Jul23

Curiosity Taught the Cat

6568523“An endless trail of ideas floats in the ether. You will only see them if you are curious.” I read this in The Eternal Pursuit of Unhappiness book all Ogilvy employees know and love. It got me thinking about curiosity—one of David Ogilvy’s eight habits. Is curiosity an important skill to have in the healthcare communications field?

They say curiosity killed the cat, but I believe curiosity taught the cat (plus, don’t cats have nine lives?). From interning at Ogilvy CommonHealth in the summer of 2014, I can see why curiosity is a must skill to have. In the rapidly changing healthcare field, there are so many aspects to be familiar with. For starters, healthcare reform is constantly changing with new laws and regulations. The pharma market is always evolving with new drugs and medications for patients. Also, the aging population is causing shifts in the demand for certain drugs, devices, and medications. There is always something new you have to keep your eye on in this field, so unless you have the curiosity, you are likely to miss current trends in the healthcare field.

Curiosity as a student

Curiosity helps people grow. In college, I’ve learned that curiosity is best practiced by taking chances. Each semester I believe it is important to take a course that is unrelated to a major or minor. It helps students think outside of the box and get a different understanding about various topics. I’ve noticed that the students who take chances like this in college are the ones who build a well-rounded background.

Curiosity at Ogilvy CommonHealth

I believe being curious is important at Ogilvy CommonHealth too. However, instead of just giving my reasoning, I will share the viewpoints of two others here at Ogilvy:

Jamie Fishman, senior account executive in Payer Marketing, believes we can’t be proactive in this evolving market or even provide value to our clients if we are not curious. There is a difference, however, between being proactive and being curious. Jamie states that questioning or looking into what is known is being proactive, while questioning or looking into what is unknown… that is true curiosity. When we research our clients and understand their industry, we are able to be ahead of the game to serve our clients the best. Jamie stays curious by reading about the work she is involved in and sharing articles with others in order to spark their curiosity. It is no surprise that she believes it is an important skill as well.

Jenita McDaniel, EVP director of operations in Payer Marketing, takes the importance of curiosity a step further. “The people that are curious change the world,” she said, “if our ancestors were not curious, we would not even be here.” It goes to show how brilliant minds are curious. In fact, if our ancestors were not curious, would they have taken risks to explore new life? Would they expand their knowledge to explore the world? Jenita also believes great ideas stem from curiosity; it helps us understand our clients and serve them to the best of our ability. Additionally, Jenita went on to say that curiosity is about taking chances, and those who are curious constantly push the envelope.

I’ll end by sharing a few tips I’ve learned from Jamie and Jenita to help you be more curious:

  1. Read. A lot.
  2. Share what you read with others. Including clients!
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Learn (from any opportunity).
  5. Teach.

I’m sure the more these five tips are practiced, the more curious you’ll become, thus achieving greater results, enhancing intellectual growth, and practicing professionalism.

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Also posted in agency life, behavior change, Blogging, Culture, Healthcare Communications, Work-life | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response
Apr22

Pharmacists — New Agents of Change for Improved Healthcare Delivery?

pharmacist and customerIt is becoming increasingly common to encounter new outlets for healthcare delivery within retail pharmacies, big box stores, supermarkets, etc. This phenomenon is not occurring by happenstance. We often hear there is a growing shortage of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Now, this shortage is likely to be magnified by the large number of newly insured patients entering the market as a result of the Affordable Care Act. These patients will need new places to seek care and new types of healthcare professionals to care for them.

One site of care that is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for patients is the retail clinic, due to the convenience and quality of service for basic healthcare needs. When we examine the average cost of a minor illness visit across different sites of care, we see that retail clinics provide a viable and cost-effective alternative:

  • Retail clinic: $76
  • Physician visit: $120
  • Urgent care: $121
  • Emergency room: $499

Given the reduced burden on the system, we can expect that healthcare delivery will continue to migrate outside of traditional physician and hospital channels, to non-traditional, lower-cost venues like retail clinics. In fact, the number of retail clinics is estimated to grow 25% to 30% annually to almost 2,900 by 2015. But who is primarily responsible for providing care in these locations?

Most often it is pharmacists who play a very active role in delivering care. They have expanded their role beyond drug dispensing to include medication reviews, providing education materials, administering vaccinations, and more.  Furthermore, they are well-positioned to continue to expand their influence on patient care.

