As the new editor of Health-E Minds, [[wysiwyg_imageupload:176:]]
Diane R. Johnson, MPH, kicks off her tenure by sharing a compilation of perspectives contributed by a range of health experts throughout Ketchum’s global network – examining key health industry trends from 2013 and looking ahead at what to expect in 2014.

 

Health and health communications has evolved in the past few years. One of the most notable changes in the past year in the United States was the communication initiatives surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As I attend The Summit on Public Health and Prosperity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I am again struck by the global implications of health, healthcare, and health communications around the world. It is sobering to think about how we, as a individuals making up a larger local community, are responsible to and for each other in terms of disease detection, treatment, and most importantly – prevention and how lack of action has the ability to shape not only the healthcare industry but to also impact our global economy.

This is why this, my first post as the new editor of Health-E Minds is so timely and relevant. We asked Ketchum leaders from around the network, to share their thoughts, actions, and reflections from 2013 in review – as well as preparing for the coming year through insights for likely 2014 trends.

We reached out to discuss the main achievements, changes affecting health communications, and industry trends. We also looked at how these trends impacted the healthcare industry and healthcare clients around the world in 2013. We then thought to start the conversation about these same issues – but thinking forward to the current year.

Here’s what these experts had to say:

 

1) Expanded communications with a focus on social media

“Pharma R&D sponsors are cautiously expanding their communications with patients to include more online forms of media, including: social media, text messaging, online videos, interactive smartphone apps, interactive web-based programs.” Michael Rosenberg, Director, Strategic Development, MMG

 

“We [also have] noticed that our clients are investing more  . . . in the relationship with different stakeholders, especially online influencers . . .” Patrícia Torres, Gerente de Grupo de Contas – Account Group Manager, Ketchum Brazil 

 

“The most dynamic change I saw was increased engagement on social media by consumers.” Ken Eudy, CEO, capstrat

 

2) Evaulating the healthcare system: transitioning from cost- to outcome-based care 

"The ACA and helping clients [communicate] the law." Doug Petkus, Senior Vice President, Corporate Practice, Ketchum NY

[One trend is] moving from Health Care to Wellness. [There is a] strong emphasis into prevention, changes of habits versus. caring for the ill...” Gustavo Averbuj, Regional Director Latin America & CEO Ketchum Argentina

“For the first time in the 25 years I’ve been in the business, hospitals are undergoing serious questioning about the cost of treatment.” Ken Eudy, CEO, capstrat

The new era of patient reported outcomes.” Alexander Watson, Director, Healthcare, London

 Another story that emerged late in the year was the slower growth of healthcare costs. No one is sure what is behind this, but speculation centers on some aspects of ACA, changes to Medicare and the rise of generic drugs.  As a policy story, this will have “legs” well into the New Year.” Nancy Hicks, Senior Vice President, Associate Director, North America Healthcare Practice 

 

3) Telling the client’s story

More and more companies are using the social medial channels to leverage the impact of small or local actions. Companies are producing new content related with their brands/products and creating emotional/funny stories with a high potential of being shared. In addition, nowadays communication of consumer brands is no longer based on the benefits of products, but about the experience.” Patrícia Torres, Gerente de Grupo de Contas – Account Group Manager, Ketchum Brazil

 

Rethink how [we] do  . . . PR at a global level. [We need to]  . . .think about storytelling and how it needs to change and shape the debate [to] (inform and influence) rather than just communicating the milestone.” Alexander Watson, Director, Healthcare, London

 

 Planning for 2014

In preparing for the year, we note the importance of being prepared to help our clients navigate the changing world of online communications and social media; necessity to invest in alternative communications initiatives; and, better understanding, translating, and communicating the ACA.

[We need to] conduct issues preparedness activities [like] threat assessments, stakeholder evaluations, [and] scenario planning.  . . .[Work with clients to] develop a communications strategy for percolating issues. Doug Petkus, Senior Vice President, Corporate Practice, Ketchum NY

 The continued aging of the population will put increased demand on healthcare services and products. Long-term care will be an issue at the forefront for policy-makers. Also, the ACA enrollment will continue to be a big story through 2014. Healthcare communicators will have to continue to employ social media forums to reach consumers, and especially communication through mobile devices. There are expected to be more than 13,000 health apps available to consumers in the coming year. Nancy Hicks, Senior Vice President, Associate Director, North America Healthcare Practice

 [By] investing in integrated communications platform (e.g., PESO – Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) . . .to reach [and] impact the consumer in different moments by diverse influencers in order to  . . . engage them.” Patrícia Torres, Gerente de Grupo de Contas – Account Group Manager, Ketchum Brazil

 

 Every health care company was distracted by the strictures of ACA implementation. Every health care company is more mindful of controlling costs. Providers by and large still are paid on volume and not outcome. When someone figures out how to change the payment model, that’s when serious change can take place. Ken Eudy, CEO, capstrat

 [Understand] the emergence of the healthy home approach (as the baby boomers grow older). The health connected (e.g., apps, devices, gizmos, etc.) [and] the growth of non-pharma devices. ...” Gustavo Averbuj, Regional Director Latin America & CEO Ketchum Argentina

 

As PR and communications professionals, it’s not what we say but what they hear. As we consider our strategies and tactics for 2014 –Alexander Watson, Director, Healthcare, London,  said it well: ”Challenge yourselves to simplify your messages! People want to understand them!”