This year is going to be filled with uncertainty for the health care industry—and, as a result, for health care communications. For starters, the
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will continue to reshape our health care system, and the Supreme Court will also decide whether an
individual health care mandate is constitutional.
But even with so many political, economic and regulatory questions hanging in the air, here are four trends that will affect health care communications
Trend No. 1: The increasing role of social media in health care
In 2011, we saw a new trend of more empowered, engaged and better informed patients. Last year, more than 80 percent of Internet users went online for
health-related information, to share their experiences and find much-needed support. While more than two-thirds of physicians used social media for
professional purposes. And these figures continue to grow.
In 2012, we will see patients forming closer relationships with health care providers and health care brands. This e-patient engagement will force the
health care industry to evolve and become an active participant in social media.
Social media gives health care communicators a completely new way to engage with health care professionals and patients directly and through online
communities. In turn, companies can then tap into these communities to educate patients and gain invaluable research and marketing insights.
Most importantly, social media offers an extraordinary opportunity to promote public health, improve health delivery and create more productive
relationships between patients and physicians.
Trend No. 2: An explosive growth in mobile marketing
In 2011, health care professionals surprised the industry by rapidly adopting mobile technologies—at a rate faster than patients. By now, more than 80
percent of doctors own a smartphone and 40 percent use a medical app for work purposes.
Health apps organically integrate with physicians’ everyday activities: they can be used for medical and drug reference, to share EMR data and educate
patients through images, video and other resources.
Mobile technology is a unique communications vehicle, and it will allow us to micro-target consumers when they are on the go and at other times when
they are open to brand communications. Also, it will give us a new way to build long-term relationships through offering high-value, client-focused
Trend No. 3: The growing need for integrated communications and highly targeted messages
In 2012, successful health care communicators will have to offer even greater value than before: they will be responsible for integrating earned, paid
and owned media. As health care brands are getting more engaged with digital and mobile strategies, they will be required to integrate PR, advertising,
marketing and digital in a bundle that complements and amplifies a company’s message.
In addition, the health care industry is moving from mass-producing to concentrating on smaller, more focused groups of clients. Health care PR will
echo this trend by shifting from mass marketing to very targeted communications. And digital technologies are here to assist us.
Trend No. 4: Focusing on measuring success
The days of ad equivalency and impressions are gone. Communications teams will be under pressure to show how their initiatives translate into sales,
new leads and potential business ventures. The function as a whole will be moving from measuring outputs (number of interviews and stories, figures on
op-eds and press releases placed, and website visits) to outtakes (changes in awareness, opinion, behavior that impact a company’s business
It is time to develop meaningful PR metrics. We, at Spector & Associates, are currently testing a measuring tool that will offer our clients an
opportunity to truly understand the value of public relations. Stay tuned for a white paper.
Tying communications activities to a company’s business objectives boosts C-Suite confidence in our abilities as PR professionals, reinforces PR’s
stature, especially in health care, and makes winning budgets easier.
These are just some of my predictions for health care communications 2012. What are yours?
Nina Dunn is a communications and media relations specialist at Spector & Associates. Dunn works with the agency’s health care and
pharmaceutical clients, helping them develop effective thought leadership campaigns and communications strategies. You can reach her at
Nina@SpectorPR.com or follow her @Spector_Health.