The future of healthcare comms in a data-driven era

Like it or not, we live in a data-driven era - sorry, technophobes - and, while the sheer volume of information at our fingertips can seem overwhelming, our data-rich environment has transformative potential.

Watch your bias and don't make assumptions: That's how data can help you, says Annalise Coady
Watch your bias and don't make assumptions: That's how data can help you, says Annalise Coady

At the recent EMEA Marketing Science Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, experts from healthcare, data science and communications debated the marketing science trends shaping the healthcare communications industry.

So how can we, as healthcare communicators, harness the power of data to stay relevant and stay ahead?

Get out of your lane

Working in silos limits what we can achieve. The antidote to this is collaboration.

Even in a commercial environment that’s heavily regulated, we've seen examples of cutting-edge data collaboration that show how partnering can achieve amazing health outcomes.

Pioneers like the Swiss Brain Data Bank are accelerating this scientific progress.

They're enabling researchers to collaborate across digital databanks to address challenges in diagnosing and treating brain disorders.

VirtaMed is using data to provide objective performance feedback with technology they call "flight simulators for surgeons". That's not only fascinating, but also really cool.

Watch your bias

We all perceive the world through the lens of our existing beliefs – often without intending to.

Who, for example, is most likely to download and use a health app? A young, engaged, tech-savvy audience? This is our unconscious bias at work.

When we are guided by data, we discover that people of all ages are using digital solutions in personal healthcare.

But data itself can be biased. Metrics, tools and algorithms shape the results we obtain, but the analysis of that data needs human brainpower – and with that comes the opportunity to impart personal assumptions.

Even artificial intelligence is ultimately human-made, and is only as biased or unbiased as we are.

We must therefore be alert to implicit assumptions and potential data biases in the data we use.

When we become aware of our biases, we can work to overcome them and, when we do that, we can remove the limits that these assumptions impose on our objective thinking.

Blend data and storytelling – but keep it simple

As communications professionals, we understand the power of effective storytelling.

The landscape is cluttered with communications, and to stand out, it has never been more important to underpin our stories with objective truth. This is where data have a big role to play.

Illustrating our stories with the right data can enhance our message and drive relevancy in today’s noisy society.

Data alone, however, does not make a narrative. But data combined with key messaging, world truths and a human tone of voice? That's how we can create concise, compelling communications that will cut through.

As always in communications, less is more. Be data-selective and identify the few key points that enhance the story. Keep the language simple and relatable.

Annalise Coady is president, EMEA, at W20

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