How to educate patients more effectively

Patient education is a crucial part of the healthcare marketing mix. It can strengthen the relationship between the product and the patient AND the patient and the prescriber. But, it needs to be carefully considered to have the greatest effect.

Time spent with a clinician is short and anything discussed is unlikely to be digested properly, let alone remembered. Good quality information, delivered in an accessible format, such as well-written website or a piece of content, gives the doctor or pharmacist a way to facilitate self-care and take some of the pressure off a busy practice. It also fills the patient with confidence in the care giver and empowers them to make decisions that can influence their own treatment.

The problem with Dr. Google and the digital age

Thanks to technology, it’s now easier than ever for people to self-diagnose and treat their own health problems (much to the chagrin of the local GP who didn’t go through years of medical school just for you to Google it).

You could argue that the age of information has done us a favour. Online symptom checkers might prevent someone from clogging up the A&E department with nothing more than a common cold. But, misinformation can have an adverse effect too.

Accounts of risk factors and symptoms can be inaccurate, sources are often misquoted, and unfounded myths are easily spread. Online reviews and social media platforms also provide a soapbox for disgruntled customers out to discredit your brand or mess with your treatment regimen. So, how can the new, empowered patient be used to your advantage?

Making patient education and awareness work for your brand

Patients are having lots of conversations about you, without you. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Increasingly, pharmaceutical and medical device brands are realising that their customers are much more receptive when they are the focus, rather than the product. This means avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach and tailoring messages to suit patients at different points in time.

1. Understand your audience

Elderly people sky-diving is not the best way to market incontinence pads. Patients will always respond better to your marketing if it feels like real life. Invest in robust research or patient panels and find the golden nuggets that separate your business from the rest.

2. Employ a copywriter as well as a medical writer

While it’s essential you meet regulatory guidelines, a dryly written, overly complex document will have patients turning off in their droves. Ask your agency to use a medical writer to provide the technical content that meets with regulatory approvals and a creative copywriter to make it more simple, accessible and engaging for the average person on the street.

3. Don’t deliver too much information

Researching symptoms and getting to grips with managing a health problem is challenging enough. Split information into bite-sized chunks, include frequently asked questions and use simple animations or short films to explain complex medical information. The human brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

4. Use new technology and channels to your advantage

One of the biggest challenges for healthcare companies is sharing information about new treatments quickly. Setting up an online support group can get you right to the heart of the people that care about your news. Pick a name that isn’t about your brand, but about what you can do for your patients e.g. Support for Life. Webinars and podcasts are also great ways to give expert advice to your audience in speedily and cost-effectively.

5. Engage at a local level

Nobody wants to listen to a faceless corporation. Connect with community groups at ground level who align with your goals or those of the local authority’s healthcare agenda. This might mean giving out information packs at a local support group or creating lesson plans for teachers to download online. Word of mouth has never been more powerful. Tell your story to local people and let them share the details for you.

Whether it’s written materials, how-to videos or simple infographics, keeping content simple and the patient top of mind is key to driving awareness that not only improves health outcomes, but builds a lifelong relationship with your brand.

------------

About The Foundry

The Foundry is a strategic communications agency, based in Manchester, delivering fully-integrated marketing campaigns for B2B, B2C, public sector and healthcare clients.

Marketing services that support patient education include qualitative and quantitative research, social media campaigns, educational websites, CPD programmes, online learning tools, in-clinic training materials, posters and patient literature.

For more information, call 0161 926 8444.