What next?


Part 1 of 3 from my 2016 MayoInOZ talk 

Let's take a look into the crystal ball and see what the next digital disruption is for the healthcare industry.

I have always wanted to be a fortune teller, the very idea awakens my gypsy soul - so join me on a journey using the past to understand the future, following the words of a very wise man.

The further backward you can look, the further forward you can see.

Thank you Winston Churchill.

But before we start, I think it is important to define 'future' in this context. I am not talking about the distant future, but the future that is happening 'right now', or what Bhargava defines as 'the accelerating present'. I want to look backwards to understand what is just around the corner. I want to look at the digital disruptions that are starting to happen in health, the ones that will gain momentum in the short term.

If it was a maths equation, it might look something like this:

So let's start at the first half of the equation and remind ourselves, for a moment, where we have come from.

Twenty years ago, companies started building websites to communicate, sell and influence. Web became a trend, you had to have one. And today, almost everyone does - although in a very different format to what it was back then. According to internetlivestats.com there are more than 1 billion websites today. The relevance of website to the health industry in Australia is unquestionable with 20 million internet users in Australia and, according to healthdirect, 80% of Australians seek health information online.

Then a decade or so later came Social - MySpace, Facebook and Twitter - and we all know the momentum this trend has gained for both individuals and for businesses. Well not so much for MySpace, but definitely for the others. Businesses adopted social and started advertising in this space, creating pages. For good reason. Statistics from smartinsights.com indicate that there are 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide (as of April 2016). That is huge. It is big business.

Not long after businesses embraced Social, suddenly everyone had to have an app. The app store is now as common place as the milk bar was in our lives over 40 years ago - but without 4.2 million varieties of mixed lollies to choose from (imagine that). Yes, figures from statista.com show 2 million apps are available through the Apple Store and 2.2 million available for Android. 

When I worked at Epworth, we launched our first maternity app, the first hospital in Australia to do so. Subsequently, I received lots of requests for apps. My favourite was from the urologist who wanted us to develop an app for people to record how much they pee. That was the point I realised you could have an app for anything you wanted. And just incase you are curious - there is an app for recording your toilet business (not developed by that urologist and only available on Android, with a few glitches according to the reviews). Look it up, it is one of a kind and called Toilet Tracker. It tracks both number ones and twos!

As we are all acutely aware, the Social space has continued to grow. LinkedIn, which many of us scoffed at, took off. 'Who would want Facebook for work?' we asked, and now, who can live without it? I found an amazing marketing specialist to come work with me through LinkedIn. I loved that I simply threw in some key words and within seconds I had two great candidates from my inner circle of connections. Rang the connections for a reference and success. It was that easy. 

From there, the trend to unfold over the last few years has been business using Social platforms we enjoy in our personal lives - Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, to name a few. These platforms have all found a place in the commercial world (although I have to admit, I am still not over the fact that businesses are advertising on Instagram - ruining the joy of Instagram for me).

The growth in Social has not just been about different platforms, it has also been about new features and functionality - video, live streaming etc. And the way we use Social in business has really changed too. Not so long ago we would only post professional videos, or use a professional camera to take the images, or use stock imagery and painstakingly design the posts. But we now have to be more nimble, like we are at home, and I am so thrilled to see it happening.  In terms of Social, we need to 'nimbilise' our work practices. Yes, it's a made up word, but if they can get 'fabulise' into the Merriam Webster dictionary and 'glamping' in the Oxford Dictionary, surely they can handle 'nimbilise' - the act of making something more nimble.

How do you 'nimbilise'? By walking around your work place and capturing the moment on your phone and posting it with comments, just like you do on the weekend around your personal life. It is no different. See, Snap, Share. People responsibe for the social should be out in their organisation - seeing the good news stories and inspiring things as they happen. What does it look like for healthcare? You stop a doctor in the corridor and ask her some questions about a topical subject, film it and post it right there. You don't have to book an appointment to interview her with a film crew and spend days in the editing suite. Sometimes, it is as simple as having a basic idea to hold it together. Drop into the staff room, take a nice portrait on your phone, a group shot of theatre staff, nurses, admin and then share a little bit about them. Get out there and talk to people, find out about them, get them to give text you a photo from something interesting in their past - you will be surprised at the wonderful talents people have hidden. Celebrate them in a Throw Back Thursday. Build your story.

But I digress.

According to Wiki, there are over 200 Social Media sites, not including dating sites. Not an overly accurate number as there were some key platforms like WhatsApp missing from this - but my Google Search led me no where but here. So let's call it around 200. Of course, not all 200 will be appropriate for your business. And although 200 is not a high number, it is a huge number of people when you think about the fact that one of these platforms alone - Facebook, the leading platform - has over 1.7 billion users.

So, what next?

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I think the next trend to gain momentum, particularly in health, will be games. Perhaps it is because I have a 15 year old gamer, and it is in my face, but it just seems like the next logical step for health (and other industries). And it is starting to happen already.

Please note, I am not talking about online games for entertainment - that has been a growing trend for years. But just like Social was for a long time just for the individual and exactly as it is named - for social - this is predominantly where games are at - for the individual and in a social context. But all the signs are there, and it is starting to happen, games are becoming part of business like Social has. Gamification is happening.

I am not suggesting we will interact with games like we do at a base level with Social. It is not about online games becoming advertising platforms or building followers, or posting information out to followers for them to share. It is about creating games to change health behaviour and using games as part of the treatment.

It is about getting developers, gamers and clinicians in the same room to create games for health. But more in that in my next post: Get Your Game On.

(This post is part 1 of 3 posts sharing an expanded version of my talk at the 2nd International HealthCare and Social Media Summit, Mayo In Oz, in November 2016).