Public Relations: Communications Delivery Chain - Pharmaceutical Executive


Public Relations: Communications Delivery Chain
To regain consumers' trust, pharma must better communicate its mission, goals, and policies.

Pharmaceutical Executive

How can pharma satisfy consumers' appetite for better health education?

There's a lot of discussion right now about health literacy. We're all for it. It's motherhood and apple pie. But what does health literacy really mean? It doesn't mean giving lots of information to people. It means providing information to people in a way that they can understand so that they can act on the information. When it comes to health literacy and the pharmaceutical industry, there are multiple aspects of literacy that are important. One is understanding the business of the industry and how it functions. It doesn't mean that every member of the public needs to have a PhD in healthcare business or health economics. But there is still a great deal of basic information that the public would benefit from understanding.

What can pharma companies do to better reach out to the public?

Many of the companies are taking steps to reach out. In many cases it's not a matter of doing something from scratch. It's a matter of taking something that the company is already doing but offering more extensive communication about it. For example, some companies have invested in conducting research on the aging society, and have developed educational programs to inform the public on aging healthfully. Other companies have made significant investments in communicating about their patient-savings programs, such as the Together Rx access card. Ten leading pharmaceutical companies have made available significant savings for people who are uninsured in the United States. And companies are making significant investments to ensure that as many people as possible enroll. It's very much to the credit of the companies that their focus is not on "how do we improve our image?" but on "how do we enroll as many people as possible so that these savings are actually conveyed to the people that we are targeting?"

What have you discovered about consumers' trust issues with the pharma world?

We found that the most trusted spokespeople are doctors, scientists, or academics. And within pharmaceutical companies, there are many highly articulate scientists and doctors who in some cases play a role in communications and representing the company. Making doctors and scientists spokespeople seems to be a relatively straightforward tactic to regain the public's trust.

Do you see the physician's role changing in that regard?

Who Do Consumers Trust?
Communication is becoming an important skill and an important responsibility with every member of the healthcare delivery chain, especially doctors. Now doctors are not only required to make smart decisions on behalf of their patients and to comfort them, but they also must have an active, and relatively sophisticated dialogue with their patients about treatment options. As a result, we will see pharma companies increase the level of partnerships they have with doctors to ensure that doctors are fully prepared for the discussions that their patients are likely to initiate with them about new medicines and medical recommendations.

What kind of health information is the public looking for?

They have an appetite for full healthcare information and are not intimidated by detail. When it comes to one's own health or the health of one's child or parent or spouse or loved one, there's a heightened appetite for specificity and that's where some of the challenge is. It's not a matter of availability of information. If you go on the Internet, you can Google or Yahoo virtually any topic and get 1,000 or 100,000 relevant items. But it's a matter of understanding how to find the authoritative information in a way that's learnable and understandable. So, that's a tough order. Certainly, we know that it's better to provide the public with basic information on a Web site or in a brochure than it is not to. But beyond that, it does require greater sophistication.


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