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This is the third post of The Next 15 blog series, which commemorates Weber Shandwick’s 15th year in Seattle. Follow this series to read about our leadership team’s thoughts and predictions on seven of Seattle’s key practice areas.

“You can also just use our hospital app to schedule your appointment…or email your doctor, or check your medical records, or fill a prescription…”

Say what???

It would be quite the understatement to say that health care communications have changed drastically in the past few years. If you’re like me, you tend to get a bit skittish when you walk into a doctor’s office that doesn’t have a computer front and center in an exam room. Similarly, we’ve come to expect that a follow up email with test results, exercise instructions or an appointment confirmation is now a standard practice. We’re disappointed when the latest running app takes more than a minute to download. In short, we’re lucky in America to have access to the great technology and innovative thinking that is improving our health and helping minimize the amount of time required to deal with health care administrative tasks.

So what’s next?

When I think about how health care communications as a whole will continue to evolve over the next 15 years, two main ideas come to mind.

1. Mobile Will Dominate – From how we obtain our own health care information, to how doctors access health information and how emergency responders improve response efficiency, mobile integration will only continue to flourish. Ubiquitous cloud-based medical records may be a ways off but at the least, a future where everyone can easily scan their smartphone or carry a universal secure chip that provides all key personal health data is not. Outside of our own nation, progressive mobile technology across the world will serve as a fundamental asset to improving health care and saving lives across the board.

2. Social Engagement Becomes The Standard – At their core, all hospitals aim to provide high quality care and establish themselves as trusted, reliable organizations. As such, they are perfectly positioned to use social media to build active communities and patient trust through active, online engagement. 80% of Internet users look online for health information (Pew Research Center study). In other words, there is no shortage of community tracking down health information online. Whether seeking comfort from peers, researching a doctor or reviewing others’ hospital experiences, social engagement will be critical to the future of hospitals in terms of patient retention and reputation management.

While many hospitals have started to take action with social integration over recent years, there is great progress to me made. The potential for both hospital and patient success is endless as we continue to evolve through a communications landscape that lends itself to organizations being able to serve as their own media hubs. Time, smart resource allocation and targeted investment will ultimately pay dividends in helping hospitals scale to meet patient demands online and through social media.

It will most certainly be an interesting and exciting journey ahead for an industry that impacts each and every one of us. Here’s to the next 15 years of digital advancement within health care communications – it’s great to be at an agency that will be at the center of it all.

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