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 20, 2016
    • Comments Off on Don’t Sponsor “Content for Women,” Sponsor “Women”

    Don’t Sponsor “Content for Women,” Sponsor “Women”

    Blog post by Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health, featured on WorkingMother.com

    Companies and even industries need to support gender equality through clear career pathways and options for advancement.

    So many talented women are yearning for the next step.

    Lately, I’ve noticed that companies in my industry, communications and public relations (PR), are putting out a lot of “sponsored” content extolling the importance of gender equality in the workplace. In a sector made up of 70 percent women, but with only 30 percent of them holding top positions, our industry should be showing the way for other industries by sponsoring women, not content, to foster discernible change.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about this disparity and why it even exists. From surprising my family at my college graduation by holding up a sign highlighting the pay inequality between men and women (“58 cents to the dollar”), to earning a master’s in women’s history, to a successful 30-year career, I have seen so many positive changes for women, but I still feel we’re only occasionally getting to the true top of our game.

    One thing I’ve noticed is how hard it still is for women to come out and ask for what they want, or even conceive of what they want. If you ask a woman what she’s looking for, she’ll often respond with some variation of “What do you need?” (focusing only on the immediate ask) or “I have no idea—I’m too busy working and managing my family.” I remember the many times in my own career when I depended on the powers-that-be to just tell me what was next and where I was needed most, rather than a range of options I could pursue for advancement.

    A recent article in our industry press addressed this very issue with feedback from senior women about the main barriers women in PR face—with all of them citing lack of confidence, lack of flexibility and a need for work and family balance. While I’ve noticed that younger women do have a better sense of what they want and have limited qualms talking about it, companies still need to do more to help women envision what is possible, and to provide “guideposts” to help them see what their career pathway could look like. So many talented women are yearning for the next step, new responsibilities and opportunities to ascend to the top of their careers, but they seem to lack the confidence and words to ask. Both men and women leaders have the power and ability to create stronger companies and grow talent by looking for and creating these opportunities.

    So what can be done across all industries?

    – Companies should examine their gender pay gap. In 2015, female full-time workers made on average just 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a 21 percent wage gap. This is a far cry from the 58 cents more than 30 years ago, but clearly not where we should be. What is your company doing to close the pay gap?

    – Mentors and sponsors play a fundamental role in cultivating more female leaders. Women need to feel confident in their abilities and feel empowered to ask for what they want. An internal advocate can help them feel more comfortable addressing their goals, and internal advocates should be supported by top leadership.

    – Having a critical eye toward helping employees maintain a good work life balance is the real cornerstone to women feeling they have the opportunity to advance without sacrificing their mom role. If a company offers telecommuting options, an employee should not feel conflicted about using them. With all the technological advances of today’s world, true face-to-face interaction should not be a prerequisite for achieving a leadership role.

    I hope that a year from now, we will see real change in my industry and others. But it’s up to companies and their leadership to make it happen and for all women, and for us to speak up and ask for what we want even if we don’t know what that is. In other words, we need to get sponsored and create our own content—our own story.

  • March 13, 2016
    • Comments Off on SXSW: Rally for Rare Diseases

    SXSW: Rally for Rare Diseases

    Guest post by Pauline Ma, Digital Strategist

    “An estimated 30 million Americans (that’s about 1 in 10) have a rare disease.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta presents this statistic in his appearance in Rare in Common, a user-generated short film that features the experiences of families dealing with a rare disease. While the specific diseases that afflict them are considered rare (defined in the US by a patient population numbering less than 200,000 people), what’s not rare at all is how common rare diseases overall are: today, there are over 7,000 rare diseases.

    While the film is being submitted to film festivals, we got a glimpse of the emotional journey and powerful rally of families to make progress in this arena and to inspire industry, regulators and the public to #careaboutrare.

    The panel featured leaders from Cambridge BioMarketing, Intercept Pharmaceuticals, and Lipodystrophy United (in particular, the organization’s founder, Angela Stratton, who has the rare disease herself and has devoted her energy to advocacy efforts). Through her moving personal stories and those of the families in the film, several key themes emerged:

    The diagnostic journey is long – it’s more like an odyssey. In a survey of people with rare diseases, the average number of years to get to diagnosis is 7-8 years, a taxing period that involves seeing multiple doctors and often facing misdiagnoses (a staggering 5-6 misdiagnoses, on average).

