With the advent of ACA, our healthcare system is starting one of the greatest investments in patient engagement. How is this affecting the way healthcare companies communicate with patients and other stakeholders? And how does this affect our job as communicators?
Multichannel approach for millennials
It is estimated that approximately 40 million previously uninsured people will enter the healthcare system. According the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 30% of current marketplace enrollees are between the ages of 18 and 34. As we develop our programs, we should be choosing channels wisely— what are the ways to authentically communicate with the so called “digital natives” that have grown up in a digital, social, and mobile world? Do we offer enough choices to consumers in terms of how they can engage with our clients’ brands? Are our messages simple enough to be used across channels, and be understood by the majority?
The cost of preventable conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity are staggering and continuing to grow. Currently, chronic diseases account for three out of every four dollars spent on healthcare. One out of three Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes alone. As payers and employers look to decrease the impact on their bottom line, there will be a growing interest in communications programs that are targeted to the yet undiagnosed, to raise awareness of the risks of certain conditions (including family history), and encourage the adoption of healthier lifestyles than can prevent or delay these diseases.
For many years, the pharmaceutical industry has focused communications to a few audiences— to patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and to some extent, the government. ACA has led to the rise in influence of a slew of other stakeholders including managed care organizations, hospital systems and large employers. Our job will be to develop a strong storyline that can resonate with all these audiences, with different angles or a different emphasis for each stakeholder. And we should never forget that a pharmacy benefit manager or business owner is a patient too, and increasingly, engaged patients are interested in what was previously siloed information such as comparative trial data or formulary tiers pricing.
No one who reads the news can claim that issues of drug pricing and transparency are not rising to the fore. Insurers argue that the high cost of healthcare is due to out-of-control drug pricing while drug companies contend that high out-of-pocket expenses in the new health plans are preventing access to much needed care. We should be reminding our clients that they cannot afford to dismiss this trend, that transparency is highly valued, and providing clear, consistent answers to the difficult questions like drug pricing is an important way to increase trust and bolster company and brand reputation.
In summary, the sweeping changes in the healthcare industry call for a need to go back to the basics— the need to tell a strong brand story — while engaging in authentic two-way communications with audiences about the issues that they care most about.