What Advances in Technology did to Healthcare Communications

Contributed by:

Barclay Missen, Director of Digital Communications, Topin & Associates

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Welcome to the 21st century — a time period where advances in electronic media have opened new opportunities to communicate with physicians and patients, explore ­creativity, and help bring the health care world closer together. But as we’ll see, there are some things in our business that even the best technology can’t do. Capturing the Mobile Physician According to Manhattan Research, about 72% of physicians today use their smartphones to access clinical information, review publications, and participate in educational sessions. Soon, they’ll be turning to mobile devices for administrative functions and patient care as well. The mobile physician will no longer be practicing just in the office. Which means marketers have to figure out how to be where their audience is. Content that used to live in a printed sales aid now needs to be accessible on a laptop, a smartphone, and a tablet. Web conferencing, e-details, iPads—we now have a variety of memorable, engaging learning tools that were unimaginable just a short time ago. Boosting Our Creative ­Expression Creative people will tell you that inspiration can occur anywhere and at any time. Technology now offers us more ways to collect and share that inspiration. Find an image while walking down the street? Take a picture with your phone and e-mail it to others. Need the perfect audio track? Hello, iTunes. With so much at our creative fingertips, more time can now be spent thinking, composing, and turning these inspirations into big ideas. As far as execution goes, options have exploded with digital technology. Yes, I can remember when an agency rendered “markers” for presentations. It seems that just a few years ago we were excited about burning video programs onto DVDs. Now we’re talking about things like augmented reality, which we’re not sure how to get through our clients’ medical and regulatory teams, but we’ll try. Bringing an Industry Closer The jury is still out on the subject of whether e-mail, Web meetings, and video chat have actually made us as brand teams more productive and efficient. What’s more exciting is that physicians can now collaborate in real time through social networks, reviewing case studies, treatment protocols, and published research—all unimaginable five years ago. And an hour or two spent on a patient community site makes it clear how technology has changed how patients view their own care. What Technology Can’t Deliver Before we get too excited, however, it’s important to clarify what technology can’t do for us. At least at this point in time. It can’t think. Technology doesn’t change the basics of creating good communication. A strong creative campaign is still produced the old-fashioned way — a collaborative client/agency relationship, a strong strategy, simple positioning, and talent. It can’t judge good from bad. Unfortunately, technology has also made it easier to create and execute bad ideas. Because we now have more tools and techniques to play with, sometimes bad ideas pass as good. Marketers need to remain vigilant in pushing themselves (and their agencies) to find fresh, compelling ideas that deliver real impact. It doesn’t replace face-to-face. While technology can open doors, capture attention, deliver information, and facilitate interaction, trust is still built in person. So create your YouTube channel, but still invest in peer-to-peer programs. E-mail your agency all day long, but fly them in with some regularity. There’s simply no technological replacement for building a genuine relationship. It doesn’t save you money. Some would say these new advances should bring costs down—creative, production, even administrative costs. Fact is, good content (no matter the medium) takes time and effort. Digital channels require more of it. And since digital channels have yet to replace traditional ones, you have to budget more dollars to add them to your plan. Why We’re Still Here The advances in electronic media have left their mark on our industry, and health care communication will never be the same. No longer are we an advertising agency just doing print ads. Today, an integrated plan includes pURL programs, iPad detail aids, search, e-details, branded and unbranded Web sites, and on and on. And while we can’t wait to see what’s next, we need to always keep in mind what technology cannot replace. You and me. Topin & Associates Barclay Missen Director of Digital Communications Topin & Associates is a full-service, medical marketing communications company. { For more information, visit topin.com.

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