by Michael O'Neill
May 27th, 2013

One of my very first digital media pitches was during my time as a communications manager at a mega-hospital in Australia.  We were attempting to engage the local community to support the construction of a new children’s hospital.

It went something like this:

Me: “What about we go digital? Maybe build a website with some videos of the kids?“

Hospital: “Nah”.

I was told medical and digital go together like two things that do not go together very well.  Social media? Too risky. Website? Too much information.  Mobile?  Why bother.

Yet given the growth of healthcare in the Asia Pacific region, the industry can’t afford to ignore digital media any longer. Medicine is an area where consumers are going to want to do a lot of research — often online — before they decide to buy. Considering this high demand for information, the online presence of the healthcare industry in Asia is shamefully inadequate.

With competition so poor, the online communications game can be won by simply having the most-findable website with the most relevant and well-presented information. Instead, what’s out there are hopelessly amateur websites, full of smiling stock photos, and little content of any value to patients. Even worse for the one-third of Asian consumers who look for information on their mobile phone — you might as well give up now, as there’s barely a mobile-friendly health website to be found.

With the push towards preventative health, you might expect that health promotion groups would have put together some innovative wellness apps. Yet when it comes to valuable online health tools, the market is completely dominated by consumer and fundraising brands.  Two of the most innovative fitness apps were not developed by a health promotion groups, but by a shoe companies –Nike’s Nike+ Running and Adidas’ miCoach. The most popular first-aid app was built not by an emergency ward, but by the American Red Cross.  The lucrative men’s health market is ripe for the taking, yet this segment is dominated by the fundraising NGO Movember, with their suite of social, mobile, and web tools.

If it’s so easy for health organisations to dominate in digital media, why are so many hospitals, medical facilities, and health promotion groups falling behind? Is it inertia? Apathy? Risk? A lack of funding?

The Digital Healthcare Week 2013 conference falls on October 24th this year. I’ll be there, looking for answers to this very question.

Jayde Lovell is vice-president, digital, Indonesia, at Weber Shandwick

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