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SXSW: Healthcare and the Connected, Mobile, Private Future

What do physicians, Melbourne and the CFPB have in common? More than you might think. They’re at the intersection of healthcare, technology and privacy rights.

Today I had the pleasure of attending three very different panels at SXSW 2014, but when you look at them in aggregate, they paint a very interesting picture for the future of healthcare, real-time interaction and the way we look at society. As communicators, there are lessons we can take and apply to our daily activities.

SXSW presenters discussed healthcare, technology and privacy rights (Photo cred: Dell Inc. via Flickr)

The most interesting panel examined the “Death of the Doctor’s Office.” It was a challenge to the healthcare technology industry and society to reexamine the fundamental roots of what we assume is essential for medicine. The premise from physicians that were there was that the doctor’s office was created as a place to get diagnostic information. But with the rise of tablets, iPhones, apps and broadband the office can now be anywhere the patient has a mobile device.

Mind you, there will also be a place for in person contact, as I could see using Skype to discuss a sore throat with my doctor, but I would want the consultation with my cardiac surgeon or oncologist to be in person.

One of the issues raised in that session was expanded for a full hour in a discussion on “Privacy: A Right or an Illusion.” The contentious session debated consumer right to privacy, what privacy is and how consumers can abrogate their rights.

This is critical when it comes to personal health information. If we add all the endpoints, mobile hotspots and third party providers that will be part of the health ecosystem – we exponentially increase the points of failure. Just look at the Target breach, but with health information.

So where does Melbourne fit in? I went to a session on “The Secret Sauce Behind Real-Time Marketing.” It was a great case study of how a company created a “remote controlled tourist” that people could command in real-time to explore the city and get a flavor of it before planning a trip there. Great session, but the challenge was we had completely different definitions of “Real-Time Marketing.” The presenters meant proactive marketing directed in real time by people. Many of us in the audience thought it was marketing in response to breaking trends. Same words, totally different expectations and experience.

If communicators can have this type of dissonance, imagine this writ large.

So what are some key takeaways beyond healthcare, technology and privacy rights from the three sessions:

    • Look for ways in which you can use mobile to transform your approach to public relations, markets and activations.
    • The more experiential and mobile we get, the greater the privacy issues and potential points of privacy failures. Plan for this or face a reputation crisis in the future.
    • Don’t assume people know what you mean. It’s communications 101, but well worth repeating.


Photo credit: Dell Inc. via Flickr
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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 20 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national chair-elect for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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