We all know that COVID-19 has shaken up the healthcare industry and forced us to rethink care today, but did you know that this includes mergers and acquisitions (M&As)? There have been several major M&As across the industry in recent years that could mark an important shift in healthcare PR.
2021 Has Already Been a Big Year for Healthcare M&As
In April, Microsoft made a $19 billion deal to buy Nuance Communications, an AI solution that recognizes and transcribes speech in doctor office visits among other applications. This move signals how Microsoft (and tech as a whole) is evolving to better serve the healthcare market, moving big tech deeper into the healthcare realm amid whispers of the expansion of Amazon Care and the announcement that Apple’s next watch will be able to read blood sugar levels.
In addition to tech companies trying to make their mark in healthcare, industry incumbents are joining forces to create well-rounded solutions. In late April, Accolade, a personalized health and benefits company, announced its intent to acquire PlushCare, a leading virtual care provider and RH Strategic client. The deal would marry Accolade’s health and benefits platform with PlushCare’s personalized primary care offering, creating a holistic solution that could help patients navigate through the entire healthcare system while receiving great care every step of the way.
Similarly, telehealth giant Teladoc purchased Livongo in late 2020, enhancing the company’s ability to serve patients with chronic conditions. Today, six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic illness, while 90% of the nation’s $3.8 trillion annual healthcare costs are used to treat patients suffering from chronic and mental health conditions. Teladoc’s purchase of Livongo enabled it to offer specialized care to the largest market segment and better care for patients with increasingly complex healthcare needs. We expect this strategy to be replicated as more specialized telehealth platforms grow.
The consolidation of healthcare via M&As has been making headlines for the past decade, with no sign of it slowing down. In a recent survey of healthcare CFOs on their outlook for 2021 and plans for M&As, 31% reported plans to acquire physician practices, 28% reported a merger with another organization and 20% reported plans to sell to another organization. As healthcare PR practitioners, we understand these trends deeply and know how to leverage them to craft innovative stories and campaigns in such a dynamic market.
Five Trends Healthcare PR Pros Should Pay Attention to Today
- Value-add to the system at large: The industry continues to head toward more holistic solutions with the consolidation of niche providers by bigger systems or companies. In addition to clearly articulating the value proposition of their solution, healthcare leaders must be able to explain how their unique value-add fits into the healthcare ecosystem and how it improves care overall.
- Highlight a vision, not a product: There is no shortage of M&A and funding deals for reporters to cover in healthcare, but what grabs reporters’ attention is the “so what?” They want to know how a deal, product, or other announcement changes the status quo in healthcare. Are you rethinking the future of diabetes care? Changing the future of work for doctors? This is how you can truly grow thought leadership.
- Data as proof: With every new healthcare solution claiming to be innovative, it’s more important than ever to be able to prove how a solution is disruptive. If you have clinical trial data, share it!
- Consumers are and will be wary of larger healthcare organizations: With more personal information changing hands between organizations, consumers may have increased concern about privacy and data security. As healthcare communications professionals, we need to continue to build trust in the organizations throughout their changes, highlight the impact these organizations can have on individuals’ care and have evidence to prove these differentiators.
- Don’t forget about the consumer: With all of the M&A news, it can be easy to focus storytelling on the business or industry, but it’s important that communicators keep the consumer top of mind. Regional and consumer health reporters still need experts to help audiences navigate their health, so organizations should continue to maintain a steady drumbeat of communications targeting consumers amid large business announcements.
Communications professionals in healthcare organizations working to launch new solutions, announce mergers and acquisitions, or promote recent successes should take these trends into account when developing their media strategies and campaigns. In a consolidating marketplace, these communications can attract the attention of potential buyers, partners and investors, so content should be developed with this in mind. For companies that want to target this audience, a strategic communications firm can help ensure that your messages reach the right people.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.