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Advertising and the Future of Healthcare

Advertising and the Future of Healthcare

Havas Global Comms

Havas Global Comms

October 25, 2017

By Chris Bartley
Managing Director at Havas Life Medicom

 

Recently I heard someone in banking say ‘data is the new gold’. At the time I thought it was simply an intriguing sound bite about tech companies. However, the more I think about it, the more meaning it’s starting to have. At the same time I’ve come across a number of disruptive companies providing new models for healthcare delivery (take a look at Babylon, PushDoctor, DocAI, NowGP and GPDQ). Essentially they provide an app driven way to book and see doctors on your mobile or tablet device meaning you never have to sit in a doctor’s waiting room again.

What’s all this got to do with advertising and healthcare? Free service provision – that’s what. Take Google and FaceBook. They provide a service billions of people use every day – and they provide it for free. Yet they are two of the most valuable companies on the planet because advertisers are happy to pay to get their messages to all those people. More specifically advertisers love the ability to target people based on their likes, searches, interests and hosts of other data points. It’s the depth and scale of the data that drives the value of these businesses. It’s literally gold dust.

Now imagine a platform on a similar scale to FaceBook that’s collecting masses of data on people’s health. What conditions they have, what treatments they are on, what’s worrying them, how often they have headaches and potentially all sorts of other data. If you’re a pharma company, a pharmacy or the manufacture of vitamins, hair products, moisturisers, pain killers or any one of the other 17 trillion companies selling health related products this is an incredibly rich source of potential customers who are ready to buy.

But why would people give you this data? Well, a brilliant and free service that’s why. Use any of the apps mentioned above and you will love them. The level of convenience in having a doctor appear basically on demand and sort you out there and then is mind-blowing. Compared to the frustrations of trying to book an appointment with a primary care doctor or GP it’s a revolution. It’s a bit like using Uber for the first time – you literally see how the world has just changed. However, there’s a barrier to mass adoption of these services and that’s the cost. It’s not high considering what you get (between £15-125 depending on the service and the provider). However, it’s competing with 100% free and that’s tough to do.

What if… one of these apps provides their service for free? Meaning you can access a doctor almost anytime via your phone, tablet or computer. That doctor appointment is just like seeing any other doctor in that they can prescribe medicines, refer you, provide advice etc. Are you going to go back to phoning your local doctors to try to book an appointment for two weeks’ time, drive there, wait for an hour with a bunch of sick people, then after all that, you’re told to see if it’s still there in two weeks and come back! I think not – the world doesn’t work like that anymore (well most of it). In this new world of convenience when you use the app you see adverts targeted to you.

If this happens, and keep in mind the level of upfront investment needed would be huge to get to a scale where the ads started paying the bills, then the impact is totally transformative. It will save the NHS and other health systems billions, and billions, and billions. This is because the cost of primary care doctors (GPs in the UK) will be paid for by advertisers and not tax or insurance payers. The whole model of healthcare could be reinvented from the ground up. A better service that’s a lot cheaper for everyone who uses it paid for by advertisers. Additionally, and as a slight aside, all that data also has lifesaving potential. Where there is big data there is big potential for learning. In theory you could use the data along with a very smart algorithm to instantly analyse the effectiveness of treatments in the real world, find people at high risk of disease and all sorts of other interesting things. There’s no reason this can’t be done now. However, if you’re a company focussed on data capture the chances are your data is simpler to work with.

Is everyone going to like the idea of paying for care using advertising – absolutely not. Doctors are almost certainly going to hate it, anyone working in the NHS is going to hate it, lots of other people are going to get very concerned about their data or the about ‘selling the NHS to advertisers’, and people will object to advertising being connected to healthcare full stop. And all that is totally reasonable. However, almost everyone uses Facebook, sharing almost everything you could want to know, and a lot you don’t. Facebook’s value is built on selling that data to advertisers and while people don’t like it they don’t leave Facebook! So it’s possible that despite all the reservations if the service is better and cost is much lower (in terms of taxes or insurance) then the world will come around to advertising as a way to fund health. Probably!

