It takes great comms to bring the worlds of health and tech together

These days health tech and data companies face two big problems.

When the worlds of health and tech don't understand each other, it takes comms to bring them together, argues Zoe Bedford
When the worlds of health and tech don't understand each other, it takes comms to bring them together, argues Zoe Bedford

One, they tend to tell the same story of financial and efficiency savings, coupled with the 'holy grail' of patient or staff empowerment.

Two, there is growing distrust from the public and NHS caused by recent scandals, and if this isn’t addressed soon the wider reputational impact could take years to reverse.

This presents health data and tech companies with two questions: "How do I stand out?" and "How do I gain credibility?"

To tackle the first question, tech companies need to realise that if the NHS knows it has a particular problem, you can guarantee that hundreds of others are already trying to solve it.

You need to shine a different light on the problem.

However, several fall into the trap of overcomplicating their story or shying away from the rich resource of their own data.

This data, if used right, will describe and demonstrate your true value.

One useful by-product of PR is that it forces you to simplify your messaging, providing you with a captivating story.

Again and again, we see that it’s this unique story that motivates NHS customers to talk to suppliers.

The question of credibility also comes down to strong data use.

The health sector is naturally conservative and, because health tech is a relatively new sector, this can lead to friction and complexity.

To combat this, expert data analysis is required to draw out the benefits of clinical efficacy, safety and a return on investment.

However, powerful PR goes beyond product releases and corporate milestones, it grabs your audience’s attention and creates urgency.

When you get this right the story is rarely, if ever, about the technology, so don’t shy away from provoking controversy.

This is how you create urgency and begin to demonstrate the value proposition of your technology.

Getting tied up in trade media is another common pitfall for health specialists.

Chief executives, medical directors and chief nurses are people too, and engage with national media, not just trade and professional press.

Smart companies focus on getting the balance right in terms of the amount of PR and on what fronts.

They are staggering their activity across different stakeholder channels – first focusing on clinical stakeholders and advocates; developing the policy argument; and then the consumer and public press, with human interest stories.

This lays the groundwork for different audiences, making sure they are all ready to receive your message, building traction along the way.

While the health sector may cast a cynical eye at the bold confidence of the disruptor, they will always want to talk with the cool head of the system innovator who presents their case with focus and evidence.

Zoe Bedford is chief executive of ZPB Associates

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