What is innovation in healthcare?

Innovation is considered the buzzword of the century. All companies today need innovation to be successful.

But there is no universal definition of what innovation is in healthcare and marketing communication. Just think for a moment: How do you define innovation in the healthcare sector for yourself and your company and what does it look like in other countries?

We took this challenge to our annual meeting of Worldwide Partners, Inc. the largest worldwide network of owner-managed agencies. A number of agency heads, strategists and disruptive thinkers from Africa, Russia, China, USA, Latin America, Northern, Southern, Western and Eastern Europe shed light on innovation. Here is a small selection of their answers:

Digitalisation: chance or competitive disadvantage?

"Innovation in healthcare marketing is digital transformation and means disruption of business models."

Transformation and disruption are not new to us and the Americans. Digital evangelists have been preaching this for a long time. But digitalisation is constantly bringing new things to healthcare marketing. Therefore, the creation of new agile processes in organizations that strengthen cross-divisional digital competence and willingness to innovate seems to be very important. New for many are the topics chatbots, language assistants, VR, AR up to drones and how customer experiences in the world of digital space can be optimally designed.

The road to digitalisation is inevitable, even if Germany and the healthcare sector are not always at the forefront. Without acceleration this can become a serious competitive disadvantage.

Data: Scepticism or promises of salvation?

"Innovation in healthcare communications is big data, artificial intelligence, algorithms, analytics and marketing automation."

Big data in healthcare: For us in Germany , populations caution and lack of trust stand in the way of comprehensive data collection.
Smart Data: A complete analysis is not (yet) possible, even in the consumer marketing sector, where consumers disclose much more data. Much remains inconceivable and other things are faked.
Dates and figures: Interest-based measurements and misinterpretations of correlations and causality further fuel doubts about their infallibility. „Errors and confusions, euphoria of numbers, data fever and data mania“ are therefore the diagnoses of (Western European) skeptics.

Nevertheless, the protagonists of artificial intelligence learn quickly to eliminate such quality deficiencies. The learning speed is additionally multiplied by self-learning machines. In conjunction with extensive medical databases and telecommunications, AI promises progress in diagnostic options. Our African colleagues were particularly enthusiastic about this. Many other useful applications are being worked on with AI, as the following examples also demonstrate.

The progress in these fields is relentless, so a rejection of data-driven solutions would be fatal. However, a healthy degree of scepticism could lead to responsible use of technology and data.

Patient support: Utopia or reality?

"Innovation in healthcare is the development of communication applications that help patients in their daily struggle for better health or recovery from disease."

Our American friends believe that in the near future there is a "Watson-empowered wearable" that is omniscient about the physical functions of its wearer, empathically recognizes emotional needs and is able to motivate him/her with the right combination of coercion, training and incentives to a healthy lifestyle or therapeutic adherence.

Customer centricity: digital contacts or analog empathy?

"Innovation in healthcare is to put people and their needs at the centre of attention."

Customer experience, personalization are keywords here, which met with great approval from all participants from all corners of the world. It is not simply a matter of generating more clicks on a website or mailing, but of making contact with people, conveying relevant content to them in an emotional way and thus also giving the doctor more time to respond to patients with empathy. A fascinating example of innovation in the field of emotional personalization came from our partner agency Juice in the USA. Instead of rigid, linear websites, they work on fluid, dynamic platforms. An educational page for breast cancer patients could change the emotional tone of its content and its visuals - depending on whether it believes that the user is a stage 1 or stage 4 patient. These are very different patients, in very different emotional states, with very different interests, needs and concerns.

Fun and Joy: Border Shift or Risk?

"Innovation in healthcare communication means presenting medical information in an entertaining, yet credible and exciting way, be it the rules for taking a drug or even the presentation of surgical procedures. The fun could be in the choice of channel or in the nature of the story."

Could fun and entertainment push the boundaries of conversation in the healthcare sector? Could fun help a doctor understand the unique benefits of a medication? We are of the opinion: Absolutely. Is there a risk in giving the pharmaceutical industry fun and entertainment? Yes, because it would hardly be an innovation if this risk did not exist.

Imitation: Easy or with hurdles?

"Innovation in healthcare is what in almost all other sectors has long been taken for granted, what doctors and patients are already accustomed to in their private environment and what the competition will spoil them with in two years' time".

How often do we hear that healthcare communications lag behind all other industries? Which would stand to reason that innovations in healthcare should be easy when we simply do what others in other industries or countries have been doing successfully for 5 years. Innovation = Imitation? Easy? Perhaps we get help in Germany from our younger federal ministers and they are removing the legal hurdles for innovative communication with patients and consumers and treat them as mature people, so that the nation does not come last in the world.

In general, our partner entrepreneurs agree that innovation in healthcare requires relentless comittment, whether it is introducing fun into your healthcare promotions or staying ahead of your competition. An annual kick-off or an occasional team brainstorming is not enough. In order to successfully implement innovation, it must be made a continuous, conscious, company-wide priority. And technical competence must be combined with social competence, humanity and creativity.

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Ingrid Wächter-Lauppe's picture

Ingrid Wächter-Lauppe

Geschäftsführende Gesellschafterin der Wächter & Wächter Worldwide Partners