By Chris Bartley
Managing Director at Havas Life Medicom

 

Recently I heard someone in banking say ‘data is the new gold’. At the time I thought it was simply an intriguing sound bite about tech companies. However, the more I think about it, the more meaning it’s starting to have. At the same time I’ve come across a number of disruptive companies providing new models for healthcare delivery (take a look at Babylon, PushDoctor, DocAI, NowGP and GPDQ). Essentially they provide an app driven way to book and see doctors on your mobile or tablet device meaning you never have to sit in a doctor’s waiting room again.

What’s all this got to do with advertising and healthcare? Free service provision – that’s what. Take Google and FaceBook. They provide a service billions of people use every day – and they provide it for free. Yet they are two of the most valuable companies on the planet because advertisers are happy to pay to get their messages to all those people. More specifically advertisers love the ability to target people based on their likes, searches, interests and hosts of other data points. It’s the depth and scale of the data that drives the value of these businesses. It’s literally gold dust.

Now imagine a platform on a similar scale to FaceBook that’s collecting masses of data on people’s health. What conditions they have, what treatments they are on, what’s worrying them, how often they have headaches and potentially all sorts of other data. If you’re a pharma company, a pharmacy or the manufacture of vitamins, hair products, moisturisers, pain killers or any one of the other 17 trillion companies selling health related products this is an incredibly rich source of potential customers who are ready to buy.

But why would people give you this data? Well, a brilliant and free service that’s why. Use any of the apps mentioned above and you will love them. The level of convenience in having a doctor appear basically on demand and sort you out there and then is mind-blowing. Compared to the frustrations of trying to book an appointment with a primary care doctor or GP it’s a revolution. It’s a bit like using Uber for the first time – you literally see how the world has just changed. However, there’s a barrier to mass adoption of these services and that’s the cost. It’s not high considering what you get (between £15-125 depending on the service and the provider). However, it’s competing with 100% free and that’s tough to do.

What if… one of these apps provides their service for free? Meaning you can access a doctor almost anytime via your phone, tablet or computer. That doctor appointment is just like seeing any other doctor in that they can prescribe medicines, refer you, provide advice etc. Are you going to go back to phoning your local doctors to try to book an appointment for two weeks’ time, drive there, wait for an hour with a bunch of sick people, then after all that, you’re told to see if it’s still there in two weeks and come back! I think not – the world doesn’t work like that anymore (well most of it). In this new world of convenience when you use the app you see adverts targeted to you.

If this happens, and keep in mind the level of upfront investment needed would be huge to get to a scale where the ads started paying the bills, then the impact is totally transformative. It will save the NHS and other health systems billions, and billions, and billions. This is because the cost of primary care doctors (GPs in the UK) will be paid for by advertisers and not tax or insurance payers. The whole model of healthcare could be reinvented from the ground up. A better service that’s a lot cheaper for everyone who uses it paid for by advertisers. Additionally, and as a slight aside, all that data also has lifesaving potential. Where there is big data there is big potential for learning. In theory you could use the data along with a very smart algorithm to instantly analyse the effectiveness of treatments in the real world, find people at high risk of disease and all sorts of other interesting things. There’s no reason this can’t be done now. However, if you’re a company focussed on data capture the chances are your data is simpler to work with.

Is everyone going to like the idea of paying for care using advertising – absolutely not. Doctors are almost certainly going to hate it, anyone working in the NHS is going to hate it, lots of other people are going to get very concerned about their data or the about ‘selling the NHS to advertisers’, and people will object to advertising being connected to healthcare full stop. And all that is totally reasonable. However, almost everyone uses Facebook, sharing almost everything you could want to know, and a lot you don’t. Facebook’s value is built on selling that data to advertisers and while people don’t like it they don’t leave Facebook! So it’s possible that despite all the reservations if the service is better and cost is much lower (in terms of taxes or insurance) then the world will come around to advertising as a way to fund health. Probably!

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