by James Watson-Krips
April 27th, 2016

With advancing technologies, increasingly savvy consumers, and an ever-changing policy landscape, health communications in Asia Pacific may at times seem both complex and confusing.

However, we recently spoke with Stephanie Yu, regional senior vice president of Weber Shandwick’s health practice, for her take on the latest trends in the industry, and what it takes to practice effective health communications in a region as diverse and exciting as Asia Pacific.

Stephanie Yu

Asia Pacific is a dynamic region comprised of many unique countries and cultures. How do companies in the health sector adapt to these unique cultural, social, and economic environs?
It’s important to remember that due to Asia’s unique diversity, cultural sensitivity is crucial – for both Asian companies and global multi-nationals. What works in one market may not work in another, meaning a “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t going to cut it.

Companies have to do the research to truly understand the landscape and needs of each particular market; not just covering the particular geography or cultural specifics. This is important of course, but you also want to engage in the kind of in-depth data analysis that can support the formation of a strong, smart communications strategy. Sales figures, market research, competitor analysis, media and social media share of voice – all of these data points can really help inform a robust strategy.

This is especially true for the health industry, where you need to keep the local health landscape in mind as they approach localisation and the use of new technologies. What health issues does this particular population currently face? How will these needs change in the future? Are there cultural taboos surrounding certain issues?  These are all questions to consider when crafting your narrative and targeting your audience. And in today’s world of social media and instantaneous communication, this has never been more important – one slip and you could be a trending topic within the hour – and not in a good way!

It’s clear that technology has come to play an ever-increasing role in the healthcare industry. How have brands sought to use technology to help people live healthier lives?Speaking truthfully, innovative approaches to stakeholder engagement – the use of mobile apps for consumer engagement for example – are not yet as prominent in APAC as they are in the West. But they continue to grow in importance, and represent a new area of opportunity for healthcare companies and their partner agencies to make an impact.

Here at Weber Shandwick, we’ve already begun leveraging an innovative approach to help clients connect with patients and customers. This includes the use of data visualisation to aid in the interpretation of science, disease landscape and gap identification. For example, we have our recent work in data visualisation from our Australia team, here at Gaucher Stolen Time.  It is a highly targeted campaign, focusing on haematologists through advertising in specialist online titles.

Finally, what are your predictions for 2016? What trends do you foresee in healthcare communications and how has Weber Shandwick worked to stay on the cutting edge
Looking ahead, I think the following trends have become more important in recent months and will continue to define health communications in 2016:

Growing focus on prevention:  Consumers will become even more proactive in managing their health, thanks to the rapid development of user-friendly personal health technologies, a growing array of wellness apps, and increased education on nutrition.

Consumer and patient empowerment: Armed with this knowledge and information, patients and caregivers have gained an unprecedented understanding of treatment options. This trend will only continue, meaning that physicians will no longer be the be-all-end-all source for health management.

Increasingly engaged physicians: Although traditionally stricter in their approach to issues of compliance in their industry, medical practitioners also want to engage in new dynamic approaches now. We’ve seen companies move away from more traditional conferences and summits, heavily text-based product brochures and in-depth PowerPoint presentations, and instead use new technologies to provide doctors with the data they need to provide consultation and simulate the patient experience. Doctors are consumers too after all, and we need to keep on top of the best, most interesting ways to reach them – within the relevant compliance and regulatory guidelines of course.

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