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

  • April 4, 2012

    A new way to think about consumer engagement in healthcare

    This blog post by Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health, originally appeared in the PRWeek Insider on April 4, 2012.

    Let’s take it as a given that healthcare companies have expressed a desire to focus on patient engagement. A study that McKinsey & Company published less than two years ago asked 1,000 CEOs and COOs to rank their top five initiatives over the next five years. Ninety percent ranked patient experience management as either their first or second priority.

    With access to a wealth of information from a wide range of sources, patients are more empowered today than ever before. This matters to the C-Suite – beyond traditional marketing and public relations – as individual patients and patient advocates have been able to change markets because of what they say and think about specific companies.

    The challenge for companies was also made clear in that same McKinsey study, with the punch line being that the respondents did not know who in their organization “owned” the patient.

    Clearly, for a company to develop a leadership role around the patient, it must be one that goes beyond disease states or brands. It has to be an enduring effort, one that shows that the patient is front and center for a company. It must be a strong demonstration of the company’s desire to begin an ongoing dialogue with patients, and its support of valuable and sustainable programs that patients come to rely on that will not dissolve away like yesterday’s marketing campaign.

    A recent article in Pharmaceutical Executive, “Time to Appoint a ‘Chief Patient Officer” by Sarah Krug from February 1, 2012, sketched out one approach that would be a good first step in this direction. Krüg proposes the development of a chief patient officer, a C-suite-level executive whose responsibility would be “to understand and oversee the ways in which the company is perceived by and relates to its single largest key audience: the patient. The CPO would also help to redefine and restructure corporate drug development and commercialization strategies in ways that would offer demonstrable value to patients.”

    While I think that the chief patient officer is a good start, for companies who truly want to show their commitment to patients, I’d take it a step further and create a “P-suite” to ensure that a patient-centric approach is pulled through all the company’s major activities. The P-suite – the CPO, a patient advisory board, and internal ambassadors – would work in tandem with existing executives.

    Communications would be a hand-in-glove partner with the P-suite. Internal communications – using all the channels available – would bring the patient commitment and experience to every employee. From an external perspective, P-suite perspectives can be driven out through existing activities – corporate citizenship and annual reports, health conferences, and business conferences – as well as specially developed efforts related to product promotion, online efforts, and other communications.

    There’s no doubt a P-suite would be a significant investment for a company, but it’s an investment well worth it to demonstrate a commitment to patients. It would show how patients are truly valued and create new and deeper loyalties with the stakeholders who surround them.

  • April 2, 2012

    Meeting the comms challenge of ‘putting patients first’

    This blog post by Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health, originally appeared in the PRWeek Insider on April 2, 2012.

    It’s become a mantra lately. When I talk to people working for healthcare-related companies, pretty much all believe and say the same thing: “As a company, we are committed to putting patients first.”

    With so much recent news in our business, attention-grabbing headlines and personalities have often taken center stage ahead of patients — and this got me thinking. As healthcare communicators, we have the challenge of figuring out whether we are really putting patients first against a backdrop of tough legal, regulatory, and medical requirements, not to mention the pressure to hit certain metrics and goals.

    We’ve all worked under so many restrictions for so many years that require we remain unemotional in how we present key issues, but we’re still dealing with the most sensitive situations for patients, their families, and caregivers. These demands sometimes make it virtually impossible to get into our patients’ mindsets and provide communications that truly deliver on what they and their caregivers need. We must find ways to have our actions match our honorable intentions.

    What has changed is that patients have become important influencers and decision makers in their treatments, whether we like it or not. Of all healthcare company customers and stakeholders, it is patients’ engagement and perceptions that have been most advanced by new information technologies. This access to knowledge can put the patient on nearly equal footing with clinicians in evaluating their choices of therapy.

    What this means for communicators is that we are in a unique position to define and frame company stories. We can progress with empathy and understanding of the patient experience, while looking for new and unique ways to engage with patients. We need to be deliberate and clear – and always keep in mind that they are us and we are them.

    It’s critical to remember that the public, consumers, and patients are depending on us to help educate them and provide information they can use in a meaningful way. As a starting point, our tone is essential – we must speak in an honest, transparent, and empathetic way. Also, we must work with spokespeople, especially celebrities, who are authentic.

    In terms of substance, we have to put ourselves in their shoes. More and more, they are their own source of information and are becoming their own advocates. We have to look at what information they need to change their behavior as it relates to improving their health, enhancing their treatments, and better embracing clinicians’ advice.

    Most importantly, we need to use the tools now available to us to speak with patients, not just to them. If we listen more, we can engage in better ways, drive more effective communications outcomes, and most importantly directly impact their health in a meaningful and positive way.

