TIm Bird
Tim Bird

As the new decade dawns, I joined my colleagues at M Booth Health in forecasting anticipated changes in health communications and suggesting opportunities ahead for improving health in partnership with our clients.

Providers and payers will do more to tackle societal and structural problems as good health care and good business. Social services will become cost-effective health interventions, delivering on the promise of value-based care.

Expect to see health care systems deploy “food pharmacies” stocked with healthy foods in zip codes identified as food insecure, and insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield continue to invest in affordable housing. —Karen O’Malley, managing director, public affairs

Health brands and products will prioritize building trust and loyalty with Gen X – the original ‘do the right thing’ generation. Health brands will ramp up evidence-based messaging and radical transparency to engage a generation famous for questioning big business and shouldering the health burden of multi-generational caregiving.

Expect to see health brands launch “straight talk” docu-series to build loyalty with 40-somethings. —Julia Jackson, managing director, marketing communications

Advocacy groups will change their communications strategy for achieving political traction. Groups advancing areas like sexual and reproductive rights will align their campaigns with other critical, high-profile issues.

Expect to see sexual and reproductive health advocates put women, girls and access to health care at the center of debates around climate change, global migration and the economy. —Leila Darabi, senior vice president, head of social impact

The cost of innovation will stop serving as justification for steep drug pricing. Pharmaceutical companies will underscore the real-world benefits of their medicines.

Expect to see drug developers introduce new models to measure the impact of transformative medicines on patients, communities and economies. —Lisa Johnson, senior vice president

We are on the cusp of a radical transformation in digital healthcare. Like FitBit on steroids, wearable and ever-present sensing technologies will give health communicators real-time tools to achieve deeper engagement and lasting behavior change.

Expect to see more pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and health systems using technologies like Google Assistant to remind patients to see their doctor, take their medicines, and make healthy lifestyle choices. —Dan Burgess, director

The human genome will become a policy battleground. Companies and researchers developing gene-based therapies will face pushback from advocates concerned about the widespread use of tools that alter DNA.

Expect to see ethics and community engagement at the heart of communications strategies for big biotech companies and non-profit research institutions. —Andrew Shih, executive vice president

The 2020s will be the prevention decade. Prevention programs will be tailored to address geographic, community-level, and individual variation in disease risk.

Expect to see geotargeted STD testing campaigns informed by Google search trends, and GPS-enabled mobile tracking systems used to measure pollutants at the individual level. —Mignon Lamia, vice president

Healthcare delivery will become more decentralized and less tied to office-based PCPs. Patient demand for more convenient, one-stop healthcare services will propel innovative on- and off-line delivery platforms.

Expect to see more partnerships between pharma and diagnostic companies and patient-facing providers like CVS and telemedicine pioneers like Teladoc. —Tom Rovine, senior vice president

Branded health communicators will institute more nimble approval policies so content across social channels is timely, relevant and compliant. Pharmaceutical brands will be on the hunt for social media stewards who meet Gen Z expectations for conversational, real-time information.

Expect pharmaceutical companies to diversify storytelling to include even more podcasts, videos, and Instagram features including Stories, IGTV or LIVE. —Caroline Abushakra, senior associate

Government agencies will seek more genuine two-way partnerships with community groups to improve public health. Beyond donor-recipient relationships, these alliances will look for on-the-ground guidance in how to address the opioid and type 2 diabetes epidemics, among other public health issues.

Expect more community-level input in public health decision-making, including initiatives to reduce the number of new HIV infections in high-incidence areas around the country. —Cub Barrett, senior vice president

Health brands will target smaller, more focused audiences to boost communications value. Niche audiences will be a priority, with in-person conversations gaining importance.

Expect fewer, large-scale, wide-reaching campaigns and more personalized, segmented outreach. —Lindsay Paul, vice president

Diversifying the healthcare communications workforce will take precedence. Diversity and inclusion within communications teams will be critical in reaching and influencing multicultural audiences to embrace health information.

Expect healthcare organizations to reimagine how talent is recruited in a quest to create communications teams that look more like America – and the rest of the planet. —Tim Bird, CEO