The Future of Healthcare Branding


To predict how healthcare brands will look in the future, first we need to understand who the future customer will be, then the behaviours of this demographic and plot them against the trends in technology and services in the healthcare sector.

Naturally as we get older, we rely on healthcare more. Trends show that younger generations are more invested in personal health than previous generations and the way that they want healthcare delivered is changing, too. We are demanding faster, more personalised and more transparent services, with a need for peer reassurance through social media. The healthcare industry is reliant on technology to meet the demands and ever-increasing numbers of patients. Digital health services powered by AI and remote/5G tech are rife in startups today, but there is a tug of war between trust in technology and trust in the incumbent human services.


Baby Boomers will shape the future of the healthcare market

When looking at hospital admissions to the NHS last year we see that the 70-75 age group is the highest. We also have an ageing population, due to better healthcare and standards of living. In the US, for the first time the number of elderly is set to overtake the number of babies. This will have a huge impact on healthcare systems as boomers age, leading to an inevitable rise in use of remote care and telehealth.

“Remote care promises better optimization of scarce resources (physicians, caregivers, emergency rooms etc.) and more personalized care, comfort, service and convenience that boomers have come to expect.” – Morris Panner, Forbes Councils Member


How are different age groups interacting with remote care and telehealth?

Source: HES


Millennials will also form a large portion of the market, with people aged between 18 and 34 being the most likely to be interested in telehealth (74%), compared to 70% of individuals between 35 and 44, 64% of individuals between 45 and 64 and 41% of individuals age 65 and above, according to a Harris Poll survey.


Boomers are techier (than you may think)

Baby Boomers may not be who you immediately associate with being tech-savvy, however they are quickly adopting various technology. A 2018 Pew Research survey found that 67% of baby boomers use smartphones, 52% use a tablet and 57% use social media.

They have built up an expected level of user experience from using devices such as iPhones, Kindles and voice-activated products, and they use digital services such as Netflix, Instagram and Facebook. To meet the demands of this category the quality of the healthcare user experience needs to be aligned with these services that they are already using.

It is also important to note that Baby Boomers are twice as likely as millennials to be influenced by the popularity of the item when purchasing something with which they have little experience. The example below from Babylon’s homepage demonstrates the use of testimonials, ratings, social feedback and reviews from well-trusted sources.


Millennials won’t rely on traditional healthcare

Having grown up into a digital world, millennials expect convenience, speed, and transparency from the services they use. These expectations are bleeding over into healthcare, changing the way the industry is having to operate.

Millennials are taking care into their own hands and are less likely to use healthcare services they are dissatisfied with. In the US, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of 18 to 29 year-olds and 28% of 30 to 49 year-olds have no primary care provider (PCP). Older generations in contrast are much more likely to have a PCP, with 85% reporting they have some kind of PCP. Furthermore, over a third of millennials prefer healthcare from retail walk-in clinics over visiting a GP. Here, data shows a shift toward on-demand healthcare, which prioritises speed of delivery and availability of appointments over the relationship developed with a PCP.

38% of millennials say they trust their peers more than their physician and over half (55%) said the information they find online is “as reliable” as their doctor. For non-urgent health concerns, millennials are twice as likely as other generations to act on health advice found online, including from sources like social media. Nearly 50% of millennials and Gen-Xers also use online reviews to select care providers, compared to 40% of baby boomers and 28% of seniors.

The way that brands will need to convey themselves will be hugely impacted by the behavioural shifts seen in millennials. The tone will likely move towards a more ‘community-trusted’ rather than ‘institutional-trusted’ look and feel. Healthcare providers will also need to appeal to the individuality of customers, and cater to their desires for speed and accuracy of results.

“Millennials do research and come into our offices more informed about their medical conditions,” says Kim Jenkins, CEO of OrthoSouth. “They’re also researching the physicians and paying close attention to online reviews and social media commentary. When you think about it, this really isn’t so different than what baby boomers do — boomers get insights from their friends and neighbors next door. Millennials get insights from their ‘neighbors’ online. Both groups seek outside opinions, but millennials are drawing from a vastly larger and often better-informed ‘neighborhood’.”


Trends in healthcare: trusting tech

Putting your personal information online, including health and wellbeing data, is becoming the new normal. While other industries have seen disruptive business models emerge and waves of exciting players enter the market, regulation and mistrust around issues such as privacy have slowed change in the healthcare space. This is changing however, with broadly increasing trust in technology helping to accelerate disruptive change in the sector.

A 2018 report by Rock Health clearly shows the rise in digital tools used in healthcare.


Gaining the trust of consumers will be the biggest hurdle for healthcare brands. A study conducted in the US in 2018 showed that at the time, Americans didn’t feel comfortable sharing their health data with tech companies. Research conducted in the UK suggested that consumers don’t think digital health products are a good thing, while a Swiss study again indicated that digital health is dependent on trust in order to succeed.

In the race to gain the trust of these consumers, disruptive healthcare providers will lead the pack. Their digital experiences will outstrip incumbent private and public health services as they are quicker to adapt, test and learn.

Using Babylon as an example again, you can see from their website that they have leant on traditional uses of white and teal colours, but injected more creative and humanised colours such as purple and pink. This has helped to create a softer, friendlier and more human-centric brand colour palette.

The shift towards more diverse colour palettes can also be seen from Huma, who rebranded from ‘Medopad’ this year. The name itself signifies a change towards more human-associated branding, despite its use of digital healthcare solutions.


Trends in healthcare: AI power

AI is shaping healthcare as we speak, which could be especially important for Baby Boomers as they age. The shortage of doctors continues to get worse, with a recent poll finding that 1 in 6 doctors make diagnostic errors. So, if AI is used to support some aspects of patient care, it could mean the difference between one getting the best care or sub-par care.

As more and more data is shared within the healthcare system, AI will improve, allowing for precision diagnoses, efficient workforce automation and improving patient experiences. Many questions remain however, with providers needing to somehow maintain a human touch in a world filled with AI. Some examples of healthcare startups that have ingrained AI are PathAI and ICarbonX.

Striking the visual balance between human and tech will be a tricky issue to solve. If the brand looks too robotic or sci-fi, it will be rejected by customers. Similarly, if the technology aspect is overlooked completely, looking too friendly and human, the customer will question whether the service is smart enough for their needs.

See below a few of our recommendations for designing for the healthcare sector:

  • Ensure you have a great user experience on par with contemporary digital solution providers like Spotify and Netflix
  • Put the customer first when creating any digital platform or service and ensure you meet their needs
  • You will need peer reviews or trusted testimonials to support your messaging
  • The ‘large corporation’ look and feel may be dead in the water with a move towards smaller, more independent brands
  • Get the balance right between human and tech – people will need to be able to trust them both equally