by Shruti Bose
December 24th, 2015

How many times have you reached for your phone or laptop, searched for information about the niggling pain and attempted to self-diagnose?   

With the rapid adoption of technology, the emergence of a hyper-connected world has brought with it a change in the way consumers seek and receive information.

Gone are the days when physicians were considered the final authority on all things medical. According to a 2015 study by IPSOS, nearly 9 out of 10 people in Asia search for medical information online to diagnose themselves or treat an illness.

This shift in the way medical information is received and consumed online has brought about a fundamental change in the area of healthcare communications.

What’s more, the movement towards digital healthcare is not just evolving in the developed Western economies, but in all markets across the world.

So what’s driving it?

Consumers are becoming increasingly action-oriented and have a wellness mindset. They are taking on a more proactive approach in managing their own health as well as the health of their loved ones.

The rapid convergence between healthcare and technology, particularly in the context of mobile and wearables, is a fast growing area. By engaging and empowering patients to take an active role in data collection, wearables can change the way data and analytics are used to improve health.

These trends will allow us to move away from a model of care that relies on mapping and analysis to a more interactive and proactive approach, making consumers an integral part of the decision-making process.

Effective communication 

With the changing landscape, the need to access information on-the-go has created a whole new world for healthcare communications. Not only do brands and companies have to appeal to the “take-charge” consumer, but they must also ensure that they are perceived as the trusted source of information.

Campaigns that look beyond traditional PR to combine digital and social content across a broad spectrum of paid, owned, earned and shared channels (or what we call the PESO model) will be able to successfully reach out to consumers and shape their perspectives.

According to Paul Holmes, “Healthcare communications has always struck a balance between the professional audience—information gatekeepers, in the traditional model—and consumers, with industry critics often uncomfortable with any effort to provide information directly to the end-users of their products. But marketing to consumers is clearly a big part of the future—because patients are demanding it”.

For companies and brands engaging with the new-age, health conscious and well-informed consumer ‘meaningful engagement’ is a philosophy that is here to stay.

And this means that communicators must develop integrated campaigns that engage their consumers in a consistent and relevant way. Consumers are already being pursued by lifestyle brands and tech companies; it’s only a matter of time before healthcare companies take the lead.

This article is the first in “Healthcare communications for the new-age consumer,” a two-part series by Weber Shandwick Singapore’s Healthcare practice. The second in the series will explore the trend of wearable trackers in this age of digital consumption.

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