As students our teachers taught us to color within the lines, and as we got older, we learned to stay in our lanes, this gave our lives structure and structure was suppose to make things better, so we thought... After attending and judging the Eurobest 2017 competition in London, England I came to the conclusion these rules may no longer apply in modern day society, thanks to digital technology.
I was a bit surprised to see, out of over a hundred entries in the Healthcare category, how few of the submissions came from work commissioned by traditional pharma companies that made it to the short list and eventually to an award recognition. It’s true pharmaceutical companies are working on solutions to conquer disease and make our lives healthier but the technology is moving so fast that they can’t keep up with it when it comes to delivering those solutions, or perhaps it’s a hesitation of the unknown, compounded by regulations that can stifle1. Helping people live healthier lives is serious business especially when it comes to promoting personalized medicine and healthcare.
In the US, only recently has the FDA been prepared to acknowledge digital health products and discuss criteria and approval standards2, while many regulatory departments have struggled with updating and refining their approval process due to emerging technologies3. European healthcare has worked quite well for a long time and has even embraced digital technologies at a faster rate as consumer interest and demand has grown. Perhaps this is due to a smaller and agiler European community or the fact that the European Commission is more at ease with emerging digital health technologies since it improves healthcare by making it more efficient at a lower cost4.
All of these layers and the emergence of digital technology has created opportunities and new breeding grounds for tech companies and non-traditional healthcare organizations to step up and color outside the lines of leaving healthcare to the “professionals”. Companies such as Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Facebook, and even Vodafone have expressed interest and are investing heavily in this healthcare paradigm shift. Whether it’s a matter of profit or a genuine interest in helping society at large, these companies are bringing a fresh approach and thinking to human health and healthcare thanks to their comprehensive knowledge of today’s digital technologies and easier access to consumers.Europe remains fertile ground for creatives in healthcare
Take a look at GET THE FLOW, a mobile app developed in the Netherlands for kids that suffer from stuttering. Studies have shown that when children who stutter, rap, the stuttering goes away. Rapping utilizes another part of the brain that makes it easier to control speech. By providing exercises that are fun and engaging based on gamification, the app has earned a 67% usage rating and is now an official Stutter Therapy offered in more than 70 stutter practices in the Netherlands. Produced for Vodafone, this is a great example of an information technology company taking advantage of it’s own technology. GET THE FLOW received a "Gold Eurobest" and a "Grand Prix" because of its impact with patients, social media-generated presence, and the results of a personalized therapy that really works4. Many of the award recipients from Eurobest 2017 were projects for Foundations, Associations, and Clinics. The work was done with average budgets and had a big impact by placing patients and consumers front and center. Some of the entries relied on humor, while others took advantage of social media, and almost all of them used digital technology with a dose of original storytelling.So what it is that makes digital technology such a good fit for healthcare?
With the advent of the smartphone, we now basically carry a small computer device in our pockets. Consumers and patients have never been so accessible as we are now, and the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the 5 billion mark by 20195. Smartphones are providing us easy access to health information and vitals that were once only available with a doctor visit6. This new awareness of self-empowerment and the quantified-self have fuelled a demand for powerful digital health products that are easy to use, and mostly free to access.The future is now
If we can use the experience at Eurobest 2017 as a small inkling of what to expect as digital technologies mature and feed the healthcare ecosystem in 2018, we see new stakeholders entering the space, emerging digital technologies promising innovation that breeds results, social media used in new creative ways7, and work with a sincere desire to empower the end-user by providing information and access based on need. Agencies should take note, it’s a different sandbox we play in, and the concept of "sell" is quickly dying; being authentic and identifying real-world social needs has become the norm8. Clients should expect us to come up with novel approaches in using digital technology as a tool and not as a crutch when developing projects. If we are going to continue to produce the caliber of work seen and awarded at Eurobest 2017, our task is at hand, not something to consider in the future.
3. https://www.gsma.com/publicpolicy/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GSMA2016_Report_NewRegulatoryFrameworkForTheDigitalEcosystem_ English.pdf