What is the future of healthcare comms, post-COVID-19?

Effective communication about health has become critical in the fight to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

How will comms be affected by the collision of health and tech, asks Claire Dobbs
How will comms be affected by the collision of health and tech, asks Claire Dobbs

Health has moved up everyone’s agenda – so much so that the advice imparted by senior medical officials, more accustomed to working behind the scenes, has become a daily TV event as they explain the complexities of our current plight to millions.

As such everyone, from politicians to brands, has had to become an effective health communicator during this crisis, with consumers looking for reliable, trustworthy information more than ever before.

Our hospitals and ICUs have been faced with incredible challenges: Nightingale hospitals were quickly built, and the transformation of the NHS continues as this story evolves.

Community pharmacists and online healthcare providers are playing a significantly increased role in providing health advice as many people followed the Government's guidance not to visit GP surgeries and hospitals unless essential.

All this is having a dramatic impact on the role and nature of healthcare communications.

There are now myriad creative comms channels for healthcare professionals and their patients.

Comms will need to step up and understand the need to grab audience attention in the first 10 seconds, and to continue to find creative ways to interact to maintain engagement as healthcare messaging fatigue kicks in.

Consumerism and transparency in healthcare have been increasing over the past few years and consumers have now realised they need to become more engaged to ensure they are getting the best healthcare and advice.

Wearable technology has been adapted for both monitoring and preventative purposes, enabling people to take more responsibility for their own health.

These trends now look set to grow exponentially.

Online meetings, conferences, and education, while they have long been available, are now the norm.

For example, it’s hard to see how the medical congress calendar will ever be purely live events again. While the networking aspect cannot always be replaced by a meetings platform, scientific updates and education can.

Healthcare professionals may no longer want to travel to international congresses, so global science will need to be disseminated in new, relevant and engaging ways: via virtual conferences, discussion boards and e-learning platforms.

Following the Prime Minister's announcement on Sunday, social distancing and preventative measures look set to continue for the foreseeable future. Here are some of my predictions for how healthcare communications may evolve and adapt:

  • The healthcare comms sector will become increasingly sophisticated to meet demand for health tech and increased uptake of telemedicine and digital health systems that allow healthcare professionals and patients to access information at a time and place suited to them – also creating a more sustainable environment.
  • Brand personality and tone of voice will need to create cut-through in an ever-more competitive digital world.
  • The role of the community pharmacist, patient advocacy groups and online patient forums will continue to grow as people take more responsibility for their health.
  • We will see a rise in podcasts providing healthcare advice and information as people seek alternatives to screentime.

Claire Dobbs is chief executive of Solaris Health

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