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5 years ago, Alexa was still learning to do a million things. Volodymyr Zelensky was a popular Ukrainian actor/comedian. And the streaming revolution — how today’s world gets its entertainment — took off big-time.

There is nothing permanent except change. — Heraclitus, around 500 BCE

Way more than 5 years ago, the Greeks got it right — change is constant. And when it comes to health care, old Heraclitus is right on the money. In DMW’s 39 years in the health care industry, we’ve experienced a lot. From helping launch one of the nation’s first Medicare Advantage plans in the early 1990s to guiding clients through the first AEP, Obamacare, and digital marketing as a key driver of lead generation.

The next 5 years will bring numerous changes and challenges to health care marketing, but …

Let’s start with what WON’T change: THE CONSUMER.

No matter how much technology and health care evolve in the near future, the consumer must stay the focus. Always. In fact, even the term “consumer” or “patient” is evolving and instead becoming “person” to create a more human and personal connection.

We need to keep creating as many personal connections as possible by not only leveraging the traditional data points, but by understanding the social determinants, local habits and behaviors of the consumer. Why? So that we can develop operational marketing solutions that provide the best and easiest care access possible.

Staying relevant means always be thinking about innovation and the future.

DMW stays ahead of the curve by keeping abreast of the most recent trends through consuming as much research as possible through various credible sources and conferences. Our predictions for changes and challenges in the next 5 years include:

1. Changing Demographics: This influences and changes who we are going to be speaking to through language, imagery, health care usage, and chronic conditions. Understanding the demographics and diversifying accordingly are going to be important for growth and community relevance and trust.

2. CRM and Data Solutions: The consumer expectation has evolved, and consumers want to receive their health care like they consume their retail, without knowing that compliance regulations and profit margins make it much harder to do so.

CRM and data solutions continue to grow and implement compliant solutions such as clean rooms for the health care world. While this can be expensive to implement, this will eventually be an expectation for the consumer, but also for the finance team since these solutions can provide more real data insights into the successes of marketing and lifetime care for improved profitability analysis.

3. Omnichannel Solutions: As the consumer journey becomes more fragmented and intertwined, it is more important than ever for brands to take a broader, cross-channel approach to reach consumers where they are and when they are open to being spoken to.

4. Digital Technologies: There is no slowdown in sight when it comes to digital marketing and technology changes over the next five years. In fact, while we can provide our best digital marketing predictions, there will probably also be new trends that emerge out of nowhere (think TikTok in 2016). With that said, digital emerging trends include topics such as…

  • Privacy laws: Changing to place more control in the users’ hands, allowing them to have more control over what data is shared and blocked.

  • 1st party data: An increased reliance (with cookies going away). Affinity/Behavioral targeting will become a more important targeting component with the loss of cookies such as beauty, health, fitness & wellness, shoppers, travel, adapt to technology, gaming apps, mobile enthusiasts, social media users, and more. Proper tracking must be in place to ensure successful campaigns as cookie tracking disappears.

  • Increase in technological expectations: Audiences expect to complete goals by themselves at their leisure, possibly across multiple sessions and devices. Switching contexts or mediums grows less acceptable over time requiring the business and agency at hand to keep users in the same context by designing intuitive digital journeys and guided experiences from capture to completion.

  • Increase in privacy awareness and the value of personal data: People are expecting more “as they want it” content and marketing, while the value of privacy increases. “Clean Rooms” and ways to anonymize increased amounts of data will become more relevant and costly.

  • Network targeting: Google and Facebook, for example, are changing to utilize more AI or machine learning to better analyze and utilize “user signals” to help determine typical user behavior which essentially places more control in the engines’ ability to target prospects.

  • “Mobile first”: Continues to be top priority, as about 60% of global web traffic comes from mobile devices. DMW designs and develops all digital initiatives considering multiple devices, from handheld iPhones to 4K televisions. We require Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) Level AA compliance but strive for and often attain Level AAA.

5. Artificial Intelligence: While there is a lot of talk in the marketplace about AI, there is some hesitancy within the health care industry due to regulation and security protocols. There are, however, pieces of AI that can be leveraged to enhance iterative content development, digital media optimization, and chatbot iterations and we must keep an eye on the evolution and begin to test when and where appropriate.

  • Generative AI: Certain generative AI such as ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) and DALL·E 2 can be leveraged immediately to rapidly generate iterative content. Once screened and fact-checked, this content can be used in programmatic/algorithmic “A/B” marketing at extreme scale and limited cost.

  • Machine Learning: Being leveraged by the big media networks such as Facebook and Google for more user-guided interactions than manual optimizations.

  • Chatbots: How people interact with automated phone systems and chat bots will evolve to be more “human like.” These technologies are being developed to “learn” as they go. The more these are implemented, and data is collected, the more they will change and evolve.

6. Patient- and family-centered care solutions/Patient engagement: As the needs of the population change, so does the manner in which health systems need to speak to their patients and decision makers.

  • Patient-centered marketing needs to focus on the individual needs and concerns of the patient.

  • Family-centered care needs to cater to not only the patient but the family support system and caregivers. This means technology enhancements that provide families and caregivers with mobile apps to use to help manage their loved ones’ care as well as providing digital content and solutions catered toward caregivers.

7. COVID Adjustments: The traditional health care model was very quickly flipped upside down with COVID lockdowns. People turned toward virtual care, found alternative solutions, ignored health concerns, and were afraid to be in public.

While our everyday lifestyles are trending toward pre-COVID normalcy, the number of patients seeking care has not gone back up to pre-2020 levels in most instances. There needs to be a concerted effort that is human-focused to get people “back in the door,” whether it is through in-person, virtual, or in-home visits. The human element needs to convey the importance of health care, the safety of doing so, and the convenience of how patients can receive their care.

Here’s the big takeaway:

While the next five years will bring numerous changes and challenges to health care like care model evolution, payer changes, increased chronic conditions, changes in technology, health and wellness focuses and more, we know that we need to stay vigilantly focused on the consumer and let them be the guiding light of change.

Ready to take your health care marketing to the next level? Look to DMW!

We’ll help you stay on top of trends and technology that keeps you relevant now and in years to come. Contact us today and we’ll talk about health care marketing that fits your unique needs and objectives.