The Life Sciences Technology Mediascape Part 3: What’s Changed with Pharma + Healthcare Media?

In Part 1 and Part 2 , we discussed who in the 2020 media landscape is covering technology in life sciences, as well as trends and news garnering coverage and how to build trust with media. In Part 3, we will discuss the trends we are seeing so far in 2021, and what we expect to see the rest of the year, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Trends: The Impact of COVID-19 + Looking Forward 

It has been just over a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated trends already brewing in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, and that’s not likely to change this year. However, change in administration and the vaccine rollout for COVID-19, and other related factors has created the main themes of coverage. There has been a continued overlap of media topics with healthcare and life sciences, including regulatory and legal issues, as well as technology trends, which has led to an expanded landscape of reporters and outlets covering life sciences and health industry outside of traditional trade publications. 

  1. Continued Digital Transformation in Pharma 

Digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry began before COVID-19. But the combination of fast-moving, consumer-driven technology and a moderately slow, traditional industry, accustomed to a strict regulatory process, sometimes has made for uneasy technology adoption. However, the pandemic forced the pharma industry to recognize the digital revolution is here to stay and can’t be avoided in a data-rich industry that helps with internal efficiency, cost effectiveness and overall improved accuracy. Technologies including automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) have helped the industry adopt remote work and perform decentralized clinical trials, according to a  GlobalData survey. According to the survey, AI (58%) followed by big data (46%) are expected to be the most disruptive technologies in pharma within next two years and will also be the main investment targets for the sector during the same timeframe. The media landscape will have a continued focus on the need to adopt digital technologies to meet business needs and on the companies that have success developing and deploying a robust digital transformation strategy. 

  1. Telehealth and Virtual Care are Still Top of Mind 

Telemedicine is clearly a growing sector within the healthcare industry and will continue to expand to meet the complex needs of patients over time. Telemedicine usage skyrocketed by 57% in 2020, and for patients suffering from chronic illnesses, the number of virtual care visits increased by 77%. Additionally, a survey by the Business Group Health found 80% of employers believe virtual health will play a significant role in how care is delivered in the future, while over 50% will offer telemedicine in 2021, and 93% are expected offer virtual mental health care. The media has begun to discuss the implications post- pandemic and how the future of health care will include both in-person and virtual telehealth visits. Frost & Sullivan conservatively predicts that by 2025 telehealth will be seven times its current size, with a compounding annual growth rate of 38.2% over the next 4 years. Expect reporters to continue to keep building on this narrative on how technological innovations in telemedicine enable healthcare providers to diagnose, treat and monitor a patient’s progress remotely with greater efficiency, and how it is propelling the growth of the global telemedicine market. 

  1. Increased Attention to Health Equity and Accessibility 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the concern on pre-existing health disparities, equity, and accessibility, — an area President Joe Biden has said he is committed to addressing. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, communities of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that COVID-19 death rates are twice as much for Black Americans as the rate for White Americans last year. Along with the new administration, the media has played a role in bringing these topics to light, and how organizations are addressing this concern and distrust with certain communities. Stories have varied surrounding on topics to addressing specific recommendations on mitigating and preventing health inequities in underserved and minority communities. The news will continue to focus on recommendations on allocating COVID-19 resources fairly, equitably disbursing relief funds, collecting demographic data, and ensuring there is culturally aware communication to hard-hit communities. 

Getting to the Media and Key Takeaways  

As noted in Part 2 of this series, for building trust with reporters in business and pharmaceutical and healthcare publications, statistics and data will continue to be the key to being considered a source. Ultimately, the media is sensitive to the fact that the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry impacts the everyday lives and health of people. Organizations must create a narrative that delivers valuable information to the public with unique and factual data, while also presenting oneself as an empathic, yet knowledgeable thought leader.  

Looking forward through the rest of the year, we are likely to continue to see media coverage trends focused on the multi-faceted topics brought to light due to the pandemic through healthcare and life sciences such as the proliferation of virtual care, the concerns in gaps in health equity, and the continued surged in digital transformation. As industry leaders, it is important to stay informed with hard data, discussing with the media important implications for the industry, while also remembering that the overall human safety and wellbeing must always be at the core of the message. 

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