A Contrarian View for 2015


I’m a big fan of all of those “forecasting the future of…” blog posts that we see in January. I just can’t get enough. While many recommendations are pragmatic, it’s easy for prognosticators to throw out a few Hail Mary’s in the hope that if something truly unexpected happens, they can claim to have predicted it.

At the risk of sounding Scrooge-y, here’s my list of unpredictions – themes that I’m seeing on a lot of lists in healthcare, marketing and digital that simply aren’t going to happen… at least not in 2015.

So, without further ado:

  • Wearables – This will not be the year that wearables change everything. The launch of the iWatch will be a commercial success by the standards of any other company, but will be rather ho-hum for Apple. Overall, wearables will continue to struggle with the Goldilocks problem – this one has too many features to be usable while that one doesn’t have enough to get users to put it on every morning. In a few years we’ll all look at our 2015 photos and be unable to believe that we actually wore something that hideous in public.
  • Augmented Reality – A few folks are claiming that this is the year Augmented Reality hits the mainstream. AR is this year’s QR code. You heard it here first.
  • Obamacare – Obamacare, aside from its role as a political red herring, won’t be much of a story this year. The insurance rolls will get more consumers. Pressure is increasing for providers who don’t have their act together. Nothing meaningful will get repealed. Organizations will continue to adapt to the reality that is to come by reducing overhead and finding efficiencies but we won’t see much of a revenue decline this year, if any. The result for many healthcare organizations will be one of their best financial years ever.
  • Transparency and Health Consumerism – I don’t know that I’ve talked with a single health system CEO in months who didn’t mention how transparency was going to change everything. The thought is that, with better information about quality and costs, consumers will have what they need to finally act like consumers. My take? The healthcare industry will take baby steps forward with transparency but it will fail to cause health consumers to make better choices. Healthcare quality is too confusing for the majority of consumers while healthcare costs are too confusing for the majority of healthcare providers! For the little things, consumers will look only to costs and for the big things, they’ll continue to look to friends, family and their physician.
  • Social Media – There’s a lot of conjecture about consolidation of social media platforms. I think this is wishful thinking on the part of marketers wishing that social media wasn’t becoming quite so complicated. New platforms are sprouting up all of the time. Couple that with drops in organic reach and growing focus on privacy and anonymity (think Snapchat vs. Instagram) and that social media strategy you’ve been working on for years might go right out the window.

Enough negativity. There are a few trends that I like (or at least believe in) for the coming year:

  • Growth in Marketing Technologists – HBR brought a lot of attention to the idea of the Chief Marketing Technologist last year. We’re going to start seeing dedicated marketing technology roles growing in a meaningful way in 2015 although many will be more tactical than strategic.
  • Digital Pay to Play – Last year, I heard a lot of organizations stating that, due to tight marketing budgets they were going to start getting serious about digital marketing. There’s a lot wrong with that statement… mostly that marketers are shifting to digital because of cheapness when they should be shifting because of effectiveness. Those dramatic drops in organic reach mean that the free lunch for brands social media is at an end. That’s not the only thing pushing that way. New social platforms are built for greater privacy and anonymity while the fastest growing segment of the social space is in private messaging through established platforms and newer tools like WhatsApp. In other words, get out your checkbook if you want to be seen or heard!
  • Email – This was a trend that came out clearly in our Digital Marketing in Healthcare survey. After years of neglect in the shadow of sexier new social media platforms, all indications are that organizations are adding email to the mix or growing their investment in email.
  • Strategic Content Strategy – The growing importance of content has been a theme for the past several years. While this idea has resonated in healthcare, it’s primarily been taken as a call to generate more of what’s typically been put out – nameless, faceless corporate marketing speak. 2015 is the year where we see a new focus on content as the central element for patient and consumer engagement. Content strategy therefore becomes more than just the discipline of how content should be organized and, instead, look at how to accomplish this goal. Authenticity achieved by using the voice for real people in the organization, content designed to provide value to consumers when they’re not actively searching for healthcare options, and a casual engaging voice will all be key to making this happen.
  • More Insured Consumers – Lower unemployment coupled with the growing successes of the Accountable Care Act will bring more insured consumers through the door, but this will bring its own issues. Expect to hear more about provider shortages, continued misuse of the emergency department for primary care and a fundamental lack of understanding by the newly insured about how insurance actually works. Bad debt will grow to offset reduced charity care.
  • Increased Authority for Care Extenders – NPs and PAs get most of the attention, but look to see the role of PTs, midwives, pharmacists and others will be expanded as care models evolve. Physicians have long used government regulation to secure their positions and limit the authority of extenders, but the demands of the health system of the future make that impractical. This one could get messy.
  • Cost Control Still a Challenge – Despite cost reductions amongst care givers, the healthcare system won’t get cheaper. 2014 showed big strides by hospitals and health systems to identify operational efficiencies and improve care. Despite this, there are many factors that will prevent overall healthcare costs from going down. Physician employment will make things more expensive as do the growing fields of designer medications and therapies.

