More than ever, patients need accurate health information that they can trust. We are facing the “double challenge” of millions of people’s health being affected by the pandemic, and millions being affected by putting off other types of care. In this episode, you’ll learn how to be proactive in providing patient education, how to level up your efforts, and the marketing benefits of doing it right.
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Announcer: It’s time to think differently about healthcare, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that healthcare is still all about humans and many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell. Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together and hear some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.
Michael: Welcome to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts here today with my co-hosts Scott Zeitzer and Jared Johnson. In today’s episode, we’re talking about the concept of education is the new marketing when it comes to patient outreach. So let’s talk about that. What does that mean? More than ever patients need accurate health information that they can trust. We’ve learned from prior guests like Danny Fell from Optum and Jessica Walker from Care Sherpa that were facing the double challenge of millions of people’s health being affected by the pandemic, of course, and millions of people’s health being affected by putting off other types of care.
I know that we’ve had some instances in our family and my extended family of trying to deal with that and trying to make that work out. So, you know, guys, let’s talk about this. What does it look like for proactive patient education? Let’s start with the question, who should be educating our patients?
Scott: I’ll jump in quickly on that one. I think it’ll always come down to the medical provider, whether that’s the surgeon, the doctor, the PA, the OT, etc. That is the person that is providing care directly to the patient. They can certainly get that kind of information and get help from that educate…from say the pharma company, the medical device company, the hospital, the ASC, etc., but ultimately, it’s going to come through the provider. Does anybody disagree with that thought?
Jared: No, I think you’re spot on there. And I think that’s who the patient would expect it to come from. That’s the person they’re dealing with. They’re not the ones talking to the device rep, the pharma rep, you know, etc. So I think that’s who they would expect it to come from. And the question is how prepared are most of the providers to actually provide that other than trying to click a button and find it somewhere or pull up something that someone else has already done? How prepared are they in doing that proactively, Michael? I think that word that you just mentioned proactive patient education is key.
Michael: You know, thinking about this in the midst of the current environment that we’re talking about, and I in no way want to get political about this conversation, but you think about how much turmoil there’s been around accurate information, on how much we’ve needed people to lead the way on providing that kind of information when there are so many other voices that are rushing to fill that space. If somebody doesn’t go after proactively, an answer will come up. Whether it’s a good answer or a completely false answer, an answer is going to kind of rush in to fill that void. So I think that if there’s ever been a time when we can prove how essential it is for physicians to be leading the way on that conversation, now is definitely that time.
Scott: I agree with you, Michael. And there are so many sad stories out there about incurable diseases where they come up with whatever, and patients want to believe it. So they’ll go down that pipe dream, so to speak. And it really is if the provider is…you know, I talked to some surgeons, they’re very, very busy. I have a conversation with them, you know, “I get up at 5:00 in the morning, so I can go round on my patients before I do my surgeries. After I’m done with my surgeries, I make sure my surgeries are okay, then I’m going to go do my clinic. And then before I go home, I’m going to go run back to the hospital because there’s a couple of things I want to make sure everybody’s okay with, you know, with my past surgeries, and then I’ll get to go home.”
So there’s not a lot of time to put together a lot of patient education during that day. You’re basically just taking care of patients. And this is where there’s a real opportunity too. There’s a real hole with good information that I think a lot of these providers, hospital/ASC med device company, pharma company can provide and empower the doctors with great information. And even to a point, and this is sort of just like basic stuff like this is what a total hip is. And then you could also, in theory, create building blocks. Like that’s great. I’m glad that this is what a total hip is, but some doctors do a particular procedure for a total hip arthroplasty in one way, they take a particular surgical approach, etc. There’s a lot of different conversations to be had surrounding post-surgical care, but you could create those building blocks for them as well. It’s about information and it’s about letting them build something easily.
Jared: Right. What I’ve seen a lot is there’s just a lot of assumptions that the education’s already happening somewhere else. The provider assumes like you said, Scott, whether it’s a time crunch or whatnot, there’s just an assumption that these guys have all the info they need about what’s going to happen, or what’s already happened, how to rehab, what’s going to happen after you’re discharged. There’s a lot of assumptions that, that’s already happening, that the education’s already happening. And so, I think that’s one of the things to think about when we’re talking about making this a proactive part of a patient experience.
