Communicating in an NHS crisis: tips for health tech suppliers in 2023 (Guest blog by Highland Marketing)
Three things will impact digital health communications in the coming year: the crisis in the NHS, changes in IT policy and leadership, and a mutating media landscape. Highland Marketing co-founders Mark and Susan Venables consider how companies can respond.
It’s easy to pick out the trends that will impact on health tech and communications over the next 12 months, because we are already living them. For example, it is hardly a prediction to say the NHS will be under enormous pressure in 2023.
It’s impossible to turn on the radio or open a webpage without reading about ambulance queues, chaos in A&E, strikes, growing waiting lists and deteriorating finances. Unless there’s another change of government, or a big switch in policy, there’s no reason to think these trends will be reversed.
Communicating in a crisis
This backdrop of unprecedented stress has implications for health tech suppliers. The feedback we get from NHS IT leaders is that they want honest and straightforward communications that show they understand what they are up against and laser in on a problem or problems they can resolve.
So, we would re-emphasise the advice that we’ve always given, which is that to succeed in digital health you need to be clear about your approach and how it stands-out from the rest. Plus, you need to be able to back-up what you are saying, by getting your customers to endorse you, or running data collection projects that prove the business case.
Responding to a changing NHS
Another easy prediction is that there will be further changes to the structure of the NHS and its IT leadership. NHS England will complete its merger with NHS Digital and push ahead with the Frontline Digitisation programme.
Trusts are being encouraged to form provider groups, while integrated care boards are being encouraged to rationalise to save costs. Churn makes it harder for health tech companies to work out who to talk to, where they sit in the decision tree, and whether they have the budget authority to progress an idea.
Also, at a very practical level, it means that NHS IT leaders are just incredibly busy and looking to get information from a few, key publications or events. We expect to be supporting fewer conferences and expos this year, and to be running a lot more webinars that people can attend from their desks.
Reacting to a changing media
A third trend is change in the media landscape. Print been declining for years, but now websites are under pressure and looking for new ways to fund themselves and acquire content that doesn’t require editorial input. Increasingly, we are advising clients to put aside a budget for paid content, and to think about how to make sure it is still.
At the same time, we are seeing clients take control of their own communications and asking us for advice on how to create content (in written, audio or video format) that can be promoted on social media and linked back to a well-crafted website or campaign micro-site.
What does that all mean for health tech and communications in 2023? Well, our top tips would be:
- Keep on top of the latest changes to the finance, policy and structure of the NHS – and track influencers, customers and opportunities.
- Recognise that the NHS has never been under more pressure – and adjust your marketing and communications accordingly.
- Be clear about the problems your technology can address, how it addresses them, and how you stand out from the competition – and find the customers and data to prove it.
- Think creatively about getting your message out – what is the role of paid content, self-published content, and social media?
- Find the right help and support – look for an agency that can help you say the right things, to the right people, at the right time, first time.