A couple of months ago I spent some time in India on vacation. I’ve been several times as my wife is from Pune, outside of Mumbai. One of the highlights for me on each trip is visiting with the family, talking technology, politics and other things massively changing India in the 15 or so years I’ve been visiting.
This trip I had a particularly interesting conversation that stuck with me. A relative and I talked about the market strategy for a certain American soft drink distributor in India. For years, from his point of view, the company had a hard time fully embedding itself into the marketplace. Sure, there were signs everywhere, it was readily available, and I even remember a picture in National Geographic years ago with an elephant laden with the beverage. But it was still perceived as a luxury item largely unattainable to the general public.
Relatively recently, it seems, they lowered the price significantly. Now the perception is that nearly anyone can afford it. Here’s where it got poignant:
My relative’s point of view was with this marketing move came almost a sense of empowerment for those who previously could not afford the beverage. They are consuming what previously was elite, hard to come by, available for those with money. His point of view was that simple act of consuming a formerly unattainable item was making the previously unimaginable seem possible in some small way to people throughout India.
It occurred to me on the long flight home that those of us in the business of disseminating healthcare information are in a somewhat similar situation. Healthcare information used to be in the hands of very few, very educated people who weren’t quick to pass that along. The Internet has changed all that, equalizing everyone and putting information in the hands of anyone. Along with that change is a sense of empowerment, just like those drinking a new beverage in India. Similarly, as we create an empowered healthcare consumer, we are helping everyone everywhere achieve what was previously not feasible: informed choice.
Yes, social media and other forms of communication for regulated healthcare industries are difficult and fraught with challenges. But every person who discovers the value of being an informed, educated healthcare consumer makes it worthwhile.