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Telling Effective Stories About Healthcare Tech

New technologies are transforming operations in all industries, including healthcare. But we tend not to hear very much about it from healthcare brands. Melissa Baratta, Senior VP and healthcare practice lead at marketing, social media, and PR firm Affect spoke with DMN tech about innovations in that space and why they should be featured in marketing efforts.

The question is: What accounts for the hesitation to discuss emerging tech applications in healthcare? Barratta believes organizations may be concerned about how to make it fit with their brand image, and with fears that automation will displace human doctors. She referred to a journal article that suggested that radiologists and pathologist will be out of a job in the next five years when AI takes over. “A lot of media picked up on that,” and that may have made some wary of appearing “to promote tech that would eliminate jobs or raise concerns about trust.”

However, Baratta believes that these concerns should not hold brands back from investing in tech and using it for better patient outcomes. The way to go about it is to  “create educational stories, with perspective, that acknowledge challenges” while exploring how the tech “will help patients and help doctors” That includes applying AI to getting a handle on “data overload” and “more effectively mine data,” so that doctors are making better informed decisions for their patients.

The advantage for the brands that discuss their uses of emerging technologies now, she said, is that they “position themselves as thought leaders and innovaters.” It’s an advantage “to talk about it when people are trying to understand what it means” and trying to grasp how it is can be used. That’s why “now is the time to have a voice for thought leadership.”

Another reason to speak up about it now is that this is the time when patients are looking for an improved way of interacting with healthcare providers.  Barratta points out that, thanks to the internet, people are “used to having tons of information at their fingertips.” They now “want to engage with health providers the same way they do” with their other service providers. That means they “want communication” and assurance that their health decisions “are being made on the basis of as much as data as possible.”

Baratta offered two examples of major healthcare providers applying and communicating about their use of emerging technologies: NY Presbyterian  and Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals.

The New York institution, Baratta notes, “is a leader in emerging technology in healthcare,” and that goes both for “implementing it” and effectively “communicating about it.” One indication of their commitment to technological advancement is their recent hire of a chief transformation officer.  As telemedicine is one of the areas transforming medicine, last fall the hospital announced app-based virtual visits. They also broadcast their updates and their “collaborations with their telemedicine provider American Well and Samsung.”

On the research side, researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell are studying how AI can help scientists predict what combinations of existing drugs may work in different types of cancer, which is considered one of the most important potential uses for AI and machine learning in healthcare/pharma.

To keep the public in the loop about the innovative advances at the hospital, a few months ago the CIO gave an interview about the importance of telehealth, AI and machine learning, and what he does. In July their COO did an interview on what the hospital of the future looks like. They also talk about tech quite a bit on social – including using VR for trauma victims and burn patientstelehealth, and on-demand pediatric care.

Over in Pennsylvania, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, its CEO, Stephen Klasko has publicly talked about a number of initiatives – such as how the hospital is establishing the “first certificate program at a national academic center for telehealth.”  He also raised the central challenge question: “What are the disruptive things that happen in every other part of my life that don’t yet happen in healthcare?” 

Baratta observed,that question “pretty much sums up how they approach emerging tech in the hospital, as well as how they communicate about it.”

But with leaders committed to innovation that is changing on both counts. At Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals that has translated into incorporating AI into patient care. Last month, they announced a collaboration with Harmon and IBM Watson to roll out AI-enabled secure smart speakers (similar to Echo or Alexa) to respond to patient requests for things like controlling blinds and thermostats, playing sounds, etc. to free up medical staff for more important tasks.

The hospital also recently conducted a study on how AI may help identify and diagnose TB in patients in remote areas, who don’t have easy access to radiologists. The authors of the study run an entire AI & Deep Learning Laboratory within the Radiology Department in the University, with a “special interest in artificial intelligence for building applications that can facilitate medical image interpretation.” This speaks to the hospital’s excitement for and commitment to leveraging technology to support researchers and clinicians in their roles – which ultimately helps improves outcomes for patients.

Baratta stresses, however, that even organizations that aren’t applying emerging technology in a big way can find their own stories to tell.  Some of these are smaller but still interesting uses, say a hospital that has “a really cool data mining program,” or one that has installed “a robot receptionist.”

Brands could focus on challenges they confront or how they’re working on their recommendations for improving the patient experience. Even when they are not applying tech themselves, they can offer their “perspectives on where industry is headed,” based on what they’ve seen, she suggested.

For example, she said, “Face time consultations can make a telehealth story.” It’s also possible to build a story about “an online portal” that offers a doctor’s “perspective on better patient engagement and making patients’ life easier.” In that way It becomes “a natural part of their brand story.”

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