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 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.

  • April 18, 2011

    Rx for Pharma Tweeting

    This story originally appeared in PRWeek Insider on April 18, 2011 (subscription required).

    Two weeks ago a Marc Jacobs intern publicly melted down on Twitter and then quit. Two weeks before that, Chrysler experienced some Twitter road rage, and an agency was fired. And two weeks before that, the Red Cross had to confiscate the keys from their tweeter for #gettngslizzerd.

    Imagine if these accidents had happened in a healthcare setting? We don’t need FDA guidelines to understand the hot water we’d be in.

    Pharma company Twitter feeds are heavily stage-managed. Posts are vetted by an army of regulatory and legal staff, and updates are timed like Obama’s inauguration. The few branded Twitter feeds are even more tightly controlled. But who tweets and how? It’s usually a junior staffer copying and pasting the approved post and frequently using their own choice of software. That’s the weak link. The examples at the beginning are a cautionary tale of people inadvertently mixing their personal and professional profiles, and of tweeters going off the rails.

    Software Rx
    : Twitter feeds are frequently handled using a dashboard like Hootsuite which can manage a number of feeds at once and offers analytic capabilities for tracking tweets and mentions. It can handle Facebook pages as well, enabling you to easily syndicate content selectively across the social platforms. Even multiple clients can be set up. The lure is strong to add your personal accounts, and create a mothership dashboard so you can be complete master of your domain. Resist it, it’s a bad idea. It’s all too easy to click the wrong icon and post to the wrong account – especially late at night or in a busy airport. One wrong click and you blast your personal tweet about that new band to your client’s followers. Or, you might post that handbag website to your client’s Facebook page. Amusing, yes, but it’s not as funny the next morning.

    The best practice is to create separate dashboards for work and personal accounts using different email addresses and logins. Then using themes, give them radically different colors and backgrounds so you can easily distinguish between them, no matter how flummoxed you might be. For added safety, consider using different browsers, like Chrome for work and Firefox for personal.

    Mobile Rx: The same goes for mobile devices. For tweeting on the go, use a different mobile app for your clients and personal tweets. Put them on different pages or folders. Don’t tweet and drive.

    Content Rx: If you’re tweeting for a pharma company or brand, your hands are already tied and the blinders are on, just carefully press ‘send,’ per the above. If you’re fortunate enough to be tweeting for a hospital or association in a less structured way, you need to have some guidelines for the voice of your feed. You are the spokesperson of the brand, and while you want personality and authenticity, behave as if your every tweet could be on the cover of USA Today, because if you screw up, it will be. Consider using a workflow where tweets are approved before they are issued.

    So take your medicine and tweet me in the morning @markhdavis.

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