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Solving the healthcare sector's communication problem: PRmoment Health Communications Review

PRmoment's weekly 'Healthcare Communications Review' column looks at the biggest healthcare trends every week and analyses the communications implications. In partnership with SPAG, A Finn Partners Company.

Covid-19 made certain health sector professionals household names in India and globally due to their association with solutions to the pandemic.

Dr Gagandeep Kang (Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad and CMC Vellore), Dr Randeep Guleria (AIIMS) in India for example. And Dr Anthony Fauci, former chief medical officer to the US President, is of course a global figure.

However, these are outliers, responses to an extraordinary situation. Due to several reasons, including regulatory, healthcare professionals are seldom mainstream communicators.

In a recent interview with the Indian Express, Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, oncologist and author of 'The Song Of The Cell: An Exploration Of Medicine And The New Human' opines that science has in "Its language become inaccessible and complicated in a way it wasn’t before."

This may seem like an added burden for the scientific community, already dealing with the pandemic and its aftermath as well as the rising need for fresh eyes on the challenges of patient empowerment, virtual care and data.

But in today's world, strong communication is a key tool for building trust.

What, then, should the health sector focus on?

Building credible speakers beyond wellness and lifestyle influencers

- There is a need for healthcare speakers that can simplify the science, which is the foundation of modern healthcare, and make it accessible to people. These should not be influencers in the common way the word is understood, but sources of simple, credible information.

Aman Gupta, managing partner, health practice Asia, SPAG FINN Partners said, “Trust based on data and scientific rigour is the base of any scientific communications and the expectations of every audience when they hear an expert. It was witnessed, especially during the Covid pandemic, where certain individuals, got recognized as the global trusted voices, as they shared information that was based on the latest data with scientific accuracy and rationality. 

However, Gupta added that "While working recently for global multilateral organizations, we found that people trusted individuals who had credibility not only because of subject matter expertise but also their ability to translate that into a common language. Additionally, traditional media is trusted more in comparison to social media.” 

Understanding the pros and cons of healthcare communication

Healthcare is one of the toughest sectors to communicate. Multiple stakeholders, the nuances of culture and background that influence access as well as regulatory frameworks, and the need for behavioural change can make any communication in this sector complex. The mapping of healthcare comms is crucial and has to be carefully planned as it can affect people's lives in a critical way.

Deepening the understanding of the media universe 

Every major international health day sees full-page ads by hospitals and doctors talking about a particular disease. One usually turns the page if the reader is still loyal to print. Health needs to explore simpler more accessible content across print, electronic digital. Podcasts can do much, for example, in educating people. 

The healthcare industry also needs to take the onus of educating journalists without the expectation of a story and empower them with learning on long-term health issues.

Health Communicator of the week 

Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee. On to his third book now (highly recommend reading it), his writing is lucid, and engaging and has added substantially to not only the dialogue around cancer but also around science in general.

Call out of the week

Less than a month left before the early bird deadline for PRmoment Health Comms Awards 2023. Do apply here.

That's it for this week. Special thanks to SPAG, a FINN Partner company for their ongoing support for this weekly column.

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