    The Internet is scary, but… One family remarked “stay away from the Internet and appreciate the moments, the little moments…” At the point of diagnosis, patients aren’t getting a lot of information from their providers. Going down the rabbit hole of Google searching for information about these rare diseases has presented patients with little hope. As such, there’s a powerful opportunity to create communities online (a concept that has seen success in addressing fears of having no one to talk to) and to reinforce knowledge sharing among the people that actually know the disease best: patients and their families.

    There is a large asymmetry of information. Throughout the film, the notion of patients often knowing more than their doctors echoes loud and clear. Parents are becoming medical brokers, and as Cambridge BioMarketing’s Lisa Hazen puts it, the rare disease community is seeing moms become “CMOs – Chief Medical Officers.” The knowledge gap is in large part due to the traditions of medical training. Sam Falsetti quoted the often-used rare disease analogy, “When you hear hoofbeats, you think of horses… not zebras,” to describe the state of mind doctors tend to have.

    The group of panelists presented that an astounding 30-40% of rare diseases have facial recognition patterns that can aid diagnosis. There is no lack of opportunity to improve the accessibility of information and education as it relates to rare diseases.

    For the patient and caregiver community, user-generated content (especially around milestones and events), has seen success through distribution on social media, but it doesn’t stop there. From an industry standpoint, what is the role that pharmaceutical companies can play in addressing this issue? Hazen, whose family is personally affected by a rare disease, closed the session, “With the right partners in a disease space, we can change the planet of a disease.

  • March 12, 2016
    • Comments Off on SXSW: Health Gets Mobile, Communal

    SXSW: Health Gets Mobile, Communal

    Guest post by Emily Kittle, Digital Strategist

    In today’s world, all of the information and resources we could want and more seem to be at the tip of our fingertips. However, when it comes to healthcare, seeking the appropriate treatment is all too often deprioritized due to the daily demands of life and the ease of being able to search symptoms online and self-diagnose. Similarly, many patients feel that their existing support systems quite often don’t have the resources and time to help them in their healthcare journey following diagnosis, surgery or injury.

    Two of today’s sessions at SXSW – “Virtual Health: Is It Real or Just Fantasy” and “New Prescription: Mobilize Patients’ Communities” – highlighted local mobile health-focused initiatives in the state of Texas that are helping to improve patient access to care and support systems, resulting in improved quality of care and outcomes for patients.

    In 2014, the Dallas Children’s Health System of Texas implemented a school-based telemedicine program with remote patient monitoring. The reason behind this program? It’s inevitable that children will get sick at school, which can be disruptive to daily life – they have to miss class, parents have to leave work, last minute doctor’s appointments have to be scheduled. But through this telemedicine program, school nurses are provided with stethoscopes, ear, nose, throat and derma scopes, then connected with Children’s physicians for a virtual patient consultation.

    Because of the mobile technology, Children’s physicians are able to diagnose common illnesses for children in school and send their prescriptions to a preferred pharmacy, ultimately eliminating the need for the child to leave the school for treatment or for mom and dad to spend valuable time and money on a doctor’s appointment or emergency room visit. Today, Children’s Health’s telemedicine program is one of the largest school-based telemedicine programs for kids in the country, with more than 57 schools across Dallas implementing the technology.

    We were honored to participate in another session today that introduced us to Rallyhood, a collaborative platform that enables action-oriented communities. We heard from Rallyhood CEO Patti Rogers, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. While she had a tremendous support group throughout her cancer journey, she realized that there was a need for tools and resources to bring people together around a common purpose – and that’s why Rallyhood was born.

    Recognizing this need, Patti partnered with Seton Medical Center Austin to launch this platform. Now, people can use Rallyhood to stay connected through features such as calendars, file sharing, photo exchanges and message boards. The panelists reiterated that “You can’t do cancer alone” – support groups are vital, and technology is extremely important in connecting those dots.

    “If you are connected and uplifted by the people around you, you are more likely to have endorphins to help you get well. A community and support group can make the difference in whether you get well or return to the hospital.” – Patti Rogers, founder and CEO of Rallyhood

  • March 11, 2016
    • Comments Off on SXSW: The Business of Influencers

    SXSW: The Business of Influencers

    Guest post by Pauline Ma, Digital Strategist

    There are certain questions that should be easy for today’s influencers (and social media stars, content creators, or whatever other lingo you’d like to use to characterize them) to answer: How did you get your start? What do you look for when companies and brands reach out to you in hopes of a partnership? Other questions are not as clear-cut: How do you determine your pricing model? How do you maintain creative control and actually tell a story?

