DHCX 2013: Ten Takeaways

Last week, several Danya team members journeyed from the bitter cold of Silver Spring, Maryland, and Atlanta, Georgia, to warm and sunny Orlando, Florida, for the second annual Digital Health Communication Extravaganza (DHCX). This growing conference of digital and health experts isn’t your run-of-the-mill industry meeting; instead, “advanced users” give presentations to their audience of experts; participants discuss new and creative ideas across a variety of networks; and the conference schedule provides ample opportunity for professional engagement.

With 3 action-packed days to recap, here’s a quick look from DHCX 2013 at our top 10 takeaways on what digital outreach means for public health:

  1. Repurposing tactics. The future of digital health includes wielding old tricks in new ways. Some of these new ideas include Lit 2 Quit using mobile device games with breath therapy to give smokers a non-nicotine rush and the Missing Children Society of Canada using social networks to find missing children.
  2. Sharing and socializing. David Strong from comScore found that the largest shift in online health behaviors is to community support and watching other people’s experiences.
  3. Challenging the norm. Public health has yet to have that breakout moment that is followed by conversation, duplication, and adoption. A panel led by Danya’s Senior Director for Communication Strategy and Digital Erin Edgerton discussed the need for the government and health worlds to think outside of the box (like Oreo or Movember), and become more responsive in meeting the health consumer where they are with the right message at the right time.
  4. Going mobile. With a 134-percent increase in audiences seeking health information from 2011 to 2012, there’s no doubt that mobile and personal digital health are exploding. Michael Smith from WebMD suggested that because mobile feels more personal, secure, and private to the consumer, deeper engagement with mobile health will only continue to increase.
  5. Engaging patients. Public and digital health teams are creating more engaged patients by leveraging the power of advancing mobile technologies. Consumers want personal, intuitive, quick, and easy mobile apps that are built on “snackable” content.
  6. Predicting behavior. Gaming in public health can serve more than just helping to modify a behavior or increasing knowledge. By capturing and measuring what a player does in a health game, games can also serve as proxies to predict real-life behaviors and circumvent poor behaviors before they even happen.
  7. Socializing with purpose. According to Craig Lefebvre (@chiefmaven), “object-centered sociality”—the reason two people talk to each other, and not someone else—is driving our online health conversations. If people can connect within mass or niche networks about a shared health experience, similar health concerns, or in-common health topics, then they are socializing with purpose.
  8. Re-evaluating evaluation. When measuring and evaluating social media, digital health innovators are seeking more meaningful data than likes, fans, and retweets. Instead, we should be working to improve engagement tracking by measuring consideration, commitment, and advocacy, and establishing new standards for overall social media measurement.
  9. Keeping pace. Compared to the often clearance- and regulation-heavy world of public health, technology and hardware advance at an unstoppable rate. Data scientists looking to measure the influence digital outreach has on health should consider new experiment designs like multi-phase longitudinal, adaptive, or “N of 1” designs.
  10. Chunking content. As federal agencies continue to develop open content and product systems within public health, communicators must be intentional in creating messages for these systems that are still meaningful and relevant. Those who focus on creating messages of different sizes, varying literacy level, and for different audiences will be most successful.

By Katy Capers


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