Digital health’s potential remains shackled: How can we tackle outdated prejudices through the media?

by | Mar 31, 2022 | Public Relations

According to the first official data for 2022, NHS waiting lists have hit a new high. The number of patients waiting for non-urgent operations in England has now risen to more than 6.1 million, and health bosses are warning that winter hospital pressures risk becoming “whole year challenges”. A staggering 300,000 patients have consequently been waiting more than a year for care, and the NHS is currently performing at its worst-ever level against its cancer waiting list targets. This is prompting concerns regarding delays in diagnosis and treatment.

To starve off increasingly widespread criticism, healthcare leaders need to make the most of every possible efficiency and prevent the crisis reaching the point of no return. Put simply, clinicians and GPs should be empowered to work smarter, not harder. For this, widespread digital adoption is key.

The narrative on digital services during the pandemic is well known, and the potential technology holds to save lives, reduce clinical pressures and ease waiting lists is well covered in the media. Offering the opportunity to reinvent virtual and hybrid care models, the digital sector is already having a huge impact on access, outcome, and affordability. It is no surprise then, that the global health tech industry has seen a 280 percent increase compared to 2016.

Yet with change, there often comes uncertainty, and there are many within the sector that remain resistant to digital health

Concerns on data breaches, patient exclusion, and clinical uncertainty remain widespread, with less than half of consumers currently believing that health tech has a positive impact on patient outcomes.

These outdated perceptions of digital health must be tackled if we are to fully unshackle the industry’s potential. All of this starts with a well-defined communications strategy. From disease awareness campaigns to charity partnerships, positive corporate news thought leadership, and business profiling, there are a wealth of ethical and transparent ways to develop more positive relationships with stakeholders.

From providing traction for investors to enhancing reputations, driving sales, and engaging with patients, a clear communications strategy can allow health tech firms to navigate complex post-pandemic waters, better communicate their offering, and stand out from competitors. Effective media engagement will also allow firms to better define their fundamental beliefs and reasons for being. This is something that businesses are judged on more than ever before, with accountability on patient wellbeing and environmental and social governance now a priority issue.

With patient waiting lists hitting record levels, the time has come to shift the dial on healthcare pressures

The NHS is facing an unprecedented set of challenges post-pandemic, and health tech firms must work harder to break down barriers and communicate the benefits of digital offerings. In a world where patient choice is more important than ever, such a strategy will not only empower people to take control of their own health but embolden one of the greatest healthcare systems in existence, help firms thrive in an increasingly global world and ensure we are ready for present and future health challenges.

Laura Salvage
Laura Salvage is Senior Director, Strategy, at Penta.