By Holly Sutton on 14 February 2019
REVEALED: The words healthtech leaders believe will win NHS hearts in 2019
Leading digital health entrepreneurs believe we should turn our back on old-hat words such as ‘e-health’ and ‘patients’, and instead talk about ‘trust’, ‘personalisation’ and ‘care’ to woo NHS commissioners and policy makers in 2019.
One of the best ways to crack into a brand and its owners’ collective psyches is a short exercise that we do at the start of our communications messaging workshops to draw out the words they love and hate when describing what they do.
Our Valentine’s gift to the UK healthtech community this year is an analysis of this section of our workshops from March 2018 – February 2019 across the 15 health and healthtech brands we’ve worked with to find the top five words they love. And those they love to hate.
Topping the list of the words our brands loved in 2018 /19 is ‘evidence-based’, and the word they collectively hate the most: ‘e-health’.
As many of the brands we support are using digital technology to replace pharmacological therapeutics, it’s no surprise that these companies are keenest of all to highlight their serious scientific credentials to the market.
But what’s so heinous about the term ‘e-health’ that had almost all our brands reaching for the Post-Its and markers to cast it into Room 101? The term is most likely just becoming old hat. As almost all healthcare is now technology-enabled, the term is becoming as obsolete as the bulky devices synonymous with the term telehealth that preceded it.
In fact, almost all the terms on everyone’s hate list fell into three buckets: tech / user / unscientific alternative treatments. ‘App’ and ‘AI’ are terms that lots of the brands we work with avoid out of a fear that they can make products or services seem either too trivial or too impersonal.
Healthcare brands in 2019 love words that would not seem out of place on a Valentine’s Day card. ‘Trust’, ‘care’ and ‘help’ came up time and time again. They signify a commitment to a personal relationship that the brands wish to have with the people they’re supporting to achieve better health.
It’s clear that how to describe people receiving healthcare in an age where the focus has shifted towards ‘empowering’ people to take control of their own health is a key challenge for digital health brands. Brands we worked with on this loved and hated the term ‘patient’ in equal measure either positively for its clarity and purpose, or negatively because of its passive, ‘done-to’ tone. Choosing a word to refer to this audience group is specific to every brand. Whether a brand addresses a ‘customer’, ‘patient’ or ‘user’ reveals much about the type of relationship it wishes to strike with this core audience, so it needs to be chosen carefully and kept consistent.
What is clear from our quick analysis is that choosing a lexicon that breaks down barriers, while also building credibility, trust and empathy, is at the heart of the messaging challenge in the healthcare and healthtech sectors. Or is it all just ‘healthcare’ now?
- Users / patients / end-users
- Natural / holistic
Brands and their products (in brackets) included in this annual analysis include: Big Health (Sleepio); XenZone (Minds for Life / Kooth / Qwell); Health Innovation Network (ESCAPE PAIN programme); medDigital (medCrowd); DigitalHealth.London, Dr Julian, Smoke Free, Health and Care Videos, Hospify, I GP, Surgiq, Spirit Healthcare, Healum, Trayned Insight, Health Navigator.