Health communications don’t always strike the right note. That’s why GCI Health has teamed up with online patient community The Mighty.
GCI Health CEO Wendy Lund said the partnership will lead to new patient insights that the agency can pass on to its clients.
“Healthcare organizations are trying so hard to be patient centric, but for many people, it’s just not resonating,” Lund said. “I’ve seen research come out that shows the industry has failed in the eyes of consumers and patients in how they’re getting messages and taking messaging in. In our view, healthcare needs a new blueprint for patient-centric communication, one that reflects how patients want to be engaged.”
The two companies have completed an initial survey of patients and caregivers on The Mighty that asked users what helps to manage their condition and how much time caregivers spend giving care daily. Todd Kirby, VP and director of insight at The Mighty, said after doing the community survey, he “felt compelled” to share those findings with the larger healthcare industry.
A surprising finding was that online health communities like The Mighty ranked second for trusted healthcare advice behind primary care physicians, and 95% said these online support communities helped to manage their condition the most.
That indicated to Lund that patients want to engage with people like them, and healthcare companies’ efforts for disease education might be better received coming from another patient.
“The circle of trust seems to be changing a bit,” Kirby said. “Trust in traditional healthcare sources like family, friends, medical specialists and others rated below trust in online community. What seems to be working at The Mighty is the transparency, honesty and effort we put into our site to earn and deliver our trust.”
The survey also found that one in three patients are doing double duty as both a patient and caregiver. It also delved into the daily life of a caregiver, who spends 35% of their day giving care and 67% thinking about care, according to the survey. Kirby noted that caregivers often become a second thought to patients, but the survey showed they need just as much support.
From this survey, GCI Health is launching a methodology called People Centricity that provides a blueprint for healthcare clients to communicate with patients as people, focusing not only on their condition, but their whole life.
There are five areas of focus, Lund said: speaking to the patient as a whole person; identifying connections beyond demographic and disease; incorporating the patient voice into all communications; building more caregiver support strategies; and taking into account a patient’s family’s role in healthcare decisions.
“Patients don’t want to be spoken to as patients only, they want to be spoken to as people who aren’t necessarily shaped by their disease or condition, people who live their lives and who happen to have a disease,” Lund said. “We need to speak to them in a way that takes into account that they’re people too.”
GCI Health is also launching a new initiative, People at the Center, a rebranded version of its six-year-old platform Patients at the Center. The initiative will incorporate these insights from The Mighty.
“We should ensure communicators understand that healthcare is about patient engagement and patient centricity first and foremost,” Kirby said. “From there, we can see that people are able to find support in digital environments; it helps them deal with their condition and their overall health. If communicators continue to work in the silos of the past, patients will continue to seek ever more engaging ways to make themselves feel better.”