Improving patient education with marketing materials

In today's technological society, the Internet reigns. People turn to the source to shop, do research and to find out about their favorite celebrities and brands. It's quick, easy and up-to-date, which makes it the first place people go to for information. They even turn to it for health care advice and education. However, if they aren't visiting trustworthy websites, they may not be receiving factual details, which creates problems for both patients and medical professionals. Health care providers and pharmaceutical companies need to take advantage of the online trend and become the authorities in their fields to improve patient education.

The dangers of self-diagnosing
Scheduling and actually going to a doctor's appointment can be a struggle for many people. It may involve time and money they don't have. Because of this, they'll turn to the Internet, which oftentimes provides helpful and reliable information at no cost. They can type in their symptoms and receive a short list of illness possibilities that will help them decide on the best course of action, whether that be self-treatment or a visit to their health care provider.

"Symptom checkers listed correct diagnoses first in only 38% of cases."

Unfortunately, when it comes to health care, the Web isn't as useful or trustworthy as it could be. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, online symptom checkers listed the condition first in only 38 percent of cases and in the top three in half of them. In 58 percent of instances, the symptom checkers provided the proper triage advice.

"These tools may be useful in patients who are trying to decide whether they should get to a doctor quickly, but in many cases, users should be cautious and not take the information they receive from online symptom checkers as gospel," Ateev Mehrotra, associate professor of health care policy and medicine at HMS and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said in the Harvard Gazette.

While the Internet can provide some information about certain conditions, it should not be used as the sole tool for diagnosing. Without a background in the medical field, people may misinterpret or misdiagnose their health.

Medical professionals hold the solution
Because of the abundance of incorrect information available on the Web, patient education falls into the hands of pharmaceutical companies and health care providers. If they want people to make informed decisions based on facts, they must offer them the tools that will give the best explanations. However, if that information isn't easy to find or presented in an appealing way, those details may fall by the wayside.

The Internet offers plenty of opportunities for pharma companies to reach their targeted audiences and become the go-to sources for medical and pharmaceutical information, PharmaVOICE contributors David Davenport-Firth and Chris Cullman explained. These businesses can become the authorities by creating content that is both "favorable" and "valuable." Pharma's job is to not only provide information, but to anticipate the needs of the users and give them materials that will offer value at that moment.

To become the expert, pharma companies should use what they know best: their products, the source suggested. They can offer information about symptoms, treatments, causes and effects on day-to-day life. Because they have a background in manufacturing medications and studying the disease, these businesses will be able to offer relevant and factual content.

As the experts, pharma can help patients learn about their conditions from a trustworthy source.As the experts, pharma companies can help patients learn about their conditions from a trustworthy source.

Customized content for every patient
Patient education can be a difficult task in and of itself. However, it can be further complicated without the right materials and content. People come from a plethora of backgrounds with a variety of learning abilities. The marketing strategy that appeals to one person may not attract the attention of another. Pharma companies need to consider how they present the necessary information to their target audiences.

While text is the dominant method in displaying pertinent information, it is not the only format available. According to PharmaVOICE, visual content, such as video and images, can add a new layer of storytelling and connectedness to the layout. These will not only present the information in a clear and easy-to-understand way, but will also appeal to visual learners that need more than just text to comprehend data.

Pharma and health care providers can team up to ensure patient education is high. Companies can create marketing and informative materials in a variety of formats, from web content to brochures, and doctors can hand out documents or recommend trustworthy websites where people can go to increase their knowledge.

Symptom checkers and online forums may continue to be high-traffic sources in the upcoming years. However, they don't have to be the go-to sources to diagnose potential health conditions. By creating valuable content and presenting it in an appealing format, pharma companies will be able to become the authority in the field among both health care providers and patients.