Healthcare Has a Dirty Word, and I’m Using It

After a recent foray into the global life sciences industry, and in particular the pharmaceutical sector, I have since come to realise that I have found in healthcare the long-lost child I hadn’t known was missing from my life.

From a marketing perspective, the normal rules of Let’s Overwhelm the Consumer doesn’t – for the most part – apply here. Digital marketing, in particular, is no longer the easy rhythm ‘n rhyme I get to perform on autopilot. Which makes it challenging, but oh so fascinating, as it balances on the tip of an exciting global evolution into something unthinkable (as seen in the light of current healthcare systems).

What is becoming all the more evident to me is the fact that healthcare, arguably the most cardinal of service industries to humanity, has been the very industry to – by virtue of its irreplaceable role in the economy – indulge in the luxury of not having to try very hard. 

In the mood for an analogy?

As an A-student, not a school day went past that I felt necessitated to pick up a book and study. Major exam tomorrow? Oh, a quick revision session from 3 AM onward will be more than enough. I’d hear the usual disappointed teacher-humdrum: “If only you’d apply yourself!” I hadn’t a clue what they were on about. Isn’t winging it at the last minute as happening as it gets?

After frightfully high university bills, simply because I took no heed and so took no bursaries home, either, I started getting what my educators had been trying, in vain, to get me to convert to: If you naturally have the means and the resources, then you are about 700 steps closer to the finishing line than everyone else. Of course, by then it was too late. I’d already graduated.

The healthcare sector, as it stands today, has a similarly (spoiled) Golden Child mentality. Blame them? Nah. It’s good to be king. Heck, who wouldn’t want to be crowned and made Emperor of All-Everything? 

Ever since the advancement of modern medicine, life sciences have been at the forefront of biological cutting-edge and innovation, simply because they were its (only) drivers. So why not become complacent? You’re smarter than Narcissus: You don’t jump in after the reflection in the pond, you just mark its existence as irrelevant. In fact, you delegate it to an admin assistant to mark as irrelevant, because it’s that irrelevant. You have proven, both in saving lives and in making the billions that come with the territory, that you are The Leader. You’re not superior, because that would imply that there are other players to be considered...you’re IT [‘all that’, not Information Technology!]. This isn’t something that’s exclusive to any one stakeholder within life sciences. Everyone considers themselves to be the mainstay of the game.

Which explains why D&T (so much better for your health than a G&T), or Digital and Technology, has been able to crouch upon healthcare, stomping feet and all. When you’re considered to be irrelevant, why would anyone sit up and take note? And that, then, is how we find ourselves at this very place in history.

Big pharma, with resources – be it monetary, manpower, or R&D – stretching all the way to the moon and back, is slowly opening a sleepy eye, still unsure as to what the fuss is about with all this online stuff. Healthcare practitioners are getting irate as patients no longer sit down and quietly do as they’re told, instead trooping down to the practice rooms with devices full of medical research in tow.

And then there are patients, and the ones servi(ci)ng them. Companies all over the world – with not a foot in primary care – are coming out of the woodwork and providing health and wellness solutions that consumers and patients alike want and, most crucially, need. Google has even gone as far as renaming itself to Alphabet so it can conquer the sky and very probably the healthcare of as many sapiens as possible underneath said sky. A can be for Arthritis and B for Bronchitis, and so their portfolio using ahead-of-the-times digital and technological trends will keep on growing. They got the bursary, all right. And they’re not alone.

The businesses and corporations who pride themselves on being the be-all end-all of health-on-earth? There might soon be hell-on-earth, as D&T start surpassing the traditional business models within this industry. Disruption is everywhere, with healthcare being no exception. Only, healthcare is being disrupted by players who comfrom different storylines, different games. Now that’s a shocker.

Dear Life Sciences,

Learn from my mistakes. Don’t wait until you’re graduated all the way out of the picture. Start using dirty words: Digita-life. Technolo-revive. Innovate. You know, the way everyone else is doing for YOUR patients. In YOUR space. (Your patients are loving it.)

Signed,

I who shall not resign myself. (‘Cos there’s hope for you yet.)

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Views are my own, which is quite obvious, but I thought I’d tell you anyway.