While many conferences exist to showcase the latest and greatest digital trends, South by Southwest has become a can’t-miss event for healthcare marketers who want to learn how the near future will unfold. Over the past two years, I have had the privilege of attending panels on everything from HIPAA restrictions to tattoos that provide health insights on par with the top wearable technology, and I would like to share some of my top healthcare takeaways from South by Southwest (SXSW) 2017.
Wearables are everywhere, but not necessarily evolving
Apple Watches, Fitbit, and other wearables have rapidly become ubiquitous, and while devices continue to provide increased access to personal health information, I don’t believe that healthcare organizations should count on consumer devices becoming an essential resource in patient care immediately. The difficulty with the existing health wearables is their niche purposes for the consumer (i.e. staying fit, heart monitoring, sleep apnea, and stress levels to name a few). I expect the market to continue to grow within these and new niches, but not to directly align with provider needs for preventative care. I am hopeful this gap will be bridged, but for now the shift seems to favor smartening devices with internet capability for more accuracy. Our client, HealthCare Partners Nevada, is a pioneer in our region in the use of the CardioMEMS heart monitoring device. The device partners with a special pillow to provide real-time insights, and these types of technologies should always be the focus of healthcare organizations.
Are marketers hiding behind HIPAA?
Data is always a huge topic at SXSW, and this year was no exception. Many doctors and organizations believe we, as marketers, have hidden behind HIPAA, scapegoating its restrictions on sharing patient data and refusing to push the envelope in that space. Organizations, perhaps rightly so, are searching for more advancement in the use of data and are seeking partners who have demonstrated expanded techniques. Are marketers, ironically, having a communication breakdown in not being able to articulate the need for shared data and what it will be used for? That question is, of course, rhetorical but it underlines that the need to attempt other approaches within compliance. I believe a compromise will be reached in the near future, as even more benefits are revealed through data-driven marketing that is personal, relevant and automated.
Why don’t we shop for health care?
Consumers shop around for every major purchase they make, be it real estate, travel, or retail, but why doesn’t this practice extend to health care? Choosing a health plan and provider is a massive decision in terms of both physical and financial well-being, with studies showing that 16% of Americans’ annual income goes to health care. A panel attempted to explore what it will take from the industry to empower consumers to play an active role in their health. This exploration will certainly shift the paradigm and offer much-needed transparency. Everyone in America has become brutally aware of how complex the system can be, and the lack of transparency in associated costs is also painfully apparent. This awakening will give rise to a number of healthcare organizations and tech partnerships aimed at providing clarity and communication at every step of the process, from the early stages of shopping, to appointment scheduling, to pharmaceutical cost analysis, to medication management. In fact, this has already begun. It may sound odd that the co-founder of Uber is creating an app designed to go after WebMD and connect patients directly with physicians after their questions have been answered, but this is just one way that digital innovators are revolutionizing the way we seek care.
What happens when doctors become brand advocates and influencers?
Activating your internal team on social media boosts brand engagement, but when your internal team is made up of physicians and health professionals whose time is better spent saving lives, it can be challenging to create an environment for brand advocates. Doctors have long been instructed to shelter themselves on social media, but the reality is that when they reach out on these channels, it lends much-needed authenticity and personality to their organizations. Baylor Scott & White Health and Mayo Clinic each presented their strategy for building brand loyalty both internally and externally, with Mayo Clinic’s work especially standing out. One of the supporting doctors on the panel simply embraced their role on social media, stating “If this is how we help patients now, then we have to get on board.”
Improving access for veterans
There’s no denying that military veterans face numerous hurdles in transitioning back to civilian life, and that the Veterans Administration (VA) is particularly challenging to deal with. As recently as last year, there were over 500 veteran-facing websites associated with the VA and a fragmented authentication process that was frankly overwhelming. In launching vets.gov and creating a Single Sign On for all VA apps and services, the agency went from lagging woefully behind in user experience to pioneering easy digital access to health benefits. The VA has notoriously been criticized for their lack of organization and ability to serve filing needs in a timely manner. It is encouraging to see them leverage strong tech partnerships to improve their level of service and access. This case study, and other recent success stories in the space, can and should inform how organizations approach their own digital presence.
MassMedia is passionate about health care, and South by Southwest has helped us better understand the ever-shifting landscape and the complex challenges the industry is facing. While our agency and the healthcare organizations alike share this digital evolution, improving patient experience remains the primary goal. We never lose sight of that, and we are privileged to work in tandem with our noble clients to bring results-driven strategies that connect patient and physicians. The future seems to be lending us new ways of achieving just that through digital means.