Industry leaders joined Gideon Fidelzeid at this Chandler Chicco Companies-hosted roundtable in New York City to discuss how the next administration and a more informed consumer impact outreach efforts.
, VP, corporate affairs, MedImmune
, worldwide VP, comms and public affairs, Johnson & Johnson, Global Medical Solutions Group
, Executive director, corporate comms, WebMD
, CEO, Kwittken + Company
, VP of PR, North Shore-LIJ Health System
, EVP, Porter Novelli
, VP, policy, external affairs, and communications, Pfizer
, Director of public affairs, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
, MD, Chandler Chicco Companies
The impact of reform
Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Discuss how the landmark Affordable Care Act has and will continue having a major impact on communications strategies.
Lisa Stockman (Chandler Chicco Companies): Under the Affordable Care Act, the government will now be the largest insurer. For the first time, we'll be looking at the government as an entity with which we need to communicate effectively because it will be making decisions for most Americans in terms of access to health. That's a big change because the government values different things in a physician, a patient, or other stakeholders than we're used to communicating about in terms of the medicines our clients provide. This will inherently change how we communicate that value story.
Thomas Rubino (Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield): From the health insurance perspective, we need to really educate the consumer, our members, on what it means to them. It's a tricky discussion because of how political this has become. Even if you're telling people basic facts, they will take that as you're either against it or for it. You have to break through that just to educate people on what the act will mean to them. It has also really sped us up in trying to understand our consumers. There will be more individuals purchasing insurance for themselves as opposed to getting it through their employers.
Terry Lynam (North Shore-LIJ): Hospitals have been preparing for health reform for many years. A lot of it has been spurred by what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have been doing – demanding more quality, performance-based contracting. We're starting to partner more with insurance companies in putting together our own versions of ACOs [accountable care organizations] with the intention of eventually becoming the Kaiser Permanente of the East, serving as both a provider and an insurer.
Lisa Davis (MedImmune): From a communications standpoint, this will drive what we're going to say and how we're going to talk about it. That will change according to a broadening number of stakeholders. And employees will be important. Not only do we face external customers as a business, but we're all healthcare providers for employees. We're healthcare users as employees, as well.
Stephanie Fagan (Johnson & Johnson): Communications has always had an opportunity to engage a diverse set of stakeholders, but those stakeholders are very different now. They're broadening and the relationships are different because they are now looking for solutions. We're partnering with a lot of hospitals and payers to actually offer up communications solutions to help them meet this need of communicating beyond the clinical value. The new act offers communications pros a huge opportunity to bring a different level of value to our business by providing solutions.
Rosemary McGillan (Porter Novelli): A lot of what is required within Affordable Care Act-related work is translating very complex health topics to the consumer audience. Providers also need a level of education and outreach that we haven't thought about before. The consumer will look to them to help figure out what a health exchange is. What are electronic health records? Providers will need our assistance. There is a huge opportunity there to look at them as a new communications channel, but also a new business opportunity.
Kate Hahn (WebMD): Consumers look to us for that trusted, credible, physician-reviewed health information. It's more important than ever that WebMD provide this so people can have better conversations with their physicians.
We're also finding that the definition of health is expanding to include healthy living. That's going to be a shift over the next year – focusing on educating consumers beyond chronic illness or whatever medications they're taking and providing that information across multiple platforms.
Rubino (Horizon): We do a lot of research to find out what our members look to and what sources they trust for this information. If you or your child have a symptom, where do you go? First, is still the doctor. But after that, it's Google or WebMD. Then it's family and friends. So we still have to communicate broadly, but you must be one of those trusted channels for that information. That's the difficult part of this opportunity.
Sherry Pudloski (Pfizer): Given today's environment, Pfizer realized it needed a dialogue not just with the influencers making the policies and not just with the physicians choosing the medicines, but also with the influential consumers who will be advocating for certain policies.
We've started our own social media dialogue about getting old. We realized we had to go to a place that was meaningful. How do we help you get old? What is relevant to that conversation? We need to think of new ways to have those connections and dialogues that are meaningful to our customers as opposed to being just about Pfizer.
Aaron Kwittken (Kwittken + Company): For those in the medical technology and medical device industries, the healthcare delivery system is going to change. For them, the biggest issue is the excise tax on technology and medical-device companies. What that has done is force this conversation of AdvaMed, which is the governing body for medical technology, as to the real value and whether or not this will stifle innovation.
What it's done for our clients, in particular, is change them from being an ingredient brand to trying to become a hero brand. At the same time, however, they're dealing with value-based purchasing, increased price transparency, trying to communicate that through doctors, through patients in a more meaningful way, where once this industry was very much a transactional industry. It was a commodity. How can you make it a longer-lasting dialogue with the patient? That's the type of communications we've been pursuing for them.
Davis (MedImmune): Communications will need to help define what these regulations are going to be. And not just at the federal level, but at the state level because you've got state Medicaid. You also have global issues you must understand because a lot of decisions are being made by people starting to look at other countries. We also have consumers in other nations.
