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It has been a year of explosive growth and incredible upheaval in health. There is no sugar-coating this: We are living and working in a state of perennial disruption. Marketers, consumers and advertisers are all trying to adjust to a series of rapid shifts.

As marketers, we have had to be nimble and will continue to chart a path through this changing landscape.

We have identified five trends and are creating solutions to address these trends, as we head into what is sure to be a disruptive 2022.

Platform Promiscuity
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Platform Promiscuity

For decades, marketers and advertisers counted on consumers’ loyalty to networks for their viewing habits, informing massive buys across linear television. No more! As platforms and their associated production houses proliferate, consumers are abandoning platform-affinities to instead chase content, subscribing and unsubscribing at will.

Linear TV is at an inflection point. As viewership shifts to streaming services and other digital platforms, supply is shrinking even as advertisers clamor for opportunities. With linear’s shrinking audience and correspondingly constricted supply, marketers must think differently about video buying in high-value spaces.

Health brands are among TV’s biggest benefactors, with an annual $4.58 billion spent in 2020 (75% of the industry’s total ad spend) in the same year pay-TV lost another 5 million subscribers. That spending was expected to increase by nearly 12 percent in 2021, according to eMarketer and pharma brands are among the biggest spenders in linear TV.

Looking forward to 2022, as the behemoth of linear shatters and fragments audiences across platforms, it is increasingly important for marketers to think more creatively about reaching audiences in this complex world.

Whereas marketers once spoke of screens, we now consider content—and the platforms where that content lives—as dominant.

This is a meaningful shift, particularly in health, where people are seeking out content at increasing rates. It’s also an opportunity for health marketers to lead rather than follow.

Consumers Take Back Their Data
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Consumers Take Back Their Data

Data in healthcare—getting it and owning it —is particularly problematic. This is an industry where personal data is private and ownership belongs to the consumer. As consumers increasingly follow content, they offer new ways to understand behavioral insights and build meaningful relationships.

With the looming deprecation of third-party cookies, marketers everywhere are eyeing data access and identity solutions as a solution for the soon-to-be missing link between targeting and attribution.

In health, we lack consumer first-party data at scale and timely first-party data that has the ability to materially impact a marketer’s strategy. So we need to give people a reason to engage with health brands and form real relationships that better allow marketers to deliver what people truly need. This is the only way to create a connection built on value and trust.

As the cookie crumbles, marketers who find themselves without a value-based relationship with consumers will be left out in the cold. Consumers now have the power to own their data, and marketers will need to earn the right to continue to access it.

Can AI Save Healthcare?
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Can AI Save Healthcare?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is impacting the entire care pathway, and is being heralded as a solution to the growing worker shortage that has come to healthcare, even as demand sits at historic levels.

Health care will be among the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. through 2026—accounting for about 2.3 million new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In many states, the projected supply of healthcare workers will not be sufficient to fill demand.

Tech is working to bridge this gap. Major players such as Microsoft are zeroing in on process efficiencies such as minimizing the amount of HCP admin after each appointment by partnering with Teledoc. Other major investments, like the $19.7 billion acquisition of Nuance, focus on diagnostics, with potential for majorly disruptive industry advancement.

“This collaboration is focused on taking our aligned strategies and delivering on the last mile in healthcare,” said Tom McGuinness, corporate vice president of global healthcare at Microsoft.

Overall, more than $800 million has been invested into companies developing chatbots and other AI-enabled platforms for health diagnostics and care recommendations, according to Crunchbase, and growth and investment will only accelerate.

These innovations are moving beyond pilots and are demonstrating the real market opportunity of AI.

Tech for tech’s sake is not what makes this a disruptor: AI has the potential to improve patient outcomes and fill a widening labor gap.

It offers new ways to communicate, serve and present content to a growing number of consumers. We are seeing the creation of an emerging infrastructure that can fundamentally change healthcare.

Docs Join the Influencer Economy
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Docs Join the Influencer Economy (The TikDoc is in)

Social platforms are filling in for the doctor’s office as consumers seek information from trusted sources. A new cohort of Internet celebrity doctors are being joined by physicians and clinicians who are combating the misinformation in their fields by venturing into new media terrain that is now more trusted by consumers adrift in a sea of misinformation.

It all adds up to social media coming into its own as a media platform, one populated by influencers delivering content in a constant scrolling stream.

Influential online docs such Doctor Mike, who has racked up almost a million followers on TikTok covering topics from the risks of sunburn to autistic spectrum disorders and Dr. Leslie, who responds to follower questions on the COVID vaccine, breast cancer symptoms and so called “detox diets,” have leveraged these new platforms to reach far beyond their practice walls.

The presence of legitimate medical experts validates TikTok and other social channels as platforms to access crucial health information. One-third of consumers now use social media sites and online forums for health-related matters, including older Americans, and some 67% of internet users ages 56 and older use YouTube. This growing audience could hugely benefit from educational content supported by the healthcare industry.

With these new avenues for people to access health information and the “experts” to provide answers, there is a real opportunity to meet consumers here with targeted and pertinent health information even as they flee more established media streams.

Health Inequity Redefines Media Investment
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Health Inequity Redefines Media Investment

The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on disparities in our healthcare system, with far-reaching inequity leading to unequal access to care, treatment, information and education.

This public spotlight on health inequity has played an important role in increasing awareness and accelerating efforts to address disparity.

Now, as the spotlight moves to addressing disparity, health media has an important role to play —both in reaching diverse populations and more equitably investing in and supporting minority-owned media businesses.

Most importantly, marketers need to allocate a portion of their media spend to media that reaches diverse audiences. Historically, pharma (or health) companies made sweeping media buys that reached a wider market and might reach some minorities who happen to view more general outlets.

Media spend to narrower audiences can be a hard sell to brands with this business-as-usual mindset, but it’s not just the right thing to do —it’s good business.

Diverse populations are growing: Within 25 years, the Census Bureau projects non-Hispanic whites will account for less than half the U.S. population and the Pew Research Center found that in 2018, 48% of U.S. millennials were nonwhite.

The buying power of minority groups in the U.S cannot be denied, totaling $4.2 trillion in 2020 and forecast to be $5.2 trillion in 2023. Given the inequities inherent in healthcare, one of the best ways to close gaps is to get information directly to the underserved audience.

Healthcare marketers need to lead the charge by investing in diverse targeted media buys, enabling content to reach these audiences. We are getting better at connecting with diverse audiences and are beginning to do the right things—the smart things.

But the big opportunity here is to drive investment in the right places and positively impact health outcomes. Investing in media is an investment in diverse communities.

Let’s connect!