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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.

A day in the life of Emily Wigginton, Head of Client Services

How do you start your day?

If I am honest, these days I don’t set an alarm. I don’t need to as our daughter, Daisy Bea, IS the alarm; anywhere between 6:00 and 6:30 am, typically. Early enough! It is then a whirlwind of throwing together breakfasts, making tea, not drinking the tea, tea going cold, sipping cold tea, throwing school gear together, attempting another new, crazy hairstyle (on Daisy Bea, not me – hairstyle of her request), quick dance routine (this morning was Ice, Ice Baby and I Am A Zombie!), bundling into the car, school drop off, home, making another cuppa, drinking it hot this time and finally settling down to work. I already feel like I’ve done a day’s work 😉

Bedrock Health Communications Head of Client Services, Emily Wigginton smiling.

What do you do at Bedrock?

I lead our Client Services team, continually striving for excellence. I am really passionate about building strong, proactive and happy teams, always with a close (eagle) eye on the bottom line.

My typical day…

There is no typical day! It is one of the things I love about my job; it is never dull, every day is different. My day can swing from forecasting, joining client calls and reviewing estimates to mentoring/coaching, developing and implementing new processes, interviewing, management team meetings, problem-solving and new business opportunities … and the list goes on. It is great to be kept on my toes and the variety of the role is what inspires me. For me, it combines a love of relationship building, multitasking, creativity, unearthing insights, and strategic thinking – I cannot imagine doing anything else … apart from perhaps being a travel photographer, trotting the globe (a girl can dream!).

Which Bedrock value resonates with you the most?

It must be ‘Truly Passionate’ – uniting and challenging to succeed together. Passion for what we do is a vital ingredient! We have to bring it by the bucketload in all that we do, with an absolute focus on driving success.

What do you do after work to relax?

There’s not much ‘relaxing’ with a 6-year-old about, but it is fun! I prefer to be busy. I took up cycling 6 months ago after 30+ years of not riding a bike! I have been loving it and, with a bit of preparation and focus, I can occasionally get myself out at lunchtime for an hour’s ride, which is great for re-energising. Last month, I entered my first sportive and cycled 42 miles, so I can now add my medal to ‘Daddy and Daisy’s medal board’. In lockdown, I also bought a stand-up paddleboard and it is the best feeling to be out on the water in the sunshine! In the evenings, after all the activity when I can finally relax, I can often be found enjoying my favourite tipple, Aperol spritz.

If I didn’t work as Head of Client Services …

To return to an earlier comment, in a parallel universe, I would love to be a travel photographer. I would spend my life exploring the world, soaking up the different people, cultures, food, smells, beaches, and art … capturing earth’s most beautiful places and moments.

 

Reflecting on 5 years at Bedrock

Laura Redman, Senior Account Manager, will soon be celebrating 5 years at Bedrock. Here, she reflects on what the last 5 years have meant to her.

I can’t quite believe I’ve been working at Bedrock Healthcare Communications for 5 years already! I arrived fresh-faced, ready to embrace agency life and learn new skills. Today, I am sat here (not so fresh-faced) able to talk about some amazing experiences, having had the opportunity to work across a broad range of projects in a variety of therapy areas – the reason why I joined Bedrock in the first place.

Over the last 5 years, I have worked on projects that help tell compelling stories, which drive a change. What better way to tell a story and stimulate conversation than by producing a short film. Working closely with our client, Celgene, we produced ‘This is Axiom’ to explain complexities of managing healthcare and challenge existing perceptions. This project was a joy to be involved with, and I even managed a short cameo on screen! It was such a fantastic insight into the film industry and the tricks of the trade and, better still, it was award-winning work. In fact, it has won 10 awards across the healthcare and film industry (watch it here: https://thisisaxiommovie.com/). It will be one I talk about until I am old and grey, I am sure!

