The consumerization of healthcare and the vital role of communications

The consumerization of healthcare and the vital role of communications
Jul 13, 2023
Healthcare is no longer the exclusive domain of doctors and hospitals. It increasingly belongs to the patients and consumers themselves. With the consumerization of healthcare, individuals take control of their health and demand more accessible, convenient, and personalized care experiences. And while the healthcare industry shifts to meet the needs of this new paradigm with various platforms and offerings, one key part of the transition may be slipping under the radar: communications.

Whether you’re a hospital, pharmaceutical brand, health insurer, healthcare brand, or somewhere in between, it’s critical to transform and adapt how, when, and where you communicate. Those who don’t will get left behind in this new era of healthcare.

The healthcare industry already faces an uphill battle when it comes to communication. A Salesforce poll found that 47% of participants believed that healthcare and life sciences focus less on patients' needs than on the industry's needs. Many expressed a desire for more relevant communications. A doctor printout or patient portal with instructions after an appointment is no longer enough for today’s savvy consumers. Organizations that don’t lean into the principles of consumerization will miss the opportunity to build authentic engagement and trust with consumers, which leads to better outcomes.   

Applying the principles of consumerization

Adapting healthcare communication doesn’t always require advanced technology or communications platforms. Technological advancements have been a significant driver of the consumerization of healthcare, but that evolution revealed a desire from consumers to be more involved in the care and services they receive—rather than passive patients. The principles of consumerization, such as increased access to care, participation, and empowerment, can be applied to existing communications platforms and channels.

Start with researching and developing audience personas to understand how specific groups prefer to be reached—different channels, their preferred languages, a particular cadence, or other preferences. Conducting this baseline work helps healthcare brands understand how to best organize consumer touchpoints before, during, or after services.

Healthcare as a two-way partnership

The tone of healthcare communications continues to evolve. Driven by a desire for participation, healthcare is no longer a one-way street. It’s a partnership, and consumers expect to be involved in their care journey. Language must acknowledge and respect the individual’s role in their health and empower them via information and guidance. This shouldn’t be delivered as orders or instructions but as an invitation encouraging them to participate and improve their health through desired actions.

It’s not only the tone of healthcare communications that is evolving, but the messenger as well. Social influencers are now a go-to source. Healthcare brands can look to new channels, like influencers, to build trust and dispel misinformation in a way that resonates authentically with consumers, particularly younger generations.

The emphasis on participation isn’t just a result of consumerization. As awareness grows around personal and social factors that can influence a person’s health (i.e., the social determinants of health), the point of care has shifted earlier in the care continuum, focusing on preventive health. Healthcare organizations can use this awareness to engage consumers earlier in the care continuum with targeted communications that can help address health risk factors or prevent complications.

Be intentional with your communications

While the consumerization of healthcare means more opportunities for communication, it doesn’t provide carte blanche to engage without intent—and that can be the trickiest part. There’s a delicate balance between annoying your audience with too much or irrelevant communication and abandoning them with an overly detached approach. The latter is worse, but neither will result in building the relationship you need with consumers to optimize their experience with your brand.

Like any good communications strategy, internal discussions with various teams are necessary to understand the volume of messaging consumers receive, the needs within each team, and the associated calls to action. That insight can help you prioritize, consolidate, and streamline messaging to meet consumers where they are with the right information at the right time.

The same applies to employee communications. Employees are valuable voices that can help build trust and brand awareness, so don’t miss the opportunity to leverage them by leaving them out of communications. Also, analytics can be a game changer for organizations with more robust technology or resources. Lean into journey mapping and measure engagement rates of communications to find the optimal point of contact, most efficient channels, and message relevance for all communications.

Reframing your organization’s communications to be more personalized and engaging isn’t a quick fix. It can be a gradual evolution, but it’s important to start working toward that goal. Healthcare communications can no longer be relegated to a secondary consideration; today’s healthcare consumers demand more. Emphasize building trust and inviting participation, so your healthcare organization can transform care into a proactive partnership through efficient and effective communication.


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