As marketers, we should closely examine the potential role pharmacy could play to improve the quality and cost efficiency of healthcare delivery. As one of the key patient-facing allied healthcare professionals, they should be supported with education and tools that go far beyond their traditional focus on drug dosing and dispensing. Pharmacists have training and access to data that uniquely position them to help improve the patient’s journey from the first prescription after diagnosis, through ongoing adherent treatment, to chronic disease management and/or recovery.

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Also posted in Affordable Care Act, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Medicine, Pharmaceutical | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
Sep12

The Key to Effective “Salesmanship in Print”

Mark Clemente ThumbnailI had occasion to be standing on a gas line in the aftermath of last year’s hurricane—red plastic can in hand. Waiting in front of me was a pharmaceuticals sales rep.

Clearly, we had at least a half-hour before reaching a pump to get our allotted five gallons. Our conversation initially focused on obligatory topics: the massive storm, weather-related energy shortages, the impact of global warming, etc. That lasted all of two minutes. It was time for a more productive dialogue—from my standpoint, at least.

I mentioned that I worked in pharma advertising and that I was supporting a major new drug launch at the time. I seized the opportunity to ask him some questions: When doctors look at an MVA, what do they really focus on? How much do physicians truly probe the key clinical data? When all you have is a two-minute meeting in the hallway, what key information do you try to convey?

He was forthcoming and candid. In just a few minutes, I gained extremely valuable insights—much more than I’d gotten from hours and hours worth of reading voluminous market research decks tied to physician feedback and messaging-related imperatives.

I was immediately reminded of the old Chinese adage…

“A single conversation across the table with a wise (person) is worth a month’s study of books.”

So why is this a blog-worthy anecdote? Because it ties to a less-than-positive trend.

I’ve supported several different brands over the past few years, including having worked on two launches. In that time, there have been many client-sponsored sales events, POAs, and other strategic gatherings that would be highly beneficial for creative and account team members to attend. Unfortunately, rarely am I or my agency team colleagues invited to these types of forums.

By definition, advertising is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to support the sales process. Indeed, promotional communications have historically been characterized as “salesmanship in print.” It stands to reason that the more sales-focused input we get—and the faster we get it—the better able we’ll be to shift gears (when necessary) and develop print and digital content that best serves the immediate needs of sales representatives.

So why am I—and many of my colleagues—not getting as many chances to directly interface with client-side sales professionals today? The reasons range from budgetary constraints (“We can’t afford to have agency people attend.”) to a possible lack of recognition that we’re strategic partners with our clients (“We just need you to write and design the piece; we’ll handle the strategy.”).

Sure, we get to see huge research binders and PowerPoint decks. And we get to “sit behind the glass” in viewing physician interviews. But it’s not the same as having face-to-face discussions with the sellers in the trenches.

It may be time to reinforce with our clients the importance of having direct contact with the sellers we support. This should be addressed in initial project planning—and it should be considered in the budgeting process if cost is a client concern.

In sum, we need to have more interactions with sales professionals in order to deliver effective “salesmanship in print” … and other channels.

“A single conversation across the table with a wise (person) is worth a month’s study of books.”

The benefits are obvious. (Not to mention the fact that we already have enough reading to do.)

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Jun5

Falling Into Planning and Landing in Medical School

Would you ever think that a career in planning could end with medical school? Well now you know it can!Doctors_thumbnail

I started working at Ogilvy Heatlhworld as a Science and Research Specialist within the Planning Department approximately four and a half years ago, right after completing my Masters of Public Health degree from Columbia University. One quick email of my resume to a craigslist post, and two weeks later I was working at Ogilvy Heatlhworld.

At the time, I worked with two other research specialists, one a scientist and the other a medical doctor. Our main function was to work with the planners who worked on healthcare accounts to provide scientific and strategic guidance that helped our clients achieve their business goals.

Over the four and a half years, it has been a very rewarding experience. I have worked on accounts across several therapeutic categories, including:

  • Depression
  • AD/HD
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Postmenopausal osteoporosis
  • Menopause
  • Nosocomial pneumonia
  • Complicated skin and soft tissue infections
  • Transthyretin familial amyloid polyneuropathy
  • Prostate cancer
  • Immuno-oncology
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia

One of the remarkable aspects of my trajectory at Ogilvy Heatlhworld was that I stumbled into advertising and planning as a career. However, over the past four and a half years I was able to learn about how to gather insights and translate them into best-in-class marketing strategy that has successfully created excellent creative that has transformed our clients’ business. One of the biggest challenges I had as a planner was taking the science and transforming it into something conceptual that helped the creatives develop campaigns across these therapeutic areas. Ultimately I have decided that, like fine wine, planning is just something you get better at with time. Today I can now say I see science differently.

