Let’s Talk Healthcare

The best way to understand the impact of digital media is active, two-way participation. We welcome you to participate in our GCI Health blog and add to our conversation on the various trends and complex issues within healthcare communication.

Leading Thoughts

  • July 31, 2017
    • Comments Off on Communicating in Chaotic Times by Wendy Lund, CEO

    Communicating in Chaotic Times by Wendy Lund, CEO

    Breaking through with your messages in today’s media environment is tough, and the healthcare industry is certainly not immune to the changes to newsrooms we’ve seen in the last few years. Given these challenges, the 13th ExL Pharma Public Relations & Communications Summit, one of the largest gatherings of communications professionals in the pharmaceutical space, set out to explore these obstacles and provide best practices to overcome them and ensure key audiences are reached. Over the course of two days of presentations and robust discussions with peers and experts in the space, attendees focused on the myriad challenges communicators face and how quickly and nimbly our industry is able to adapt to “get the job done.”

    For the sixth year in a row, GCI Health served as marquee sponsor for the Summit. This year, I was honored to serve as conference co-chair, the first agency person to ever serve in this capacity, and played a key role in helping to shape the theme of this year’s meeting, “Providing a Clear Path Forward During Chaotic Times.” Four key points coming out of the Summit stuck with me.

    Combatting Fake News. Fake news is very topical today, particularly as it relates to our government, but in healthcare, the pharmaceutical industry has been living with it for a long time. The stakes here are huge and the industry has to get a handle on the flow of information to protect not only their companies, but the patients they serve. Efforts to combat fake news and maintain trust need to center on creating credible content, keeping ahead of trends and issues as they emerge and (quickly) countering inaccurate information.

    Breaking Through With Your Story. What does it take to get a reporter interested in your story? This is the key to getting covered in today’s environment. Your story needs to do more than just “add noise” and must provide value to their audiences. Also, reporters are competing with bloggers, social influencers and others who are pushing out information quicker than the media, so the speed at which you can get them information could decide whether or not your story runs – reporters have less time to get their stories right, so providing them with immediate access to what they need is critical.

    Channeling The Patient Voice. Now more than ever the consumer voice is heard and it’s making a difference. It seems that everyone wants to hear from real people, and patient influencers can humanize your story and help you get your messages out. However, they are only effective if they are seen as credible and genuine, so maintaining the trust of their communities is critical.

    Telling the Customer Story. Times have changed, healthcare has become very personal, and the brand is no longer at the center of the universe, and new approaches are needed to reach audiences. One approach is through brand storytelling, and the key here is finding ways to inspire through stories. However, the story is about the customer, and the brand is just a plot point in their story. It’s not about what you’re selling, but how what you’re selling ties into your customer’s story.

    Changes within the newsroom show no signs of slowing down and, as communicators, we will continue to adapt to these changes and find new ways to break through our messages to benefit the patients we serve. It will certainly be interesting to see where things head in the years to come.

  • May 10, 2017
    • Comments Off on A Good Decision for American Healthcare and Patients

    A Good Decision for American Healthcare and Patients

    This blog post by Craig Heit

    Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Dr. Scott Gottlieb as Commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. I believe this is very good news for patients anxiously awaiting more answers to their pressing health needs. I worked with Scott early in his career, and am confident that he has the experience, the intellect and the temperament to focus the agency on its core responsibilities, while addressing many of the challenges we face healthcare today. I believe he will make a difference.

    Challenges? There are a lot of them, from the speed of getting life-saving and life-changing medicines to market, to access to drugs, to the huge amounts of information readily available to patients and other consumers that barely existed just 10 years ago. The FDA can’t fix everything that’s problematic with the healthcare system today, but it can have a big impact on many issues.

    Opportunities? One thing I believe about Scott is that at the root of his beliefs is that what matters to patients is what matters most. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do think we’ll begin to see a much greater focus at the Agency on patient-centered activities that are authentic and will have impact now and in the future.

