Why does healthcare communications need reinventing?

Why does healthcare communications need reinventing?

“Our most valuable resources – creativity, communication, invention, and reinvention – are, in fact, unlimited.”

David Grinspon, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute


Madonna constantly reinvents herself to remain relevant. She’s a mediocre singer (don’t all hate-mail us all at once) but she’s always culturally on the pulse and has instigated genuine behaviour change.

Communications in health is, to state the bleeding obvious, all about patients. It’s about storytelling, the power of harnessing the individual experience and elevating it in the context of a media story, product launch, influencing programme or digital campaign.

Of course, these things have always been true. But times are changing. The public’s trust waxes and wanes, as the stars realign. Take recent Ipsos Mori data which depicts voter intentions in 2018 versus 2019 as visual chaos on a graph. Consider that people trust scientists over and above most experts (politicians being fairly low down the pile); but they recognise they don’t know much about science itself.

And then read the following quotes:

“Labour used to be working class, it used to be a pie and a pint – it’s now a protesting student. It used to be someone playing the bingo; now it’s someone going on a demo”. Deborah Mattinson, Britain Thinks

Things have been said that cannot be unsaid, friendships broken that cannot be healed, loyalties ruptured beyond reconstruction; and all this in plain sight of an electorate that never loved the Conservative Party but trusted its competence and solidity.” Matthew Parris, The Times

As the quotes above most ably demonstrate, no vote is in the bag anymore and the old political order is collapsing. This means health and pharma organisations will have to work harder for stakeholder attention across all channels. And they will have to work across party lines (or across healthcare sectors) to achieve their goals.

Healthcare communications must therefore reinvent itself to match the world around us. After all, we know things have gone a bit weird when we discover more than four million people accessed the livestream of recent Supreme Court hearings and ‘conviction’ is the new currency of choice for politicians.

Trust is fluid and unrooted, and people care about things beyond traditional tribal lines. They are hungry for knowledge and authenticity (with a dash of the novel) – and this is where healthcare comms can step up to the plate.

At OVID we’re about pragmatic reinvention. We’re not spellbound by the new for the sake of it. For example, our broad understanding of the NHS, policy and politics, pharma and med tech means we bridge gaps. We link up what patients feel, with how pharma companies want to raise their profile in a certain disease area in line with the regulatory code.

In the healthcare sector, communications has never stood still. But there are some age-old traditions that stubbornly refuse to go gently into that good night.

Take sending summaries of stock announcements like the Budget or the Queen’s Speech. Unless clients specifically ask for one (and that’s only likely to be on a very policy-specific area), this is a waste of everyone’s time. We have Twitter and online media which will be quicker than an account team pulling together a snazzy document with zero typos.

At OVID we provide ad-hoc, concise analysis and share tit-bits of information to clients that’s genuinely helpful. In turn, clients are grateful for our insight, and thankful we’re not clogging up their inboxes.

Our belief in reinvention is about applying expert knowledge in unexpected yet effective ways. Whether that’s talking about skin cancer with builders, improving how parents of children with mental health conditions are communicated to or polling parents on their use of the word vagina to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers.

Reinventing healthcare communications in a consultancy context is vital. Clients come to OVID because we add extra value, expertise or support to their internal resource. To deliver this effectively our people have to be passionate about transforming clients’ challenges into opportunities.

This is why we hire great consultants and foster a supportive culture to enable them to provide flexible, creative and specialist advice for our changing times, achieving excellent client results in the process.

If they existed, we imagine the self-help books for healthcare communications would have titles like: “Reinventing healthcare communications (and how to feel great again); “How to create a new you: reinventing the sector you are”. If we were writing a book for healthcare communications, we’d call it “10 Ways You Know You Need A Reinvention”. Its executive summary would look something like this:

  1. You want to transform your organisation’s challenges into opportunities
  2. You want serious, expert comms advice that is plain speaking
  3. You are tired of hearing the same old ideas and want to inject creative solutions into your organisational DNA
  4. You need consultants who are in tune with the wider world you operate in, not just one communications silo
  5. You want to be a ‘corporate’ with a human face and need support to get there
  6. You want to drive behaviour change but not through the usual suspects
  7. You’re convinced targeting politicians rather than patients would be more useful to achieving your aims (or vice versa).
  8. You only like working with kind consultants (seriously, this is a role requirement in our job adverts!)
  9. You ‘get’ how patients, the NHS, politics, policy and the media are deeply interconnected and must be considered holistically
  10. You believe, like us and David Grinspon (see top) that creativity, communication, invention and reinvention are valuable and unlimited and you want OVID to help you deploy these to improve the lives of patients!

Our company’s purpose is to increase the number of people living healthily and to inspire good care through the power of communications.

If you like the sound of this, and want us to help your organisation to express itself (tenuous Madonna reference here) then get in touch – we’d love to hear from you: [email protected].

To complete our Reinventing Healthcare Communications survey click here.