The final piece goes straight back to economics. A lot of decision-making is based on the balance of economics and health value.
McGillan (Porter): We're seeing a delocalization of healthcare in a lot of ways. People have relied on a more localized level of communication when it comes to who their trusted sources are or how they get the messaging, but across the board, we're going to see less localization and a lot more nationalization and, basically, globalization.
Rubino (Horizon): Healthcare is so complex. People don't understand health benefits at all. They've been getting them from their employer for many years, so they really didn't have to. However, as healthcare has gotten so expensive and more employees are purchasing it individually, they need to understand it better. That's a big opportunity for us to educate folks on what the costs are and how an excise tax on medical devices, for example, affects their health insurance premiums.
Davis (MedImmune): In the US, you have a cultural mentality where people think healthcare is a right. People's health and the health of their family, friends, and colleagues is also a very passionate issue. It's not an issue that can be defined by rules, regulations, straight science, or facts. Where we go wrong in communications is thinking that we're having a factual conversation. In healthcare, we're having a dialogue about something that brings out people's emotion and passion in a way that is different from how we might choose a stock or a meatloaf special.
Stockman (Chandler Chicco): Healthcare is innately human. It really brings you to that physician-patient relationship and that human exchange to help another person with an illness. All of that will definitely change as we get into the next decade. It has to because putting this many people into the system will weigh it down. You'll have more patients trying to see fewer doctors. You will have to come up with other ways to service those individuals.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): What is changing about advocacy outreach and how are companies responding to these developments?
Fagan (J&J): It used to be if you were working on a particular disease, you automatically navigated toward an advocacy group for that disease. Now, manufacturers, providers, payers are all facing the same challenge together. You're seeing this real appetite to partner more, to learn from each other, to share best practices.
There will be real value in widening our lens in terms of putting together multidimensional partnerships that really speak to different aspects of whatever healthcare topic you're trying to tackle.
Stockman (Chandler Chicco): We have worked with clients pulling together some coalitions, such as the Stop Obesity Alliance. It has more than 50 groups trying to get at what is standing in the way of this country facing its obesity issue from a structural standpoint. It's really amazing when you get these people to put their agendas aside. They're much more willing to partner these days because they're realizing funding isn't what it used to be. They're also here to solve an issue. This group's really been successful in doing that and you'll see more groups coming together to solve a problem they wouldn't be able to on their own.
Davis (MedImmune): Advocates have been useful and beneficial partners for years. As we get into trickier territory around healthcare, they will continue to play an important role. What has changed dramatically and positively is the role of the citizen advocate. Coming out of healthcare reform, we're going to see a lot of that. It's not just about an institution or group. People are going to feel this personally.
We've got all the great tools now. How many times have we seen movements happen because somebody had the right thing on YouTube? That's where we're going to have to engage differently and expand our definition of advocates from the big groups to the people who might not be part of some organization that ends with “association.”
Kwittken (Kwittken): We've been trying to talk to our clients about the concept of crowdsourcing as advocacy. It's like this singular collective.
Quite frankly, the way journalists are now sourcing stories isn't because they're coming up with these genius ideas or we're coming up with the editorial. They're also looking at what's trending based on search. That's how they're forming their stories. Put that together with the new advocacy of crowdsourcing and that is part of the design of communications programs now.
Lynam (North Shore-LIJ): In terms of advocacy, we started partnering with a patient safety group made up of people who have been victimized by medical errors. Years ago, most hospitals would keep those people at length. We bring them in under the tent, talk to them, and have them advise us on what we can do to improve. They had suggestions on what gnaws at patients about the hospital experience. It's been valuable for us.
McGillan (Porter): What's a bit tricky on the advocacy side is this need for ROI on anything PR-related. Advocacy efforts tend to be unbranded. How do you balance the need to show ROI from our PR and investing a lot of dollars on building unbranded coalitions?
Pudloski (Pfizer): We recently had our first blogger summit. There are ways through social media and digital that we can run some of these very disciplined experimentations around relationships for which we'll start to see payoff in the future on issues that have a common objective. For instance, how do we make our cities healthier? Every company and firm could get around that issue. We all might have a different take on it, but there's value in uniting around that kind of an objective.
Fagan (J&J): With all the changes being spurred by social media, I'd put bloggers at the top of my list as advocates.
Rubino (Horizon): We also work with a lot of groups through our charitable giving in different communities. We have a big childhood obesity initiative we fund with the state YMCA. It's the largest after-school childhood obesity program in the country. Once you have these groups, you can work with them to get the message out among a wider group of advocates.
Hahn (WebMD): We have advocacy with our online communities that are focused on a variety of health and wellness topics. We have our own experts in there, but we also partner with nonprofits and hospitals that provide their experts to the community. The end goal is empowering the patients so they can have better conversations with their physicians.