Togetherness

Updated: Apr 11


Welcome to “A Healthusiasm World”, a newsletter by Christophe Jauquet on the latest healthcare and self-care trends impacting all types of industries.


  1. Discover how both healthcare and consumer companies are experience-driven health businesses now.

  2. Learn what's next for customer experience, purpose-driven marketing, and digital health.

  3. Be inspired to design the most engaging health experiences yourself.




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I bring people together.

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This is a bit of a bold, perhaps even cocky, statement. But in many ways, it is true. When on stage – virtually or physically – I’m in front of people brought together for the occasion. I provide them with inspiration on how health & self-care is changing. This could be with a standard keynote, a personalised keynote, or even a keynote specifically made for that occasion. Whatever the case, it brings people together to think about the future of how we experience health.


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What can we do together?

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This newsletter is a written version of a keynote specifically made for a client. It was their first network event in over 2 years, and they wanted to bring people together again. The talk needed to celebrate this togetherness but as well inspire them to work together. And that was precisely what I did. The keynote inspired the audience on how togetherness is critical for the future of healthcare in two different ways. Curious? Let’s dig into this.





1. We feel better together


We are social animals. The psychologist Abraham Maslow already wrote about this need in the 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation", a piece of research that described the hierarchy of human needs. If you’ve ever seen one of my keynotes, you know that the Maslow Pyramid is a constant presence in my slide deck. Usually, I present the pyramid to indicate how people are increasingly focused on the top, i.e. self-actualisation. This time around, the attention was drawn to the middle: The need for belonging and love. According to Maslow, humans possess an absolute need for a sense of belonging and acceptance among social groups, large or small. Without this love or belonging, many people risk becoming susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, or even clinical depression.


The World Happiness Report (2021) considers loneliness to be one of the dominant reasons for unhappiness. ‘Loneliness’ is mentioned no less than 88 times in the report. In 2018, research by the Kaiser Family Foundation already disclosed that 20% of the global population felt alone. It confirms that people want to spend time with or talk to people. When in need, people start talking to chatbots. Apple noticed that many of its 500 million users were talking to Siri about their feelings. Therefore it hired over a dozen of psychologists to optimise the chatbot. Replika, an AI companion who cares, was even specifically developed to help people with their loneliness. Loneliness is a significant issue that lays an enormous burden on society. In Japan, the problem is that big they even appointed a minister of loneliness. The company behind the most popular Japanese messaging app even helped create a holographic AI companion called Gatebox. Its anime character functions as a life companion to help fight loneliness in Japan, where about 15% of the population states never to have contact with anyone outside their family.


Covid made us feel alone

Then Covid broke out... We weren’t allowed to meet with anyone beyond our family. It made the situation worse for about 6 billion people globally. This impacted the ones living alone very heavily. Even when living in a family, our mental state of health was under pressure. We are different people at home than in the other parts of our lives. We do things differently at home (virtual meeting in shorts, anybody?). We also take up different roles and attitudes. A large part of our identity was suddenly gone, or at least reduced to the size of a window in virtual meetings. No longer we were physically wandering around “the office” as the boss, a project manager or team lead. When we went out for shopping, our identity was hidden behind mouth masks. The bars, restaurants, gyms or sport facilities were closed. Those are the places where we are 'someone' amongst others. Our identity has always been shaped by being together with others. But it was no longer the case now.


Apart together for self-care

During Covid, we realised that self-care is not really about me-time. Self-care has long been associated with taking time to read a book, drink a glass of wine or take a long hot bath. Being in lockdown, we had more time to do those things. But it wasn’t enough. We understood that self-care is about being together with others as well. We need to belong and meet with other people. Therefore, the gaming industry organised on behalf of the World Health Organisation a promotional campaign called #playtogetherapart. The campaign encourages healthy physical distancing by bringing special events, exclusives, activities, rewards, and inspiration to some of the most popular games in the world. And so it happened. As expected, gaming grew by 45%.


But the gaming industry even went further. Fortnite organised a live music concert by Travis Scott that attracted 12,3 million people online. Roblox followed suit with their own live streaming concerts for 33 million people in their virtual world. Plenty of creativity arose, even from the players themselves. For example, teens in Japan and the US have built a replica of their school to meet. It allowed graduations to take place in a virtual world where even teachers and principals were present. In The Netherlands, Bianco Carague made a Minecraft world called Bump Galaxy where patients could virtually meet with mental health therapists from all over the world. A new form of togetherness arose. One that will only grow in the years to come: virtual togetherness


So what?

I’m sure all of this sounds fascinating. Suppose you are a psychiatrist, a mental health coach or a brand manager with a CNS portfolio. In that case, you may even find this interesting. If you are not, you may wonder what this has to do with the future of health, correct? Well,… the answer to that question is the common denominator for anyone working in health: patient engagement (or consumer engagement). Because togetherness is an essential aspect of creating engagement.





Solutions need to meet three different elements to create engagement: patient/consumer needs, personal expectations, and life aspirations. The needs are related to the specific situation people find themselves in. The expectations are shaped by the experiences people have accustomed to in other situations of their lives. They would love to experience this in this particular situation as well. Think about convenience or personalization as one of the 12 critical expectations in health. Finally, aspirations are what drive people in their lives. These are the 24 dreams and desires people aspire to in life. It’s what motivates them to be or remain healthy.