My career plans were to eventually matriculate into medical school. It is with great pleasure, but sadness at the same time, that I share that I will be leaving Ogilvy Heatlhworld this year to attend medical school. My years of listening to patients in market research will definitely help me to be a much keener physician who will take a more holistic approach to treating my patients. But in retrospect, as I look back at my time at Ogilvy Heatlhworld, my experience as a science and research specialist has definitely equipped me with the right skills to become a key opinion leader (KOL) in the future. Outside of the obvious—that is, learning and understanding scientific content at record-breaking speed and simplifying it to a third-grade level—I am now able to:

  • Relearn how to pull an all-nighter to get the job done
  • Critically review fair balance for potential adverse events
  • Think of objections to challenge sales rep when they attempt to detail me about a product
  • To say declaratively…I know Ogilvy Heatlhworld did not produce that creative

Finally, without my experience as a planner, I would not have received my acceptance to medical school. It certainly provided me with great conversation points to discuss during my medical school interviews, which ultimately made my interviews stand out amongst other candidates. For that, I am grateful to Ogilvy Heatlhworld.

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May30

The Parent Factor—How to be a Good Daughter and Pharma Marketer

Patient Doctor ThumbnailWhen my mother was recently diagnosed with COPD, I thought I could help her. We had worked on the gold-standard treatment for a decade, knew the data, the leading clinicians in the field and the course of the disease. However, knowing the answers is one thing, effectively communicating them to a parent is quite another.

Two main hurdles hadn’t occurred to me. Forgive my sweeping generalisations, but I think these may apply to a lot of people of her generation.

Firstly, she has entrenched, hierarchical viewpoints when it comes to receiving health information, namely:

  1. Whatever I say is of no consequence—I am not a medic, I’m her child.
  2. Whatever the nurse says is of no relevance—she is “insolent” and shares anecdotes about her own mother’s illness, which is “inappropriate.”
  3. Despite having a “machine” (MacBook Air), searching the web for relevant information, tools or support doesn’t occur to her.
  4. Whatever the doctor says is sacrosanct (hierarchy is everything), but she’s unlikely to remember it.

Secondly, obtaining an accurate account of what had been discussed during her many consultations was almost impossible. Precise questions such as, “Ask them to give you your FEV score” were met with vague responses: “They wouldn’t give it to me, they said they think it’s that thing—emphysema—they explained what the blood tests were for but I can’t remember what they said,” etc., etc.

Trying to interpret patchy feedback from the consultations was frustrating, especially when it was further confused by her misconceptions. At one stage, she said they thought it was asthma, but this was an assumption she had made because they had prescribed an inhaler which she equates with asthma. My mother is an intelligent woman—it’s just hard to listen and remember everything when you are scared and confused. And the more I speak with her, the more evident it is that she doesn’t understand the disease or the need for treatment: “I’m going to go back and find out just how long they expect me to use this medicine” and “What happens if I don’t take it?”

I spend my working week devising new, innovative ways of communicating health messages to patients—via the media, apps, crowd-sourcing communities, videos, Vine, Twitter—you name it, we’ve done it, but what I’ve learned from this personal experience is that sometimes there is no substitute for clear advice provided directly by an HCP.

What my mother needs is a consultation with a doctor in which he or she clearly explains:

  • The disease
  • The role of treatment
  • The consequences of nonadherence
  • The outlook

All could be covered in a short conversation, but this needs to be given by the doctor and backed up with written information.

My final thought is, wouldn’t it be great if there was a network of impartial adults—call them consultation buddies—available to accompany people to their healthcare consultations and take notes on their behalf? Not to aid diagnosis, but to aid understanding by capturing the relevant information in written form.

If anyone is interested in starting a consultation buddy business, call me!

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Feb13

Experience-by-Proxy as a Medical Decision Making Tool

computerNow that patient-centered decision making is becoming a reality, it begs the question: are we, as patients, really prepared to make life-or-death decisions on our own behalf?

The biggest problem I have making many of the decisions I am faced with in everyday life, not just in health, is that I simply don’t know enough about the options I’m choosing between. I am fully capable of ordering a cup of coffee—I’ve had lots of different kinds of coffee, and on any given day can be trusted to order myself a latte or a grande or whatever.

