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Health As the New Medicine

Is the way we use language in healthcare still relevant? InterbrandHealth's Suzanne Martinez explains.
As healthcare changes, we find that conversations are changing too. The topics being discussed are different; the language we are accustomed to using is sometimes no longer as important as it once was.

When it comes to talking about the need for new medicines, treatments, and cures, we now emphasize the role of comprehensive care, preventative tools, and wellness. In fact, a closer look at our industry reveals that the buzz is around products and services that maintain or improve overall health (be it physical, mental, emotional, or even economic). It seems that exciting breakthroughs—such as completely novel molecules or new scientific pathways to explore—are fewer and farther between. No one disputes that change is upon us. But as we look to quickly respond and adapt to this new world, it is important to consider whether the way we use language is still relevant. Are we unique in how we express ourselves? How do we address the challenge of “change” differently from our competitors?

Brand gives us the opportunity to shift traditional definitions and create a new lexicon for today that makes sense. Brand is also essential for helping us convey our points of difference and relate to our audiences. Interestingly, we could start with recasting a fundamental term in health: “medicine.” We could force ourselves to think about it in today’s context. It is no longer as simple as saying that this word refers to a product developed to address a disease or that it is a field of study dedicated to healing the sick. In fact, in today’s world, medicine can actually be redefined to also include the idea of “health.” The field of study and the people who train in it are focused on health just as much as disease. And the products that we once called “medicines” are not always pills, injections, or devices . . . they are diagnostics, technologies, and services that help one to avoid sickness in the first place. As a healthcare community, and with the help of thoughtful branding, we can shape alternate definitions and express ourselves in a new, more relatable way. We must do this in order to connect with those from outside our industry who now find themselves as a part of the conversation. What words really matter? Can we redefine our language to be more current? How can we shift our tone? How can we reinforce our unique perspective through communication?

But we must tackle these questions with care. As more and more people become a part of the healthcare conversation and nontraditional products, services, and companies are newly defined as part of this industry, it is important to connect with them while not losing the aspects of our industry that are vital to its success. Credibility, trust, quality, and reliability are a must in healthcare and are not necessarily attributes that are associated with newness, change, dynamism, or speed. Again, brand can help. The nuances of healthcare are special. Now is the time to talk about what’s happening—and to do so thoughtfully.

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