When healthcare sneezes, the whole country catches a cold. The good news is there has arguably never been a healthier time to be a healthcare marketer in the U.S.
This fast-growing, dynamic and volatile marketplace is bursting with potential. News about the industry is above the fold spotlighting facts like funding for digital health initiatives reached nearly $700 million in the first quarter of 2014 – a 87% increase compared to the first quarter of 2013. And that there are more than 100,000 healthcare apps currently in the market with many, many more on the way.
That’s all happy news for those of us in the marketing and communications side of healthcare. But as Peter Parker’s uncle says in the Spiderman comics: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
For every article touting the new marketing or technology advances in healthcare, there are even more about the shifting state of healthcare itself. This dichotomy was cast in stark relief on July 22 when dual rulings on the Affordable Healthcare Act subsidies were issued by two United States Court of Appeals panels. For about two hours, it looked as though our fellow citizens in 36 states might lose their newly acquired coverage. And regardless of how you feel about the law or its implementation, it is a reality that healthcare is still tenuous for many Americans.
It’s a reality that much of what we do in marketing is actually meant for people of relative means – those of us with insurance, access to healthcare professionals, the resources to afford our medications, digital access, and often strong social networks. But that’s not the case for all Americans and there are many trials ahead including doctor shortages, challenges in communities of color and other groups who are new to the system, and a lack of familiarity and education with accessing healthcare for the first time. These are profoundly human issues, day-to-day realities that our neighbors are experiencing during the very bounty of opportunity many of us are enjoying.
So I wonder: What is the responsibility we have that accompanies the great opportunities? We aren’t health policy experts, and most of us aren’t credentialed healthcare professionals. But we are marketing and communications experts. And that means there’s a lot we can do. Let’s start with what we do well.
We know how to frame issues, understand audiences, generate ideas, solve problems, create messages and tell stories. We understand all of the channels and touchpoints and how to use them to full advantage. We love to measure how our efforts perform so that we can improve on what’s working and jettison what’s not. We know how to innovate and stretch and we love a challenge. And we love to care about what we do – that’s why we chose to work in healthcare marketing specifically.
So why not? Why not harness these skills and apply them to the real-life challenges of U.S. healthcare that we understand and are uniquely equipped to solve? As a collective, we can figure out how to attract more medical students to the primary-care pipeline (we know how to target), or how to educate different groups about healthcare (we know how to communicate and do differential marketing), or support community-based healthcare efforts to reach those who tend to be harder-to-reach or new to the system (we know media, we know how to do outreach and education.) You get the point.
This is heart and head, rational and emotional, right and left-brain. Because that’s what it takes to be human.
Wendy Lurrie – Managing Director, gyro:human
Wendy Lurrie is the managing director of gyro’s healthcare practice gyro:human based in New York. gyro:human is gyro’s newly formed U.S. division dedicated to all aspects of the healthcare industry. Lurrie is a healthcare industry ace who has worked with United Healthcare, Aetna, Eli Lilly and Company, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, to name a few.
She held executive positions at major agencies Draft, DraftFCB and Grey, where her responsibilities included the management and growth of the healthcare portfolios. Lurrie has worked on the client side as a VP of marketing at Travelers as well as served a consultant specializing in marketing strategy.