Empowering Patients: The Transformative Role of PR in Healthcare

Health care as a category has evolved and grown leaps and bounds that brands today are seeking differentiation in the market to be visible in the doctor’s chamber as both generics and branded generics dominate the market. While the category has limitations and there are challenges to promote the product’s the mass media way if it is a prescription-based medicine. But that is not the case with OTC brands who have been aggressively promoting their brands. However, the channel for the non-OTC brands is restricted and they mostly depend on the contacts established with the doctors by the medical representatives at a certain frequency. While there is something called medical PR where the information about the drugs etc. were either published in the medical journals, websites and blogs but the reach of most of these publications are very low and not every doctor or patients can be reached.

In a highly regulated pharmaceutical sector and a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape the need of PR has increased. Also, now PR in the healthcare space has moved beyond the medical journals and blogs. With the advent of social media, the reach of news and its impact has been more effective. But it is PR that will help pharma brands to build their credibility. And the healthcare  brands all the more need PR as they need to build that trust factor on the drugs that they are marketing and it is earned media that will help them.

I am not sure how strong is the vertical of pharma at the media level. Do we have enough writers and journalist who are well versed to cover the pharma industry. This is a challenge most publication in the pharma beat must be facing as the pharma is a low involvement category and people with pharma knowledge look at other professions instead of writing.  But that should not stop from leveraging PR by the pharma brands. Also, the use of PR in the healthcare industry will depend and vary according to the need and the situation and what are the objectives set by the organisation in terms of promoting a particular brand. It will depend from raising awareness to educating the target audience both at the doctor and patient level.

I had the opportunity to speak to Ms. Gauri Chaudhari, Co-Founder, Brand Innerworld a leading marketing consultant in the healthcare sector to obtain her views. Gauri has recently published her book THE PERFECT PILL (second edition) which covers comprehensively on how one can go about marketing pharma brands. According to Gauri Chaudhari, Public Relations (PR) has evolved into an indispensable function within the healthcare landscape. Through effective communication and engagement, PR helps people in 3 fundamental ways

  • Gaining knowledge about prevalent diseases
  • Understanding the treatment options
  • Empower patients to have meaningful discussions with healthcare professionals

Overall, PR can help empower patients and ensure informed healthcare experiences.

She further added by saying that, PR acts as the bridge between medical entities and the general public. From orchestrating disease awareness campaigns to unveiling ground-breaking discoveries and treatment paradigms, PR gives voice to critical healthcare narratives.

Carefully crafted disease awareness campaigns led by skilled PR teams go beyond simple information sharing. These campaigns initiate meaningful conversations, direct attention toward pressing health concerns, and advocate for early interventions through heightened awareness.

She summed up by mentioning that today’s era is dominated by Google searches for health information, making it difficult for ordinary people to segregate information from misinformation. In the healthcare sector, PR campaigns developed with the help of medical departments of healthcare companies serve as guiding lights of accurate knowledge. They empower individuals to make informed decisions, guiding them toward suitable healthcare choices.

Today we are in that day and age that every patient looks for that reassurance on the medicines that they are buying and consuming. Patients today validate the medicines prescribed by checking it online as there is an element of fear if what they are consuming is right for them. A good amount of well thought out PR will help push the brand’s equity and credibility as the category needs to build lot of faith with the customers to win them and stay loyal with the brand.

With new drugs keep coming continuously the need of PR is a must as an education especially to the medical fraternity. Thoughtful PR strategies promote open communication, enabling accurate diagnoses and improved adherence to treatment plans. PR reinforces healthcare by raising disease awareness, sharing breakthroughs, and empowering patients. Its ability to enhance outcomes and well-being positions PR as a potent driver for optimal patient benefits.

But there is a caution here which is to ensure that your messaging has to be very factual and transparent as when it comes to healthcare we are dealing with precious life. India still needs to go a long way to when it comes to using PR effectively in the healthcare sector. While good progress has been made but the challenge is to get more PR professionals in the healthcare practice to move it further to meet the client requirements.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Ganapathy Viswanathan
An independent consultant in Branding and Communication, Ganapathy Viswanathan comes with over three decades of experience in Brand Communication, Public Relations & Digital Marketing. He has worked in diverse disciplines with several multinational advertising agencies like Ogilvy, Lowe and Mudra Group.

On the Public Relations front, he was the General Manager, Western region of 20:20 MSL, where he spearheaded the western region operations. In his last role he was the Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing Communication at Eureka Mobile Advertising - a mobile engagement company in India head quartered in UK.

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