PR Specialization

What’s The Heart Of Health Care PR Efforts? Consumers

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Editor’s Note: Ira W. Yellen, APR, Fellow PRSA is presenting “Consumers are Driving Health Care Marketing and Public Relations Efforts” during the PRSA Health Academy Conference on Friday, May 15. Register for the conference to attend Ira’s presentation.

Our health care system is the only professional service that is driven by convoluted, confusing and unfair pricing structures, inconsistent quality of care and restrictive or incomprehensible insurance coverage.

As communicators, we should be helping consumers filter and interpret information from doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical and insurance companies as they make health care decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

Consumers still struggle to balance what they can pay for with what they need. While many thank Obamacare for helping them navigate their options and obtain affordable coverage, others resent policy shifts that they feel have limited their options.

PR professionals must shift their communication strategy and tactics to address concerns, correct misinformation and provide ways to navigate the still-convoluted healthcare maze. People are living longer due to the advances in managing and treating illnesses and diseases, but many times it does not translate into effectively communicating with patients and their families other than as a mild inconvenience.

According to economist John G. Goodman in the Networks Financial Institute Policy Brief, Indiana State University, “In the consumer-driven health care (CDHC) model, consumers occupy the primary decision-making role regarding the health care they receive.”

A McKinsey study found that CDHC patients were twice as likely to ask about cost, and three times as likely to select a less expensive option as in traditional plans.

Family caregivers are already using the Internet in record numbers to search for information of diseases, health care experts, and home and health care services.

As Pew Research Center research has found, more than 90 percent of health care information will come from online searches by 2020. According to Pew’s estimates, more than 25 million searches are done yearly in the United States for health care information and support. More than 60 million family caregivers (mostly women 45 to 65 years old) are now taking care of a loved one, and many of them are looking for options to relieve the stress and burden that comes with caregiving.

Consider the following. Does your organization:

  • Pay lip service for an Internet/digital strategy dedicated consumer focus?
  • Have a dedicated support team who manages an Internet strategy 24/7?
  • Measure the effectiveness of an Internet/digital strategy in relationship to consumer engagement?

Consumers are hungry for health care guidance online. Advocacy, education, and fairness are key to what they click into and what they ignore. Our role is to help consumers -— regardless of age, education or income — leverage the Internet’s power and tools to make informed health care decisions.

Ira W. Yellen, APR, Fellow PRSA, provides strategic counsel for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations in business-to-business, non-profit, public policy advocacy, and education marketing. Types of companies his agency serves are in high technology, precision manufacturing, insurance, and healthcare. Some of his clients served include: DeLoitte & Touche, Hospital for Special Care, Connecticut Primary Care Association, Harold Leveer Cancer Center, Hartford Hospital, and United Healthcare. Follow Ira on Twitter @iwyellen.

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