Communications Lessons from the Empowered Healthcare Consumer

Healthcare spending has comprised a very large and growing portion of the U.S. economy for decades, and healthcare policy is a constant in the national media dialogue. At the same time, even with those two fundamentals remaining largely unchanged, there is a massive shift taking place where consumers, driven by Millennials and GenZ (and GenZennials), have taken ownership of their personal wellness in an unprecedented way. Traditional healthcare providers, and newer alternative wellness companies, are succeeding in the marketplace by taking notice and connecting with young consumers who increasingly view their “health” equal to their “wealth.” Therefore, coining a new train of thought: “Well-thy.”

Access to “traditional” medicine has changed dramatically in just the past decade. Online patient portals, with viewable medical records and test results, physician messaging, and other features have become the norm. These advancements in convenience, along with virtual and video doctor or nurse visits, have broken down the walls that previously housed information and access on the provider side rather than with patients. Younger generations have come of age in terms of managing their own healthcare during this time, contributing to the demographics’ expectations of convenience and empowerment. Brands must position themselves and be perceived on these terms, or risk missing out on a tremendous shift and opportunity.

While a handful of self-empowerment-oriented wellness companies have been on the scene and trailblazing for decades, opportunities outside of traditional medicine have seen new industries enter the marketplace to an enthusiastic embrace by the consumer. Promoting alternative wellness as part of everyday life, these companies have re-calibrated what an ordinary day-to-day looks like. For many, personal fitness monitors, supplements and aromatherapy are equally, if not more important, than seeing a doctor when they’re sick or for regular check-ups. Alternative wellness companies all have one thing in common – a sense of community with an emphasis on individual empowerment and betterment.

What communications lessons can your brand learn from companies that are succeeding and growing their business within this paradigm shift?      

Brands must take intentional steps to build meaningful connections, and make their products more accessible, to younger generations. Have you noticed that large insurance companies and hospital systems are emphasizing personal attention and a focus on overall wellness in their campaigns? This is truly a significant shift from how medicine was perceived only a generation ago. All entities in the health and wellness space would do well to think about how approachable their brand is, and what they are doing to engage with consumers on a personal level.

As an extension, consider who the face of your company (and its products) is. Make sure that brand ambassadors convey loyalty and authenticity to your target audience. Part of that authenticity means allowing consumers to experience the brand – some companies have empowered their customers to create unique, personalized versions of products, or told personal stories about how trusted intermediaries are benefiting – specifically – from a product. Oftentimes, these become newsworthy experiences that further reinforce a brand’s reputation.

There is every indication that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. As technology continues to give consumers unprecedented access to information about themselves, and the world around them, a health and wellness approach centered around meaningful and personal connections with consumers will continue to be a very large and talked-about part of the economy and our lives.