Empowering Healthier Lifestyles

By Clem Cartwright

As we continue to see healthcare take on the lifestyle category, design has a crucial part to play in championing this shift and creating a new expression around health empowerment. 

Healthcare is becoming more of a lifestyle category than ever before. Although rates of illness are greater, we have an increasingly positive and proactive attitude around managing our health.

Technology-led brands are enabling consumers to look after themselves in more ways, empowering individuals to take a more active role in their understanding of their health. From Fitbit to Jawbone; there are fitness and health trackers to suit specific needs whether it’s step counting, sleep tracking or heart rate monitoring. The future of healthcare is being driven by our ability and desire to gain much more control over, and understanding of, our individual health.

This shift towards patient empowerment means that we will expect to receive personalised care and medical treatment, resisting feeling like another number on the GP’s register. Healthcare decisions are personal and emotional decisions, therefore, they are influenced by a sense of trust, recognition and visual appeal. Going forward, over-the-counter pharmaceutical brands will need to realign their focus in order to build this emotional connection with their consumers. Moving from a functional, product-centric category to a customer and service-based one, pharmaceutical brands will succeed or fail based on how well they respond to the different individual needs of their consumers.

Design has a crucial part to play in championing this category shift and creating a new expression around health empowerment. The pharma design strategy continues to remain broadly traditional following a corporate and bland format. Choosing over-the-counter medication can, therefore, be a painful challenge when facing a dizzying kaleidoscope of blue and orange pill packs all claiming to have the same benefits. As well as packaging, a positive environment in-store with easy shelf navigation can have a hugely positive effect in helping reduce patient anxiety and even contributing to their overall wellbeing. In addition to over-the-counter pharma brands, there is a great opportunity for prescription medicines to use branding and design to communicate clearly in more personable ways.

As we continue to see healthcare take on the lifestyle category, pharmaceutical brands will need to take learnings from more aspirational consumer-led brands. How can design solve the challenges that come with this transition?

Packaging design must break away from the clinical aesthetics associated with medicine, and instead focus on positive wellbeing in a product-centric way that instills trust. Swedish pharmacy chain Vårdapoteket developed a fun and colourful visual identity that transformed pharmacies into bright, positive spaces in hospitals and care centres. The idea, according to designers Stockholm Design Lab (SDL), was to create “a welcoming oasis of calm amid the sterility of a healthcare facility.”

Brands need to eliminate one of the biggest pain points along the consumer purchase journey; trying to translate complex medical jargon on pack. Interactive packaging and NFC allows brands to be one step ahead, communicating relevant information simply and conveniently, as well as building powerful on-brand experiences. By gathering data as well as prior knowledge of the user’s preferences and routine patterns across connected devices, technology can automatically direct the consumer straight to the products relating to their specific wants and needs.

This is just the beginning. Wearable tech, personal data, and social platforms are creating a new dynamic between patients and their doctors, creating a more collaborative and responsive approach to healthcare focused on creating personalised outcomes. Through great design combined with evolving technology, we can transform the relationship we have with healthcare forever.  

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