Audience Needs And Patient-Centric Focus Remains Key To Effective Healthcare Communication

Disruptr speaks to Aman Gupta, Managing Partner and Co-founder of SPAG, a FINN Partners Company on the future of healthcare communications beyond traditional PR and how communication methods have changed across the years. 

How has healthcare communications changed over the years especially after the pandemic? Particularly in the Southeast Asia region and with comparison to Malaysia, what are some of the more significant developments in ways companies and authorities in the healthcare field have changed the way they communicate?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role of healthcare communication in areas including crisis management, information dissemination, and reputation management. Communications has now become a part of more companies’ core strategy as they recognise the power of creating and disseminating impactful messages.
  • The most distinct change I’ve observed is that functional messaging has shifted to more purpose-led messaging. The main drivers right now are purpose and empathy, positioning, and leading by example.
  • We are also observing a greater emphasis on patient-centric communication. Patients have become much more informed and empowered; they need to be more involved in decision-making. There is a huge opportunity for us to be able to work along with these consumers, and that also opens the door to increased collaboration with healthcare providers, allowing the sharing of information and resources. Establishing an effective communications ecosystem will only help us strengthen the healthcare ecosystem.

What challenges do you think companies within the healthcare ecosystem face in terms of communicating effectively?

  • Global health is founded on a system of rules, compliances, and scientific rigour. Each government has a system in place to ensure that people have access to innovations that are known to be safe and effective. The local regulatory requirements must be understood by communicators in order to tailor their campaign, messaging, and channel strategy appropriately.
  • One of the other main challenges of healthcare communications is figuring out how to maneuver your messaging to reach different sets of audiences. While ensuring factual and scientific accuracy. Creating “audience personas” and tailoring campaigns to them will be one of the major trends reshaping the business this year. This will involve creating and implementing advertising tailored to a specific demographic with comparable attitudes and beliefs.

What are some strategies would you recommend to assist companies to communicate health-based objectives better?

  • The storytelling abilities of PR practitioners should shine here. It’s not about pitching a product, but to use powerful narratives that allow us to make a difference in the lives of millions. Recognizing the value that we can deliver is important. If you are focusing on a particular therapy or solution, you need to understand who the stakeholders are, the decision makers, the influencers.
  • What are their perceptions and attitudes? It’s not just about sharing the news, it’s about making sure information is available and accessible in the language and format that stakeholders can receive and understand. Our role as communicators should be aligned with the leadership in the sense that we have a much larger corporate purpose.

Can you share case studies that would prove to be useful for young communicators?

  • We have multiple examples of how impactful communications have brought behavioral change driving health impact. A campaign to showcase the value of immunization is one of the prime examples, wherein through the power of communications and advocacy, we have been able to increase polio vaccination and build a polio-free world.
  • Other examples include driving multi-stakeholder integrated campaigns to get support for the fight against Non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

What are tools that go beyond traditional PR methods for healthcare communication and are traditional PR methods still relevant?

  • Today’s healthcare communicators can use a variety of new techniques to tell their stories on a variety of platforms for storytelling, all of which are transforming how we tell our stories, assess success, craft innovative narratives, and establish connections that lead to long-term results.
  • This year, we are seeing the rise of face-to-face interviews and interactions once again, which will help strengthen affinities in the industry. Communication professionals will also be diversifying their outreach through new platforms and content mediums, including podcasts, newsletters, and more.
  • While digital technologies have certainly transformed the way we communicate, traditional PR methods still have their place in healthcare communications. Ultimately, the most effective PR strategy is one that integrates traditional and digital methods to create a comprehensive approach that meets the unique needs and goals of all stakeholders.

Can you share more on the role of digitalisation within healthcare communications? Has it enhanced the way healthcare communicators work today?

  • One of the emerging trends that will define the next few years for healthcare communications is the rapid growth of technology and digitalization, influencing healthcare stakeholders and business and engagement models. Healthcare communicators now play a different role, with the communications industry becoming active partners with the healthcare industry to deliver relevant information to the mass public.
  • We know that AI technology will continue to offer varied capabilities and use cases that will have an impact on how we communicate. In public relations, AI has helped with automating tasks as well as activating multiple channels of communication.
  • It has helped simplify and process data, which can prove to be a big time-saver and productivity booster for the industry. We should keep up with such technologies while also making sure we dictate the role of technology and not the other way around.

There are only a handful of healthcare focused media, will this form a challenge for healthcare communicators?

  • As a marketing communications agency, we believe that any campaign needs to focus on its audiences, and how and where they are consuming information. Our expertise lies in building narratives that are aligned with media that cuts across different niches and is independent of its genre.
  • We are not restricted by a health narrative but focus on our audience’s needs and how we can shape the narrative towards a healthier world.


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