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How we can address healthcare’s trust gap with effective communication

How we can address healthcare’s trust gap with effective communication

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The world may be moving on from the pandemic, but for many of us, the three-year ordeal has accelerated interest in healthcare and lifestyles. Just ask me. As a new mum, not only am I concerned about my one-year-old daughter’s health, but also constantly seeking ways to ensure that our extended family stays on top of their health and wellness. 

Many others are rethinking their priorities. According to a study from Bain and Company, about 80% of consumers in Asia Pacific are interested in health maintenance and lifestyle changes, and almost half are willing to spend more out of pocket to receive better healthcare experiences. 

This presents a major opportunity for those in healthcare communications to engage and win people. But this is easier said than done in Southeast Asia: a highly diverse market that’s grappling with enduring misinformation and distrust. For instance, in Malaysia, national health authorities suffered the biggest decline in trust, one study found. 

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This is where effective communication can help. Here’s how healthcare communicators can step up to deliver: 

Data-based storytelling 

The world is more digital than ever, which is great for communicators who can now lean into powerful insights and tell compelling stories. With millions of online exchanges shared across blogs, articles, posts, forums, and comments, social listening is one of the most effective ways to stay on top of industry trends, respond to misinformation and gain a broader understanding of audiences, including customers, policymakers and healthcare professionals. Once you have social listening-based insights, you’ll have a better understanding of what an array of people want and need to hear from you, making, it easier to craft messages that achieve desired outcomes 

Storytelling, meanwhile, can be an inspiring tool to create change and dive deeper into the what, how, why and next steps. That’s exactly what the Agency of Integrated Care for Caregivers (AIC) did through its “We See You Care” campaign. A study showed that Singapore caregivers had been left feeling invisible, with more than half of all caregivers not even recognising their role of care. To portray real experiences and validate caregivers’ feelings, AIC moved away from a more traditional narrative and focused instead on sharing what caregiving looks like. 

Data-led communications are especially important in a market like Malaysia, where the elderly population is expected to double by 2028. As the country’s healthcare system grapples with this statistic, healthcare communicators can somewhat ease the burden using the next five years to raise awareness of unmet needs across all disease areas. 

The role of influencers 

Some of the most effective and awarded healthcare campaigns from the past year featured influencers. Indeed, collaborations between influencers and healthcare professionals add a layer of credibility to communications efforts, especially now that many Asian countries require people to disclose their sponsorship deals. And yet, they remain largely underutilised across the region. 

One study by Emplifi found that healthcare brands can potentially increase audience reach by 20X, compared to brands within their industry, when collaborating with an influencer. Data also shows influencer cooperation could lead to a 3.4X increase in engagement, compared to usual engagement rates for brands in their industry. 

The encouraging response to Maggy Wang’s recent collaboration with TMC Fertility underscores these findings. To mark World Infertility Awareness Month, Wong was honest about her experience and detailed a step-by-step account of what people can expect when navigating fertility issues. Beyond this, she hosted a podcast episode, featuring a doctor and another key opinion leader (KOL) to dive into more details. Done right, personal healthcare experiences can humanise medical issues and foster a sense of empathy and solidarity while strengthening trust with healthcare providers. 

Language matters 

Ever read a health-related leaflet, poster or press release? They’re typically packed with medical jargon, which can be extremely overwhelming for people, especially in areas with lower literacy rates – and this can have serious implications. People may be too afraid to ask questions and express concerns, or worse, they may become entirely turned off by what they see. 

Today, the success of any large-scale public health campaign requires communicators to use clear, concise and plain language. For example, use short sentences, clear subheads, and bullet points in your communications, and employ visuals, infographics and video content for more complex topics. Where possible, include real people sharing their experiences simply and directly. In non-English speaking markets, it is crucial to extend this jargon-free approach in localised communication materials, too. 

For the healthcare industry, the stakes are very high – and there is very little room to get things wrong. This is why evidence-backed, humanised, clear communications are key to engaging meaningfully with people.

This article was written by Archana Menon, country manager at Mutant Malaysia

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