Wise Words: How to talk to patients

A recent survey supports the belief that healthcare brands need to talk to patients differently or, at the very least, choose their words wisely. The UK poll, by Macmillan Cancer Support, revealed that many cancer patients don’t want to be called ‘victims’, ‘heroes’ and ‘fighters’.

I pre­fer clear, fac­tu­al lan­guage, so I describe myself as liv­ing with incur­able can­cer’. I’m not brave or inspi­ra­tional, I’m just try­ing to live the life I have left, well”, said Mandy Mahoney, who fea­tures in the Macmil­lan video. While a small per­cent­age feel empow­ered by bat­tle-ready words, most peo­ple find it upset­ting that they’re made to feel as if can­cer is a game, only to be won’ or lost’.

Using the right lan­guage is some­thing we’ve been work­ing on close­ly with our health­care clients, ever since the bal­ance of pow­er start­ed to shift from HCPs to patients.

With more peo­ple inter­est­ed in, and capa­ble of, deliv­er­ing self-care; the grow­ing num­ber of online diag­nos­tic tools; and the abil­i­ty to buy your own sup­plies from online retail­ers such as Ama­zon, engag­ing with patients should now play a huge part in any health­care brand’s strategy.

Tak­ing this patient-cen­tric approach helped Lohmann & Rausch­er, a lead­ing inter­na­tion­al man­u­fac­tur­er of com­pres­sion ban­dages and gar­ments, to stop sell­ing a one-off solu­tion and show patients they could tru­ly pro­vide Sup­port for Life”.

Choos­ing sim­ple, uncom­pli­cat­ed lan­guage and break­ing down med­ical jar­gon, helped us to deliv­er an effec­tive online train­ing tool to peo­ple liv­ing with the effects of stroke for the Stroke Asso­ci­a­tion for Europe (SAFE).

And our long-stand­ing client, Salts Health­care, who make osto­my bags, have changed their entire vocab­u­lary in recent years. Nev­er refer­ring to their cus­tomers as patients” but rather as peo­ple liv­ing with a stoma”.

It’s only when we make the shift from talk­ing about suf­fer­ers” and acknowl­edg­ing that peo­ple with all kinds of con­di­tions enjoy com­plete­ly full and enrich­ing lives that we can do our job. Essen­tial­ly, we are mak­ing bet­ter con­nec­tions between peo­ple and the prod­ucts and ser­vices that can make their lives better.