Last week I attended the Mumbrella Health Marketing Summit in Sydney. Our Associate Creative Director, Ryan Wallman, presented a talk on the value of creativity in healthcare, so I went to keep him company and catch up on the latest thinking in healthcare marketing.
There was a definite theme threaded through most of the presentations – and the conversation in the breaks – and it related to data. Not big data, but small and highly personal data.
Data about your health. Data about your habits. Data about how long you might live and what sort of diseases you might get. The industry wants this data, but it seems that people are not keen to give it up, even if it’s in their best interests.
There was a lot of talk about the importance of access to data in providing better health outcomes. But this conversation inevitably led to concerns about trust and misuse of data, and a general unwillingness for people to hand it over. This was recently demonstrated with the controversy over My Health Record.
Part of this reticence can be explained by a lack of public education to convince people of the benefit of such data use, but I think there is also a cultural dimension to it.
In China, a company called iCarbonX is tracking people’s daily habits and combining this data with their biological information to create a digital profile that allows them to ‘understand and monitor their present health status, predict trends, and improve their future’. They already have a million people willing to take part.
This got me thinking: does China have a cultural advantage when it comes to prioritising the greatest good for the greatest number of people?
Logically, health outcomes are going to be improved by early intervention or preventive measures. But is it culturally impossible for western societies that champion individual privacy and self-interest to cooperate in this way? And is this going to be counterproductive for good healthcare provision?
Looking at it another way, maybe the healthcare system as we know it is ripe for disruption. After all, artificial intelligence is well on its way to supplanting some ‘routine’ healthcare tasks. And drug dispensing could become a simple online transaction, delivered to your door.
There are plenty of regulatory obstacles to overcome before genuine disruption becomes a reality in healthcare, but let’s not forget that UBER and online content streaming were once illegal.
Will the data dilemma end in a crisis or a cure? Time will tell.
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