Where will disruption in health come from? Consumer commodities

Where will disruption in health come from? Consumer commodities

 In Digital Media, Health, PR Strategy, Technology

Last summer, I attended a PR leadership seminar that asked us to consider “from where will disruption in health come next?”

We considered the impact of Uber on taxis and of Netflix on video rentals. Both these examples highlight logistical leaps forward: better ways to deliver on-demand services. Now, both companies have taken steps to contribute to better health.

On March 1st, Uber launched Uber Health, a way for clinics and hospitals to book patient rides from a central dashboard. Organizations taking part in the pilot have seen fewer missed appointments and, since the launch, multiple organizations have released their own announcements of partnerships with Uber Health. Of course, this is also a way for Uber to expand into new markets beyond rides to the hospital: the service is set up to work for even the most vulnerable or disconnected people, via text messages or phone calls to a landline.

Netflix has had mixed responses to its push to deliver more mental health-related content; advocates have called for warnings on potentially triggering shows, such as those on teen suicide or eating disorders. I, for one, applaud Netflix for helping to normalize discussion of mental health issues. Not every show will get it right, but at least we’re debating how best to do that.

Amazon, perhaps the ultimate consumer fulfillment company, has also launched a disruptive health initiative this year that is generating chatter among tech and health analysts. In January, it announced its collaboration with several other companies to create a new health insurance platform for its own employees. It’s widely expected that the platform will then be made available to other businesses—allowing more insurers to “commoditize and modularize” their offerings (thanks to Ben Thompson of Stratechery).

It looks like the march for better health services delivery is well underway—fueled, noted a SXSW analyst, in part by anger at the current political gridlock as regards health care reform—but what about care itself and the way patients are treated? Well, we can look to SXSW for hints on that, too. Nurses and others are busy finding new ways to empathize with patients via technology.

As a health communicator with a background in consumer health, I find myself excited at the prospect of working with brands new to health but extremely experienced in pleasing consumers. As technology evolves and disruption happens, our work in the health communications industry will thrive on the ruthless attention to consumer sentiment that consumer PR demands.