Moving Health Technology Forward: Key Takeaways From HLTH 2021

The challenges of the past two years have pressured the healthcare industry to innovate and adapt in new ways, from an explosion in demand for virtual care to the need for safe, effective vaccine development and approval in record time. The question now is, what’s next for healthcare innovation? Over the past week, I attended #HLTH2021 to learn more about what’s on the horizon for health technology and healthcare overall. Here are four of my key takeaways:

1. When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), separate the hype from the reality.

AI possesses the power to completely change healthcare end to end, from drug discovery to helping physicians gather patient information and giving patients access to personalized care 24/7. But there will always be a need for a human element in healthcare. Combining the minds of the nation’s top researchers and doctors with the power of AI is what will truly be transformative for the healthcare industry.

Still, for many in the healthcare industry, “artificial intelligence” remains a buzzword. We need more communication about what AI is, what it can do and what its current limitations are. Effective storytelling can help educate both healthcare workers, physicians and patients about what AI products can do and how the technology works to help ensure realistic expectations.

2. Health tech can help address systemic racism in US healthcare.

COVID-19 and the social justice movement brought the racism embedded in the US health system to the forefront, driving many diverse stakeholders to commit to creating change. But the level of change required can’t be done in silos. Instead, all groups need to be brought to the table together: patient advocacy groups, healthcare providers and systems, payors, health tech innovators and patients themselves. New technology can help ensure all these groups are connected and have a seat at the proverbial table for discussions around creating change.

While technology can also help bridge some gaps by connecting those in underserved areas with top providers, Lauren Powell, VP of US Health Equity & Community Wellness at Takeda, noted that healthcare systems need to get to the root cause of the lack of trust in US healthcare by communicating with patients and listening to their concerns. Communications, including those leveraging new technologies, can help create a two-way dialogue between organizations and patients to build trust with your customers.

3. The data rush is fueling innovation.

Healthcare is the leading producer of data in the world. With the seemingly endless amount of data available today, the next step now is figuring out how to use it. Countless apps, software and digital tools have emerged in the past decade. Patients and providers want a seamless experience across data platforms. Synthesizing them all together to create one simple, seamless health ecosystem where many apps work together throughout the patient journey.

Health marketers will need to pay particular attention to their strategic user journeys, considering what other tools their customers may use when and how they may work in tandem with their own product. And as digital marketing moves from linear interactivity to 360-degree life inputs, it offers the possibility of adding tangible value to decision-making at every point along an individual’s digital journey.

4. Telehealth is here to stay—but it’s not static.

Telehealth usage exploded during the pandemic. Though it has now plateaued, telehealth experts at HLTH don’t think the telehealth era is over. Instead, it will evolve into a hybrid approach that combines telehealth with in-person appointments when needed. Oscar Health’s EVP of Platforms Meghan Joyce gave the useful analogy of imagining what Uber was like 10 years ago versus now: it’s a much more seamless, natural experience—and the same will someday be true for telehealth. For example, telehealth will go beyond a video call with a provider to asynchronous and synchronous communication such as AI-powered chat bots. Big tech companies such as Amazon are already entering the virtual care industry.

As telehealth evolves, marketers will need to think strategically about how to communicate service updates and changes to both physicians and patients to help them adopt change and how to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive space. The granular targeting marketing and communications provides can help virtual care providers target the right people with the right message based on patient and provider preference, the type of visit required and other factors.

In an increasingly digital healthcare economy, marketing and communications must also span media platforms to create a cohesive experience. Now is the time for health leaders and marketers to listen to their physicians and patients and strive to create a seamless, digital experience.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Robyn Wellikoff, Senior Vice President.

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