4 Trends That Will Supercharge Health Comms In 2022

The shift in consumer attitudes inspired by Covid will drive innovation in unfamiliar territories like influencer marketing

2022 spelled out with a stethoscope

The following article by Claire Gillis, CEO of VMLY&Rx, was published by Adweek. Click here to read the article on the Adweek website.

2022 will be the year when health communications finally catch up to the hype.

In the past two years, we’ve become more connected with our health than ever before, and more aware of our own responsibilities when it comes to managing it. This trend is providing a shot in the arm for health creatives who are passionate to maximize innovation and stimulate health transformation.

While other sectors appear light years ahead of the digital curve, the shift in consumer attitudes inspired by Covid will nudge health comms over the line into the not-so-new normal. That must be our ambition for 2022.

Will we get there? Here are four trends that will give us a chance.

The digital-first customer takes over

We’re well past the tipping point of “digital-first” customers in health. Our search for information and solutions typically begins online, with many of us a long way into the journey before we contemplate speaking to a person. These digital-first instincts are forcing a new approach to health comms.

We don’t need CES to remind us that 2022 will see a surge in digital-touch tools for patients, clinicians and consumers. Innovations like chatbots, virtual assistants and self-service portals will satisfy our desire to oversee the health conversation and make empowered decisions. The trend will drive an enhanced role for marketing to support digital interactions early in the journey.

But as digital-first customers take over, strategies—and insights—will need to be truly customer-centered and regulated, if brands are to deliver the health experiences customers expect (and ones that actually connect). Anything less fails.

Health comms will get properly personal

Personalized communication will come of age in health. And it must. Personalization is now a basic expectation for most consumers and most of us are irritated when we don’t experience it. Health isn’t immune from the trend.

Our ability to personalize health communications has been constrained by an understandable caution around sharing personal data. However, Covid has shown how data can be used responsibly to shape and improve health experiences without compromising privacy. Alongside it, the connectivity expected by digital-first customers is inspiring an uptick in data permissions, with millennials and “zoomers” leading the way.

In 2022 we’ll seize the opportunity. Expect increased use of wearable health tech, digital therapeutics and remote patient monitoring.

Adoption of AR/VR and mixed reality will grow, creating more immersive health experiences. And, as 5G connectivity becomes mainstream, digital health will be transported to the next generation—powered by personalization.

Influencer marketing will become … very influential

Health brands have traditionally turned to healthcare professionals as trusted advocates. However, as audiences increasingly favor authentic content from everyday people, health’s biggest influencers are no longer doctors or specialists—they’re patients.

In 2022, patients will cement their place as the primary influencers in health with patients—and patient groups—flocking to their own platforms to become powerful advocates. The patient voice is already booming. Expect it to get louder, and more influential. The smartest brands will co-create with patient groups to make science meaningful.

Race will become a prominent lens for health and health creative

Awareness of medical racism—and the ease with which our sector can fall into the traps that perpetuate it—will intensify. The latest inquiry into racial bias in healthcare—in the U.K. and U.S.—will publish its findings in January and is expected to confirm deep inequalities.

Health comms will redouble its efforts to help eradicate the discrimination that leads to poorer health outcomes. Race, culture and community will be the go-to lens for health creative, with community engagement, partnerships and local culture leaders—so effective during Covid—becoming routine best practice.

But eliminating medical racism is a collective responsibility that touches every aspect of the health-value chain. I sincerely hope the global push for diversity in clinical trials will reach fever pitch in 2022. Comms must play its part in holding us all accountable.

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