As well as working on award-winning projects, I have learnt that insights are critical to designing and delivering compelling communications. While working on a multiple sclerosis (MS) project, I spent a few months travelling the UK, meeting and interviewing patients so that we could develop impactful materials, which other patients could benefit from. It was incredibly humbling listening to their stories and how they cope with the limitations caused by MS with such positivity. One woman told me how she had faced the difficult decision of stopping her treatment to have a baby, terrified that her condition would deteriorate as a result. Having access to the right information, along with support from her healthcare team, allowed her to make an informed decision and highlighted how important this industry is in empowering patients.

I have also been incredibly lucky to work among some of the most inspiring and talented people I have ever met (or in some cases, yet to meet. Thanks lockdown!). I have learnt new ways of thinking and working through regular team best-practice sharing sessions and have been inspired by the ideas and creativity generated. I wouldn’t be where I am today without such a great bunch of people supporting me along the way.

Finally, I must mention the many social events we have had over the years. At Bedrock, our Christmas parties, games nights and bake sales always bring together the team for a laugh.

Five years at Bedrock: top five moments

Laura shared her reflections on the last 5 years at Bedrock, but what about the social events from the past 5 years? Here are her top five moments (in no particular order):

  1. Christmas at Chewton Glen – the most spectacular setting for a Christmas party and one I will never forget.
  2. Channelling my inner Mary Berry for several bake sales – I have enjoyed baking lots of sweet treats over the years and am even more proud that this has contributed to several amazing causes, including the Alzheimer’s Society and Macmillan.
  3. Communique awards – it is true when they say the Bedrock team love to party. Arriving home as the sun was beginning to rise is testament to that!
  4. An evening at the theatre – this is one of my favourite things to do, so I thoroughly enjoyed a night with the Bedrock ladies watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We are so lucky to have a social committee that regularly (restrictions permitting!) organise events throughout the year.
  5. Lockdown treats – we are incredibly fortunate that, despite being at home throughout lockdown, the company has made everyone feel included and appreciated with surprises arriving on our doorsteps every now and then. These little treats have been so wonderful through the doom and gloom, and it’s been a great way to unite the team when we can’t be together.

Effective use of social media: learnings from our ‘greenhouse’

Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

Written by Victoria McAnerney, Senior Account Executive

This month’s company learning ‘greenhouse’ session focused on maximising the impact of data and social influence: two key topics to consider when effectively engaging with audiences and developing social media strategies.

Here are my three key takeaways to make our clients’ data stand out from the crowd.

  • Ensure external experts tell a memorable data story – combine a greenscreen video of your expert with your data to show on screen interaction with the data while discussing their point of view. This provides focus for the narrative while also delivering a much more creative and engaging video.
    • A great example of a video that has used this approach included an expert walking across a map of the world on the screen while explaining global and country statistics to make the data come to life.
    • Metrics for videos such as these have shown higher audience memorability scores demonstrating their greater impact, compared with static, formal data presentations.
  • Patients trust information when content is more relatable – working with a patient to be at the heart of the message is key in driving engagement with this audience.
    • A patient’s interpretation of complex scientific information, which some people may otherwise have difficulty understanding, increases access to the information, raises awareness and creates further interest for wider audiences.
  • COPE – Create Once, Publish Everywhere – at Bedrock Healthcare Communications we always look to add value to the materials we develop by maximising audience reach through utilising the content across multiple channels (e.g. webinars, symposia, online media and print). We have achieved this effectively in disease-awareness campaigns by using key messages across banner and poster design materials to create maximum reach and impact.

Celebrating 10 years of award-winning healthcare communications

To deliver compelling communications, we gain in-depth understanding, enabling us to be truly passionate about supporting the patients affected by the therapy areas we work in. We couple these with our freethinking mindset, and then are brave and honest in our relationships with clients. These are just some of the values that have underpinned how we have achieved success for the last 10 years and are reflected in the awards we continue to win.

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How can compelling healthcare communications support HCPs with their pandemic patient backlog?

Bedrock Healthcare Communications has a passion for changing behaviour by fusing creativity and science to create compelling medical communication solutions. In this article, Chris Barton (Strategic Solutions Director) shares his thoughts on how pharmaceutical companies and medical communication companies, like Bedrock Healthcare Communications, can support healthcare systems to work through the backlog of patients.

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