Lost in translation: Medical vendors seek better patient education

Despite the best efforts of the medical community, a knowledge exists between healthcare provider, vendors and their patients.

Overall, pharmaceutical companies and other professionals seem to have a hard time conveying patient education information in layman’s terms, and only 12 percent of U.S. adults are considered health literate. That raises the concern of patients skipping appointments and tests, mismanaging their conditions, requiring more frequent hospitalization and incurring greater healthcare costs.

Others see the greater problem as a lack of authenticity in communications between vendors and patients. In a Wego Health Solutions study last year, for example, only 34 percent of caregivers, patients and healthcare providers said pharma companies are fully engaging with target audiences.

“In nearly any effective leadership situation, empathy is necessary to impact followers’ opinions and decisions,” write the authors. “Empathy is about motivating or influencing others by understanding and communicating based on their emotions. It is easier to influence or change people if you are keenly aware of what they are thinking or feeling.”

One way Artcraft Health has embraced that philosophy is the formation of its Specialty Camps program, through which medical firms sponsor fun summer camps for children with special medical needs, including diabetes, hemophilia, cancer and asthma. Clinical educators provide oversight and adult counselors are diagnosed with the same conditions as campers. Activities are structured around medical limitations, and campers are taught coping strategies and encouraged to make friends who share similar struggles. In return for sponsorship, the pharma company is enabled to build relationships with campers and staffers, and provide take-home educational materials. Artcraft’s program is the nation’s leading creator and producer of such disease-oriented camp opportunities.

As the medical community strives to come up with other unique ideas for disseminating information to patients, analysts offer the following suggestions:

  • Reassess whether you’re couching information in easier-to-understand terms and avoiding language specific to cultures or specific groups of people. The Children’s National Health System, for example, recently set standards calling for materials to be written at a fifth- to seventh-grade level, using simple sentence structures, short, bulleted statements and age-appropriate illustrations.
  • Optimize omnichannel. Different demographics tend to prefer different mediums for receiving information; when possible, either provide info in numerous ways (email, text, print, video, etc.) or ask patients which they prefer.
  • When possible, customize messages to the stage of the patient’s illness. “It’s important to assess the patient’s physical, psychological and cognitive readiness to engage in learning,“ advises RN Beth Stuckey on NueMD.com.  
  • Optimize design layout. To avoid overwhelming readers, state facts within short sentences and phrases, using bullet points and images to break up text. The smallest font used should be 12-point, with minimal formatting such as italics or script, advises the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Make website navigation as user-friendly as possible for those who are less computer or web literate. A study this year found 13 percent of U.S. adults still do not use the internet.
  • Reconsider to what extent your strategy should include consumer-facing pharma apps. While more than 250 are now available on iOS and Android, most remain widely un-downloaded. “The medical community is realizing selling pharmaceutical products only might not be the best long-term strategy, and that apps can help to educate and engage patients and HCPs, and finally help them sell their products,” advises a recent article on Research2guidance.com. “By linking their apps to products and services, rather than separating them, pharma companies can use the mobile space to directly connect with patients and doctors.”
  • Don’t discount the role of pharmacists in helping disseminate information, particularly in regard to clinical trial recruitment. Recent research indicates pharmacists are highly trusted and offer largely untapped accessibility to patients.

Artcraft Health can help you close the information gap between vendors and patients. Contact us for a consultation at 908-782-4921.

BlogLindsey Kuhl