But if you ask me something I really don’t know much about, either experientially or theoretically, I’m going to be at sea, metaphorically speaking. To reuse an example I wrote about recently, when my builder asked me if I would prefer for him to install flexible tubing instead of traditional pipes for a new sink, I really didn’t have any idea, at all. He’s the expert, so I asked him what he would do. And he did what anyone might do in that situation—he told me what was good and bad about each, but made it clear that, really, flexible tubing was the bomb. You’d be an idiot not to go with flexible tubing.

And it turns out, he’s wrong. It works fine, but the water tastes like rubber, so you have to let the tap run for about 30 seconds before you fill up a cup of water. Not a huge deal, but what happened is, he gave me advice based on what would work best for him; it’s a lot easier and faster to install flexible tubing, so why not suggest it to me? I mean, he did give me the options, and he told me the truth about each in terms of cost, durability…but he never really told me what it would be like to actually live with a sink that produced water that had flowed through, or worse, sat in, flexible tubing. It was a decision he had to execute—it was a decision I have to live with. There’s a really, really big difference.

This lack of context when making decisions is one of the key problems facing patients who are now tasked with the emerging paradigm of patient-centered decision making, that is, the job of making their own health care decisions. Patients lack the experiential knowledge of what it might be like to live with option A versus option B. Doctors and other health care providers, who are much more familiar with the choices being faced, really never live with the consequences of these decisions, they merely execute or observe them. Just like a plumber, their choices are based on their own interpretation of what is best for the patient, which is probably in some measure based on what makes most sense for them, given that they have to carry out the technical aspects of the decision. This is why we are moving towards patient-centered decision making in the first place, so that the patient can make decisions based on what he or she believes will be best for him or her, given their values, their situation, etc. But if we give patients the kinds of information that doctors use to make decisions, or the kinds of information my plumber gave me about ratings, durability, costs, etc, we’re only helping patients understand the consequences of their decisions from the point of view of someone who doesn’t have to live with them—we’re still not helping them understand what it will be like to live with the consequences of different decisions.

A lot of very important medical decisions are made only once by any given individual, so whereas I might have another sink put in some day and be able to make a second decision differently based on the experiences of the first decision I made, sink-wise—in the medical context, you pick your option and you live with it. We may be providing patients information about these decisions, but in many ways it’s hard to say that the decisions themselves are “informed.”

What we need, then, is some way to give patients a window into the possible futures that might exist for them, depending on which choice they make, which option they follow. Like the Ghost of Christmas Future, we need to have some way to show patients what their lives might be like with choice A, choice B, or no choice at all.

This is, in part, the theoretical underpinning of one of Ogilvy CommonHealth’s two South by Southwest (SXSW) core conversations taking place in Austin, TX, early in March.

One of the best tools for achieving this is video testimonial by patients who have been faced with similar choices, and who made one. These patients can talk from experience about what it is like to make such a decision, why they made it, and what it’s been like since then. Another patient may have made a different choice, and can talk about the consequences of that choice from their distinct point of view. And suddenly a patient who was choosing from medical options based on things like survival rates and risk-benefit can now make decisions based on the experiences of people like them, facing the same issues they faced; people living with the consequences of their choices, for better or worse. This we call “experience-by-proxy”—borrowed experience, which allows you to gain knowledge of a path followed before you follow it for yourself.

These experiences-by-proxy won’t necessarily help make the decision for you, but they can make your decision more grounded in reality. If you are unsure if you need a hip replacement, and watch several videos, one of which has a patient saying, “It changed my life, I have no idea why I waited so long,” and another of which says, “It was horrible, I should have waited longer, and here’s why…”, you may still have conflicting opinions. You may still want a better quality of life with a new hip, but fear the consequences of an operation that is never guaranteed to go right. You may still be on the fence…but at least now you have a clearer vision of what it would be like to live with the option to go forward with hip replacement, and to put a face and a life to the theoretical risk and benefit you considered earlier.

To learn more, go to http://schedule.sxsw.com/2013/events/event_IAP7391

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Nov8

Getting to Know Patient Bloggers

How can we engage with online health activists and patient bloggers? This is a question our pharma clients are asking more and more frequently. But maybe the first question we should all be asking is: Do online health activists and bloggers want to engage with pharma? Increasingly the answer is yes, but there are a couple rules of engagement, as we have learned from discussions with bloggers.

1. It’s OK to listen, but don’t just eavesdrop.

Health activists and bloggers are well aware that pharma companies are listening in social media channels to gain insights into how people view their company and their products. But there is a difference between being listened to and being heard. Bloggers value the response and comments they get from their community, that’s why they do what they do—to be connected. And generally that goes for pharma too—an authentic, personal conversation will usually be greeted positively.

