Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 23, 2013

Five Ways the ACA Will Reshape Health Care PR

There’s been a lot written about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its potential impact on key industry players — i.e., pharmaceutical and device companies, clinicians, health plans and patients. But, what about the PR professionals who work alongside these players?

Whether we work in-house or on agency teams, PR professionals know that everything that affects clients affects us too. . . eventually. We can be reactive and wait for the ACA dust to settle  or we can proactively help clients navigate the new landscape.

Now, there’s a huge opportunity for us to be proactive and to expand the range of internal and external stakeholders with whom we work.

Historically, health product companies have been organized around departmental “silos” – e.g., Patient Safety, Advocacy, Product Management and Access. For decades, health care PR and marketing teams focused on product/service promotion. Our goal has been to demonstrate clinical outcomes; our opinion leaders have come from academia and science.

In the wake of Medicare reform and the ACA, a new mandate has emerged: to help health decision-makers understand the relative outcomes and costs of available treatment options.  The goal is now to demonstrate total value as our opinion leaders include health economists, payment authorities and policymakers (in addition to clinicians).

To help clients succeed in this new environment, PR teams need to make five key changes:

  1. Build internal bridges between our clients’ Product Marketing and Reimbursement (or Access) divisions.  Often, studies that are designed to show clinical outcomes are commissioned by a different department than studies designed to demonstrate cost benefits.  PR teams need both and must find smart, relatable ways to communicate total value to audiences.
  2. Strengthen external alliances, too.  Now more than ever, PR teams need to ID and develop strong partnerships with patient groups for whom relative treatment value is high.
  3. Focus on health care costs as well as benefits.  Value is a function of outcomes divided by costs.  Work collaboratively with Product and Access teams to calculate this ratio.  Then, help patients, payors, physicians and policymakers compare it to other available treatment options.
  4. Reach new opinion leaders and influencer groups, including insurers, policymakers, health economists and relevant advocacy groups.
  5. Get real. Build marketing campaigns based on behavioral insights that help physicians and patients work together to make smart choices and adhere to treatment plans.

PR professionals who make these changes will position clients to succeed in the shifting environment.  In the process, we’ll increase the value of our contribution and the impact of our services.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Weigh in below.  Then, join the blog post’s authors — Bliss Integrated Communication Managing Director Meg Wildrick and nD-Insight President and CEO Rouhan Coutinho — for an interactive discussion at the Public Relations Society of America’s 2013 Health Academy Conference on May 3 in Indianapolis.

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