This Isn’t a “Top 8” Digital Healthcare Trends List

It would be incredibly easy to list “8 Amazing Stats” from the recent mid-year reports that eMarketer released; they are chock full of data that will populate new business pitches for months to come. Though healthcare wasn’t mentioned explicitly, other industries were not either, so I assume the data in these reports apply broadly to user behavior. I learned a lot when I consumed them together, and the titular “big picture” started to come into focus. The reports I read were:

  • US Time Spent with Media: eMarketer’s Updated Estimates for 2014
  • Simultaneous Media Use: Screen Fragmentation Complements Traditional Channels
  • US Internet and Mobile Users

The savvy reader has probably made a guess as to what the big picture might look like from the title of these reports alone. People obviously spend time with media – digital, TV, radio, print – and on a variety of screens in a variety of ways, and oftentimes with two of those things at once. There are a ton of charts in here that can easily paint that picture of a multi-tasking consumer doing things like listening to streaming music while looking up coupons at the pharmacy counter, waiting for a prescription. Here is one now!

Time spent per day by US adults with digital, TV, radio, and print media versus ad sharing spend

According to this eMarketer chart, ad spend on digital is not aligned with time spent by consumers; marketers should consider shifting print budget to digital campaigns

Reinforcing Known Digital Trends in Healthcare

If you’ve been pitched digital, or pitched it yourself, you’ve probably heard or said some things similar to those listed below:

  • Your site must work on more than just desktops
  • Reach potential consumers where and when they are – it isn’t all push messaging anymore
  • Video is becoming more important as more users interact with your brand via mobile devices and their attention spans dwindle
  • Your users will get their information from various sources, whether you’re there to control the message or not

I could make this list about 20 bullets long. I could linger on the chart about how time spent with media doesn’t align with how budgets are spent. But I won’t, because what really got my attention in this report was how the “traditional” side of things complements digital, and vice-versa. When talking about TV and radio, we often don’t think digital, but that would be a mistake. “Media” is the product, and users consume it on digital platforms in addition to traditional ones like print, TV, and radio; wherever the market migrates, the media will follow.

Does Media Count as Digital?

There is a legitimately raging discussion within the halls of Calcium focused around this seemingly basic question, and I’m a waffler on the topic. If someone watches a TV commercial on YouTube, shouldn’t you call that “TV”? Conversely, if the user watches that TV commercial on YouTube, on the train, on their phone, and the marketing team has added clickable links just for YouTube, how can you not call that digital?

With pharma brands, you can add another layer of confusion, because the FDA has different requirements for how to format media when it occurs in print, TV, or online. The same commercial that airs on broadcast television may not necessarily pass muster for display on YouTube. Does that mean these things are separate? If we’re formatting differently to comply with regulatory teams and FDA requirements, doesn’t that mean they must be different?

You can see why we continue to discuss this topic, and can’t really settle on a final answer. As the market changes, and the regulations that guide them evolve, so too must your understanding of media. So-called traditional and digital media may not be married, but they are at least cousins, if not siblings, and just like my siblings and I, they should keep in touch more often.

The Big Picture

I’m going to zoom waaaay out now, to where my head went after reading all of these reports. I thought about the arc of history, which I know is grandiose, but I can’t help myself. The Digital Revolution is in its infancy, and it took societies years to adjust to the Industrial Revolution – some might even say we’re still adjusting and learning lessons about the perils and positives of mass production.

When you consider digital growth over the last few years, and the level of consumer connectivity (over 13 hours of media consumption a day per one eMarketer chart!), you realize how quickly digital media consumption has integrated itself into our lives. But when you consider it on the longer arc of history, you realize that it’s only going to become more integrated, and that seems to be even truer for healthcare.

Digital didn’t replace, and isn’t replacing, TV, and radio has pretty much already gone online. (For print—well, you can find plenty of articles lamenting its decline; or refer to the “Spend vs. Use” chart above.)

The “Big Picture” and Healthcare Marketing

Digital healthcare is only just now finding out how to be ever-present and also helpful, with myriad exciting developments in personal tracking technology and other goodies like enhanced reality and virtual assistants that can help you optimize your health (and your healthcare services and treatment).

Even if you discount that vision as hyperbole, it is difficult to deny that 13 hours is a lot of opportunity in one day to put your brand’s message in front of someone. The key is finding out where and how your specific audience likes to consume their media, and then targeting the bejesus out of them at that moment.

That could mean something not considered mainstream yet and possibly tricky with regulatory review teams, like coupon beacons at pharmacy counters; or it could mean a massive TV spend with only a nominal digital presence; or it could mean an even spend among all media but targeting a very narrow audience, broken down via geography, language, interests, or even where they’re standing at that moment (beacons!). It’s even possible to imagine targeting patients based on their current heart rate, blood sugar, or other biometric data. As more data is shared via tracking tools, targeting can become increasingly specific.

By Joshua Spiegel, Associate VP, Search

About Joshua Spiegel

Joshua Spiegel has over 10 years of digital marketing experience, focusing on mainly search and content optimization for the last 7 years. He has worked with top pharmaceutical clients such as Johnson & Johnson, Teva Respiratory and Women’s Health, Aetna, and others to optimize their web properties and online campaigns.

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