June 2014 marked the inaugural Lions Health Awards in Cannes, France, billed as a “Festival for Creativity” in healthcare communications. The two-day event took place immediately prior to the weeklong Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and promises to be for healthcare advertising what Cannes Lions is to general advertising.
Seminars that activate and cultivate restless minds
I stayed on after Lions Health to attend some of the Cannes Lions seminars. It was an awe-inspiring week and a half,with plenty of interesting learning as well as opportunities to hack what’s going on in other verticals and industries. The one event that most got me thinking and has kept me thinking since was the seminar with Google’s former chief business officer Nikesh Arora, titled “A Healthy Disregard for the Impossible.”
The seminar was incredible more from a macro perspective of “vision” than a micro perspective of “the what.” We got insight into the way one of the most innovative companies of our time thinks and works. Google applies what they call “First Principle” to everything they create. First Principle means that projects are approached from the ground up, without restrictions. The end vision is “aspire to serve the world with universal technology and platforms.” And as lofty as it sounds, it’s the reality at Google. They fulfill this mission every day with the products they create, and with the thinking behind them.
As Nikesh talked about the gap that was missing in glucose monitoring for diabetic patients, the experience of creating self-driving cars, and traditional teaching vs. teaching through technology, he showcased how shifts in the way we think about these issues could make a difference. This got me thinking about the health and wellness industry. What could a singular end vision mean to our vertical, and how do we hack the notion of “First Principle” to make a meaningful difference for patients and doctors?
Aspire to serve the healthcare world
Uniting around a single vision in health and wellness communications can be daunting because healthcare problems are incredibly diverse. Do we create micro products that serve the individual or do we create macro products that aspire to serve the masses? In a way, Google is doing both with its Project Iris: vision contact lenses with built-in sensors to monitor glucose levels. How do we extend the principle of creating from the ground up to other healthcare issues? When we can create products that fill gaps in people’s lives, the positive impact on humanity and health will be huge. That’s how Google is thinking and creating. What can we as industry leaders learn from this, and apply to our thinking?
Aspire to be social with health
If I were to imagine an idea where the macro and micro converged and leveraged the First Principle approach, I’d go straight to the social space. Big and small pharmaceutical companies are missing out on massive opportunities to use the very technologies and social applications that are already part of people’s daily lives. They are stuck being uncomfortable with the lack of control in social media, missing the fact that because people have voices, they’ll be heard regardless of whether a brand or a company is the conduit. So why not accept this and be the enabler of transparent conversations around health?
Aspire to ignite a cause worth fighting for
There is massive opportunity for social media to change health outcomes. However, we as an industry are so afraid of the lack of control that we aren’t using the very medium that the whole healthcare community is already actively engaged in. Why wouldn’t we simply acknowledge we live in a social world, and accept that? If patients are going to talk about your brand or a condition anyway, wouldn’t you want to be the one to sponsor the place for them to have the conversation? Social media is the “must” for healthcare to hack.
It’s essential because it’s at the epicenter of where all kinds of health- and wellness-related news is happening, every second of every hour. Social can build awareness, help advise people, convince them to speak to their doctors, and transform how they behave. Take a look at what the “Cancer Tweets” campaign did to raise awareness for cancer. This Twitter-based campaign for the League Against Cancer galvanized people all around the world, viscerally reminding them that they are at risk for cancer, and driving awareness of the importance of screening. That’s just one example of how social media could both advise cancer communities of how to take care of themselves and transform the way that patients behave.
Activate patients and serve the greater good
Remember that even people who are living with a debilitating disease and stuck at home may very well be connected in a big way via the Internet and their mobile devices. And these devices are their windows into what’s going on in the health world, in their personal health life, and with their peers. When you next aspire to serve the healthcare world think micro but create macro. Patients are desperately seeking community and need new ways to listen and be heard, and there’s definitely a social application for that. An app that will aspire to ignite the voices of sufferers of disease, activate physicians to treat differently by recognizing unmet needs, and, at the end of the day, change behavior to help drive the greater health good.