Remote communications – getting the message across to HCPs

Marie Little. Managing Director. Bedrock Healthcare Communications.

Remote communication is nothing new, but has become a mainstay for pharma, agencies and healthcare professionals (HCPs). In a survey by IQVIA, HCPs said “increased remote engagement will be lasting and should continue being used to supplement face to face contact.” Determining what that combination looks like will be an ongoing challenge – and has rightly made pharma and its associated agencies think differently about how best to reach and bring value to HCPs.

 

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Differentiating strategy: 3 ways a healthcare communications agency adds value

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Identifying the next blockbuster is increasingly challenging for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, so launch teams are under pressure to deliver sales performance which matches analyst expectations. A recent report suggested that over one-third of new product launches fail to get close to first year expectations1. A possible explanation could be that only ~66%of new products are able to demonstrate value, in terms of improved patient outcomes for a given cost.2

While defining the value of your brand to the relevant healthcare system is critical, equally as important is finding the optimal mix of channels to ensure the necessary stakeholders are familiar with the associated story. Partnering with a medical communications agency can be a key differentiator in the planning cycle. Chris Barton, our Strategic Solutions Director, reflects on how an agency adds value as part of a robust strategic consulting partnership.

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This blog post was built in a day: the Agile way

The blog you’re about to read was written, revised, QC’d, complete with images and social media copy, in less than a day. It’s true – and it was a team effort. Because we went Agile.

Now ‘Agile’ is one of those buzzwords in healthcare communications that has a propensity for making the cynics recoil. I once heard a medcomms agency say they were Agile because ‘we hot-desk’. This isn’t news, but it bears repeating: Agile is not a workstation rotation, it’s a project management system.

Created by necessity, Big Tech have successfully been using this approach for years to keep afloat in a sea of change – so why shouldn’t we adapt it for medical communications? Here are three reasons to try it, and what it meant for this blog post.

 

  1. You’re forging true partnership with your clients

Agile values individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Human communication, feedback and collaboration are critical for bringing Agile to life. That means having a relationship between agency and client that’s built on trust and openness – one where you can have a real conversation and be brave enough to ask questions. Your client will never be disappointed with box-ticking, but if you want to exceed expectations, you’ll need to uncover the real motivations and challenges that keep them awake at night. Embracing Agile can help.

Real-time learning: We had a discussion that led to Bedrock being down a scheduled blogpost – that comes from a culture of openness, where people aren’t afraid to talk about the challenges we see, when we see them.

 

  1. You strive to devise creative communications solutions

Agile is iterative, and each round improves on the one before it and creates value.

Now, this is where Big Tech and medcomms diverge: Agile tech works in sprints – periods of time focused on a particular output – and medcomms works in drafts. We write, review and revise, producing a tangible working draft after each iteration – so med comms is halfway there! The difference in Agile is that you don’t get stuck on one path when you uncover new problems – you don’t force it to fit, you reconvene, discuss and pivot.

Freethinking comes from a place of knowing that issues and insights are going to pop up when you least expect them – and Agile keeps you open to those moments, to improve the final product in ways you might not anticipate.

Real-time learning: We had a live, casual discussion that led to a first draft. A quick gut-check identified an issue with tone – it didn’t sound like us at all. A few quick changes gave us a second draft, which swiftly fell to an editorial check that identified a lack of concrete lessons. The third draft layered in these ‘real-time learnings’ (along with a few other changes). And thus a narratively coherent, creative blog was born.

 

  1. You want an efficient project workflow

Agile is underpinned by efficiency. We already look for parallel processing opportunities in a project timeline – writing a poster abstract while the manuscript is in submission, building a digital hub while the content is crafted – so why not communication? Jumping on Teams for 10 minutes could save you hours of emails.

Agile demands that we reflect on how to become more effective, actively monitoring and re-adjusting at regular intervals. Whether it’s internal communication, client discussion, scientific content or even the technology to deliver a project, Agile means being dynamically driven, ready to change the path as new information becomes available.

Real-time learning: We made a Teams chat for the relevant people, shared drafts, batted things back and forth in live discussion, split the tasks to ensure the most efficient timings, and cut down the long lead times that typically bog down the blog post process.

 

What will you create?

If you want to hot-desk, go ahead – but don’t expect spontaneous inspiration. Thinking outside the box requires more than dissolving the office cubical. Bedrock is committed to growth, and we will embrace best practice from all sectors in pursuit of compelling healthcare communication solutions. Not blandly box-ticking, but bravely Bedrock(ing).

