, in turn, reimbursement from insurance companies. This spending is currently on areas such as patient portals that offer access to personal health information across all of a patient’s providers. Along with medical history, results and prescriptions, portals can also offer content and tips on health conditions. It hopes to help engage patients in their own health care and, in turn, improve the quality of their care and efficiency while reducing costs.

As wearables, such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, make these apps more accurate than ever, remote monitoring is expected to become a key tool for doctors treating patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. Meanwhile, remote monitoring will create an electronic report on a patient’s symptoms that could help predict patterns in their health, and could help the elderly remain at home for longer by ensuring any decline in their condition is noted before it becomes a serious threat to their health.

In the future, according to IBM’s Watson Health, cognitive computing – where computers simulate human thought processes – will use an individual’s data, alongside vast quantities of existing knowledge of a disease, best practice and diagnostic tools, to provide the best treatment options for that specific patient. Meanwhile, this data will also be used to predict the needs of populations.

But along with these opportunities come challenges. Healthcare providers must be pragmatic in adopting these technologies, ensuring they provide data that improves care as well as their ability to provide it for the right patient at the right time. Encouraging uptake of these new care methods will be another huge challenge.

2. Cutting through the clutter

With consumers taking a more active role in their own health care, strategic thinking is the only way to rise above the noise of dauntingly complex medical science and shiny new technologies.

Dynamic, targeted messaging (via mobile and online) offers health institutions the best shot at presenting the right information to the right patient at the right time. To achieve this, communications specialists and marketers in health care need to have the right data to find consumer insights and develop behavior-changing strategies.

If Amazon can match a person’s interests and buying behavior, health care has the means to match an individual’s health condition and treatment. The barriers in developing dynamic, personal messaging and social conversations are the regulatory environment and the reliability of data.

As communicators, we need to focus on using our skills to help improve outcomes and the patient experience as a way to provide real value and utility to caregivers and patients. Healthcare companies that can build a comprehensive platform with offerings along the entire spectrum of the patient journey, communicated in an effective and precise way, will be the ones rewarded with market share.

3. Partnership is the future

There’s an understanding across the health care and technology industries that modern medicine is becoming a value-driven proposition, with the patient’s convenience and choice at its heart. Any collaborative models between communications experts and scientific institutes, biotech companies, insurers and pharmaceutical giants need to reach consumers to realize the promise of new technologies. Future healthcare initiatives will therefore have to be based on human relevance.

Once you integrate these three ingredients, the new model of care – a team-based approach between several stakeholders – will suddenly start taking shape with the potential to deliver the right treatments at the right time to the right person and at the right cost.

Robert Grammatica is EVP and managing director of Serum, a data-driven healthcare marketing agency, and a division of HackerAgency which is part of the FCB network.

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