Finding That Sweet Spot: How to Communicate Effectively to Patients

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One of the main issues facing the healthcare industry is how key stakeholders can communicate effectively with patients. In some disease states, such as HIV and heart disease, much progress has been made to create awareness and understanding. But there are other diseases, such as diabetes, where communication still has room for improvement.

When looking to effectively communicate with patients, consider these four factors to cut through the clutter. 

Communicate to me, not at me: Corporations and governments should communicate as partners. Treating patients as numbers is not the solution to helping them conquer their diseases.

Tools to treat diseases should not be the answer to understand and treat the underlying causes. Communicators must understand and appreciate that disease education must be ongoing throughout the patient's life. 

Disease education campaigns should stand out: Disease education campaigns put out by healthcare companies need to speak plainly and genuinely to get patients onboard for the long haul in managing their health. "Getting real" in how and where patients are communicated to can be very effective.

Speaking to unmet needs through disease awareness campaigns, then presenting a solution in the form of a new medicine or treatment often leaves consumers skeptical. 

Communicate with patients as though they are your partners for life: Talking about disease education and awareness throughout the life of a patient is important. Recently, Judith Mitchell, CEO of Next Science, mentioned that in Australia, doctors are now referred to as life partners, and for good reason. Who will partner with the patient throughout their lifetime?

Who will share in their success and encourage them throughout their journey as they practice strict self-management to control their disease? Communication that humanizes individuals living with their disease is key. 

How one communicates with the younger generation is hugely important: Today, the younger generation is highly active on message boards, chat rooms, blogs, and other social media channels to discuss their condition, exchange ideas, provide encouragement, and take full ownership of their health.

Will healthcare companies truly invest in social media to continue meaningful dialogue with new patients? How will they maximize the use of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to have a relevant dialogue with millennials? 

Srikant Ramaswami is EVP of global and emerging markets, healthcare at rbb Communications. This column first appeared on prweek.com

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