Mar 01, 2014

4 Ways Healthcare Communicators Can Educate and Connect with Patients

Featured panelists during the Q&A session at the Future of Healthcare Communications Summit

Featured panelists during the Q&A session at the Future of Healthcare Communications Summit

According to Manhattan Research’s President, Meredith Ressi, 65% of online consumers say that the internet is critical for obtaining medical information. Now that the Affordable Care Act has taken effect, the healthcare market is experiencing an influx of diverse consumers who are increasingly relying on digital and mobile technology to educate themselves. It is up to healthcare communicators then, to evolve their tactics in order to help patients navigate the ACA’s complex policies. Industry thought-leaders featured at the Future of Healthcare Communications Summit, co-presented by Business Development Institute and PR Newswire, offered their perspective on how healthcare communicators can utilize digital platforms to inform and motivate patients to better manage their well-being.

Engage audiences with multimedia to simplify complex ideas

PR Newswire’s Global Director of Emerging Media, Michael Pranikoff, notes that 85% of brands publish content, but only 35% believe they are doing so effectively. The likely issue is that complicated messages are driving audiences away and leading them straight to competitors.  Instead, multimedia content such as videos allow complex ideas to be simplified in a concise format that grabs audience attention and amplifies visibility. Engagement on social channels such as Youtube, Instagram, and Pintrest is primarily driven by images, so communicators who do not employ visual tactics are squandering additional opportunities for their message to be seen.

Furthermore, consumers have become more aware of overt marketing tactics and are not interested in brazen sales pitches. Videos focus more on storytelling than on the brand, which helps build a mutual trust. As Pranikoff says, “If you are not providing visuals, you are not taking control of your messages.”

Communicate clinical innovations through earned media

Patients with special conditions need to know where they can turn to for help. Johns Hopkins Medicine shares their success stories involving biomedical discoveries, patient survival, and highly qualified physicians to establish the organizations credibility as a leader in the health community. According to Dalal Haldeman, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the brand was recognized by 80.2% of participants in a national survey against the most recognizable consumer brands such as McDonald’s, Google, and Coca-Cola. Brand recognition is immensely important to the patients who are putting their lives into the hands of healthcare providers, and earned media is one of the best ways to build that trust.

Be aware of language and cultural considerations before utilizing a specific communications tool

Consumers are making their own decisions on treatment providers, but different audiences are using different channels to shop for their plans. For example, Makovsky’s Executive Vice President, Gil Bashe, reports that African Americans are most likely to use smartphones to access healthcare information more than any other group. Understanding the demographic usage behind each communication tool can help segment the market and target the messages that are most appropriate for those audiences.

Top support and solutions that online consumers want from pharma

Top support and solutions that online consumers want from pharma

Listen to social conversations and use this information to inform your health programs

The rise of consumerism has created an environment focused on collaboration and engagement in the healthcare industry. A study by Manhattan Research finds that 59% of online consumers are interested in patient support to learn more about their conditions and how to cope. Social conversations provide a context for the types of information that patients are looking for. Using data analysis, healthcare providers can develop more sophisticated programs to connect patients with their communities.

The statutes of the Affordable Care Act are still largely misunderstood by the public, giving healthcare communicators an important opportunity to fill the information gap. But in order to do so effectively, healthcare communicators need to embrace the new age of interaction that is less product-focused and more patient-focused. Digital and mobile technology makes it possible to speak directly to patients in an environment they feel most comfortable in. By utilizing visuals, customizing messages, and listening to social conversations, healthcare communicators can better prepare the public to take increased responsibility for their own health management.

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