  • October 21, 2011

    GCI Health President Jill Dosik’s Insight Featured in O’Dwyer’s Magazine

    GCI Health President Jill Dosik analyzes approaches and strategies for communicators to consider regarding personalized medicine in the O’Dwyer’s Magazine feature, “Educating Media, Patients to Personalized Medicine.”

  • April 22, 2011

    Healthcare Game Changer

    This story originally appeared in PRWeek Insider on April 23, 2011 (subscription required).

    More People are playing Farmville than Watching Dancing with the Stars. More people are playing Texas Hold’em Poker than are watching Glee.* And Zynga, maker of Farmville, has about half the monthly active users that Twitter does – 135MM versus 283MM.*

    Clearly, gaming is a big part of American life. People are choosing gaming for entertainment over all the other immersive options out there. As smartphones become even more ubiquitous, that puts a powerful gaming machine right in everyone’s pocket.

    Gaming is not just for kids. 18-49 year olds make up the largest percentage of gamers at 49%, and the average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 40 years old. There are more people over 50 that play games (26%), than children under 18 (25%).*

    Gaming for Healthcare?

    Anyone who has observed their teenager in the death grip of level  10 of Angry Birds recognizes the complete concentration and immersion that experience offers. Could some of that focus and engagement be used for healthcare?

    The Journal of the American Medical Association took a look at the impact of health gaming and found that: “Sufficiently engaging games might enhance the effectiveness of health messaging, allowing individuals to practice useful thought patterns and behaviors and encouraging them to explore and learn from failure in safe virtual environments.” JAMA reported that recent games had positive outcomes, such as Re-Mission, a game for adolescent and young adult patients with cancer, which improved adherence; and Wii Fit for obesity. Now, if that language sounds a little academic, consider the tone of most healthcare educational materials, which tend to be dry and impersonal.  Gaming can blend education and entertainment, so you can learn while having fun.

    It comes back to your marketing objectives. Can you educate through a gaming experience? Can you motivate through a system of goals, feedback and competition? Could gaming be another way to tell the story and get the message across? If so, gaming could be an emerging avenue worth trying.

    Gaming clearly has advantages on the social web for sharing of scores, competition, and team play.  From a news perspective, there are many angles, from the patient, to the disease, to the game itself. Gaming offers multimedia assets that can be used in news releases, YouTube, or Facebook.

    What works for consumers, works as well with healthcare practitioners. What better way to teach a doctor about a new mechanism of action than an immersive and interactive game/learning experience? With the increasing use of tablets and other devices in detailing, the opportunities will only increase.

  • April 20, 2011

    Blogger Outreach, PR and Healthcare

    This story originally appeared in PRWeek Insider on April 20, 2011 (subscription required).

    With the emergence of today’s digital space, it is safe to say that bloggers are the new reporters and journalists. Their content reaches many at once and is easily accessible by a click of the finger. What bloggers choose to feature on and write about can go beyond just sharing light on a particular topic. Their opinions are well trusted by faithful readers, and their posts have the ability to persuade and most importantly, greatly influence perceptions. Blogging was one of the first Web2.0 technologies and it changed the dynamics of influence.

    What does this mean for PR?

    It is important to find bloggers who address the same audiences as your company.  Once you find them, research their dos and don’ts. There’s nothing more wasteful than spending a significant amount of time reaching out to a number of bloggers and pitching stories, services and/or products that turn out to be of no interest to them. Also, make sure that these bloggers are people who do want to be contacted and if indicated, make note to follow their particular guidelines on how they would like to be reached. These initial steps can make the difference in unanswered emails, one-time features, or a series of professional partnerships based on lasting, trusting relationships that successfully introduce many to your company and the work that you do.

    For Healthcare PR?

    Bloggers have become a frequently referenced source of healthcare information. So, finding and reaching out to influential bloggers in your category is a critical component of your outreach. Bloggers themselves are individuals, and should receive customized communications instead of mass mailed press releases – they should be targeted to their blog and their community. Blogs should be analyzed to determine relation to the disease state, influence, and on-label suitability.

    Special considerations may be necessary for healthcare. Some pharma companies are only comfortable reaching out to bloggers with journalistic credentials – those who have established a presence in traditional as well as online media, or are otherwise recognized as an authority in their area. Blog monitoring may need to be carried out to monitor the conversation and gauge response by the community. This, in itself, can lead to useful insights for companies. And understanding bloggers’ rights to make honest statements regarding products is a hard pill for healthcare companies to swallow.

    However, the reward is a more personal interpretation of your news, told in an engaging way to a very interested community. Sometimes, it is through these posts that a person might first hear about a new procedure or drug. Ultimately, your company will engage in impactful relationships with people who have very personal connections to the stories shared.

    When it comes to blogger outreach, make the effort. But do your homework first.

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