Frame 2021 healthcare campaigns around vaccines, tech, and impact of COVID-19

It's hard to know where to start without stating the obvious: last year was one like no other.

2021 campaigns must be formulated in the context of contemporary forces at play, advises Dr Jane Brearley
2021 campaigns must be formulated in the context of contemporary forces at play, advises Dr Jane Brearley

The heralded arrival of the first of a cluster of vaccines has given us hope for the future, but with this comes responsibility.

Pharmaceutical companies may be basking in the glory for driving science forward (and so they should be), but they will also be open to more scrutiny than ever before as the world is watching their every move, whether it is vaccine-related or not.

This will be the year that demands empathy and authenticity. It will no longer be good enough to say one thing while doing another.

The combination of Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and COVID-19 has created an environment where bad behaviour is called out and consumers are voting with their feet.

A deeper understanding of consumers and their innate intersectionality needs to be considered in every communications strategy, which should be central to 2021 business planning.


The impact of COVID-19 will go far beyond the direct consequences of the virus.

We are hearing evidence of routine health screening, operations, treatments, and check-ups being delayed or cancelled, which is going to have a huge impact on the long-term health of society.

There is also the tidal wave of mental health issues that will emerge in 2021, following prolonged periods of isolation, unemployment, exhaustion, uncertainty about the future and, for many, grief.

There is currently a rise in the number of start-ups which are focused on using technology to provide mental health support remotely to large groups of people.

Companies should embrace this technology as they build out support for their employees in 2021.


Vaccine hesitancy is going to be a real thing.

The peddling of fake news and false science has made many people question the idea of even having the vaccine.

People my age can remember the deadly impact of the headlines in the Daily Mail about the MMR vaccine.

The pandemic has driven people further into their echo chambers and misinformation is rife.

Healthcare professionals need to be equipped with different ways of communicating with this group, from the rational to the emotional, from the anecdotal to the evidence-based, because there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.


On a more positive note, the pandemic has accelerated the uptake of telemedicine.

People with diabetes and other chronic conditions are home monitoring and using remote technology to upload results to their healthcare professional.

Many GPs have suggested that they will continue with a proportion of video calls going into the future.

Although face-to-face appointments will never disappear, this situation has taught us that technology can enable remote patient management successfully.

Medical technologies will be at the forefront of defining healthcare delivery in 2021 and beyond.

We all know this year is not going to be easy, but thoughtful and robust communications strategies should be central to any business plan. Bring it on.

Dr Jane Brearley is founder of Intent Health

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