September 04, 2018
You would think most groundbreaking medical discoveries would happen within the industry. But with software development’s increasingly crucial role in the medical field, doctors, scientists, and researchers aren’t the only ones curing diseases. Technology and marketing experts are joining the fight to improve healthcare, proving they may be the key to unlocking medicine’s future and redefining how patients interact with their physicians.
Before we dive into how marketing technology is rewriting what's possible in healthcare, let's dig into how software is leading the charge to eradicate disease and improve lives. Several companies are applying their technical backgrounds to biomedical research, achieving unprecedented levels of innovation. Biotechnology company Illumina vastly reduced the cost of sequencing a human genome, benefiting pharmaceutical companies, universities, and a variety of research centers. Grail, Illumina’s spinoff company, uses these improvements to carry out blood testing for cancerous tumors.
It’s not just private companies using software design for an altruistic cause. Two researchers from UC Santa Cruz’s Jack Baskin School of Engineering finished the Human Genome Project before Celera Genomics, a private firm planning to patent hundreds of genes upon completion. UC Santa Cruz, like MIT and Princeton, doesn’t have a medical school. Yet when two of its core researchers completed this project, they not only achieved the same result as a company specializing in genomic research — they did so in a way that better served the public good by publishing their working draft to the internet, free for anyone to use, forever.
This "greater good" mentality isn't confined to medical breakthroughs. Healthcare marketers continue to seek digital ways to promote public health more efficiently and effectively, not to mention improve the customer journey. Knowledge is power, after all, and healthcare organizations are making a concerted effort to get this power to the people in new ways — from user-friendlier patient portals that contain a wealth of important data to compelling content that educates and inspires healthy living.
And none too soon. A CDW Healthcare survey found that fewer than 30 percent of patients score their healthcare providers' technology with an “A” grade, and nearly 90 percent cited negative experiences trying to access their health portals. Patients are demanding a more user-friendly experience.
Technology’s potential in the medical field isn’t just a supplement to existing projects. Software developers, in particular, are applying their expertise to a wide array of medical discoveries and are on the verge of epic breakthroughs.
CRISPR, for instance, may just be the landmark of the century. When used to its full capacity, CRISPR will allow individuals to make complex genetic modifications that have historically been impossible. This new process fine-tunes one of the body’s normal cycles involving DNA. Naturally, bacteria removes DNA threads carrying viruses, but with CRISPR, researchers can cut any threads they choose. CRISPR, then, could treat a variety of disorders and diseases and could pave the way for even more complex developments.
Technology also must adapt to how people use it. Voice searches, for instance, currently make up about 20 percent of all internet searches. By 2020, MD Connect predicts, there will be 200 billion voice searches per month. How many of those will be healthcare-related? Digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant will need to continue to sharpen their capabilities and learn from customer trends.
It's an exciting time, for sure.
- Healthcare’s Riveting Future
From UC Santa Cruz’s Human Genome Browser to the development of CRISPR, these recent breakthroughs are only the beginning. Software development has the ability to redesign healthcare as we know it and enhance several facets of the industry. Within the next decade, cutting-edge approaches to treatment could elevate options for patients to tremendous heights, and more personalized marketing efforts will transform the way patients make these important decisions.
- More Precise Therapies
Cancer treatment, as an example, has come a long way over the years, but eradicating cancer cells is still very much a generic process. With the help of the right software experts, however, researchers can better target the specific characteristics of these cells. By pinpointing these traits, such as proteins that cause cancerous cell growth, new treatment options can more effectively treat a variety of patients.
Instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all treatment method and hoping it works, medical professionals can be more confident that their patients are undergoing the best treatment possible. This mirrors the hyperpersonalization that's occuring within healthcare marketing (and the marketing industry as a whole). Rather than blanket solutions, healthcare organizations are actively seeking out one-on-one discussions in real time via engaged social media interactions and chatbots, which are becoming more intuitive and effective by the day.
One such healthcare chatbot service, Your.MD, makes use of algorithms based on “validated medical literature covering over 1,000 medical conditions” to educate itself on common symptoms so it can suggest treatment recommendations to online patients. Users simply type their symptoms into the chat, and a virtual assistant can help identify a patient’s potential condition based on a series of prompts. Your.MD is accessible through a half-dozen platforms, including Facebook Messenger and Skype.
No two patients are alike, so unique treatment plans and tailored messaging must become mandatory. Everyone expects — and deserves — marketing and treatment plans specific to their needs. What's exciting is that we've entered a time when this is actually possible.
- Next-Generation Vaccines
Similar to cancer treatment’s evolution, vaccines have made vast strides in the past few decades. That said, it still takes a great deal of time and money to develop vaccines for new diseases, making the right defense against them all the more necessary. When diseases become more complex, the tech used to treat them has to evolve with it. Thankfully, designers are working to win that race and create vaccines for emerging diseases before they do any widespread damage.
Marketers can sympathize with this rapid trial-and-error approach. Finding the right formula is a painstaking process that requires innovation and resolve. Thankfully, the brightest minds in tech and marketing are working hand-in-hand to engineer the best possible outcomes.
High-grade vaccines mean nothing, for example, if they aren’t distributed to those who need it. That’s why innovators are also trying to make them more accessible. By freezing vaccines and shipping them to underdeveloped areas, researchers are helping ensure vaccinations aren’t limited to a select few.
On the marketing side, communicating the importance of vaccination to uneducated groups is a vital exercise, as is locating pockets of the population that might miss the message. Social media and the creation of compelling content across multiple channels — particularly video — will be paramount in these efforts. According to Cisco, video traffic will be 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021, up from 73 percent in 2016.
Between upgrades to vaccines, better communication with patients, more effective cancer therapies, easier access to portals, and in-depth genetic enhancements, technological and marketing advancements are the bedrock of healthcare’s future. Experts are overhauling the traditional approaches to disease prevention and are expanding upon decades of previous work. The medical field has laid the groundwork for effective treatment. Now it’s time to maximize its benefits — for both the methods and the message.