What health can learn from the media industry

The media industry has undergone an interesting revolution over the last 10 years or so. Where large media outlets were once information Kings thanks to their print and TV staples (or stables), citizen journalism has disrupted the industry with news breaking in 150 characters or less, or with videos broadcast to the world direct from people’s mobile phones. At the heart of this change are two fundamental issues – speed and trust.

The pace with which information is shared, accessed and responded to has accelerated at a phenomenal pace. Consumers are hungry for information and they want it as soon as possible, in a way that is quickly and easily digestible. Being first has become more important than being 100% accurate, with stories now breaking on Twitter to try and guarantee first place on the breaking news podium without having to wait for a journalist to type a comprehensive story, or the 6 o’clock news.

Whilst the need for speed has been disruptive in its own right, a shift in trust has also had a big impact on the media industry. Consumers aren’t just trusting one source for their information anymore, and those that they trust aren’t necessarily the traditional media outlets. In a recent study by Edelman it was shown that in 2015, search engines are now the most trusted source for general news and information, surpassing traditional media. The study identified that 72% of people trust information posted by friends and family on social media, blogs and other digital sites, whilst content from a company CEO is trusted by only 46%.

When you look at the key drivers of the media industry – consumer focussed, continual service requirements, not geographically bound – there are surprising parallels to the health sector. It therefore could be assumed that some of the disruption that has taken place in the media, could well transition to the health sector in the future; and in fact it may have begun already.

When consumers are used to being able to access information in most aspects of their life with a few taps of a keyboard, they will quickly grow impatient if they’re not able to access their health information just as quickly. Just as they won’t tolerate waiting for the 6pm news, they will look for creative ways to get the information they want if they’re not able to access it via traditional sources.

Similarly, trust shouldn’t just be assumed by traditional health organisations. Just as has been demonstrated in the media industry, trust can easily shift to platforms and applications with which consumers are more engaged and familiar. For the health industry, this means that unless trust can be maintained through patient-centric channels, health organisations run the risk of disconnecting from their patients which could have dire implications.

Instead of seeing this as a threat to the industry, health organisations need to learn from the media industry and view it as an opportunity to evolve with the changing tide. Just like the media outlets who saw a change coming and embraced citizen journalism and social content, health organisations who embrace these consumer changes will not only ensure their longevity and efficacy, but will improve patient engagement, satisfaction and outcomes.

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