From the cultural zeitgeist of productivity and self-care to Covid-19’s indirect and direct mental health impacts, brain health is at the forefront of our minds. As the CEO of a healthcare and biotech branding agency, I’ve also noticed a shift toward brain health. Approximately a third of the clients I connect with now are focused on innovating within mental health, psychiatry or neuroscience.
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The benefits are clear: Optimizing brain health not only improves mental and physical well-being, but it also creates positive social and economic impacts across society.
By understanding the factors driving this new era of brain health investment and innovation, organizations can capitalize on it.
Funding And Support Boosting Scientific Brainpower
Neurological disorders are one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and the most prevalent neurological diseases cost the U.S. economy nearly $800 billion per year. Pharmaceutical strategies for treating mental illnesses are lagging behind drug development for other diseases. Overall, the necessity for innovation to address these crucial barriers in brain health appears to be a catalyst for increased funding and support.
In 2022, the European Union Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease Research launched a transnational call to improve treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. Meanwhile, Evotec and Bristol Myers Squibb just signed an eight-year deal to discover neurodegenerative treatments, and the Salk Institute received the largest grant in its history to map the aging human brain. Additionally, NRx Pharmaceuticals announced support for continuing enrollment in its trial for the first oral NMDA-targeted medicine meant for patients with suicidal bipolar depression.
The Brain Benefits Of Shifting Care Delivery Approaches
The Covid-19 pandemic rapidly scaled telemedicine out of need. In the U.S. alone, the first year of the pandemic resulted in a 15 times increase in the use of telehealth services for Medicaid beneficiaries in five states. Beyond care continuity during Covid-19, telehealth continues to play a crucial role in access to medical care. In certain circumstances, telemedicine has even shown potential cognitive benefits in and of itself.
In a qualitative study among older rural patients, telemedicine visits were reported to improve both physical and cognitive health. Additionally, patients and caregivers also reported feeling empowered and hopeful due to having greater knowledge as well as access to more tools and resources.
Telemedicine also has offered a new perspective on care delivery methods to accommodate a shortage of neurologists. An emerging teleneurology hospitalist model could help increase access to these specialists at community hospitals to address care gaps, reduce unnecessary patient transfers and enable higher-quality care.
A New Interface Between Technology And Mental Health
Artificial intelligence and digital technologies are gaining momentum in healthcare, including in their ability to be applied to mental health. In 2022, the global mental health AI market was worth $910.6 million. By 2030, it is forecast to reach $11.4 billion. One example use case is an AI-based decision support system created to predict and diagnose mental health disorders.
Brands must overcome justified consumer skepticism in order to harness technology’s potential for good in mental health. In March, the Federal Trade Commission announced that an online counseling service shared the health information of more than 7 million consumers for advertising purposes.
Websites like MindApps.org are helping consumers avoid situations like this. It aggregates mental health apps for clinicians and patients alike and offers filters for privacy, features, evidence and clinical foundations, and more.
Differentiating Your Brand
As investment and innovation in brain health grow, so does the need for strategic brand differentiation. Here are some considerations for brands working in this space:
• Know your specific audience. Market research and persona development are incredibly important for delivering not just strong messaging, but also sensitive messaging. For example, if you are trying to reach a neurodiverse audience, using identity-first language instead of person-first language can make a difference in reception.
• Evidence is imperative. Addressing brain health can span a wide range of legitimate solutions such as new point-of-care clinical devices, or unproven consumer goods like supplements. Using data-driven brand strategies will help you establish credibility for the general public who may be skeptical and for healthcare professionals who rely on research to adopt new practices.
• Balance the scientific with the human. Brain health is pivotal to who we are as human beings. Blending science with emotional resonance through a creative concept can allow you to both express your unique value proposition and speak to the person rather than treating them like a statistic.
As in any rapidly developing field, I anticipate that the brain health space will see many exciting opportunities and solutions—and also a lot of potential saturation. It is our responsibility as marketers to be mindful of this landscape as we usher in this new era of brain health so that we may leverage branding to help life-changing innovations make the most positive impact.