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Transparency and accountability: tackling opacity and blame head-on

Vernon BaintonLet’s be honest, big pharma lacks trust and many  love to hate it. Faceless corporations tainted by past own-goals, profiteering,  cherry-picked data and spun claims - so goes the lazy narrative.

Healthcare is complicated and revolves around people - patients, families, carers and myriad healthcare providers, etc. Woven through that are relationships with pharma. Data-driven, evidence-based medicine is critical - but evidence alone won’t change behaviours nor build relationships. Trust nurtures relationships through shared values, mistrust destroys them, and the catalyst is communication. We see this every day with fake news stories in the media.

In most European countries, we have codes of conduct for pharma communications derived from ethical principles. They govern our trust in healthcare communications, medical education and pharmaceutical advertising; but do they keep pace with 21st century communications? They offer guidance certainly, but are open to interpretation when navigating current or new healthcare landscapes. To act differently, we must understand the ethical intent and apply critical thinking to the compliance lens.

When medical and compliance teams face alternative communication solutions or options, doing nothing is often compliant, but is ethically, and by extension commercially, flawed. ‘First do no harm’ is a fundamental tenet of medicine that rightly enshrines patient safety. But what if doing nothing, or simply doing the same old tactics for our communications, might actually do more harm than good? How can we better support patients and healthcare professionals to confidently navigate and make decisions in a world of increasing scientific complexity and uncertainty?

Pharmaceutical companies now compete with tech giants, who understand the power of customer experience, and so too, expectations of healthcare audiences have changed. For example, many clinicians are now using tools like WhatsApp to more efficiently answer questions, collaborate with colleagues and improve patient care because they lack viable alternatives - despite the data security risks some solutions may pose.

Adoption of smartphones is nigh-on ubiquitous, letting us manage all aspects of our modern lives from banking to finding relationships. Healthcare is not and should not be exempt. Changing nothing potentially risks far more than changing everything. In our connected world, pharma must employ more sophisticated ways of providing the right information, to the right people, at the right time and by extension foster more effective dialogues.

We work through these thorny issues with our clients, helping identify and mitigate potential risks; risks associated with social media, open interrogation of study data, real-time communications, scientific exchange, non-personal promotion and real-world data strategies. Since 2009 we’ve championed working directly with diverse groups of patients, HCPs and researchers to co-develop and deliver communications and services they want rather than pushing one-size-fits-all product messages. With measurably better engagement and outcomes than standard approaches.

This is how we’ve embraced the consumer-empowered brave new world of healthcare communications, and we call it Helpful Change.

In association with

Havas Lynx

25th May 2018

From: Marketing



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