    Having worked at the FDA, Scott understands the organization – both what it does well and where it needs work. He understands that the Agency’s risk assessment skills are unparalleled, and need to be focused. As he said in a speech before the International Society for Stem Cell Research: “The FDA need to focus on those areas that create the most potential for risk, and channel its resource behind those efforts. Right now, FDA is often too easily distracted by attractive areas like iPhone apps that nonetheless pose relatively low risks and could be ably addressed by other regulatory agencies.”

    The search for absolute statistical certainty for the risks and benefits of new drugs has stalled much progress in new drug development. I think we should expect more use of readily available new tools – related to trial design and statistical analysis – to tighten up the approval process for potentially life-saving drugs.

    The FDA plays a critical role in assessing the safety and granting approval of potentially life-saving (or at least life-changing) drugs. Under Dr. Gottlieb’s leadership, I believe patients will see the Agency become a welcome partner in the efficient and effective pursuit of safe and valuable treatments. I respect, admire and trust Scott, and he has my “vote” to do many needed and different actions for the American healthcare system and, most particularly, for the patients anxiously awaiting these innovative drugs and devices to become available.

  • March 15, 2017
    • Comments Off on SXSW: Discussing a Doctor’s Dilemma, “To Tweet or Not to Tweet”

    SXSW: Discussing a Doctor’s Dilemma, “To Tweet or Not to Tweet”

    Guest post by Pauline Ma, Senior Digital Strategist

    An important part of putting patients at the center involves also considering the professional perspective. Social media has posed an interesting challenge to healthcare professionals and facilities overall, who, although they may recognize that it is “the place to be” to reach patient communities, still grapple with how to embrace what is seen as a high risk mode of communication.

    In a panel at SXSW 2017 titled “Doctoring Up Social Media Advocacy,” representatives from Baylor Scott & White Health and Mayo Clinic presented their team efforts to continue pushing the boundaries of HCP adoption of social media.

    Lee Aase, Director of Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN), shared that to incentivize its staff to become fluent in the compliant use of social media—while also recognizing the time constraints of physicians’ schedules— his team offers formal social media training that is available both via in-person workshops and online training; regardless of how training is completed, participants can receive CME (Continuing Medical Education) accreditation.

    Dr. Skye Clarke added her perspective as a physician on how to view the inherent risk involved with using social media, urging her peers to step outside of their comfort zones to embrace it and understand what levels of control are possible. “It’s about setting expectations- safe interactions can include sharing content, providing information… but direct dialogue with patients is where the risk really presents itself,” she said. Drawing an analogy between social media and participating in a radio interview, she added, “You can’t see the person at the other end of the line and you may not know exactly what is going on, but we need to be empowered to feel comfortable with this scenario.”

    Collectively, the panelists were honest in their view of how success for HCP social media usage tends to be different from what’s considered successful from a consumer/patient standpoint. Aase asserted that it’s natural to have engagement taper off, with peak engagement usually centering around a milestone event (such as a Twitter chat). Jacob Sloane, Director of Social Media for Baylor Scott & White Health, added that while patient-HCP interactions via social have limits, there is also a lot of interest from physicians to use social media as a means of connecting with their colleagues (HCP-HCP).

    Among the case studies discussed, Sloane disclosed that it took a year of preparation for Baylor to live tweet a heart transplant last year; recognizing the preparation required was just one step, but getting executive buy-in on this opportunity to break down barriers of how people view the transparency of healthcare institutions was another. Similarly, Mayo Clinic has featured the story of a face transplant patient on its social channels as a way to allow a patient who really wanted to tell his story to do so in an authentic way, in support of his sense of obligation to the patient community.

    While there’s still work to be done across networks of healthcare professionals to become better accustomed to social media usage, there is great opportunity. “What’s really changed is that it used to be that there was a lot of skepticism among physicians whether social media was worthwhile and whether to be involved… now, there continues to be movement in discussing how we should smartly, strategically use these tools.” As Dr. Clarke cleverly described, “It’s time the HCP community progresses past using HIPAA as “the garlic to keep social media opportunities away.”

