People > Technology

Last month, my colleague Daniel Ghinn spoke in Amsterdam about integrating business functions through mobile pharma strategy. He explained how people are much greater than technology, which at Creation Healthcare we refer to as people > technology.

I was reminded of this important principle when watching a TED talk recently. Sherry Turkle, a pioneer of analysing and writing about virtual communities as early as the 1990s, has written a new book named ‘Alone together’. On the TED stage she challenges the audience with some of the core thinking from her research, in a short 20 minute presentation ‘Connected, but alone’.

 

As a multichannel planning consultancy, we are often excited by the possibilities of technology to change healthcare. Trends like mHealth, eDetailing, telemedicine, online patient communities and more can seem like logical steps towards reaching more people and providing more up-to-date and appropriate information at the point of personal need.

Indeed some may envision a future where sociable applications like Apple’s Siri™ are able to listen to, and interact with patients to help them obtain a diagnosis. Or perhaps the future provides an infrastructure where patients do not even need to visit a health centre or pharmacy?

Assessing such trends and observing the exponential number of people embracing mobile devices and communities like Facebook or Google+, it is clear that for a lot of people the ‘self-serve’ model provides a kind of ‘control’. Perhaps control is the driving motivation behind our obsession with devices and an ‘always-on’ lifestyle. As Shelly Turkle points out:

“…our little devices… …are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are. Some of the things we do now with our devices are things that, only a few years ago, we would have found odd or disturbing, but they’ve quickly come to seem familiar, just how we do things.”

Devices and online channels, in isolation, can really only provide information, or the possibility of a virtual connection. We have to remember that they are not actually providing a ‘human’ experience, such as having a meal together or meeting with a physician, even if they may be more convenient or less demanding on our ability to communicate.

When we talk about healthcare, I believe it is important not to lose that second part of the word in the pursuit of the first. ‘Care’ is something that technology cannot do. Yet, Turkle suggests that:

“The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ make us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.”

And

“Technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable”

People are much greater than technology. In our quest for innovative new ways of using technology, we must not stop ‘caring’.  We must also remember that health is one of the most personal and intimate areas of our lives.

Healthcare is surely primarily about a relationship between a patient and a professional provider who cares about that patient. Such relationships can only exist with two-way, mutually beneficial time spent together. Communication is about relating to each other through a common cause.

Ultimately, strong relationships are built through quality interaction and trust. In planning any kind of online communication initiative or multichannel campaign, remember:

  • It is about people, not technology
  • Quality of communication is more important than quantity, for effective healthcare
  • Loyal relationships are built through time
  • Trust must be earned, not bought

Creation Healthcare helps pharmaceutical and healthcare organisations use all forms of technology to create engaging communication strategies. We don’t do this just for the sake of it, to use that latest tool or technique. Our goal is to help organisations use technology so that it changes lives and helps people.

Paul Grant

Paul Grant is Healthcare Engagement Strategist with global consultancy Creation Healthcare, where he leads digital behaviour research studies and advises healthcare clients on engagement strategies. He has been providing strategic insight solutions and professional services to the world's leading biopharmaceutical and healthcare organizations, helping them to find appropriate pathways to engagement within regulatory frameworks.