2. They are not journalists, they are people telling stories.

Many bloggers are happy to receive information from pharma companies, but they don’t want to be sold to.  They are not in the blogging business to promote drugs or devices—they got into blogging because they want to tell their personal story because it helps them cope, because it helps them connect with other people. So they might be interested in hearing about a new treatment that can make a difference to themselves or their peers. But they don’t want to be sent a press release; they would rather have content in a format that is appropriate to share with their audience, using the right language, tone of voice and level of detail.

3. Not all engagement takes place online.

Bloggers are social by nature—they are reaching out to networks and communities of people because they want to converse and share. This means that they also like to meet up in person—with pharma as well. The most successful way pharma has been engaging with bloggers and activists is in the real world, via blogger summits. Providing an opportunity for bloggers to get together in person can be transformative, not only for the bloggers who for the first time can get to shake hands with someone they have been conversing with virtually for years, but also for the sponsoring company, which can gain priceless information, insight and goodwill.

At the end of the day, sometimes the most effective engagement is the old fashioned kind: authentic relationship building, where the two parties listen and respond to each other in a spirit of mutual trust.

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Oct2

Radical Creativity and a Little Bit of Dirty Talk

 

If your strategy is to “think outside the box,” you might as well give up.

Because today, there is no box. 

There’s no cardboard container that defines yesterday’s boundaries. Today we live in a world of radical connectivity, where ideas intermingle, evolve and explode in the digital ether of creativity. Today we live within a sea of words, concepts and ideas that create the communication ecosphere. It’s a system that is alive, and in a profound way…wait for it…actually is self-organizing. It’s ideas driving new ideas! And it’s this exchange of thoughts and ideas that provides the catalyst for profound and life-changing events. It’s the Big Bang of Creativity! The slope of creativity and innovation is changing and getting so steep that you’ll need to have the digital tools to hold on tight. Otherwise, you’ll slip off into the abyss of ignorance.

It’s ideas having sex!

Matt Ridley, British journalist, scientist and author, clearly gets it! Throughout history, the engine of human progress and prosperity has been, and still is, the mating of ideas. His passion for thought and the exchange of ideas comes through loud and clear in his TED video.


Technology is advancing our abilities to a point beyond our mere human capacity. We are becoming super-creatives, where ideas fly like sparks, and this confluence of thought will ignite a fire of change. Jason Silva, in his over-the-top perspective, helps bring this magic into view.  His characterization of our new creative world is inspiring and captures the energy of this change. Jason is a filmmaker, futurist and self-proclaimed “epiphany addict” who loves to fool around with ideas!

So, get down and dirty…and connected!

But you might not really want to use conversation in a conventional way. Our conversation can be very smart, very public and very engaged. But it exists between you, me and the world. It’s this “ping-pong” conversation that echoes across the digital space and can spark a revolution of thought. Yesterday’s “blue sky” meeting has evolved into today’s “blue universe“ engagement.

The rules of creativity are changing. Are you connected?

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You can also follow John on Twitter @JohnNosta.

 

Also posted in Creativity, Design, Digital, Great Ideas, Healthcare Communications, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Response
Sep13

What Happens When a Consumer Becomes a Patient?

It happens to all of us, sooner or later. Whether it’s a health concern your doctor brings up during a routine office visit. Or you ask your doctor about a medicine you saw advertised on TV, online, in a brochure in the waiting room, or something health-related a friend or family member told you.

At that moment, there is a paradigm shift in the way people think and act. A person’s mindset is different when under the care of a doctor. Language is different when being treated for a specific disease state. Listening is different when a person has to take ownership of his or her own well-being. Processing information is different in a heightened state due to illness.

Now patients become information seekers. About their condition, about medicines that treat their condition, and about over-the-counter products that can help improve their overall health and wellness.

Once informed, patients become information givers, eager to share their newfound knowledge and experience with family, friends, and colleagues. Now conversations begin with: “My doctor told me…”.  And these 4 words give instant credibility to what is being said about a medical condition and the medicines and products used to treat it.

So as the patient continues to “shop around” for health information and treatments, we see the evolution of the cycle, with the patient now becoming a consumer; a consumer of health goods and services. This is reflected in how we define these terms today. For example, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a consumer as one that utilizes economic goods, and a customer as one that purchases a commodity or service; Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary defines a patient as a client for medical services.

