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The future for healthcare PR is digital

How digital adoption is changing healthcare trends globally

  By Amanda Chick One of the most significant trends that has emerged alongside the exponential rise of digital adoption has been the enthusiasm for searching for medical information online. How many times have you had a strange ache or pain, or a funny rash and, rather than calling a doctor, gone instead to an online search engine to try and self-diagnose? If so, you’re not alone as according to recent data, four out of every five internet users looks online for medical information. This startling fact and other crucial information was revealed last week when Action Global Communications hosted Stephen Davies, a digital consultant specialising in healthcare. Stephen presented some fascinating insights into the latest trends in digital healthcare to the Action teams from across Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, providing plenty of food for thought for our local teams. In the interactive session, Stephen revealed the latest trends in digital healthcare, which really brought home the magnitude of how substantially people are changing their behaviour in this field. Gone are the days when the local doctor was considered the finite authority on all things medical, as digital resources are now revolutionising health care. What’s more this movement towards digital healthcare resources is not just for developed Western economies; these trends exist in all markets across the world. While both patients and medical professionals are using online resources to research the different treatments and medications available, it is the rise in influence of the “ePatient” which is perhaps the most interesting trend to emerge, and most important for healthcare PR professionals. ePatients are individuals who manage digital conversations through social media channels, changing the way people manage their health and have become key stakeholders in healthcare. ePatients are usually bloggers or individuals with a vested interest in a certain treatment area who have high levels of followers on social media platforms. They provide information from their own experience – either as a patient, a carer for a patient, or even as a medical professional themselves. What is most interesting is that these ePatients have a huge influence in the communities where they participate and they are considered to be popular and well-trusted sources of information. With the landscape of information constantly changing in the healthcare sector, building bridges between medical research and patient issues is becoming ever-important. The ePatient community is clearly a new and increasingly important audience that PR professionals can work with in order to communicate significant news and developments, or raise awareness of particular issues. Action has specialist knowledge and experience in the healthcare PR sector and we are now consulting our clients on how to build mutually beneficial relationships to share expertise and insights. We are also working with our clients to ensure they become approachable collaborators for ePatients and patient community groups, with the overall goal to further develop the brand awareness of our clients while increasing knowledge and awareness on important medical issues. But don’t just take our word for it. Before his untimely passing, it was Steve Jobs, former Apple co-founder, who predicted the explosion of digital healthcare when he said: “I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning.”

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