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What’s on the horizon?

The evolving role of the healthcare expert.
What's on the horizon?

Technology is changing the fabric of our society. The way we build and maintain relationships has evolved dramatically through the emergence of new technologies. This evolution has an enduring impact on both how and from whom we seek information and guidance about our health.

As a result, we are changing the way we interact with and define the experts who influence our decision-making process. For healthcare and pharmaceutical marketers, this means a change in strategic direction in how we engage with consumers, healthcare professionals (HCPs) and experts. This change in strategic direction is being driven by three independent trends:

  1. Evolving consumer behaviours are demanding a change in experience 
  2. Key health trends are impacting our relationship with HCPs and experts
  3. Emerging technologies are changing the nature of interactions with HCPs.

This article looks at the changing landscape and how the aforementioned trends will shape how we work with HCPs and experts moving forward.

A more connective, immersive and personalised experience
Sharing experiences, ideas and personal information has become a mainstay of our relationship with technology. Not only are consumers more comfortable with the concept of sharing their own data across networks, there is a growing understanding of the transactional value this has with brands and tech providers. As a result, there are greater expectations around the level of service and personalised experience that should result from sharing their personal information.

In parallel with this, the volume of rich content consumed on a daily basis is growing fast, firing across social networks at rapid speed. The time spent watching video content online has grown exponentially between Gen X and millennials. This evolving relationship with content presents opportunities and challenges to brands. For example, while there is a growing audience communicating via online videos, the difficulty of cutting through the noise and sharing a credible message is similarly increasing. For healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, internal processes only compound this issue by reducing their ability to swiftly react to changes in consumer demands. With companies struggling to be nimble and authentic in their communication strategies, we are seeing the rise of 'alternative experts' that excel in these areas.

Consumer/patient information needs are likely to fall into the hands of the online expert

Finally, with increasingly sophisticated e-commerce platforms and technologies that can cross both virtual and physical environments, there is growing demand to drive one's own consumer experience. This includes access to the most pertinent information and guidance at critical points throughout the decision-making process. As a result, there's a growing need to understand consumer/patient information needs and identify the best modes of delivery. As mentioned above, this is likely to fall away from the traditional remit of the HCP and into the hands of the online expert.

Networked professional support around the individual
Driven by high-level policy changes and access to knowledge-increasing technology, consumers are increasingly owning their own health status. Technologies like wearable devices are giving patients control over diagnostics, while the ease-of-access to clinical data online is giving patients a stronger and more informed voice in their treatment discussions.

This, in combination with the shift to democratised healthcare, is driving the rise of the 'Expert Patient'. Everyday patients and consumers are communicating a relevant and credible message about their experiences to their networks. This is happening both on a large scale, with health bloggers sharing opinions with millions of followers at a time, and on a local level, with individuals sharing their knowledge and influencing smaller, close-knit communities.

Healthcare systems alike are evolving. Historically, healthcare professional teams have struggled to achieve a truly integrated model. Now, professional groups are pushing for integrated HCP networks designed around the individual. Using collaborative approaches to working and leveraging new technologies, HCPs are now able to seamlessly work across disciplines and physical spaces.

Ease-of-access to clinical data online is giving patients a stronger and more informed voice

Transforming our interactions with experts
Healthcare has seemingly been on the brink of a technological revolution for the past two decades, largely as a result of competing influences. While governments and patients have demanded the use of technology to improve efficiency savings and patient experience, the 'scientific process' inherently requires a comprehensive evaluation before clinical practice. However, some technologies, particularly those that change the way we interact with experts, are beginning to see a proliferation of research that validates their economic and clinical value.

Contextual data
Geolocation services have disrupted many industries through their ability to bring together physical and digital environments. Technologies like beacons (small radio transmitters that send out instructions to nearby personal devices) will take this a step further. By delivering digital content in real time, prompted by your physical space and location, beacons will enable the delivery of highly relevant messages and a personalised conversation with HCPs and experts.

Smart assistants
The use of artificial intelligence to provide automated, intuitive support at the point of need has the potential to dramatically alter how we interact with technology, including a far reduced dependency on screen interfaces. 

With the growing desire to own one's own healthcare experience comes the need for the right information at the right time. Digital personal assistants, or 'smart bots', are already receiving high levels of investment by all leading tech providers, with Google a prominent investor in this area.

Sensor systems and industrialised analytics
To date, Internet of Things (IoT) has focused on high quality, networked sensors. The next generation IoT will progress this into action, translating integrated system data into output through automated processes. With 90% of the world's data created in the past two years, technology developments in areas such as advanced sensor systems are supplying the high quality data required for industrialised analytics.

Using this data, doctors will be able to shift the focus of care from reactive treatment of existing conditions to proactive and preventative treatment of future conditions. Anthem Inc, one of the largest health insurers in the United States, is a prominent example of gathering high quality data from a range of sources to improve the customer experience via a more personalised approach to healthcare. 

Immersive technology
Virtual reality technology is already being applied in diagnosis, training and in some instances, treatment - such as through tele-surgery - while amplified reality is being used for surgery preparation and in diagnosis. As case studies and trials continue to emerge that validate the clinical benefit and outline the economic value of these technologies, we will see increased adoption across healthcare systems.

The evolving role of the expert
Together, these intertwined macro-trends are challenging our perception of the expert. The playbook for influencing decision-making needs to be thrown out and rewritten altogether. Any pharmaceutical or healthcare company planning to incorporate experts into its marketing strategies over the next five years needs to proactively address these trends to avoid falling behind.

To do this, marketing strategies must include:

  • Delivering support and guidance, via human connection, to your location, when you need it 
  • Harnessing the power of a network of experts across disciplines to provide scientifically credible and holistic insight 
  • Connecting experts and online influencers to grow knowledge and capability organically within communities
  • Leveraging technology advances to optimise interactions and experience.

Keeping up with the trends outlined in this article will be of central importance to companies' success.

Article by
Simon Young and Pany Koizi

Simon Young is a director and Pany Koizi is an associate consultant at Blue Latitude Health

2nd January 2017

From: Healthcare

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