'A new reality in healthcare' - comms will play a key role in 2019

Changes in biology and technology mean that in 2019 we need to find new, accessible ways to communicate about healthcare.

As the dictionary is rewritten this year it is essential for patients, policymakers and professionals to buy in to the reimagined future of healthcare.

Medicines become really personal

With the establishment of the Genomic Medicine Service and the completion of the 100,000 Genomes Project, genetically targeted medicines are finally changing patients’ lives. This is a massive step forward, but we will need to talk about some conditions differently and educate the community about this.

The days where cancer is defined by the body part where the tumour can be found – lung cancer in the lung – are almost behind us. Soon cancers will be described by the molecular structure coded in their DNA and we need to find a new language to describe it. This will need to be understood by the patient, the clinician making a treatment plan, the pharmaceutical company developing medicines and the patient group set up to support people with cancer of a specific body part.

Pharma companies become big data companies

As the worlds of health and technology collide, the pharmaceutical industry needs to start talking about its work differently. Evolution in other sectors offers a cautionary tale about the threat of remaining static as the world changes. Think of how Spotify disrupted the way we listen to music.

Pharmaceutical companies need to compete with their new technology rivals by redefining and talking about their core business. Believing that they are big data companies underpinned by clinical expertise, and behaving more like technology companies, will be critical for future-proofing their role in the delivery of healthcare in the future.

The DH becomes interested in technology

It is notable that the first 10 organisations Matt Hancock MP met on taking over at the Department of Health were tech firms rather than life-sciences companies or healthcare charities. He is, understandably, obsessed with the way tech can help to transform the NHS and make it fit for the future. Organisations should think about what their tech and innovation story is if they want to engage the Secretary of State.

Delivering his own agenda, he’ll talk about ‘predictive prevention’ a lot. This basically means targeted ads on social media (consent will be sought) to help people live healthy lifestyles, to prevent them becoming ill in the first place. Harnessing the power of social to deliver health messages and ‘nudge’ people into positive life choices will be a big theme.

Without mentioning B****t, 2019 will be fun and interesting as the sector creates and learns a new healthcare language. New entrants to the market are injecting fresh competition, while scientific advances are redefining the way that we understand diseases. This year will bring a new reality in healthcare and comms has a key role in driving this transformation.

Rachel Rowson is head of health innovation at MHP

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