Healthcare Communicators Emphasize Trust, Clarity and Dialogue

Every PR pro's job is important. But the stakes rise when your subject is health and healthcare. This is one of the reasons healthcare needs communicators who can craft concise messages that those of us without a medical degree can understand. And then there's the challenge of messaging about healthcare costs. Americans spent an estimated $11,000 each, or $3.65 trillion as a country, on healthcare last year. It was the highest total in the developed world. Unfortunately, U.S. healthcare ranks 27th globally.

Given such challenges, healthcare communicators must excel. On July 16 at the Yale Club in NYC, PRNEWS will honor many of the best during the Top Women in Healthcare Communications awards luncheon. A trio of top healthcare communicators will help PRNEWS present the awards. We asked them to share their thoughts about pertinent issues.

Trust and Science-Backed Info

Kristie Kuhl, Managing Partner, Finn Partners

All communicators strive to have their messages break through the internet's noise. With so much medical information, and disinformation, available online, healthcare communicators know this issue well. Actually, the sector might have an edge. "Americans have less trust in institutions; but 39 percent trust healthcare providers "a lot,"" Kristie Kuhl, managing partner, Finn Partners, says.  To stand out, healthcare brand communicators need to emphasize "honest, easy-to-understand information via sources that already are trusted," she adds.

Longstanding trust is something the American Dental Association (ADA) enjoys, says its CCO Stephanie Moritz. ADA is celebrating its 160th anniversary. "That’s 160 years as a trusted resource for patients and the dental community," she says. Moritz believes the key to breaking through the noise is "to consistently deliver science-based information, again and again, in the places where patients spend their time."

Barb Box, EVP, Strategy & Business Engagement, Evoke, KYNE

Barb Box, EVP, strategy & business engagement, Evoke KYNE, agrees. Sharing information "anchored in real essential," she says.  In addition, brands should deliver information using "appropriate and credentialed medical spokespersons...and encourage patients to discuss the information they find with their healthcare provider."

Technology and the Human Touch

As we know, communicators are emphasizing technology to reach target audiences. For example, Moritz notes, "ADA is investing heavily in digital strategies – search, paid media and digital ads – as part of our PESO approach."

Stephanie Moritz, CCO, American Dental Association

While technology is vital to communications, patients want to feel like human beings, not digital devices receiving messages. Language helps, the communicators agree. "As a woman with a law degree," says Kuhl, "I make clear" to brands "to cut out the legalese." Digital healthcare communications must be written "the way we would speak in person." So, instead of writing, “The pediatric indication is x, y, z” we should write, “This medication can help kids who have x, y, z.”

Similarly, Box emphasizes using clear language and "health literacy principles" when communicating digitally and in person. For example, clearly presented options empower patients to make informed decisions. "Fostering two-way conversations, virtually or in-person, with patients also is important," she says. Such dialogue builds "empathy for what someone is going through." It also provides cues to "how they talk about their condition and the type of language that resonates with them."

Influencers and Humanity

An emphasis on the human touch in healthcare communications, she says, is why "social media influencers have become trusted conduits for health information." They provide "a relatable voice to reach patients among millions of digital sources of information."

In an effort to increase how its messages resonate, ADA "transformed" its storytelling, Moritz notes. Instead of "lengthy papers and studies" it uses "visually impactful short-form content."  In addition, ADA "infuses...patient-centered resources with storytelling that enhances receptivity to oral health education messages."

Note: Please click here for information about attending the Top Women in Healthcare Communications awards luncheon.

Seth Arenstein is editor of PRNEWS. Follow him: @skarenstein