Scott: Yeah. No doubt about it, Jared. I mean, it’s interesting too, because I speak to a lot of surgeons and, I mean every day, you know, about how to get a point across so that they can help their patients, how they can make the patient feel more comfortable about what is about to happen. They’re going to have a better and happier patient if there’s a better explanation out there. And hey, we all grew up going to high school and college, etc, with lot of these docs and surgeons and some of them, they’re all brilliant, but not all of them are, you know, engaging, outgoing people. If you could just help them a little bit have a conversation, I think that’d be a great start. And Michael, to your point, if you don’t have it and you have a vacuum, people will fill in their own blanks and that’s not helpful for anybody.
Michael: 2:00 a.m. Google search is always something to overcome for sure. And that leads us to like, you know, I’m not going to say that like what should all patient education look like and how should it work, but like, what’s a way that people should be thinking of this. Like, how can they make that a part of communication for their hospital, their practice, what have you?
Scott: I do think there’s a real hole here. There’s a real opportunity here. I’ve seen a lot of patient education and most of the time when it comes out from a med device company or a pharma company, it’s extremely med device/pharma-centric. So, you know, there’s two components to it, two reasons for that. So one is, they’re really just thinking because hey, they, this kind of inferred knowledge thing where the provider of the particular product basically is just, “Hey, we just need to talk about the product.” Okay, that’s a good start. And they’re very used to talking to surgeons or to doctors about the product so it’s a lot easier. And then, you know, how you explain it so that it’s good for a patient, that’s step one. Step two, how do you set it up so that it can be easily used and…sorry, easily used as well as employed by the provider? So, hey, you can edit this in some way, which always like, whenever you like allow the doctor to edit it, you know, that’s when four lawyers get in the room and start worrying. And so that’s the other component of this.
When it’s coming from a med device or pharma company, it’s like, you know, you’ve got to educate your legal people about what’s…. And that that’s a back and forth because there’s going to be a risk-reward conversation going whenever you’re providing information to a patient and about indications and contraindications, etc, but all this, like there’s such opportunity. Michael, how many times have we been, you know, meeting with practices where there’s just no good information on their websites or in their offices about a particularly key procedure that they really want to highlight?
Michael: Yeah. The bullet list of here are all the things I do and, you know, 50 procedures long, or it’s here are all the parts of the body I can treat and it’s head and shoulders, knees and toes kind of song going on. And it’s like, no. One, it’s not helping the patient. Two, from the other side of that, is like, well, I’ve written it down so obviously Google is going to find it and know that I do that procedure. No on both counts, right? We’re not helping the patient. We’re not helping search engines.
Scott: And this is where that hole is where there’s really an opportunity and it can be a co-branded opportunity. You take some of these companies that are out there that are very well known, it’s obviously an opportunity for the company to highlight what they’re about and how they’re trying to help the community as well as an opportunity for the medical provider to highlight what they’re doing specifically. And it does take a little bit extra work. It’s a lot easier to simply lay out a patient education page that talks all about the particular product coming from a company, but every provider is going to have their own take on what they do and how they do it. I go back to that total hip.
There’s a lot of different ways that you can implant a total hip in a patient. And I’m not just talking about the peri-operative, you know, the surgical experience. There’s a lot of different conversations occurring about what should be happening preoperatively, what should be happening postoperatively, what should be happening in the next X number of weeks, etc. So giving them the tools so that they can build that, that’s where the real win is.
Jared: Yeah, Scott. My thought is there’s a couple of examples that came to mind and both from previous guests, one from Dr. Justin Smith, The Doc Smitty, when he was talking about what he does on Instagram where he does highlights, you know, for Instagram users. You put it on your story, you save it as a highlight. It’s just a quick video or image or whatnot, but he has them for each of the here’s what’s gonna happen when you bring your child in for your three-month appointment. So he’s a pediatrician. Here’s what to expect when… Here’s the questions I’m going to ask at your child’s six-month check-in at their 12-month check-in.
And when you think about like, he’s doing as much as possible to have some content so that the experience itself can be focused on, you know, the bigger questions you have. So, hey, here’s what we’re going to do. And he does it in a video format. He saves them as highlights on Instagram. So he will point people when they are preparing to come up for that, he actually sends them links to the content he’s already got up there. So, I mean, like fabulous.
