Karen Winterhalter Managing Director of healthcare marketing communication specialists Onyx Health provides her insights into future healthcare trends and their impact on the North East.
The healthcare sector has undergone seismic changes in recent years, with advances in technology, the disruptive effect social media and the COVID-19 crisis transforming the way it communicates.
Reflecting on the recent changes to traditional communication techniques Karen said, “People just aren’t attending events like they used to. Before the COVID-19 crisis even started, 75% of healthcare professionals from the big five European countries and the US weren’t attending congresses.”
She added, “This trend is very much here to stay. I recently read a survey of EU physicians which showed that doctors are more likely to attend virtual events in the wake of crisis.”
The practical upshot of these changes is that digital communication solutions are going to become further embedded into healthcare company’s communication strategies.
These changing patterns in stakeholder engagement coupled with the practical restrictions of COVID-19 has led to organisations like NHSX driving digital change across the NHS.
Karen commented on the impact of this “A lot has changed since I started working in healthcare communications back in the 90s, not least the way the digital revolution has transformed the health service and the way we communicate.”
She highlighted recent examples such as the NHS using a WhatsApp group for COVID-19 information and online platforms for health referrals.
Karen added “These changes mean that healthcare and medical technology companies need to get increasing digitally savvy to access their target audiences and enter new markets”
The COVID-19 crisis has been a communication game changer for the healthcare sector with a digital first approach becoming the norm. Karen commented “The use of digital technology to combat the restrictions requires fresh thinking and something radically different. Companies will need to get innovative by creating a new kind of digital experience”.
She suggested that the use of cutting-edge technology in the form of VR and AR techniques can provide companies the opportunity to offer a unique immersive digital experience to engage with their target audiences.
Karen said, “Using interactive digital technology has the potential to revolutionise healthcare communications beyond the COVID-19 crisis.”
The inexorable rise of technology has had a transformative effect on the sector. Karen shared the following thoughts “one of the biggest innovations of recent times has been the increase in wearable technology that enables patients with long term health conditions to track and monitor conditions remotely from home.
She stated that virtual care offers a more patient focused approach allowing for socially distanced remote consultations, before adding “North East companies like Mavin Informatics with their medical alert wearable mi-SOS are at the forefront of driving this innovative approach across the healthcare sector.”
The establishment of healthcare ecosystems in the region is another important development. Karen commented “It’s important to remember that healthcare companies don’t operate in a vacuum they are part of a wider network including healthcare providers like the RVI, academic institutions like Newcastle University and business infrastructure.”
The North East has outstanding healthcare and life science incubation centers in the form of Helix and The Biosphere. Karen said, “These are critical to retaining top talent in the region and creating a pipeline of innovative companies to drive future growth.”
She concluded by saying “health and life sciences industry are one of the North East’s greatest assets and will have a big part to play in the post COVID-19 recovery.”