How can pharma companies improve patient education?

When people are ill, they want the best treatments available. However, how can they know what that is if they aren't provided with easy-to-read information? Pharmaceutical companies develop countless medications and medical devices to help people manage their conditions, but only on occasion are their advertisements presented in a way that patients can understand. By taking the time to ensure their materials are clear to people of any education level, pharma companies can help improve health literacy.

The problems with health care ads
In a survey conducted by WEGO Health, only 34 percent of caregivers, patients and health care providers said that pharma companies are fully engaging with their targeted audiences, Medical Marketing & Media reported. According to participants, health care advertising has a way to go before patients will be able to fully relate and understand the information they're receiving from these businesses.

"Only 12% of adults have proficient health literacy."

With the methods currently being used to market to people with health conditions, patient education is falling by the wayside. Models and actors aren't as relatable as real patients, and some people believe that direct-to-consumer advertising won't receive the best response, according to participants in the survey. If patients don't have the health literacy they need to understand the ads, the information could be misunderstood.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported. Poor patient education can lead to various health problems and setbacks. People may skip necessary appointments and tests, lack the ability to manage conditions, experience higher rates of hospitalization and face greater health care costs, the source explained. If patients aren't sure what their medications should do or how they should react and if they're afraid to ask questions, they may experience negative outcomes.

Pharma companies can help educate patients
Health illiteracy doesn't have to be a problem if pharma companies and health care providers take measures to educate their patients. With the omnichannel presence of many people today, medical professionals have various methods for which to share information, according to Medical Marketing & Media. Social media and websites offer ways for patients to find facts and reach out to other professionals with questions and for advice. Approximately 50 percent of WEGO Health's survey responders believed that pharma companies' patient engagement will improve in the near future.

There are plenty of ways that these businesses can improve their pharmaceutical marketing. The first is to write information that will be easily understood, Medical Marketing & Media suggested. Industry terminology can interfere with translation because patients won't understand what words mean.  Language that is specific to cultures or specific groups of people should also be avoided, as it could affect comprehension. Pharma companies should write in a language that the majority of patients will understand to ensure that people know what they're doing by taking a medication or using a medical device.

Most of your patients aren't doctors, which means they won't understand industry jargon.Most of your patients aren't doctors, which means they won't understand industry jargon, so keep it simple.

How the information is laid out can also improve comprehension. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, text should be in at least a 12-point font with little to no formatting, such as italics and script. Bullet points and images should also be included to break up the information and to add to the meaning. Patients shouldn't be overwhelmed when they're reading the details, so facts should be provided in short sentences and phrases.

Multi-channel marketing also comes with its challenges. Brochures and pamphlets offer small bursts of information that are all in one location. However, websites may require people to search for what they need. According to the source, 60 percent of Internet users struggle to find the information they're looking for on websites. If pharma companies are going to branch into Web marketing, they must make their sites as user-friendly as possible by having clear categories, using a variety of media and keeping the layout simple.

With the abundance of information available to patients, direct-to-consumer advertising makes the most sense for pharma companies. By presenting the details in an easy-to-understand way, they'll be able to increase patient education with their publications.