Simple Tasks puts spotlight on rheumatology education

American College of Rheumatology and Porter Novelli launched the Simple Tasks campaign to elevate the practice of rheumatology and favorably influence public policy.

Simple Tasks puts spotlight on rheumatology education

Client: American College of Rheumatology (Atlanta, GA)
Porter Novelli (Atlanta, GA)
Simple Tasks, Phase III
September 2012 - September 2013
: $750,000

American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and AOR Porter Novelli launched the five-year Simple Tasks campaign in 2010 to elevate the practice of rheumatology and favorably influence public policy by advancing understanding of the severity of rheumatic diseases and rheumatology's value in improving patients' lives.

Phase III, which ran through September 2013, focused on deepening influencer engagement across all channels.

“There was almost a complete lack of knowledge of rheumatic diseases and the physicians that treat them,” explains Erin Latimer, ACR's director of PR. “We've been focusing on reaching influencers - lawmakers, referring physicians, and other healthcare practitioners. We started to see a change among lawmakers this year. Previously, we were spending the majority [of our lobbying time] explaining rheumatology and why rheumatic diseases are serious. Now lawmakers know [both] and we can talk seriously about legislation.” 

The team enhanced numerous educational resources, including a whitepaper titled “Rheumatic diseases in America: The problem, the impact, and the answers” that was first distributed in Phase II, materials for Congress members, and digital content.

A key campaign image – a fork with bent tines – was made into lapel pins and distributed to rheumatologists to help lawmakers and others identify them.

An updated version of the whitepaper was distributed at conferences, on the campaign's social media channels and website, and to ACR members. A condensed version was used for congressional meetings.

A new four-part video series capturing the daily life of patients and treating physicians was added to

“The video series also busts some myths of rheumatic diseases – for example, by showing a child with rheumatoid arthritis,” notes Amy Marriott, account manager in Porter Novelli's health and social impact practice.

Additional new website content included case studies on prevalence data for policymakers and more highly customized materials for primary care physicians, who are often referring physicians.

A blog written by agency and ACR team members launched in March 2013 and serves as a venue to promote campaign events and discuss legislation.

The team began work on one-page patient case studies to help referring physicians recognize signs and symptoms of rheumatic diseases that will be shared at conferences and on the website in Phase IV.

Social media tactics included two Twitter chats – one on July 10 with the Society for Women's Health Research and one October 12 for World Arthritis Day with the Mayo Clinic.

On July 10 the team also co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing with the Society for Women's Health Research. Latimer says lawmakers' association of the lapel pins with rheumatologists was notably high at the briefing.

ACR participated in four medical conferences between April and July. Latimer feels a dinner symposium for 120 internal medicine physicians at the American College of Physicians' annual meeting in April was “one of the biggest moments for Phase III” given extraordinarily high interest levels.

Campaign-related videos that run on a loop in physician waiting rooms were distributed to additional offices this year through the Rheumatoid Health Network. The four-part series will be added to the rotation in the coming months.


More than 350 copies of the whitepaper were distributed this year.

Website visits were up 18% from 5,542 between September 2011 and September 2012 to 6,553 between September 2012 and September 2013. Seventy-seven percent of Phase III visitors were new visitors. The blog drew 1,077 views.

Videos shown in 539 physicians' offices got more than 16 million views in Phase III (up from about 2 million views in 358 offices between May and August 2012).

Nine videos on Simple Task's YouTube channel have garnered 4,346 total views since launch in August 2012. Website video views currently cannot be captured.

During conferences, the team had in-depth conversations with nearly 850 total healthcare professionals, public health researchers, and academics as well as with 75 total patients and family members.

Simple Tasks gained nearly 450 new Twitter followers in Phase III and got 250 original mentions and 274 retweets.

The British Society for Rheumatology and the Australian Rheumatology Association both expressed interest in the campaign. The British Society of Rheumatology was issued a two-year license this fall to distribute campaign materials the UK

Phase IV launched in October. Latimer says focus will continue on educating referring physicians and engaging ACR members.

“We're reaching out to patients and starting research to determine when and how it would be most appropriate to make patients an audience,” she adds.

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