Rethinking Healthcare Communications Through the Prism of Rare Diseases

Michael Rinaldo EVP, general manager of dna Communications
Michael Rinaldo EVP, general manager of dna Communications

There is increased attention these days on rare diseases, which require targeted marketing approaches. This makes sense, of course, given the small and highly specific group of people affected by these ailments. But would a rare disease marketing strategy work as well for more common conditions? Has the time come to start looking at all diseases as rare – at least in terms of how they affect individual patients?

It is becoming clear that marketing and communications campaigns targeted at the masses may deliver less than stellar results in an environment comprised of individuals who create their own information cocoons based on interests, beliefs and social circles. As the world continues to log in, tweet, share and simply flex its “individuality muscles,” patients are becoming independent as consumers of healthcare information and services, shaped by their own experiences and expectations. While diseases may manifest in similar patterns across patient types, the way in which they insinuate themselves and are managed within the daily lives of patients is much more difficult to generalize.

But if a disease can be understood and characterized by an individual patient experience, then aren't all diseases actually rare and similarly demanding of one-on-one attention? Diseases have always impacted patients on a highly personal level. So what is different?

Now, more than ever before, engagement and information-sharing are changing everything. Digital platforms allow people to choose not only where they get their news, but what news they see. On the flip side, for those trying to reach patients, marketing analytics provides a window into stakeholder lives and interests in a way that past marketers only dreamed of. Too, genetics and personalized medicine have reset expectations and, increasingly, the demand for solutions perfectly tailored to the patient.

Success today is predicated on recognizing that every patient is different, every disease is different, every drug, every breakthrough and every cure is different. Marketing and communications strategies will work best if differentiated at the point of impact –  that is, at the individual patient level. How do we get there? Well, the questions are not that dissimilar to those of the past, although the answers are incredibly different.

  • How do I reach the right patient? Find out where they get information and who they trust.  Digital tools and marketing analytics make this a much easier and more precise task, even for diseases that affect thousands of patients.
  • What is the right message? This is a bit trickier, because it means stepping away from the one-size-fits-all model. Use analytics and customized communications forums to speak to patients based on their own interests and the ways in which they contextualize their disease.
  • What is the right approach? It is all about building relationships. Avoid one-off communications where possible. Build plans for multiple, authentic touch points and focus on the patient. Those “individual” patients will be more open to your message if they feel a connection. It is their health, not a business transaction.  

So, why such personalized attention now? It is simple. Because we can. And because it resonates with patients. Most importantly, it is essential to maximizing marketing initiatives.

Michael Rinaldo is EVP, general manager of dna Communications