The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not only shaking up the healthcare landscape in America, but also the way healthcare providers communicate with their customers. These companies are developing integrated communication strategies to help reach people and patients on a personal level, both to provide trustworthy information/advice and encourage them toward a healthier lifestyle.
On Wednesday my colleague Pauline Gedon and I attended The Future of Healthcare Communications Summit in New York City for a closer look at how these companies are responding to uncertain ACA legislation. The event was literally standing room only, with an interesting mix of agencies, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers and technology companies. Let’s take a look at the high points for those who couldn’t make it.
Trust is Key
Ray Kerins, Senior Vice President, Head of Communications & Public Affairs for Bayer Corporation, was a crowd favorite and one of the most entertaining speakers at the conference. He showed the current Fortune list of the most admired companies and asked, “Who is missing?” The answer, of course, was a healthcare company. He also noted that healthcare companies have been on the list previously but have dropped off. He encouraged everyone to ask their legal and regulatory colleagues, “Why?” to help distinguish fact from opinion in an effort to drive cleaner communication that engages, rather than repels, consumers.
The Importance of Integration
The need for an integrated marketing approach that provides content through multiple channels to address customer preferences was, once again, front and center. Speakers talked about the digital ecosystem, content marketing, earned media and paid media. One of the outcomes of the ACA is driving patients to become consumers. Healthcare companies must be prepared to provide “consumer choice” for a range of communication channels from paper-based to a proliferation of screens. David Blair, Head of Industry for Health at Google, described healthcare as moving from “point of care” to “care everywhere and anywhere.” Advances in technology will help deliver this level of personalized messaging that speaks to the person, rather than the condition.
The Need for Personalized, Usable Information
In addition to healthcare communications needing to be integrated across channels, the messaging must be clear and easy to use. Surveys by the Cleveland Clinic indicate that most information provided today is too dense, too complicated and unreadable. Eliza Corp. has developed a Vulnerability Index™ that identifies life obstacles, buffers and magnifiers that impact disease management and wellness. They use the Index to develop messaging that uses “just the right data + engagement” to yield the greatest impact. In regard to direct mail, advances in digital technology will help drive this engagement.
Planning for the ACA’s Phased Approach
Paul Matsen, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer for the Cleveland Clinic, described the ACA as “phased legislation” with Phase 1 focused almost exclusively on expansion of coverage while the Stimulus Act supported the implementation of electronic health records (EHR). Phase 1 of the ACA does nothing to address the underlying causes of chronic disease or living a healthier lifestyle. It was suggested that Phase 2 will include incentives that will shift behavior toward healthier lifestyles and management and avoidance of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc.
As an aside, the biggest laugh of the event came when Paul admitted that the Cleveland Clinic’s first attempt at content marketing included a site called “Blognosis.” The revised (and current) name is HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic.
At IWCO Direct, our approach is simple. We are not waiting for legislation to help our customers address the very important areas of wellness and disease management. Our focus is on developing cross-channel campaigns to help educate, encourage compliance and provide compelling calls to action to engage people and patients who are seeking a healthier lifestyle.
For those who also attended The Future of Healthcare Communications Summit, what did you think? Drop a comment below and let me know which presentations/speakers you found most interesting.
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