The digital transformation of information flow and user experience within the healthcare ecosystem has now evolved beyond the basics, and is now widely regarded as the single largest driver of positive impact to overall population health.

Providers now recognize the business impact of digital transformation, doubling down and investing in the technologies and strategies that measurably improve the patient journey, that remove friction from provider-patient interaction, and curate a personalized, one-to-one digital experience.

Here are the four of the top ten healthcare marketing trends and insights that are driving this population health change in 2018.

1. Digital Health Intervention (proactive population health)

Now well established and ubiquitous across consumer demographics, wearable technology is at the forefront of digital healthcare transformation, these population health assets are at the heart of proactive population health change. From watches to cell phones, these devices monitor and report everything from medication to sleep patterns, daily activity and more.

The objective of these digital health interventions is to proactively improve population health at a micro-level, empowering people to take control of their own well-being.

The venture arms of major insurers have made significant investments in this arena. However, since this is also a fairly broad category, it should be noted that the results of the studies related to digital interventions tend to be somewhat inflated.

While potential has been proven in this area, we really don’t know yet whether these platforms are as powerful as people want them to be in terms of improving patient behavior. We often remind marketers and digital health thought leaders, it’s important to stay at the forefront of conversations surrounding innovation in health care, though we believe technology will enhance, not replace human interaction. Digital can help streamline processes or improve patient engagement, but should not aim to remove human interaction altogether.

2. Patient Portals Resurgence

Patients’ portals aren’t new, but the rapidly growing lists of expectations of their capabilities are. We’re seeing a revamp of portals as healthcare organizations are looking for ways to increase care outside of the traditional settings. The population health impact is derived from greater levels of patient engagement, comfort and access to accurate, timely information catching symptoms early enough to find a solution. We’re creating more sophisticated, user-friendly portals, particularly as more consumer-oriented tech companies enter the market and these groups require specialized design services on the front-end to support the back-end applications.

Patients are now conditioned to expect a user-friendly experience that matches their other digital experiences. We hope to see more organizations take on a patient-centered approach to improve features, usability, and design to increase satisfaction and have a positive impact on population health.

Over time, your healthcare portal should give your patients more control over their care and well-being and become the foundation for communications between the patient and provider.

3. Voice Technology

“Alexa, my stomach hurts”. There are now millions of voice-enabled consumer facing devices in the US, with that number expected to grow exponentially over the next 12 months.

The proliferation and use of voice-enabled devices will make this year the year voice goes from being a curiosity to something healthcare marketers need to roadmap, budget for, and implement as the potential for positive impact on population health is immense.

With the rise of voice activated assistants, comes the rise of the voice powered search. Starting from virtually 0% of searches a few years ago, ComScore predicts that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice searches.

The rise of voice search on personal digital assistants like Siri and Alexa has added a whole new dimension to search engines and correspondingly, the need for a change in marketing assets and strategy to align with it.

These increases in longer phrase, spoken queries, and the ability to process natural language, mean that patients no longer have to search with simple keywords. Instead they can ask search engines questions the same way they would their doctor.

We believe healthcare companies will soon begin to implement strategies and visual interfaces that align with voice-based search and result experiences for continuity in a patient’s brand experience as it requires continuous testing and iteration.

4. Designed Social Engagement

Social media and what we term designed social engagement spans across every consumer segment and every aspect of the patient relationship.

Today, with more than 50% of social activity on a mobile device, according to Business Insider, Healthcare companies are creating their own social communities to connect, collaborate and communicate with patients. Patients are interacting with their network of providers, insurers are communicating and settling claims with their members, and population health management programs are deploying social apps for measuring, monitoring and tracking conditions. Inspiration is coming from healthy reward programs, community competitions, and gamification. Patient-to-patient dialogue has never been greater through crowd sourced social health networks such as PatientsLikeMeThe Mighty and CureTogether.

For healthcare marketers designed social engagement is a critical tool to extend reach and enhance engagement. Done well it boosts awareness, generates new patient leads, and builds more intimate, connected customer relationships.Healthcare marketers have seen sweeping changes over the last few years. Gone are days where ‘product, price, place, and promotion’ is the ultimate marketing framework. As healthcare marketers face full-blown marketplace transformation, there’s a new priority: the need for marketing to have a power seat at the c-suite business strategy table to impact population health and profits. Why? 72% of CEOs believe the next three years will be more critical to our industry than the last 50 years—and the question is how many are ready? To answer this, our clients turn to our team of expert advisors at NDP.