Why health disruption needs to get personal

Register for our event to find out what the breakthrough innovation that’s going to transform health

If on-demand services have changed the shape of home entertainment, what’s the breakthrough innovation that’s going to transform health… and how do we get there?

Four years ago, in a landmark moment for disruption in the music industry, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud became the first song to pass more than 500 million streams. Today, the world’s most-streamed track – Sheeran’s Shape of You – has been played more than 2 billion times on Spotify alone. It’s a similar story in video, where streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are rapidly overtaking traditional TV in the battle for eyeballs.

In little over a decade, the way we listen to music or watch TV has changed completely. As disruptive technologies redesign our experiences and redefine normal, entire industries are being transformed at scale and speed. So here’s the thing: if we can do it in home entertainment, how can we do it in the area where it arguably matters most – our health?

With global healthcare more ‘in demand’ than On Demand, health has yet to experience its landmark moment of disruption – but as more than half the world struggles to access essential medicines, there’s an urgent need for bold new ways of delivering care. However, as is the case in other industries, disruption in health won’t rely solely on technological innovation, instead communication and personalisation will be key.

Disruptors in other industries have rewritten consumer expectations by forging a deep understanding of their needs and behaviours and underpinning this with communications that give users a truly personal experience; Spotify uses machine learning algorithms to create curated playlists and personalised recommendations; and Netflix deploys deep learning techniques to understand viewer preferences, fuelling a recommendation engine that influences 80% of the content we watch.

In both these examples, personalised communications provide the link between great content and loyal users. Even in industries redrawn by disruptive innovation, traditional brands have mastered personalised marketing to lead the fightback. For example, for News International in the UK, The Times and Sunday Times have played disruptors at their own game, maximising deep insights to capture new online customers. As a result, by 2018, digital subscribers to these publications outnumbered their print circulations.

The rise of personalised communications is tailor-made for healthcare. Fundamentally, health is a personal story determined by the complex combination of our DNA, lifestyle behaviours and the socio-economic contexts that surround us. We’re seeing a surge of specialist and personalised medicines that can micro-target disease, but our ability to benefit from them depends on governments recognising their value, doctors knowing they exist and patients understanding their importance.

Tailored communications are pivotal across every part of the value chain, but there’s a ‘watch out’ here for health that’s not so critical for other sectors: disruptive communications must be steeped in the same rigour that we evaluate medicines. Peer-reviewed evidence and audit will ensure personalised innovations are fit for purpose and help companies like Babylon Health – the start-up behind the GP at Hand app which allows people to carry out video consultations with their GP via their smart phone – get it right first time.

Innovation is gifting communicators a colourful playlist of creative opportunity; smart, wearable and immersive technologies are helping us uncover compelling new ways of connecting and engaging audiences. However, the innovations that truly disrupt health, and the communications that empower their use, will depend on a forensic understanding of what people want, the journeys they take and the lifestyle barriers that stand in their way. The transformative health solutions of tomorrow won’t just be rich in science, they’ll understand human behaviours and the personal triggers of decision-making that can change the way we manage our health.

Ultimately, if we want to disrupt healthcare in the same way that on demand services, streaming or digital platforms have disrupted entertainment and news, we must get closer to our customers and nudge them with relevant, personalised information at every part of the journey. Communications is our recommendations engine and we must make the most of it.

Claire Gillis, International CEO WPP Health Practice will be discussing this topic on a panel alongside Marco Bertozzi VP EMEA Spotify, Yannis Dosios, VP emerging business Twitter and Eleanor Millis, editorial director, The Sunday Times at 4pm Monday 17 June, The Drum Arms Cannes Lions. Register for the event here

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.