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Scratching the Surface: Technology’s Impact on Healthcare Communications


March 9, 2016

By Rachael Schwartz, Vice President

Healthcare meet tech, tech meet healthcare. It’s been brewing for some time, but the digital health industry has reached a major inflection point. From wearable sensors and point-of-care diagnostics, to Artificial Intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, 3D printing and more, the convergence of accelerating technologies is seriously changing medicine and the way patients interact with their healthcare.

The proof is not only in the innovation, but also in the investments. Last year alone, digital health investments topped $4 billion, plus tech giants are rolling out their very own health and life science specialty divisions (e.g., Verily, Qualcomm Life, IBM Watson Health), and of course (why we are here), pharma is trickling in with strategic partnerships (e.g., Qualcomm/Novartis, 23andMe/Pfizer). This all begs the question – is this a fad or a glimpse of more to come?

As healthcare PR professionals, it has always been our job to stay on the pulse of technology and maximize the tools that make the most sense for our clients. Yet today, our tool kit is bursting at the seams and has ushered in an entire new category, which has vast implications across the healthcare industry. So, how do we stay on top of this booming health technology, and most importantly, what do our pharma clients need to know about digital health?

It seems like every day we are seeing more media reports on the newest sensor, health app, device, etc. and often they overlap with a therapeutic area that we work within. But, does every technology that overlaps in our interest areas need to be flagged and pursued by our clients? Not necessarily. Knowing the intricacies of the brands and credos of the companies that we work with is critical to how we vet and pursue (or not pursue) new technologies. It’s also helpful to remember that digital health is not yet top of mind for all our pharma colleagues, and therefore, informing them of an interesting technology may be falling on deaf ears or at least ears that have yet to be exposed to a digital health ear device (not my best digital health humor, but a solid attempt). Bottom line, we need to know how our clients are viewing and prioritizing digital health (sometimes broadly coined “innovation” internally) in order to appropriately guide our strategic counsel. By getting this overall digital health temperature check, we can proactively audit and flag technologies and opportunities that have the potential to bring additional value to the patients our clients serve.

Naturally, our innovative positioning know-how coupled with our specialized ability to influence key stakeholders creates a solid foundation for whatever new technologies come our way. Just as we in PR evolved our business to leverage and maximize social platforms, we now look to the plethora of digital health innovations to take us to yet another level of what we are all in this for: patient care. So, bring it on, digital health!

Stay tuned for an even deeper dive into the world of digital health later this month following my trip to SxSW Interactive. The Med Health track is filled with leaders across the industry and will surely inform our overall approach to digital health at Tonic Life Communications.