LinkedIn major influencer in healthcare communications says SPAG's latest report on the future of health PR

Healthcare PR specialist SPAG launched it's first report this week on healthcare trends titled  ‘Pave the Wave: APAC Healthcare Communications Outlook’.

With healthcare communication focusing more than ever on the role of the patient in treatment, the study says that the VET (Value, Expertise and Trust) model, or the new ways Value, Expertise and Trust are, together, is beginning to define healthcare communications for the next decade.

Magline Rufina, head - communications, Roche Diagnostics India says, "Value, Expertise & Trust, or VET as we call it, is a part of the same continuum that is fast emerging as the force-multiplier for future growth. In India, for instance, the duty of a healthcare communicator's job is multilayered- a communicator is expected to influence the policymakers and yet retain the local insights for the narrative to find resonance among the target audience. Indeed, this is where the need to invest in delivering capabilities of greater value, deeper expertise and longer-term trust becomes crucial."

With trust and value as added components to medical expertise as influencers for a patient,  the SPAG report says there is a radical change in consumer behaviour, due to more information available to them. This has changed the communication around treatments:

The future of health communication: SPAG

LinkedIn is Healthcare communication on steroids!

According to the study, LinkedIn is influencing the healthcare industry. 

According to a LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog, "Over the past several years, the number of healthcare professionals on LinkedIn and their use of the platform grew at an increasing rate. At the end of 2013, there were over 4.4 million healthcare practitioners, executives, channel followers, and opinion leaders on LinkedIn, a 30% increase in the last year alone." 

Platforms like LinkedIn are emerging as a strong resource centre for knowledge, expertise and as a pool of new ideas and fresh thinking. 

Healthcare PR firms would be more like consultants 

The rapid change in healthcare communications means fundamental changed in how PR firms innovate as well. The report outlined several points of view from communicators at healthcare firms on how this will happen on the ground.

Raymond Francis, Head of Communications— Asia Pacific, Cardinal Health says, "One of the key areas of expansion in the future for healthcare communications firms will be consulting. In the current environment, agencies act as channel managers between stakeholders and patients. In the future, agencies will need to be able to offer a mix of communications advisory and business counselling services. For example, a healthcare communications agency could be called upon for advice on navigating the complexities of regulatory policies in a therapy area or a specific market in relation to product marketing, perhaps even about assessing political risk within a specific national geography."

Vince Docherty, head, communications, growth and emerging markets business unit - Takeda says, " A communications firm will no longer sustain in the market solely on the basis of media reach, the driving factor will be building sustainable trust via greater value and deeper expertise. One of the operational challenges that agencies face is their ability to communicate accurately and quickly, often hampered by the strict regulatory environment of the healthcare industry. This is where the agency has to take onus for responsibly communicating a brand's perspective without sidetracking from the message or regulatory policies."

Docherty added that "With the evolution of data tracking systems and VR and Chatbots likely to find a stronghold in the future communication strategies, I still believe that integrated is definitely a no brainer. As communication partners, we have to harness the potential of the combined value of traditional PR and emerging technologies to represent a coherent image."

Five key healthcare communication trends

The report identified five main communication trends in healthcare. Apart from the emergence of LinkedIn as an influencer platform for healthcare practitioners, the report outlined the following trends:

Think Global, act local

In healthcare, while the reach of therapy could be global in its use and impact, it could mean different things in different markets. Communication challenges are not local. They are global.

LinkedIn, Healthcare Communications on Steroids!

The healthcare industry is finally learning how to leverage the platform, recognising it as a network full of relevant knowledge.

Understanding the Local Policy Environment

The focus is shifting from treatment-led care to accessibility and affordability. Patients are changing. So is the policy environment. Healthcare communication professionals sit right at the centre of this radical change, filtering messages to continually educate themselves and their colleagues.

Integrated Communications

In the years to come, integrated communications will dovetail into clinical practices and management, with the capability to consistently engage and address multiple stakeholders. The agency of the future will be one with an institutionalized mechanism to respond to these issues.

Rise of the ePatient

As new technological innovations like virtual assistants based on artificial intelligence enter the healthcare arena, consolidating data to make patient interactions happen is more effective than ever before. We are already seeing how Augmented Reality and VirtualReality are transforming the world of healthcare. An important trend that has emerged is that of the "ePatient".