In February, MM&M ran an article entitled Finding That Sweet Spot: How to Communicate Effectively to Patients, which had valid points on how the healthcare industry could better communicate with patients. Author Srikant Ramaswami noted that there has been a lot of progress in awareness and understanding and communicating, but there is always room for improvement. While Ramaswami’s points are all important, we are living in an age where diversity – both ethnic and linguistic – should be mainstays in any patient communication strategy. And when devising an effective way to reach said “sweet spot,” a few points must be included. In fact, it can—and should—be concentrated into two main points. Here we discuss the two most important points to even better find that sweet spot Ramaswami speaks of.
Be partners with patients. Build a relationship. Corporations such as pharmaceutical companies, governments, and direct healthcare providers should all communicate as partners to the patients they treat. Treating them as the wholistic people they are is key to helping them control their diseases and sicknesses. It is true that treating patients as numbers is not enough, but effective communication requires we speak with patients so that they understand and often this means speaking in their native language. This may be in the form of an interpreter in a doctor’s office or translation of important pharmaceutical texts. In fact, issuing education pieces in only one language is now seen as exclusionary in the US and that is not the way to reach that sweet spot. Never leave your patients to fend for themselves. Give them the tools they need for continual, ongoing self-care. Show them you will also be there with them every step of the way.
Make campaigns stand out by going the extra mile first. Ramaswami states that disease education campaigns must “speak plainly and genuinely” to encourage patients to be proactive managing their health for the rest of their lives. He says “getting real” in how and where patients are communicated to can be very effective. True, but to have your campaigns really stand out, concentrate on your target audiences both linguistically and culturally. If you do, it will be beneficial for both you and your patients. However, this requires a bit of research. Ask the right questions, such as:
How does your target audience like to get their medical information? Do they use the internet more (such as the younger generation) or do they get prefer to discuss their personal medical decisions with family members?
What age are you trying to reach? For younger patients, how can you best utilize social media, apps, patient portals, and message boards to reach and continue the discourse with them?
What is their main language and have I tried all I could to reach them using the correct words, figurative languages, symbols, art?
How can you best understand and speak to their culture? Culture includes how they process information, whether they trust medical advice from family members or doctors more. Sometimes faith and traditions can affect this as well.
Have I done all I can to build a rapport with my various audiences? If you have, they will consider you less skeptically than if you simply told them about a disease and then handed them the medication or treatment.
Answer these questions before you begin relationships with your patients and all communication will be ever more effective going forward.
You know your business and you know your products, but to truly reach the consumers, you need to know them as well. By honing in on their desires, likes, dislikes, language and culture, you can create meaningful, lasting relationships and find that “sweet spot” for everyone and everything involved.
By Ilona Knudson