  • March 13, 2017
    • Comments Off on SXSW: Flying Eye Hospital Provides Global Care, Training

    SXSW: Flying Eye Hospital Provides Global Care, Training

    Guest post by Emily Williams, Digital Strategist

    There are 285 million blind or visually impaired people in the world. Yet, four in five of them suffer from conditions that are preventable or curable.

    In a SXSW panel titled “Fighting Blindness with Tech Innovation and Access,” we learned how Orbis International, a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide, uses its Flying Eye Hospital to not only provide high quality eye care and train local medical staff in developing countries, but to also provide education from the aircraft to virtually all corners of the globe.


    “Blindness doesn’t just affect one person – it affects the entire family. Children don’t have the opportunity to grow and learn, and then communities remain in poverty,” said Dr. Daniel Neely, Professor of Ophthalmology at Indiana University and a volunteer of Orbis International.

    Orbis International’s Flying Eye Hospital has been custom designed to offer medical technology and training to the developing world, and it is equipped with the tools the medical team needs to provide hands-on training to local eye care professionals in order for them to restore sight for patients in their own countries. Additionally, it features 3D technology and live broadcast capabilities enabling Orbis, with the help of volunteers, to train more doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals in areas where there is little access to professional development.

    Dr. Danny Haddad, Chief of Program at Orbis International, noted that Orbis’ primary mission with the Flying Eye Hospital is to work with developing countries to create long-term eye care systems that are sustainable, affordable and accessible, creating workable solutions to the tragedy of blindness in those countries and ultimately restoring sight.

    When asked about efforts in war zones and other areas of conflict, Dr. Neely noted that while the Flying Eye Hospital does not fly directly into those areas, the 3D technology and broadcast capabilities of the aircraft help train local medical professionals to provide quality eye care to those underserved populations. “That’s the power of telemedicine – experts at your fingertips.”

    Telemedicine is a rapidly expanding area of healthcare service delivery that continues to show real promise, and Orbis has leveraged the communication technology for a profound impact on global public health. The evolution of this technology will only continue to grow and expand into other areas of healthcare, and we’re excited to see how this technology can be applied to help eliminate other preventable diseases and health conditions.

    Want to tour the Orbis International Flying Eye Hospital? Click here – and be sure to get the full experience using a VR headset.

  • March 11, 2017
    • Comments Off on SXSW: A Conversation With the U.S. Surgeon General About Stress

    SXSW: A Conversation With the U.S. Surgeon General About Stress

    Guest post by Pauline Ma, Senior Digital Strategist

    Stress- it’s a word that has become a regular in the vocabulary of people of all backgrounds, life stages, career tracks and genetic predispositions. It’s also a feeling that can be both mental and physical, and one that a reported 24% of adults in America have described they are experiencing.

    Day one of SXSW Interactive also kicked off the Health track of the conference, and in a session titled “One Nation Under Stress: How Social Connection Can Heal Us,” we had the pleasure of hearing from U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy.


    What happens when stress is chronic and goes on for a long period of time? It is damaging to the body, accelerates aging, and contributes to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a whole host of other conditions. As Dr. Murthy introduced, “the impact of stress on the body (both acutely and chronically) cannot be underestimated.”

    He described an epidemic of chronic stress in America, and at its roots a gap in understanding that emotional well-being isn’t just something that happens to people; research shows there are tools that can contribute to it and can proactively be used to cultivate it. Among them, the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. continues to explore advancing research to help people be resilient in the face of adversity, as it launches a campaign this year focused on improving emotional well-being.

    Promising pursuits in this area of public health have included a focus on teaching youth to practice “the importance of pause” and understanding the signals of stress– along with its implications and how to manage it. In one example of its practical application, Dr. Murthy described how introducing a meditation program in a school contributed to a decrease in bullying.

    In a time when the volume of digital platforms and methods for establishing a connection with other people and things continues to grow, it is also a time when 40% of adults report feeling isolated. While the nature of the correlation between isolation and social media usage is argued from several different angles, the bottom line is that we need to be consciously committed to how platforms for communication and connection are used. Dr. Murthy urges, “Let’s make sure that our contributions are positive ones that lift people up… they have a moral impact.”

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