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The transformative power of effective communication in healthcare

The power of effective communication in healthcare

Healthcare advertisers help bridge the gap between medical professionals and patients, making people feel motivated to take control of their health.

A patient and a healthcare professional

Experts say that the state of U.S. healthcare is causing patient burnout. They point to the high costs of care, preventable medical errors and a lack of transparency from doctors as experiences that keep patients from taking control of their health.

Factors contributing to inconsistent doctor visits in the U.S. include patients’ unawareness of health risks, the benefits of preventative care and feelings of embarrassment or fear.

The pandemic worsened these issues and led to physician burnout, as well. By the end of 2022, 30% of physicians said they felt burned out, Jamie Ducharme reported in TIME magazine.  

One factor of the healthcare system that can be improved involves an element which both medical providers and patients have control. A healthcare professional’s communication with patients has a significant impact on the desire to seek health care, according to the National Library of Medicine

Dr. Bengt Arnetz, a professor at Michigan State University focused on transforming primary care, said that engaging patients is the key in motivating them to seek healthcare. 

“If a patient doesn’t feel they get the proper communication from the provider to actually engage and make decisions, they won’t be as informed, which will affect their willingness to be engaged,” Arnetz said. “They won’t be motivated to take responsibility for their health.” 

Working to engage patients, giving advice and actively communicating about treatment options motivates patients to prioritize their health. Healthcare advertisers are successful in clear and effective communication, since their mission is to provide information tailored to patients’ needs.  

“Information from marketing directed to patients influences the patient’s health-seeking behavior. It’s a very vital relationship,” Arnetz said. “The more specific treatment projected at the consumer, the more the patient asks for.” 

Healthcare advertisers bridge the communication gap between patients and doctors by being a critical voice that inspires patients to address their health. The advertisers prioritize simplicity when giving patients the information they need to step into the doctor’s office feeling confident and prepared. 

Olivia Hill is a copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, a health communications agency. Hill’s job is to provide straightforward, concise marketing for pharmaceutical companies.  

“People get confused and overwhelmed very quickly. Doctors are looking at the patient as just another patient. In advertising, we think of them not as patients but as people,” Hill explained.

“How would you talk to someone who you need to explain something difficult to? You break it down, make it simple. The goal is to help them feel better prepared to jump into that doctor’s office and feel that they have the resources to maneuver whatever obstacles may come.” 

Several studies show that patients receiving consistent care from a primary care provider reduces mortality. According to a report from the National Association of Community Health Centers, a third of Americans don’t have a primary care provider.

Among the top reasons that people don’t consistently go to the doctor in the U.S. include patients being unaware of their health risks and the benefits of preventative care and feeling embarrassed or afraid.  

In order to receive the best care possible, patients should be vulnerable with their doctors, which creates another barrier. Alex Cortes, copy supervisor at Digitas Health in Philadelphia, understands the challenges vulnerability presents and keeps this in mind when working on healthcare advertising.  

“From chatting with real patients, I see the fear of vulnerability. People are just scared. They don’t want to face the reality and are in denial. Once you say it out loud, it becomes real,” Cortes said. “From our perspective as advertisers, we want to help provide resources that help all these things in advance, so patients aren’t afraid to have that conversation with their doctor.” 

Katarina Hajder, a UX Researcher at TikTok, finds that doctors often promote stress and a sense of urgency to their patients, making them feel less valued.

According to the National Library of Medicine, there are significant benefits to implementing improved communication strategies. Healthcare advertisers study their target audiences, allowing them to better understand their needs, expectations and perceptions of quality care and outcomes. The goal is to show patients an experience that resonates with them, making them feel equipped to take control of their health. 

Cortes feels that healthcare advertising is a misunderstood industry. Healthcare advertisers work to engage patients with personalized health advice by implementing strategies that their insights reveal are the most successful with each target audience, Cortes says.

“We’re not just writing about a drug,” Cortes explained. “We’re also trying to help strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. We do that through resources that are specifically tailored to patients.”

Publicis Health, the parent company of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and Digitas Health, received a Clio Health Award in 2019 for the “The Thrown Out Flag” campaign.

The campaign raised awareness for LGBTQ+ youth, highlighting the fact that 40% of homeless teens are homeless due to their sexuality. The “Thrown Out Flag,” which is a tattered pride flag, represents the struggles homeless LGBTQ+ teenagers face.

The campaign ads were placed on social media, bus kiosks and billboards in Times Square. The ad united teens and connected them with social workers and doctors for support. 

Medical schools primarily provide science training, and these types of resources are not typically part of doctors’ education, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Doctors don’t typically study patient audiences, presenting the need for healthcare advertisers.

Given that patients often experience burnout from stressful doctor visits, healthcare advertisements can play a crucial role in providing resources to nurture the patient-doctor relationship and encourage individuals to seek the care they need.