Not so long ago, it would have been unthinkable to speak of patients in terms of “buying” medical care. A person was considered “under the care of” a physician; this bond was sacrosanct, and no one would ever consider questioning what the doctor said. In fact, the venerable century-old Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines a patient as a person who is ill or who is undergoing treatment for disease (they do not even have an entry for consumer or customer).

But as today’s consumers find themselves more and more responsible for their own health and wellness, the slogan from retailer Sy Syms rings true: an educated consumer is our best customer.

So, how did you become an educated consumer of healthcare?

Fill in the blank: “My doctor told me____”.

 

 

 

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Sep6

Who’s Driving Care Coordination?

Close coordination among healthcare professionals is widely seen as an avenue to improved patient outcomes and lower costs. Better care coordination is a national healthcare priority; the Affordable Care Act includes incentives to encourage it and healthcare providers are forming new alliances to deliver it.

At the center of these efforts, of course, is the patient. So are patients experiencing better care coordination?

Recently I got a firsthand look at this question when my daughter suffered what appeared to be an allergic reaction. The emergency department doctor was baffled, but ordered a variety of tests, told us to call the next day for results, and handed us a prescription. The next day, we were told it would take at least a week to get the results and that someone from the hospital would contact us. The doctor we visited a few days later told us we would never hear from the hospital, re-ran the tests, gave us a tentative diagnosis, and wrote a different prescription. After about a week when we hadn’t heard anything, we called the doctor’s office and were told the test results were normal.

Yet, my daughter was still experiencing troubling symptoms and the new medication wasn’t helping. So we scheduled an appointment with a specialist. We picked up a copy of the medical records from the first doctor and found that several abnormal test results were circled, but were never explained to us.

The specialist confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed yet another medication. When we got home from the pharmacy we found that we had been given the wrong drug. In fact, it was another patient’s prescription.

My family is not alone. Ask around and you’re likely to hear a similar story. In a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, two-thirds of consumers said that coordination among the different healthcare professionals they see is a problem; for many, it’s a major problem.

You could point a finger at healthcare professionals who are not doing all they should, but when you consider the volume of patients seen, tests ordered, procedures performed, prescriptions written, and insurance claims processed in a typical practice, the challenge is understandable.

In any scenario, patients need to play a more central role in coordinating their own care.

Many of the respondents in the Kaiser Family Foundation survey said they had taken steps to improve the coordination of their care. Here are some of the actions they reported:

  • Checked that a drug they picked up at a pharmacy matched their doctor’s prescription
  • Followed up on test results
  • Brought a list of all their medications to a doctor’s appointment
  • Brought a friend or relative to a doctor’s appointment to help ask questions and understand what the doctor said
  • Told a healthcare professional about any drug allergies—even when they weren’t asked
  • Created their own set of medical records to ensure that their healthcare professionals have all of their medical information

A good start, but these steps still represent an episodic approach to managing one’s health care. The Institute of Medicine notes that patients need to obtain and understand information about their condition and about relevant healthcare services in order to make appropriate health decisions. Seem obvious? Maybe so, but multiple studies have found that patients often do not understand their treatment plan and the role of each healthcare professional involved.

Healthcare professionals benefit from the use of “maps”: diagnostic and treatment algorithms, clinical practice guidelines, and care pathways. It’s true that much of this information is accessible to patients on the Internet—but only with a lot of digging and the ability to decipher medical jargon.

With the national spotlight on care coordination, the time seems right to find new ways to engage patients in driving their own care and providing them with more sophisticated tools to do so. As healthcare marketers, we do a good job of informing patients about specific medications and medical devices. We have the skills and technology to do more.

How about a patient Global Positioning System—or GPS?  Let’s help patients see a full picture of their condition and the options available for managing it. Let’s provide them with resources to navigate the decisions they will face. Each step of the journey should be clear. Each transition between care settings made with confidence.

Healthcare payers, in particular, are well placed to support patients in this way because they have a consistent presence in patients’ care. But, just as doctors, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other providers are teaming up to deliver better coordinated care, other participants in the healthcare market can and should team up to put the patient in the driver’s seat.

Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which entail multiple healthcare professionals and settings of care and, often, the involvement of family caregivers, are a clear priority. At Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide we are working with pharmaceutical industry clients in cooperation with payers, healthcare providers, advocacy organizations, and others to equip patients with chronic conditions to better manage their own healthcare journeys and, ultimately, arrive at more satisfactory outcomes.

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