It may not be the advice you hear from your driving school instructor, but its sound advice when it comes to navigating the intersections of new opportunities and spaces to explore as healthcare communication practitioners looking to grow and expand our business. This year has already been filled with lots of new business ‘traffic’, so as we continue to seek new opportunities I offer the following advice.
We’ve all seen the headlines: ‘Food is the new pharma’; ‘Health is the new ‘green’; and in recent years we’ve even coined terms like ‘nutraceutical’ – a food or food product that reportedly provides health and medical benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. Companies providing services and products outside of what we traditionally perceive as healthcare — think GE, Microsoft, Nestlé – are now working in this growing space. Corporate brands are adding healthcare programs to their corporate citizenship strategies; consumer brands are realizing the opportunity in bringing scientifically developed foods to address health issues to mass markets, and the consequent issues around health claims; while traditional pharma companies are diversifying their competencies and partnerships in order to meet the evolving demands of consumers and the flurry of competition from generics and biologics.
But so what? This isn’t the biggest news since sliced bread, so more importantly what does this mean for us, especially in London, looking to expand our WCG footprint? It means today’s healthcare sector participants, and subsequently our potential clients, extend far beyond the traditional line-up. There lies a world of spaghetti-like intersections for us to explore and to which our expertise is valuable.
From big pharmaceuticals, to corporate consumer health and wellness companies, managed care providers, nutrition experts, medical devices and diagnostics, retailers, etc., there is a green light signaling ‘go’ for a range of new converging sectors.
Take, for example, the opening of Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in 2010, to better understand the role of foods in disease prevention, and then Nestlé’s acquisition of Pfizer’s infant nutrition business in 2012. Both moves demonstrate a commitment by one of the largest global consumer food and beverage companies to pioneer a new industry between food and pharma. In another lane of traffic, we’ve witnessed the intersection of retail and health. For example, consumer companies like CVS (or Boots for those of us in the UK) are providing eye exams and more comprehensive health services such as the CVS MinuteClinic, which offers many of the traditional tasks, such as vaccinations, typically provided by healthcare professionals.
Healthcare is a complex, evolving and often difficult space to navigate. But with this complexity comes a world of opportunity. What’s needed to keep pace, and ultimately grow our business, is an ability to think laterally, to look to other industries and to speed ahead through these intersections.
[Note to readers: I’m an American living in London who is currently carless and, therefore, for the first time in years free of speeding and parking tickets. Above advice is credible only from the safety of your swivel chair, not for any situations in which you actually find yourself behind the wheel.]