Looking back at 2012, I can say with certainty that the year was one of the most uncertain that the health care industry has seen in a long time.
At the heart of the confusion was how and when elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would take effect.
Compounding the indecision was a Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the individual mandate (a decision that both FOX News and CNN initially called
incorrectly), a presidential election, a divided Congress, and, if these factors weren’t enough, a slowly rebounding economy that seemed to ebb and flow
with the weekly jobs report.
In fact, it wasn’t until President Obama’s reelection on November 6 that we realized that the ACA would remain, with all its good and bad.
Meanwhile, some key provisions of Obama’s crowning legislative achievement took effect, including a hospital value-based purchasing program, applications
for bundled payment programs, and accountable care organizations (ACOs). The media landscape was saturated with discussions, predictions and opinions
regarding the new health care law and its effect on the costs, quality of care and health care accessibility.
So, what does 2013 hold for health care communications?
The fiscal cliff and the importance of reducing sky-high health care costs will drive the conversation, forcing companies to redefine their top-level
narratives and key messages. Accountability will be the buzzword of the health care industry in 2013.
As the health care system is shifting from a fee-for-service model to value-based compensation, communications efforts will be spent on showcasing, through
data and real-life case studies, how a product or service lowers costs and improves care quality.
We can expect that 2013 will be a year of major health care awareness campaigns. The government, insurers and non-profits will be educating patients about
changes related to their health care access in time for 2014, when health insurance exchanges go live. Engaging patients on their care will be a key
priority for health care PR professionals this year.
With the expiration of patents on many blockbuster drugs, we will see pharma focusing on disease awareness campaigns. As a result of high product
saturation in many sectors, we can expect that pharma will continue developing value-added initiatives, such as disease-specific communities, medication
reminders, wellness apps and more.
Within this fast growing sector of health care, Alzheimer’s disease—America’s most feared disease— will be a hot issue. Companies working on new
Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment options, as well as care programs, will be looking to raise their brand profile, fight current stigmas associated with
the condition and raise awareness about the value of early diagnosis.
Last year we were introduced to two tablets that fit in a physician’s lab coat—iPad Mini and the Nexus 7. While doctors have been early adopters of
smartphones and tablets for medical purposes, patients are catching up. More and more Americans use smartphones to access health-related information and
manage their health. In 2013, mHealth will play an increasing role in preventative care, care coordination and post discharge care, making a mobile
strategy an integral part of any health care PR planning.
Nina Dunn is a communications and media relations specialist at
Spector & Associates.