Digital Health

A Look at the Future of Health with Views from APCO’s Team

February 28, 2019

Health impacts every company, organization and employee around the world, regardless of what sector they operate in. As a result, the health care industry’s future is one of the most important topics for the global business community.

To better understand the future of health care, members of APCO’s global team took a closer look at the industry and shared analysis on the issues that will define the sector moving forward.

Employee Advocacy in Health Care – Caroline Stark, New York

In our new reality, employee advocacy is among the most impactful ways for a company to demonstrate its humanity and live into its purpose. Done well, employee advocacy creates a virtuous cycle: Companies create opportunities for engaged employees to advocate for an aspect of the business or brand they care about, and as they see the positive impacts of that advocacy employees become more deeply engaged and more effective advocates.

Practically speaking, stories from people – not brands – whizz past algorithms and cut through the inherent skepticism of institutions. Health care employees are particularly well-positioned to be a bridge between a company and its audiences. As consumers of health, employees are both an audience and a channel and are often better than brands at engaging their networks with content they will find interesting.

In the future, we’ll continue to see savvy companies engaging employees for authentic storytelling – and increasingly, for brand and reputation management. 

Good: In the simplest form of advocacy, employees are encouraged and empowered to share brand values and messages organically. Hint: Your employees are already your brand advocates, but do you know what they’re saying and doing? 

Better: Step it up by giving employees a voice in choosing (or even creating) content they find interesting. If it resonates with them, it is more likely to resonate across their networks. In highly complex, technical and regulated industries like health, “frictionless” content that people find genuinely interesting can be a game-changer. 

Best: Employee advocates are a powerful line of defense in a crisis, acting as a credible source for information that is often more authentic than a corporate message. Waiting until a crisis strikes to create employee advocates will be much less effective. As in all things, make your friends before you need them.

How Digital is Shaping the Future of Health – Nicole Monge, Washington

The digital ecosystem has revolutionized the way we do everything from communicate with our friends and family to how we order anything, and not surprisingly it has changed our health care system and the way we interact with health care professionals.

Today, patients do not even have to step foot into a doctor’s office to receive health care treatment. Telemedicine is game changing for people across the world because it gives access to health care professionals that did not exist before, especially in rural areas where there fewer physical resources are available. This also has benefits for younger generations, as they expect more immediate solutions to their health needs and do not always see the benefit to in-person care.

With that access comes responsibility both on the patient and caregiver side. Digital health care resources and telemedicine have the potential to empower patients to take a more proactive approach to managing their health and gives caregivers the resources and time needed to innovate in the industry, so they are always providing the best possible care and resources for their newly-empowered patients.

Digital technologies, and the real-time data they provide, have the potential to enable better care and outcomes for all involved in the health care process. Providers now must ensure that all of this data is kept secure, and that they and their patients are complying with the regulations around data use and sharing.

How can Health Companies Meet Consumer Expectations Today? – Stephanie Tan, Singapore

Millennials and Gen Z are taking over. According reports, the population size of these groups of consumers will overtake other generations by 2030 and will be shaking things up – if they have not already.

The way consumers now relate to brands and companies have changed dramatically in recent years: quality of a product or service is no longer the only consideration; there has been greater demands for authenticity and integrity. Corporations are now expected to show up in an authentic way and its actions must match the ideals and values that they tout. This implies an expectation of companies – no matter the sector or industry – to be morally responsible citizens and to do right by people, communities and the planet.

This is especially poignant for medical and health care companies for lives are at stake.

Radical innovation in health care such as AI and blockchain technology, gene editing and genomic testing have huge impact on saving and improving lives; on the flip side, they come with certain ethical and moral dilemmas. It becomes imperative then for not only innovators but also public health, medical and scientific community to galvanise and drive responsible action, ensuring that the interests of consumers and society are always protected. Millennials and Gen Zs are cultural zeitgeists of our time influencing societal trends, behaviours and patterns, and for companies, this means adapting to these changes and even actively lead in them.

Redefining Health Care in Japan – Seiko Indo and Mona Neuhauss, Tokyo

Japan is widely regarded as a model case study for an aging society. According to the Economist, 28% of Japanese citizens are older than 65, compared with 15% of Americans and 21% of Germans. This puts tremendous strain on the national health care and welfare budget. To balance effective treatment and costs, health care is being redefined: what was once a policy domain for the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has become a priority focus for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as well as the Cabinet Office.

