The future of health technology communication

Disruption is hard to navigate. It moves faster than your ability to plan for it, and demands that you nimbly shift your paradigm, throw out old processes and build new tools. That’s always hard, but keep in mind that disruption also brings opportunity. To do better and grow. To learn from past mistakes. To refocus on purpose.

One of our core areas of business is healthcare, which is undergoing dramatic technological change. Everything is transforming, from drug development and treatment options to data analytics and security — and more disruption is coming.

Healthcare is experiencing a welcomed paradigm shift: It’s a cautious, highly regulated industry colliding with an influx of fast-moving tech thinking. These are two highly relevant industries with completely different cultures, values and ways of working, and it’s leading to a serious culture clash.

Tech transformation in healthcare is here to stay, but regulations and rigorous industry standards aren’t going anywhere any time soon. To succeed in this changing industry, communicators need the discipline to look at best practices in both the healthcare and technology industries and adapt them — or be willing to throw them out. Health tech is a new paradigm, and it requires new ways of communicating.

Tech Companies Healthcare Companies
Fast to market Rigorous testing
Disruptive Highly regulated
Lead with function Purpose-driven
Risk takers Safety comes first
More show, less tell More tell, less show
Iterate based on user experience Seek stability from user experience
Cultivate loyal fans Cultivate transactional patient relationships
Don’t justify their price Need to defend their price

Here are six guiding principles we encourage clients to keep in mind when building out a progressive health tech communications strategy.

Lead with an innovation narrative

Our Brands in Motion survey found a “halo effect” for industries and brands that were perceived as cutting edge. This effect was even stronger for cutting-edge B2B healthcare brands. Consumers are more likely to love them, defend them in moments of crisis, and see their own values reflected in the brand.

Balance function with purpose

Healthcare is an inherently purpose-driven industry. Tech, on the other hand, tends to lead with function — the latest model, the newest features. Both industries can learn from one another here. Health tech requires a melding of the two approaches, and our Brands in Motion research indicates that consumers expect that balance.

Embrace the speed of evolution

Regulation can be cumbersome, especially for tech leaders new to the industry. While tech is free to move at the speed of disruption, healthcare can move only as fast as regulation and industry checks and balances allow. Communicators will need to be able to set expectations.

Reveal health tech’s emotional side

Healthcare is human care. Health tech cannot afford to rely on tech’s function-driven communications style. To succeed, brands need to reach beyond functionality and seek to engage emotionally. It always, always comes back to the human element.

Build a connected health story

Compatibility between complex technologies is one of the most urgent and challenging topics in healthcare today. Is your brand striving toward standardization and open-source solutions? If it’s not yet, can you tell a connected story that shows how your product or service fits into the broader health tech ecosystem?

Lean into proof over promise

Many tech health innovations are displacing current standards of care. Brands need to define and spotlight value as quantitatively as possible. Health tech may be influenced by technology companies, but healthcare regulators and media experts still require well-sourced, verified research and proof to back a product up.

Health tech is an exciting field, and an excellent opportunity for brands to innovate with purpose and principle. Communications professionals have a huge opportunity ahead: navigating the complexities of merging cultures and industry regulations to tell human-scale stories with purpose and emotion at their core.

To download a full copy of the 2019 Relevance Report, click here

This story was written by Melissa Waggener Zorkin and Stephanie Marchesi. 

Stephanie Marchesi is the president of WE's Health Sector and Eastern Region.