As designers, when you think about cost efficiency from a social perspective, what comes to mind? Twitter ? Facebook? Healthcare? From a purely cost effective and social standpoint, healthcare couldn't fit in any better. A quick look at the healthcare industry will show you how important cost effectiveness is, with the term Cost Effectiveness Analyais (CEA) - "the ratio of the cost of the intervention to a relevant measure of its effect" - popping up around every corner. And from a social point of view, especially at this point in time, healthcare could probably be considered one of the most significant social issues of today. Since the 2008 election, healthcare has been on the minds of a huge number of Americans. And with Obama's signing of the bill on Tuesday - essentially enacting one of the largest and most expansive pieces of legislation in history - the issue won't leave our minds any time soon. So it's pretty obvious that both cost effectiveness and social perspectives play a large role in defining healthcare, so the question for the rest of us would be: where does design fit in?
This question is a tough one for me to answer, after all I'm not a healthcare expert or even a professional designer. But I am a consumer, and my views on healthcare reflect the views of at least some other people out there. When I think of healthcare, I get a little scared. Being a type 1 diabetic, it's essential that I have good coverage for the medications that I need. The thing is, healthcare is advertised and marketed towards consumers as something thats incredibly boring, and for some, a little scary. While doing some research for this assignment, I came across this other blog called the Amino Lounge. It's written by Eric Hayward, a Creative Accounts Director at Grossman Design here in Minneapolis, and he had some really interesting things to say about the way healthcare is marketed and advertised:
" Of all the marketing messages consumers receive, those dealing with health care are arguably the most important. Weigh the social impact of a Cheesy Bacon BK Wrapper against news of life-saving technology or facilities. And yet, poor health is communicated far better to American consumers than is good health. It's not as if health is less interesting. Health does far more for your sex life, your family life, and your waistline than greasy pork and nicotine. Advertisers are just better at connecting these products, in consumers' minds, with the things they care about...
...Right now, we're stuck in a preachy, "apple-a-day" mentality. Thinking top-down, we start from a position of expertise held over the heads of all of you, unhealthy slobs that you are. The fundamental promise of health care is a "should"...Exercise more because you should. Eat better because you should. It's also, often, a negative. Take this and you won't get dandruff, heartburn, or worse."
The more I thought about what was mentioned there, the more I thought, "Wow, the guy's got a good point." The way that healthcare is marketed to the general public is almost pathetic - how does a smiling, silver-haired doctor or a happy sea-side jogger relate directly to ME? Truth is, they really don't. As Eric Hayward points out, they're just healthcare cliches that everyone is tired of seeing.
So how do we go about better marketing healthcare? Well for starters, let's throw out those cliche's out the window, and start with something fresh that most of us can actually relate to. As Eric Hayward says:
"We [advertisers] have gotten lazy. We keep dipping into the same pool of superficial generic images, forgetting to create new, better underlying stories. That's what advertising is: translating the brute reality of mere marketing into great stories that reach our hearts. If we put story first and details second, the better story will inform more relevant choices for the words, images and sounds that activate feeling and drive action. A better story is one connecting health care with personal desires for beauty and freedom, versus connecting it with morality. It's easy and convenient to recycle a preachy, "apple a day" storyline about what we should and shouldn't do as a cause for better health care. It's harder but better to appeal to human self interest, looking at the self-generated motivations consumer/patients identify as their own reasons to pursue better health care. If our own laziness as marketers is truly the culprit, guess what? Patients will get lazy too."
And the truth is, just because the healthcare bill has passed, that doesn't mean that all our healthcare problems are solved. It's still largely dependent on having the public care about their health - getting them to see the benefits of doing what's right instead of going to McDonald's or Burger King. As designers, we can play a part in connecting with people and getting them to actually care about healthcare. And if healthcare can be marketed and advertised in a way that helps accomplish that - where individuals take the step to take care of themselves a little more - we'll get much more mileage out of the healthcare system that we have, making this a little more cost effective for society.
1. The Amino Lounge (Everyone should read this blog in my opinion)
2. Primer on Cost Effective Analysis