Healthcare acronyms can change the world

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Healthcare acronyms can change the world
Healthcare acronyms can change the world

What's in a name? Building a plan for acronym acceptance.

IMHO, we live in an age of acronyms that range from texting (IDK) to the medical world. Acronyms for diseases or treatments, such as GERD or ACE inhibitors, have become so mainstream that we barely remember a time without them. Acronyms like these can help overcome marketing challenges and establish a language that can be used by physicians and patients to talk about healthcare issues.

Acronyms can work to accomplish different marketing goals:

  • Elevate the severity of the condition—Renaming an idiopathic stomach disorder as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) helped patients recognize the seriousness of a condition and the necessity for treatment.
  • Make a condition less taboo—Although they say that doctors have heard it all, it doesn't mean that certain topics aren't difficult or embarrassing to discuss. Rebranding “impotence” as erectile dysfunction (ED) and marketing this condition to the mainstream media, for instance, allowed men to discuss these sensitive issues more easily with their physicians.
  • Offer a less complicated way to talk about the disease/treatment—The introduction of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) dramatically changed society's views on depression and its treatment. The use of the SSRI acronym worked on several levels:
    • First, by connecting depression to chemical deficiencies in the brain, it helped overcome perceptions that depression is “all in a person's head”
    • Second, once it was established that serotonin deficiency is a potential cause of depression, it was much easier to introduce a treatment that would help increase levels of serotonin

The common thread in the development of these acronyms is that they were all based on marketing initiatives intended to create and own a disease or treatment category. And they all involved a dramatic change in the lexicon that had once been used to talk about certain conditions.

So, how do you go about creating an acronym for building a biotech disease or treatment category?

  • Start slow: You want acceptance ASAP, but you can't expect your target market to understand an acronym for a novel disease or treatment immediately. It may take time and patience for a new term to be accepted.
  • Be consistent: Use publications, public relation efforts, and key opinion leaders (your BFFs) to start seeding the market with the desired language. Be sure that all media present a consistent voice.
  • Create unbranded disease state initiatives: If you are trying to carve out a niche disease-state for a product coming to market, a strong campaign to raise awareness can help drive patient and physician acceptance.
  • Use market research: Market research helps you understand current thinking and perceptions so you can better plan how to change opinions and introduce new ideas.
  • Keep it simple (KIS): An acronym should be easy to remember and provide a straight-forward language that patients can use when discussing their issues with physicians.

The most important step you can take toward winning acceptance for an acronym is to have a fully developed POV and accompanying marketing plan that will get you where you want to be. Without this, your disease state or treatment acronym will be MIA. TTYL!

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