Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Originally published May 6th 2019
Health lacks trust.
Direct To Consumer (DTC) health care is revolutionizing the way people engage with their health. Rather than being limited to the boundaries of a doctor-patient relationship – where patients are rendered nearly powerless in their healthcare decisions due to lack of knowledge, information and choices– patients are now becoming empowered consumers.
Consumers who are engaged, informed and able to exercise their own choices about health. Yet as consumers navigate a new world of DTC health services there is still one key ingredient missing from this industry: trust.
As a health literacy and bodily integrity advocate, I am committed to fostering agency and empowering people with information and choice when it comes to their bodies. I am determined to cultivate (well earned) trust between people and their healthcare providers.
Yet still I find the DTC health industry is struggling with this basic principle of trust. How can DTC health businesses create trust between themselves and consumers?
I believe we can find our answer in an unlikely place: the entertainment industry.
Entertainment cultivates trust and builds fans.
As an entertainment professional, I have witnessed how studios rely on their audiences’ trust for survival. They either cultivate it into something remarkable, like Disney’s timeless franchises (Marvel, Star Wars, Disney Princesses, take your pick), or demolish it into something unforgiveable (See the recent upset over Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog movie).
Trust in its best form is seen as the cultivation and culmination of fans. Fans are not passive consumers. They are engaged contributors. They are zealous for the characters of their favorite stories– eager to not just watch but be a part of the story themselves. Fans want to be valued and able to engage with their favorite characters and stories.
Fans have a two-way relationship with characters and story. It’s not just a product being pedaled one way from business to consumer. It’s a dialogue, an experience, a relationship. It’s a feedback loop of trust, regenerating the same great experiences and sensations that made people fans in the first place. [Read more on fans here]
In today’s entertainment industry that is oversaturated with content, entertainment companies that cultivate fans are the ones that thrive. One particular entertainment property that surprised studio executives and audiences alike with its fanbase was Deadpool. A foul mouthed, 4th wall breaking comic book character brought to life by die-hard fan Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool broke barriers in content ratings and audience appeal, relying heavily on its relationship with the viewers and allowing them to be a part of the story as well. I think of the cheeky yet interactive commercials that ran prior to the release of Deadpool 2 which crystallize the collaborative, fan-driven spirit of Deadpool. [More on Deadpool’s fans here]
A New Type of Fan
Now imagine if a DTC health company had characters and stories—entertainment properties—as fan driven as Deadpool? Not only would that DTC health company create a sustainable, lasting relationship with their consumers, they will be able to stand out in a crowded marketplace where consumers have the upper hand.
In a rapidly changing world of endless choices, health companies must cultivate fans. The best service or best quality product won’t stand out when consumers are bombarded by choice. What stands out is the experience. The story. The entertainment.
If we cultivate fans of health, patients would be more than just consumers. They’d be involved in their own healthcare and well-being with the same zeal, dedication and energy as your local trekkie. From passive patient to conscious consumer to now fearless fan, we could shift the paradigm of healthcare from a one-way relationship to a collaborative experience worth repeating. A collaboration fostered by trust and respect between all-parties involved. An experience that is creative, innovative and open to new perspectives to fight disease and increase wellness. A new way for people and healthcare providers to work together and thrive.
Stay tune for part 2 of Healthy Fans where we explore fan-worthy, entertainment for health products.