An expanded role for healthcare communications

I was quoted in an article earlier this year as saying, “It would be hard enough for the healthcare industry to manage through a recession...

I was quoted in an article earlier this year as saying, “It would be hard enough for the healthcare industry to manage through a recession but when you consider the fact that we are also in the midst of transforming the entire healthcare payment and delivery system there is real cause for concern for our industry.”

It would be naive for healthcare communications professionals to think that we will transform the industry and the business of public relations will go on as usual. Our business will need to fundamentally change as the PhRMA, hospital and biotech industries change. I am not suggesting that media relations, product marketing, and brand management will no longer be important. It will. However, we will also be expected to assist our clients as their business models change to meet the demands on our new healthcare system. The PR firms that think differently about the expanded role that communications plays in implementing healthcare reform will have a clear competitive advantage.

It is easy to think about communications driving awareness to support prevention and disease management efforts, but we also need to give thought to how communications can support business operations, operating efficiency, and product pricing strategies. These are new concepts to many PR professionals, but I can assure you the C-suite executives within the healthcare industry are grappling with these questions daily. Unfortunately, many of our clients are not calling on PR for help in these situations despite the fact they would be well served if they did.

The fact is communications drives business and business strategy, and it will be our responsibility to help educate our clients about the value communications brings for solving the new business challenges of the future. Rather than look at this as a challenge, I see an opportunity.

Chris Foster, chairman, US healthcare, Burson-Marsteller

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