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

  • 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.”

  • September 12, 2016
    • Comments Off on Finding Common Ground across the Pond

    Finding Common Ground across the Pond

    At GCI Health, we pride ourselves in doing things differently and bringing our passion for healthcare to what we do best for our clients. This includes working seamlessly across country borders to combine senior expertise and local market knowledge to push boundaries and deliver exceptional around-the-clock service.

    From London Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge, this drive to do something different is at the very heart of our global agency culture. Our values are the foundation of who we are as an agency.

    Each office certainly has an “It” factor and specialties as it is the talents of individual staff members that make up GCI Health. However, after working for an extended time from both our New York and London offices, I’ve seen our agency values in action across the global network.

    • We put patients at the center of everything we do because they are why we do what we do. Before starting any programming, we make every effort to understand the patient perspective so we can meet them where they are and deliver resources they need – whether that translates to a national consumer campaign or a toolkit to guide conversations between patients and their doctors. This can encompass everything from online research and surveys, to interviews with the actual patients we’re looking to help.
    • We think outside the box to deliver original programming grounded in strategic insights. We leverage key insights from patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and patient advocates, and seek inspiration from outside the realm of healthcare to elevate our clients with ground-breaking, award-winning programs.
    • We foster collaboration to pull together the best talent and resources across our global network. We work across offices to ensure all our work is informed by our global knowledge base in consumer health, medical education, digital strategy, media relations and regional regulations.
    • We nurture talent to cultivate diverse and specialized career paths. My personal experience is testament to this value. When I expressed my desire to move to London to gain global communications experience, GCI Health facilitated the transition to develop my personal career and enrich both offices. It didn’t matter that I was the first person to complete an extended placement in an international office. GCI Health was flexible, working with me across borders and time zones.

    No matter what’s in our cups, fresh brewed coffee or Earl Grey, our values remain the same. Put patients first. Champion originality. Foster collaboration. Nurture talent.

    Written by Lindsey Colegrove, Senior Account Executive

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