Similarly, interest in health and health policy has expanded in the private sector as well, with pharmaceutical and medical device companies now joined by technology and lifestyle companies offering robotics, DNA testing, and wearable technology. This new era invites both start-ups and industry giants to disrupt the way individuals approach their own health. Witness the “big 4” technology companies – Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, who have realized early opportunities to use their expertise to deliver enterprise solutions for hospitals, security for patient data, improved medical supply chains for the nation, and personalized health monitoring for users.

In Japan, traditional companies are reinventing themselves. For example, elderly-care services company Infic is marrying technology with their core care services. Their product incorporates room temperature and humidity control with the ability to monitor the sleep quality, breathing, and pulse of those in care, alleviating the burden from care-takers. In terms of start-up companies, new players such as Ubie are reinventing the way we diagnose, using a user-friendly AI platform to detect even rare disease in those that may not yet classify themselves as “ill”.

To navigate this shift effectively, the following points are key for industry players.

  1. Be open-minded to seek new and unexpected collaborations
  2. Expand the notion of health care to identify the gaps to fill, preparing to reach to previously untapped health care consumer targets such as those who are still “healthy”
  3. Learn about new stakeholders in government, about new policies and regulations to “disrupt” the space smoothly

The old and new must collaborate to meet the demands of the expanded definition of health care.

How Companies can Enhance Their Health Public Affairs Campaigns – Sara Stevens, Washington

There’s always a lot of noise in Washington, D.C. But in many respects, it’s hard to remember a time since the Affordable Care Act when health care issues have been more front and center. We have a new class of Congressional Members that believe their elections were largely a referendum on health care—and a 2020 campaign season that’s already underway, with Medicare-for-All and drug pricing serving as the latest litmus tests for candidates entering a rapidly expanding field.

That means there is a real and significant opportunity for health companies who are bold enough to cut through the noise and come to the table early and often with solutions that give policymakers that all too illusive “win” on health care; otherwise, in today’s environment, they’re likely to be what’s on the menu.

But the “how” here matters, and there are three things to keep in mind as health companies look to implement public affairs campaigns:

1. Home is Where the Heart is (and the Votes are): Members might have to think macro when it comes to the issues, but they go micro when it comes to why and how they engage—especially when it comes to health care—so it’s critical for companies to personalize their solutions and connect how actions will ladder back to a Member’s constituents.

2. Elections = Show Your Work Politics: The next cycle is always top of mind, and the public affairs campaigns that have the highest impact provide opportunities for Members to feel smart on key issues and receive shared credit for the impact of actions at home.

3. Make it Easy to Say Yes: Be clear on your ask. Do the work before you come in the door.  Infuse unheard, authentic, and credible voices into the conversation. And find non-traditional ways for policymakers to act.

It’s loud in D.C. But it’s never been more important for health companies to embrace the noise, find their voice, and take a proactive role in shaping the landscape.

Technology is Pushing the Limits of Health Care in the Middle East – Karine Boulianne, Dubai

The Middle East has a rich legacy of health care and health innovation. Unsurprisingly, conversations within the sector today are intertwined with technology, the region’s more recent and growing preoccupation.

Providers, insurers and governments in the Arab world are placing their bets on health-tech, even as they grapple with exponential costs. The UAE, for example, has seen gross medical costs rise by 12.5% in 2018, while the rest of the region also records higher trend rates than the global average. Whereas, the demand for services, including aesthetic treatments, continues to grow, owing to population expansion, rise in chronic conditions including diabetes and obesity, and increasing consumer purchasing power.

In the face of claims fraud and the continuing trend of residents seeking care in the West, key stakeholders are turning to technology to reduce wastage and ensure that they are ahead of the game. From faster, more effective patient management systems to virtual consultations, AI and 3D printing, health care players are leaving no stones unturned to build a leaner, more profitable businesses.

With national agendas focusing on quality health care and health care tourism, private sector providers are positioning their tech interventions as a critical means to an end – to create a healthier, happier population.

For more insights on the future of health care and to read additional analysis from APCO’s global team, click here.

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