Business jargon: the new The Tower of Babel starts with “Consumer”.

tower of babel 11.12

Summary: A recent piece from HealthCare Dive focuses on the huge uptick in the use of certain terms in business and questions whether they have lost their meaning. I would argue in the Age of (needed) Authenticity, we all need to think harder about what words we are using to convey strategies and ideas and not just pablum.

We live in a verbal jungle of clichés and jargon — and we accept that because, in some part, clichés and jargon provides a common language, which is very important in culture and business. But can it get to the point where we are using the same word but construe two entirely different meanings? The legend of the Tower of Babel had everyone sharing one language until suddenly no one understood each other. Disaster ensued. We need to think about this: are we using terms with each other that at their heart are hollow? By overusing a word or term do they then lose meaning?

I bring this up because of the context of what we need to be focused on as marketers in a media and Social Media drenched environment. We now live and work in an environment where needing to understand Humanity and work to achieve authenticity is critical for Brand identity and success.

Healthcare loves jargon. We have our own bevvy of terms that are misused, overused and abused. A recent article in HealthCare Dive* using a Google tool offers a very thought-provoking POV on four terms they believe have been used so much in healthcare, they have lost their original meaning. Or any meaning for that matter!

The first word they question is “Consumer”. After a recent conference I attended, I agree.

My own “jargon” epiphany on the abuse of the term “Patient-centric”. I went to a major conference in Philly last Spring about “Patient-centricity” — man, was that term turned and twisted in 2 days! First off, you’d think “Patient-centricity” would be old coin by now, but presenter after presenter showed a myriad of case studies which were classic Brand-centric work with some “patient lipstick” thrown on; nothing was particularly insight-based on integrating true patient need into the work. The majority of work was about multi-channel not Patient-centricity — and most presenters had mashed them together. It was as if they all said, “If we are multi-channel, surely that is patient-centric.”

(First clue = they are not patients, they’re people.)

So, what were the four terms this article said were so over used that the repetition caused them to lose real meaning? Do you overuse them?

Consumer. Interoperability. Disruptive Innovation. Accountable Care Organizations.

I’d love for people to weigh in on this. These following charts show how these terms show huge upward adoption for the first three:

HC Dive chart 1 Cons

The use of “Healthcare Consumer” went up over 20 years by nearly 600%. When a word which is at the core of so much change in strategic thinking — “Healthcare Consumer” in this case — it can be twisted to whatever need you want it to serve. It would be easy to say this overuse or diminution of the power this word holds is an act of hypocrisy/ I have seen plenty of sincere marketing people who simple did not have the Emotional Intelligence to truly embrace the tenets of “Customer/Patient-centricity”.

Take for instance the use of patient testimonials. As an industry we should ban all patient video testimonials that show a set and couch. If we as Brand Marketers are not shooting ethnographic testimonials, or something more emotionally honest or engaging, we might as well not spend the money. Even a real patient can come off as phony.

American Corporations have always been somewhat phony in their message. How many companies spout “Patient first!” but then create communications where the entire experience is clunky, full of stock photos and lacks any authenticity or real emotion; or where they bury the Access information three clicks down because of some internal debate. Until the “Consumers'” true needs are at the center of every strategy, this is a term getting emptier by the minute.

I think this word should be used more, but in a meaningful way.

HC dive chart 2 Interop

Interoperability is not a word that marketers use that much. Truth be told, interoperability has a huge meaning and impact to healthcare marketers — the lack of interoperability among systems old and new is at the core of why the Digital Transformation in healthcare is so slow. The slow migration of CTO’s skill sets and budgets merging with Marketing is an example of why Interoperability is so important and so difficult. Technology used to be about, well, technology. Technology today is about Customer-centricity and User Experience, not plumbing and wires.

Personally, I would have thought CRM would have shown up on these graphs. . What is CRM anyway? Customer Relationship Marketing, Management, direct mail, email…? Or it is all of it wrapped up in a PowerPoint and then divided up by channel?

Disruptive Inn HC Dive chart 3

Is it me or have I seen “Disruptive innovation” used and abused when people opine about the need for the industry to develop new business models? Oh the angst! Create “excubators”, take down the silos, and broaden the eco-system. All true, just look at the huge investments in Big Data, mHealth devices, biometrics, diagnostic tools — Apple’s Heathkit just being the latest. Janssen Innovations is probably the most realistic application of this term being applied correctly in the Pharma industry: they took what they knew best and offered it to a hospital system to improve outcomes. This is Innovation without Disruption. But if anyone inside a conference room at a Big Pharma or Biotech company is presenting Big Vision’s and Grand Schemes to embrace this term, my guess it is with a small “d” and “i”. The core of innovation is human-based; it is not born of a spreadsheet but of a vision, however bold or small, to know that change is necessary and possible.

The last was the term “Accountable Care Organizations.” I had never pondered that there was a blurriness to the term but never really put much thought to it. They didn’t have a Google chart — too new a term.

But this was a good summary of their argument:

“The study, however, defines ACO “in the broadest sense.” This means it includes Medicare ACOs, patient-centered medical homes in the private sector and providers accepting pay-for-performance arrangements with private and public payers in its analysis.

Spoiler alert: That is a lot of really different models.”

I have to say, when I asked someone what an ACO was they hesitated and said, “Like a hospital.” Are we over complicating things for complexity sake?

So what do we take from this? Is this the ascendance of jargon and the descent of meaning? Do we sit in meetings and listen to a presentation but miss the point the person is making?

My worry is that healthcare and Pharma Brand marketing has become more and more driven by multi-channel tools, Big Data and infrastructure, while perhaps missing touch with what the true Mission needs to be. That Mission is to go opposite the path of jargon and instead make a singular focus on what moves, motivates and engages Humans.

If you’d care to chat on this or any topic — especially around how I can help use my extensive digital marketing smarts for you — give me a call: 215-688-7613.

*HealthCare Dive:

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