Digital Pioneers – What Did We Learn?

Pioneers Logo

One month ago, we organized an event known as Pioneers in Digital Health, a gathering of marketing and healthcare communications leaders for a forum meant to explore the latest and greatest in healthcare and digital.

While there were some great key takeaways we heard from our attendees, I felt that there was a core message that may have been difficult to understand if you’re not embedded in the world of digital. With this post, I really wanted to explore that core line of thinking as I believe that it’s critical to success in this dynamic digital world we live in today.

Overall, we learned that while digital is in fact the websites, apps, games and social networks we use on a daily basis, it also requires a renewed understanding of the methods by which we communicate via these vehicles. Being a leader in digital must first mean understanding the very basic nature by which people behave, consume and share content, and this is where the power of digital lies.

We must adapt to this changing world of digital in both the simplest, social sense, as well as through the amazing technologies we have at the tips of our fingers today.

As mentioned by several speakers, the healthcare field presents a unique opportunity with an audience that has the highest potential to be engaged, loyal, and are the most intent on addressing a topic that deeply affects their lives – their health. We learned that video is 53 times more likely to appear at the top of search results, mobile device use has doubled in the past year (surpassing even traditional internet use), and by the end of 2012 the number of mobile connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth. Our next step as communications professionals is to embrace this change and adapt to the nature of the industry, which includes changes in both the way we communicate and more importantly, in the processes by which we plan, build and execute our digital initiatives. What the speakers at Pioneers in Digital Health gave us is a jumpstart on the knowledge and tools that will allow us to do just that.

Overall, we learned something about the process by which we make our decisions, the power of visual feedback in changing behavior and the need to redefine grassroots communication by working within cultural dynamics and most importantly, understanding that we must first become a part of a community, before we can lead it or impact behavior change.

Not to be forgotten, what followed each speaker’s presentation were questions regarding the regulatory challenges we face in the healthcare industry. The speakers addressed these concerns through a variety of proposed solutions, including the technical ability to control our content, and suggestions for a change of culture within our own companies. One good example was the notion to involve legal and regulatory departments as early as possible in the development of digital initiatives to plant a seed of understanding about the nature of the world we must embrace and establish a new comfort level with digital initiatives.

Key takeaways from the day included:

Decision making is much more of an internal, subconscious process than it is conscious. Because of this, it’s extremely important that we develop our content with visual and audio cues at the right time and in the right places to produce the most memorable content.

Visual content has become the most efficient way to communicate a message and drive behavior change. We are wired to respond reflexively to visual stimuli.

Video, the most powerful and popular form of visual content, drove more than 50 percent of web traffic in 2011.

Social media isn’t about creating a Facebook page and Twitter account, true investment in social media requires being social; we are influenced by crowds and social norms drive decision making.

In being social, we must create content that speaks to our audience, attempt to motivate change, influence within the cultural dynamics that the audience is familiar with and, importantly, provide it on the platforms and devices they are using most often.

Cross-platform distribution, including mobile devices, are essential in ensuring content effectively reaches your audience.

Gamification, including both the development of actual video “games,” as well as the increased use of gaming principles, such as immersion, competition and incentives, are being recognized as a key force in driving engagement and behavior change in healthcare.

Regulatory hurdles, one of the biggest problems that we face as an industry, are not only caused by the regulators, but also by ourselves; this is because we currently do not have the processes and structures in place to support emerging technologies and enable our organizations to become more social.

One thought on “Digital Pioneers – What Did We Learn?

  1. I think it’s also important for healthcare to remember how important blogging is. I still see wide open opportunities for healthcare companies not engaged in blogging. In fact I think a lot believe that social media is replacing blogging when in reality social media only really exists to share blog content.

    Until healthcare really figures out how important blogging is I think they really are missing the real ROI that social media presents itself. It’s important for healthcare to remember that you own your blog and your website, but you do not own your tweets and your facebook status. Focus on what you can control and be prepared for things you can’t.

    I wonder did they mention anything about blogging at this event?

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