Another one was Dr. Farnsworth, our direct primary care doctor who appeared on the program. And, you know, with him practicing here in my area I had a friend who reached out to Dr. Farnsworth, who’s having…he felt like he had tweaked his back a little bit, you know, after just through some exercising. And he just texted Dr. Farnsworth and he said, “Yeah, I think I tweaked my back. I don’t know if I need to come in. I’m not dying right here, but it’s pretty painful when I do certain things. I’m wondering what I did.” And Dr. Farnsworth immediately texted him a couple of PDFs and it was just like, hey, okay, let’s start without knowing anymore, “Here’s a couple of stretches. Start with these. Let me know if these help, but if not, you know, we can set up a time for you to come in.”
And that type of patient education was within the context of a conversation that was happening through text messaging. And I just thought like, you know, sometimes maybe we don’t have to overthink it. I mean, I don’t think that when those PDFs came through with some stretches, I don’t think the patient was thinking too much about what it looked like. It looked legit enough to give it a shot. And if I remember correctly, that friend of mine after did the stretches, that’s all he needed. That was actually, he just needed to do those for a few days and his back actually got better. So hopefully we don’t overthink it sometimes.
Scott: There are a lot of opportunities from a frequently asked question perspective. I’ve always used that when I talked to my docs and we’re talking about creating a website and they tell me about a particular procedure, they’re like, “I don’t even know where to get started about what to say.” And I always start with, “Well, what questions do you always get on a consistent basis for this particular procedure?” They go, “Oh,” you know, that little light bulb goes up. “Well, I constantly answer this, this, this, this.” And it’s like, “Well, that’s the kind of information we can get started with.” And I remember when I first started doing this, we would just have like an FAQ page.
And it’s funny how things come around, Michael. It used to be like, hey, here are these bullet points from I’m talking 10, 15 years ago with some FAQ’s. Then of course it was like, now it’s more about that deep dive. But of course, Google’s coming back with mobile/vocal searches where frequently asked questions to come back from a search engine optimization perspective. But if you do build it around that, here are these key questions that always get asked about a particular procedure.
There’s a lot of good information. Like with Doc Smitty, it’s like, “Look, every time you come in for a six-month appointment, this is what I’m going to be doing. Well, that can be inserted for a lot of procedures, guys. Whether it’s as something as wonderful and easy-going, hopefully, as a six month up to a, hey, you know, after your…I had a wrist surgeries.
So, you know, after your risk of fracture and that first week, here’s what we’re going to do, and here are the four questions that I get asked 80% of the time, and it’s here for you. And so instead of worrying about those questions already calming me down that I know it, I can ask more specific questions and feel much better about it and the doctor gets in and out of the room quicker. It’s a win for everybody.
Michael: Yeah. And we’ve kind of talked about this concept in a few different ways, but I really want to make sure we pull it out and kind of drive it home that we’re talking about all the different components of a procedure or other condition the before, the during, the after. Every part where a patient would have a question, there needs to be some sort of resource to help them at that stage. And thinking through like how you’re gonna structure that information, you know, in the example that you use Jared, of being able to have a couple of PDFs on hand to be able to grab those and send those out quickly, like we don’t have to overthink it, but there’s definitely some planning that needs to happen to make sure you do have those resources you need especially when patients may be less able to get out and move around as much. There is still may be some sort of caution around, you know, wanting to travel as much, that digital experience just keeps on getting more and more important.
And so being able to meet people where they’re at with this content readily and easily is going to make a really big difference there. We’re talking about all these different ways that we can answer these questions, all these different ways that we can talk about this. And going back to the top of the show, you know, we talked about education being marketing. It’s the new marketing that we’re talking about. How is that so different from the old marketing? What is it that we’re saying is so different about this? Because yeah, of course, I’m gonna educate my patients. It’s like, what is the mind shift that really needs to happen here for people?
Scott: For me, it’s this empowerment of the patient. It always used to be, the doc would basically say something like, you know, take the blue pill, take the red pill and you know the patient nodded and that was that. I still remember being a little boy and my grandmother telling me, “I take this red pill, I take this blue pill and I take this green pill.” And I remember asking like, I guess this was the beginning of my career, I remember asking like, “Well, what are the pills? Why do you take them?” And she looked at me like I was nuts. And she was like, “I don’t know. He said to take them.” That was it. That was medicine I don’t know how many years ago, but there’s this transition where, Hey, that’s just not gonna cut it anymore. Patients are coming in with loads of questions. Some of them are great, some of them are like, no, there are no aliens that are causing this and magnets do not, you know, help you here. But, you know, all kidding aside, there’s a tremendous amount of information that the doctor now has to discuss and explain. It’s not just do this, it’s do this because. I think that’s a big part of the change, guys.
