• Views May 4, 2017

Some Americans reject “Obamacare” but, lacking information, embrace “Affordable Care.”  Confusion, misunderstanding and distrust diminish public dialogue.  

As is often noted within the Finn Partners Health Practice, “communications is part of the care.”  That call-to-action was a central theme  at this year’s Public Relations Society of America Health Academy gathering in Florida.  Finn Partners is a strong supporter of this community that draws almost 300 professionals from across the health ecosystem.

The Health Academy is among PRSA’s largest professional sections, with members hailing from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, government agencies, foundations and not-for-profit associations.  This year’s three-day get-together delivered with high-caliber speakers – including an actual NASA (rocket) scientist and former Disney communication and marketing executive.  Both speakers challenged attendees to insert creative spark within healthcare delivery.

In a world where Americans have an Amazon Prime-like mindset about most things – including health delivery, communicators must secure a seat at the decision-making table and encourage institutions to chart how approaches to care delivery impact the patient experience and outcomes. 

Did you know that while most Americans have health insurance, nearly half (45%) lack a patient-physician relationship? With walk-in clinics and pharmacy care centers on the rise, consumers are forsaking personal connection with primary care doctors for the convenience of short-wait time. Added to non-transportable health records, patients are shouldering the responsibility for their health history.  Just like experience with an airline carrier is influencing choice, interaction with physicians and health systems is guiding behavior.

More and more, hospitals and health intuitions need to reflect on how they create the “Disney experience.”  We often think of patients as central to the health system.  Yet, does our system see them as customers of care?   Waiting to be seen.  Having medications switched by pharmacy.  Time-consuming discussions with health insurance administrators.  Patients have much to learn to be advocates for their wellbeing and health.  Can payers, pharma innovators, policymakers and providers center efforts around patients?  They are ready to take on this urgent need.  Communicators can serve as the internal voice that rallies institutions toward putting patients first.

As the PRSA Health Academy conference concluded, there was an eye-opening session on how to spot fake news.  Al Tompkins from The Poynter Institute stated:  “When you read something that just doesn’t add up, ask yourself these four important questions”:  (1) What do we know that is based in fact?  (2) What do we need to know to determine credibility? (3) How do we know?  (4) Is there any other way to look at it?  He offered sage wisdom – health PR professionals are a vital source of credible information for journalists at a time when the need to get the right information out is great.   

A significant population cannot discern between “Obamacare” and “Affordable Care.”  Confusion defines our health system.  When people can make thoughtful decisions, understand their options and have voice to advance their health, health PR pros have earned their seat at the societal table and improve public health.