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Improving patient outcomes, recognising excellence

Medical education is expanding beyond message delivery into demonstrating that the education actually improves patient outcomes, says Lucid’s Jan Steele

Lucid Jan SteeleThe need to show value from pharmaceutical interventions has been a constant background theme for the industry over the last decade or so, but in recent years the focus on demonstrating value in education has also been increasing.

Looking at how to respond to ever-louder calls for demonstrable improvements in outcomes, Jan Steele, co-founder and COO at Lucid, talked to PME about how healthcare comms is changing and the importance of striving for and recognising excellence.

How is the healthcare comms landscape changing?
To think about how the landscape is changing for us you need to start with pharma, medicines and health economics. Historically, getting through your regulatory trials was enough to get you a licence. Nowadays, there's a much bigger focus on health outcomes and cost-benefit. We have seen a similar shift in medical education. Previously, the focus was on raising awareness of new data and message delivery. Nowadays, that's no longer enough. We need to push ourselves, our colleagues and our clients to invest in education that changes physician behaviour and demonstrably improves patient outcomes.

What do these changes mean for medical education?
This means that we need to be a little more analytical and curious in our approach to education. We need to spend more time thinking about what it is we're trying to change, rather than focus on the data and messages we want to deliver. We need to be curious about why physicians do what they currently do. We need to use proven methodology to understand the barriers to them making a change in their practice. And we need to think about tailoring education to help them overcome any barriers. For example, for many physicians, a barrier to changing their practice is a perceived lack of time in their patient consultations. They struggle to assimilate data and information and to arrive at the right approach for their patients. An effective way of overcoming this is to engage physicians in short, online, virtual patient consultations. It allows them to practice assimilating a lot of data and information quickly, and arrive at a management strategy for their patients. This enables physicians to be more effective when they are faced with the situation in their daily practice.

For many physicians, a barrier to changing their practise is a perceived lack of time in their patient consultations

What part does behavioural change play in this?
The science and evidence behind 'behavioural change' is still evolving. If you interrogate the literature for evidence about how you change behaviour in particular physicians in healthcare, there has been a lot more research in the last ten years than there was in the previous ten years.

If you study the research you uncover some straightforward ways of engaging physicians and impacting their behaviour, using evidence-based techniques.

You need to make sure you're talking to the right audience. The audience needs to be in a space where they're ready to change. You need to understand - in a very specific way - what the behaviour is you're trying to change. You then need to understand, again, using very well-defined methodology, what the barriers are to making that change. And then finally, you need to tailor education to those barriers.

How much further can behavioural change evolve?
The big gap, still, is measuring patient outcomes. If we look at what we are able to do, we can certainly measure changes in physician knowledge, changes in physicians' intention to change their practice and in how physicians are improving outcomes for 'virtual patients'. But what we are not yet able to do well is look at how we're changing the actual outcome for the patient in the clinic.

In the next ten years we're going to see a huge change in, for example, wearable technology that will enable you to really see that you're improving patient outcomes. As more of us start to strive for excellence in education, push conversations about education towards our ability to change behaviour and improve outcomes, then there is likely to be even more research and investment in this area. 

The 2016 Communiqué Awards are approaching - how important are they in recognising healthcare communications excellence?
Communiqué sets really clear, relevant criteria that you assess yourself against while you're writing your submission. So it's an incredibly important self-reflection and organisational development exercise. The judging process itself is also great, because you learn through the dialogue of the judging process and by interacting with your fellow judges. Finally, the awards themselves really do promote the best, most innovative work and those people who really want to make a difference in the space that they're in.

And as three-time winner of Med Ed Agency of the Year at Communiqué, what lessons can you draw from the direction your agency's been going in?
We've learned to be very clear about what it is we want to achieve - we want to lead the industry in terms of knowledge around changing behaviour. We want to lead the field in terms of implementation of medical education that changes behaviour. We are fairly evangelical about this. We want to support our industry to work on this together, to ensure that the investment made in education has a real benefit to patients.

The 2016 Communiqué Awards will take place in London on 7 July

Article by
Dominic Tyer

is PMGroup's editorial director

1st June 2016

From: Marketing

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