Today, togetherness is one of the aspirations that has become increasingly important. Want to engage your patient or consumer? Then meet their aspiration for togetherness. It is one crucial step in achieving it. Look at how solutions like Carenity, PatientsLikeMe, or any Facebook Group dedicated to a particular type of condition do precisely that. It answers the patients’ needs (information), meets their expectations (convenience), and helps them in their life aspirations (not feeling alone with their disease). I also very much like the start-up called Patient Partner for that exact reason. Patients who need to undergo surgery are brought together with people who underwent that same surgery in the past. These former patients provide them with information, relevancy, and togetherness. These are all the elements to engage a patient to the max.


In short: Remember that we tend to feel better when together. And we will aspire to this togetherness more than we ever have done in the past. Supporting an aspiration in life is an essential key to engaging with people.




2. We are stronger together.


I believe it is fair to say that we live in a more than ever polarised society. People are often strongly divided on essential societal topics such as political preference, covid measures or vaccinations,.. just to name a few. We live in a confusing world with a ton of fake news, where it’s hard to know who is speaking the truth (if there actually is such a thing). The social media algorithms feed of the human desire for togetherness. By providing you with similar opinions as yours, they gain popularity. We want our own beliefs to be endorsed. We want to belong to a group that acts and thinks like us. Because together, we feel stronger.


Samfundssind

This divide, even when it makes people feel stronger in their own beliefs, may not always be the best way to move forward. Particularly in critical situations, like during a pandemic, being fully aligned with everybody could generate a more significant impact. To achieve this togetherness amongst the Danes, the Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen resurrected a word that hasn’t been used since World War II: Samfundssind. There is no direct English translation for the word. However, it’s a contraction of‘ samfund’ (society) and ‘sind’ (mind) and calls for collective responsibility and community spirit. Or, in other words: togetherness. Because together, we are stronger.



I often use Google Trends as an early trend indicator of what occupies people. During the first Covid wave in March 2020, it became quickly apparent that searches for Safety, Together, and Self-care were surging. Still today, the word “together” keeps on being searched far more than last year. For the past 18 months, togetherness simply has been a dominant aspiration to cope with this situation. We need each other to get us through this. We need to work together.


We did it all together

And that’s also precisely what the world did. The discovery, production and distribution of vaccines were successfully achieved together. Data was openly shared. Collaborations were set up. Fierce competitors like Apple and Google developed a protocol together to facilitate digital contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Belgian supermarket competitors Delhaize and Colruyt set up a collaboration to provide healthcare workers with essentials. In the Netherlands, Help ‘n Appie facilitated donations to (closed) restaurants. With the money, they cooked for healthcare workers or the lonesome elderly. There were millions of similar examples, big or small, where people helped each other cope with this situation together.


So what?

The urgency of the situation forced people and companies to work together more than ever before. Hopefully, we learned a lot from dealing with this challenge together. I can only recommend companies to reflect upon the learnings and take them along in their future endeavours. Maybe the urgency won’t be as high as during a sudden pandemic. But it is expected that the future business context will require more togetherness to survive as a company. I’ll share two “changing contexts” that will require companies and healthcare organisations to work together more closely in the future.


a. Liquid Life.

The world has changed a lot in recent years, and it is doing so at an increasing speed. We are living a precarious life, lived under conditions of constant uncertainty. No longer can we easily rely on past experiences to prepare or navigate the future. We have moved away from the stability, permanence and heaviness of the “solid” modern era. We now live in an unstable, fleeting period, where constant change and instant obsolescence is the only “liquid” reality. Look at how quickly Covid-19 has changed the world. Think about how quickly the Taliban was able to take over the country again. Nobody could have predicted that, of course. But even new technologies surface faster and reach a very high level of adoption in society in no time. Companies cannot master these changes alone. They need to do it together with others.


Nike was one of the first ones to put an activity tracking bracelet onto the market. However, they decided to halt it rather quickly. Instead, they decided to partner up with Apple who was better placed to deal with the changes in that technological area. The partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Garmin on using sensors for biomarkers was also motivated by that same argument. Similarly, Eli Lilly created an ecosystem for their smart insulin Pen that included different widely used diabetes platforms, even one from a rival pharma company. All parties were convinced that only together it would be possible to achieve improved decision making for the patient. The ecosystem optimises accurate, real-time data collection that would never have been possible when done alone.


In France, we saw an even more impressive ecosystem unfold during the first Covid wave. Coalition Innovation Santé, a collaboration between 20+ pharma companies and 40+ hospitals, decided to tackle the lack of continuous patient care. Within 4 months (!!), the coalition selected 30 different start-ups out of about 400 projects. Moreover, 2,5 million private funding supported the deployment of these start-ups in 40 various hospitals. It’s a successful approach that is now being copied in other countries, with Belgium being the first to launch in January 2022. (contact me if you want to know more)


b. Blurring Boundaries

As I write about in my book Healthusiasm, every business is now a health business. This means that a wider variety of companies that previously had little to no affinity with health are now bringing health solutions to your customers. In Belgium, a telecom operator launched a telehealth solution Doktr amid the pandemic. Black+Decker, the American manufacturer known for its power tools, also joined the health party by launching an intelligent health companion Pria. The companion not only dispenses medication but serves as a telehealth solution as well.