Communications is the lifeblood of health disruption

Everywhere we look, our world is being transformed by disruptive innovation.

Even the most disruptive health tech is no use without comms to back it up, argues Claire Gillis
Even the most disruptive health tech is no use without comms to back it up, argues Claire Gillis

Yet without good communications, even the genuine game-changers can struggle to disrupt.

This is certainly true in health, where comms can sometimes make the difference between life and death.

New technologies are helping to unlock breakthrough innovations that can change and save lives – but their success depends on strong communications to translate these ideas into better health.

It’s no exaggeration: as our industry gathers in Cannes to celebrate the power of creativity, health comms has never been more important.

A non-stop stream of innovation is changing the way we experience healthcare.

Like the mobile ultrasound that’s bringing fast diagnosis to people in remote communities. Or the wearable patch that monitors blood glucose and stops diabetics having to prick their fingers with needles.

The range of disruption is astonishing.

Who wants a colonoscopy when swallowing a smart pill can painlessly screen you for bowel cancer?

And why would you wait to be ill if your doctor could predict your long-term health risks based on DNA analysis?

Disruptive? Absolutely. Futuristic? Think again. It’s happening in Estonia.

However, on its own, product-led disruption isn’t enough. If we’re going to improve global health, our communications must disrupt, too.

With human behaviour often deeply ingrained in muscle memory, it takes something special to change it – and something extra special to sustain it. That’s the job of comms. And when it comes to health, it really matters.

The clues are everywhere. In tech-savvy China, where demand for healthcare is seismic but doctors are scarce, AI services offer accurate and rapid, virtual diagnosis – but patients still choose to wait hours for face-to-face consultations.

Communications could show them the way.

In the US, misinformation around vaccines has triggered the first measles outbreak since 2000.

Meanwhile, Movember, championing awareness of male cancers and helping to reduce avoidable deaths, is a triumph of comms. Its creativity never stands still.

For the past few years, the Movember Foundation turned to Cannes’ Young Lions for new inspiration. This approach speaks volumes.

When innovation and communications come together it’s amazing what can be achieved – and Cannes provides the perfect showcase.

In 2018, one winner combined interactive technology, movie and 'real story' to create a multichannel experience centred on organ donation that connected 25 million people.

It sparked an increase in donors, helping to save thousands of lives. That’s the power of creativity supported by great comms.

That same power is raising awareness – and making a difference – in lethal cancers, heart disease, mental illness and so much more.

Technology is driving us forward.

Innovation like VR and immersive 4D are invigorating brand experiences, engaging and inspiring audiences to find better ways of managing their health.

And if Estonian doctors can use DNA to personalise health-risk predictions, creativity can get personal too – tailoring information to individuals and reaching them wherever they live.

The opportunities are endless, but success is a team sport.

If disruption is going to give us healthier future, innovation and communications must walk hand-in-hand.

Claire Gillis is international CEO of WPP’s health practice and she will be discussing health disruption during this year’s Cannes Lions

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