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Get it right: Hit the mark with your healthcare communications

Some research shows that only 40% of consumers deem the information they receive from the healthcare and life sciences industries to be relevant.*

Consumers want and need clear, relevant, focused, useful and evidence-based information about their health and healthcare so that they can understand how to access services, maintain and improve their overall health and wellbeing.

People are not only seeking treatment, they’re seeking accurate information and high levels of care and customer service. This means you need to be proactive with your communication. Easy-to-navigate websites, automated messages, online appointment scheduling, SMS, and video chat all have the ability to provide a personal touch.

If you’re a regulated health service provider, you’ll know that the demand for useful and easy to understand information for patients and the general public is growing; and these demands are being responded to by health regulatory authorities.

There is no-one-size-fits-all communication solution for a diverse consumer population.

Talking to a doctor, searching the internet, signing up to receive email updates, watching videos, participating in online communities or downloading apps are just some of the ways in which people are seeking information. Online communities are places where people are going to share stories, discuss their concerns and get answers to questions from others in similar circumstances.

To communicate health information effectively it needs to be engaging and available in a range of formats, including print, mobile, apps and online channels. People have different communication preferences; some prefer casual and verbal conversations while others prefer written or visual information.

The health information you provide influences how people access and use your services and will affect their decisions regarding how they manage their healthcare.

Make it relevant and easy to understand

Communication must be clear and specific to the needs of consumers or your patients. This requires an understanding of what they, want to know, need to know, and know already and what affects their understanding, such as their level of health literacy, cultural and language factors.

Clear information is:

  • easy to understand
  • concise
  • logical
  • evidence-based
  • accurate.

If medical or health-related terminology is required, then sufficient explanation of the context and concepts need to be included to allow the importance of the information to be understood. Stories, images, infographics, animations and videos are highly effective in helping to explain ideas as they help people understand and retain information.

Involve consumers in the process

It’s the only way to truly find out if the information is hitting the mark. Involve consumers when you’re developing content and when you’re reflecting upon it to assess its effectiveness. This can occur easily through conversations with people individually or in a group, hosting focus groups, online surveys and telephone interviews or engaging in patient advocacy groups. Consulting consumer representatives and ensuring translation and interpretation are accurate, relevant and culturally respectful to different cultural needs is a must.

If you set a goal for your communication to be helpful and then put the actions in place to achieve that, your message will have a far greater chance for success.

Here are some resources to help get you started.

Resources

State of the Connected Healthcare Consumer, Salesforce Research, October 2016.

NSQHS Standards - Partnering consumers standard

Plainlanguage.gov

CDC Health Literacy put simply

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