By APCO Alumna Katie Milgrom
Health care in the United States is a $2.8 trillion, rapidly-changing and increasingly complex industry. With increasing costs, information and decision-making power placed in the hands of consumers, there has been an explosion of personal involvement in health care and a dire need for a navigator to make sense of it all. Now more than ever, health communications professionals play a critical role in helping to navigate and make sense of this landscape. Over the past year, several trends have emerged that have a direct impact on the work of health communicators. Here are three trends that I expect to play a major role in influencing this personalized era of health care:
- Patient Involvement: People are becoming increasingly more involved in their own health. There is a growing understanding that the more involved a patient becomes in their own health, the better their health outcomes are. This emergence of patient ownership in personal health has tipped health communications on its head. We are seeing key players in this space grappling with how best to reach and effectively communicate with patients – from providers to payers to policymakers. It is critical that health communicators keep patients at the center of their work by providing, clear, transparent and evidence-based information that will equip consumers to make the most informed decisions for their health.
- Wearables: With consumers’ increased focus on health and wellness, there has been a surge of digital technology to help consumers track, count and monitor their every move. Technology companies are not missing out on this consumer interest, and the demand and excitement for more sophisticated devices is palpable. But the challenge for health communicators will be to find ways to help consumers actually make sense of all of this personal data. Access to data isn’t enough. We must find ways to empower consumers to transform it into improving health outcomes. Communicators should consider tools and resources for consumers to communicate these statistics with their doctors as a diagnostic tool to help monitor chronic conditions or other health issues.
- Big Data & Privacy: The emergence of “Big Data” in the health care industry has evolved from a unique offering to a tremendous asset that numerous players are grappling with how it is best to leverage. The use of data analytics in the health industry is often linked to efforts toward improving patient outcomes, increasing access to care and decreasing costs. However, we are seeing public conversations around big data in health increasingly include concerns around data security and patient privacy along with increasing media coverage around major data breaches. In any issues involving big data, health communicators must remember that transparency is key. While big data can be a game-changer in the way health care is personalized and optimized, we must push all stakeholders to shine light on how consumer information is being used.
As the U.S. health care industry evolves, health communicators have boundless opportunities to be a part of its continued improvement.
This post is part of “The Next 30,” a series by junior to mid-level staff in celebration of APCO Worldwide’s 30th anniversary. View all posts in The Next 30 series and subscribe via email here.