    At SXSW Interactive, many a panel focused on the topics of content creation, native advertising and social media engagement. These discussions tend to become pretty predictable in these types of settings: for example, a phrase like “be authentic, engaging and relevant” more than met its quota.

    So why are we still talking about them if the concepts are no longer new? Panelists shed light on the challenges that still exist, like navigating available budget for integrated campaigns, buy-in and understanding from higher ups on what collaborating with influencers to create content can do for brand stories, and how to strike that healthy balance between “yes, this content is sponsored” and “here’s the voice of the influencer you know and trust.”

    What we heard was that generally, the available budget for sponsored content campaigns still remains small in comparison to the larger pool of funds reserved for traditional marketing — and often the support for these campaigns is a blend of PR and social media budgets too. At the root of this often is the need to educate those in senior management (and those who hold the key to unlock more freedoms with budget) about expectations for what these kinds of collaborations can deliver and how they can be measured.

    One common remark from a panel of millennial content creators and video personalities particularly struck a chord with us: “when we receive pitches, we want to know upfront what we’re going to get out of it.” For those of us working in healthcare, this is something to keep in mind. How can we push ourselves to be creative with what we can offer our partners? If not (or in addition to) cutting them a check, what kinds of experiences can we offer? An understanding of an influencer’s following, personal brand, and strengths in content creation is crucial to ensuring a partnership is beneficial to both parties. More often than not, influencers feel that the cold pitches they’re getting are so laser-focused on supporting some business goal on the back-end and overlook focusing on the meaningful impact that can be created out of the partnership.

    Particularly within healthcare, we know finding the right influencers is not easy – and so we need to ensure we’re thinking about what we can do differently in order to create truly authentic partnerships that are about more than just click-throughs and engagements.

  • March 11, 2016
    • Comments Off on SXSW: The Internet of Things – What About the Internet of You?

    SXSW: The Internet of Things – What About the Internet of You?

    Guest post by Emily Kittle, Digital Strategist

    To no surprise, a major theme on day one of SXSW was discussion around the Internet of Things – but this year, it seems that most panelists agree that it’s no longer a thing of the future. The Internet of You (an extension of the Internet of Things) is already here – and this is only the beginning. Below is a firsthand reflection of the following SXSW sessions: “The Internet of You: Wearables and Under-Skin Marketing” and “Home Sweet Home: The Health Hub of the Future.”

    In the landscape of digital health today, wearables track and record your breath, pulse and movement, providing a truly personalized experience that has never been available before, while providing unique data about individuals’ activities, heart rates, sleep patterns, locations and more (check out Samsung’s 3G-capable smartwatch Gear S2). Reality-altering devices provide first-person views that someone may otherwise never experience – unlike Rift and similar VR devices which provide a fully immersive experience, see Microsoft’s HoloLens which adds visuals to a user’s physical view, partially immersing them into a “created” world of their choice, while still being able to see their real physical surroundings.

    But why? Several key words seemed to pop across today’s sessions regarding this topic: personalized, real-time, utility, value, seamless, access, convenience, the list goes on. People want to have access to their own personal data and to experience worlds beyond their imaginations. But beyond that, there seems to be a shift in the way people crave, view and engage with these technologies. That shift is from a more inward view to any form that now affects our outer world – people not only want access to their personal data, they want to be able to provide that information and connect in a meaningful way with others based on that data, whether it’s friends, family, physicians, etc. (read about Under Armour’s Healthbox fitness tracking system for an example).

    So what does this mean and where do we go from here? One particular session today emphasized the critical role that homes will play as healthcare continues to shift in the coming years (think smart homes with a primary emphasis on healthcare). Home devices can provide insights into people’s daily activities, routines and behaviors that could potentially help prevent dangerous health situations. The panel discussed the use of LED lighting to help patients with anxiety and depression, mattress cooling system technologies to help women with menopause to cool down when sleeping at night and providing environmental changes within the home that can encourage healthy cooking and eating habits for those with diabetes.

    Overall, today’s sessions highlighted how health technology can act as a leverage for creating positive behavioral change. Wearables, reality altering devices and the home are all powerful catalysts for empowering people to live their best lives. But for the vast majority of people, data is not enough.

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