Public Relations and the Healthcare Industry

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Summary: Future healthcare communicators should note that focusing on building relationships with such groups as physicians and their many specialties, pharmacists, regulators, and third-party payers, whether they are governments or insurance organizations, is far more important than gaining wide-spread media coverage.

What is the role of public relations within the healthcare industry? How will that change as we see more and more changes taking place in our national healthcare model?
The healthcare has been a rapidly growing industry, educating people about everything from how to understand wellness and health to how to better lead improved lifestyles. Until recently, the introduction of pharmaceutical products and the opening up of possibilities for communication between physicians and their patients were both considered some of the most vibrant areas of the field—and continue to be today.
To understand the still changing healthcare playing field and how it may transform in the next four years and beyond, here is a short guide:



1. Key stakeholder groups—disease- and condition-related foundations and charities—find themselves in very strong positions. If they do not favor a new medication, the chances of market acceptance for those new medications are limited. These groups include: patient and disease information groups and inter group coalitions, and state, local, and national organizations.

The strength of these groups reflects the patient-centered medical model. Patients often ask for particular medications, which doctors feel pressured to prescribe at the risk of losing patients. The top-down model of the doctor instructing the patient what he or she should take has since faded away.

2. Physicians are unquestionably still the most important influencers, but reaching and influencing them is one of the most difficult challenges in the communications industry.

There have been many new developments in digital communications with physicians and their pharmacist counterparts since the rise of the pharmaceutical industry. Although few physicians were quick to embrace the computer age, now the information economy has provided online access for patients to communicate freely with their doctors and to access their own records.

Future healthcare communicators should note that focusing on building relationships with such groups as physicians and their many specialties, pharmacists, regulators, and third-party payers, whether they are governments or insurance organizations, is far more important than wide-spread media coverage. More precise communications targeting was and continues to be the ultimate goal for PR practitioners in the medical and healthcare field.

Many of these individuals are women. Women have moved and are still moving quickly into positions of leadership in healthcare, much as they already have in communications.

3. Alternate pharmaceutical distribution systems, such as mail order, have developed considerably and have provided valuable employment opportunities. This is probably one of the more significant developments challenging the relationship with the community-based pharmacists, and only massive investments in customer service, counseling, and information in drugstores will slow this particular aspect of change.
Leading pharmacy chains toward a more service-oriented attitude will keep numerous young communicators busy in the future, as they already are.

4.Managed care, or corporate control of healthcare costs, is, of course, the most prominent development in the United States. Large companies, benefits consultants, and union drug plans stand at the center of this new healthcare landscape and influence every cost from  drug companies to physicians and finally to the consumers.

In a national moment of an impending healthcare overhaul and new considerations for what the future of healthcare could be in the United States, looking to the past development of this field yields much insight. In more clearly understanding the healthcare industry we have today, and how it developed, we can also think to the future of how public relations will play an increasing role in the ever-changing healthcare industry.

See the following articles for more information:
 
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