So what predictions do you see coming true in 2015 and which are so much dreaming and wishful thinking? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter with the hashtag #Geonetric.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

6 thoughts on “A Contrarian View for 2015

  1. Ben, I think you are spot on especially when it comes to wearables. I was at a SXSW panel last year and I thin this comment still rings true. “The wearable market is about healthy 30 year olds selling devices to healthy 30 year olds.”

    I’d also like to pile onto your Social Media predictions bandwagon.

    1. I think we we see niche based social networks take off based around individual industries. Especially ones in Healthcare. Are you going to find that decision making CIO on Twitter as you attempt to trudge through the other 300,000,000+ users. I’m going to guess no.

    2. Content remains king. The death of keyword based SEO with a move toward natural language search making content creation a must for everyone.

    3. Rise of B2B social solutions. Facebook is B2C people, so unless you are gunning for Joe or Jane six pack your wasting time.

    4. You will log into your patient portal via a link you clicked on social media. Healthcare system are going to come to the social watering hole to meet those Meaningful Use requirement.

    5. I will get some of these wrong 😉

  2. I’m right there with you, Steven. I think the battle now is for relevance – how can platforms sift through the information and connecting overload to get me just things that I care about. Ever-evolving Facebook edgerank algorithms aren’t it…

  3. Ben,

    Long time no chat! It’s great to see your prognostications. From all appearances Apple is expecting to sell 10-20M iWatches in the spring. Something tells me they will fall far short of that and it will mark the death of the wearable watch market for all. Watches are simply not the form factor people really want in a data rich environment.

    But the information of things market in the corporate world will continue to innovate greatly. Have you looked at garage door openers lately? For $200 you can get one that has an Internet gateway and tells you when/if your garage door has been opened. And if you forget your clicker, your phone will open it. Is this a killer use case? I don’t know, maybe. But I am pretty sure in the next decade our homes will become smarter each year, sipping less and less energy.

    I think in 2015 what you will see is the democratization of software for small businesses and organizations. It’s been about 5 years since we all adopted smart phones in the 1st world. There are over 1.8B smart phones in the world right now, and running a small organization has never been easier. So the take up on small business software solutions will be amazing. I think that’s great news for Geonetric too!

    Check out a Chicago-based company called g2Crowd.com to see what I mean. There are over 5,000 products and services available for small businesses and organizations to try/buy and subscribe to. Now the question is how do you choose from such a diverse ecosystem?

  4. Ben, I see more focus on utilizing our branded provider directories as the digital repository and authority for information on a provider including patient verified ratings and testimonials, real-time appointment setting and virtual Rolodex for patients to store referred provider profiles for later reference; information should be accessible from the patient portal as well. I see search capabilities including personality matching, “Match.com” for patients and providers.

    Online presence should be the focus: visibility, reputation and engagement. Content strategy falls under engagement as does SEM. Third party sites often dominate search results for our providers, it is imperative that the content on those sites is correct and I strongly recommend that organizations monitor provider online reviews and develop strategies to leverage the power of “word of mouse”.

  5. I love the “Match.com” for docs idea, Cynthia! I think we should move provider promotion online beyond just being a replacement for printed directories. Today, most organizations aren’t giving much for a typical health consumer to use to choose the right provider for them.

    Alex – we absolutely see the continued growth of mobile in it’s many formats. I keep waiting to see the growth of traffic from mobile start to taper off, but it’s not happening yet. The proliferation of tools is a blessing and a curse. It’s great to see more options and the competition is making everything better but, at least in healthcare, that continues to happen at the expense of data sharing and integration which is a real problem is we’re going to truly be patient-centric in our approach to care.

  6. Ben,
    I like the way you temper the enthusiasm for new devices. I am hoping that we will move into the second phase of patient engagement – beyond the Meaningful Use checkbox. Leading healthcare organizations are moving toward optimization of patient portals, improving usability, adding open notes and using them strategically for population health.

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