 

Photo of Movimënt sculpture (2012) by the Unika art project, taken by Stux

 

Learning styles are a myth: What really works in medical education

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Written by Stephanie Wasek, Scientific Director

When we write learning objectives for educational programmes aimed at healthcare professionals, they often go a little something like this:

  • Understand the mechanism of action/new data/outcomes for Product A
  • Determine Product A’s place in the clinical pathway compared with other options
  • Be able to apply the information for Product A to clinical practice

These are fairly straightforward (although we can improve objective writing, which is another blog entirely) and well-developed medical education will provide information that helps to meet each of these goals. But we won’t achieve the objectives we carefully craft if the content doesn’t stick in the minds of audiences. And that’s partly down to good writing but – more importantly (sorry, fellow medical writers) – it’s down to how we deliver the information.
When I say that, I don’t mean delivered according to a ‘learning style’, such as kinesthetic, auditory or visual. The concept of learning styles is a myth that has been debunked repeatedly. The good news, though, is that education that sticks is pretty much the same for everyone, regardless of audience type or knowledge level. The key factor is building effective delivery strategies throughout your content.

Improve learning outcomes by:

  • Incorporating repetition of information
  • Providing opportunities for knowledge check ins
  • Enabling learner analysis and problem solving
  • Effectively utilising self-directed learning

Get clever about repetition

There are several ways to do this. You could find different ways to express the same information verbally, and then ensure those different-but-same messages appear multiple times – for example, across a symposium. If you work from approved messages in a scientific communications plan to ensure consistency, then it’s a matter of ensuring those messages appear across a variety of formats, such as research summaries, videos and infographics. Even better if you can recontextualise the key messages, to help imbue the data with meaning through repetition. As a bonus, getting clever about repetition also supports the best practice of accommodating user preferences regarding reading, listening and watching – these actions may not constitute learning styles, but the variety is still vital.

Provide frequent opportunities for check-ins

Building in frequent, low-stakes, short check-ins, such as knowledge quizzes and 5-minute skills activities, is important for two reasons. First – and most obviously – these provide easy ways for learners to test themselves, without pressure. By getting answers right, they receive affirmation. And when they get it wrong? They’ll remember it next time. Second, intermittent assessments, as opposed to one large test at the end, punctuate the flow of learning, and prevent information overload. Slowing down the pace of learning is another best practice, and it doesn’t mean that you make the learning longer in response, but rather that you optimise learning by combining the didactic with check-ins.

Present ‘desirable difficulties’

Learners bristle at not getting everything right immediately. But what you might not realise is that’s exactly what we want them to do – because learning is embedded by working through a problem. This is a bit different than the frequent check-ins, where learners remember for next time; here, the process helps the learner synthesise both the information itself and the rationale. Essentially, they have to learn not in order to repeat information back, but to use it. To support this learning principle, provide activities that encourage users’ own analysis of the rationale and information. Case studies are a powerful tactic for ‘desirable difficulties’, as are workshop activities in which small groups work through a problem and, for example, present back to the wider group.

Allow self-paced and -directed learning

This principle is especially important when creating learning platforms – the use of which is increasing as a result of the hyper-digital, post-COVID world. Yes, we need to make sure all users get the same information. But that doesn’t mean they all want to work through it in the same way. So you’ll want to provide more than one route, even for the same materials:

  • A search function – for those who have an immediate need
  • Module-based – for those who like to learn chronologically
  • Topic-based – for those who like to learn everything about one aspect at a time

This is a simple matter of tagging content appropriately, to optimise the user experience throughout the life of the learning platform.

Compelling healthcare communications solutions

Remember, just because learning styles are a myth, it doesn’t mean they’re not based in some fact. Evidence does suggest that people have different abilities, interests, backgrounds and knowledge. So if they are good at, for example, reading, they tend to like that ‘style’, but it does not make learning more effective. Furthermore, implementing the little tricks described above help the learner perceive the education as more personalised, which only enhances their satisfaction with the experience – which also supports knowledge retention. These are just a few of the insights we’re building on every day to optimise medical education programmes for Bedrock Healthcare Communication’s clients.

Our 10 favourite events from the last 10 years

Here at Resonant Group, we have always strived to create a fun and engaging working environment, build relationships and friendships within our teams and develop an enviable company culture through everything we do.

Despite the lockdowns and working remotely, we have still managed to come together regularly and enjoy some entertaining activities to keep the team spirits high!

As we celebrate our 10th birthday this year, what better time to look back on our favourite activities…

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Bringing creativity to medical communications: A process, not a point in time

Every time I attempt ‘creativity’, it goes all wrong. It even happened with this blog post. I opened a blank Word doc late one afternoon, slapped a label – ‘Structure of creativity’ – at the top, and waited for inspiration to hit.

Then I kept waiting. Tried drinking some water (note: hydration is not the same thing as inspiration). Started getting frustrated.

And then thought, ‘What advice would I give a fellow medical writer in this situation?’ and realised I was following absolutely none of it. (The fact that writers are their own worst enemies transcends space and time.) So I stopped waiting and jotted down that advice, and – magically – it created a structure that made creativity a doddle.

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