Michael: Absolutely. Absolutely. Jared, what do you think?
Jared: I agree. I think it all comes back to where we see this within a marketing program. And I think Scott, you’ve had some interesting thoughts on this in the past in terms of the importance of thinking of education ultimately as a co-branded effort. You’ve mentioned it a couple of times already just about how that can be the way to make this possible. If the question is, how do we get this done, how do we make it available, make it easy for a provider to share it at the right time? A lot of times the answer is let’s co-brand that with a lot of different entities. So I know you had some thoughts on that.
Scott: Yeah. You think about when a product comes out, sometimes it’s completely new. They never had a product for this particular issue. It was always out there and average as a whole, it’s like almost a paradigm shift in some ways. And the company had to provide a lot of information to the provider about what was going on, what their thoughts were. I mean, just think of like maybe when the total hip first came out, when Sir John Charnley started implanting a medical implant to help with a severe form of hip arthritis. I mean, that was many, many years ago, but that was a complete change. And imagine trying to explain that first to the surgeon community, and then the surgeon community trying to explain that to the patient.
So there’s this co-branded opportunity of like, “Hey, we got a new way to handle this particular problem.” And that’s one area where there’s a tremendous co-branding. I call it the win-win-win. The win for the provider of the product or the pharma, the win for the medical provider themselves, because now they have a new tool. And then last but not least the patients happier because not only are they getting the tool, but they feel more comfortable about it, which so it’s a win for everybody.
There are other products that come out where it’s like, look, it’s just a tweak to something we already have out. Every year, for some reason, every year when a car company comes out with a new car, it’s like the most amazing thing that ever happened, the new Jeep blah-blah-blah, whatever that is. And, you know, you’re like, “Man, I got to get that,” you know? Well, that happens a lot in the med-tech area as well. It’s like, it’s the new whatever component. And it’s like, “How different is it from the old one?” “Well, let me tell you.” And again, there’s an opportunity there. Is there really something that’s different? Robotic surgery is huge right now in orthopedics. Every company is pushing whatever version of the robotic surgery out there. And I know in my heart of hearts because I’ve spoken to a lot of different vendors, how much they believe in their product and how it’s gonna help them and why it’s better than the other company’s product. Well, how do you explain that? How do you explain that to the doctor and how do you help enable the doctor to explain that to their patients?
Jared: Yeah. First and foremost, I think I’m interested in test driving a Jeep blah-blah-blah because I am car shopping.
Scott: There you go.
Jared: There we go. But when we, you know, I’m thinking I’m focusing in on Scott, some of the things he just said, some of the benefits of co-branding content. At the end of the day, wherever it comes from, it can save time for the provider and it can benefit the patient because if it’s done in a professional way at all, it just feels like you’re gonna help ultimately just provide the right information. So maybe that’s the piece. I can see, especially in cases like you were just describing when the treatment, the product, the whatever it is, the device, the implant, whatever it is, that product, if it’s new at all, and even if it isn’t even if it’s been around for 10 or 15 years.
I mean, when I worked for a cardiovascular implant division of a, you know, the large medical device company, they’ve been around a long time. I mean, the implants themselves had been around 15 to 20 years and we were still on a daily basis educating providers on what the difference was, how to use them, how the lead the incisions, like all those pieces. And so knowing that there’s probably more new therapies out there than ever before, we have to stop and realize, look, there’s no, we can’t over-communicate. We need share as much education as possible at all points it seems like. And maybe that that’s where it comes down to for me.
Scott: Yeah. You know, look, we all think of the providers as a stable marketplace. They’re not. They’re like anything else, right? There are people who are younger, there are people that are older and so there’s this continuing education. That’s what they have with all that. That thank goodness. With all medical providers, they have to keep up and they’re required to keep testing, etc. And new stuff comes out, some of it’s tweaky, some of it’s again, a major change and you know, it’s another part of the conversation which we can have a whole separate podcast about, which is essentially how do you help empower, you know, residents and fellows to be better and better educated and better empowered to take on this heavy lift of becoming a real doctor? That’s a whole different conversation and an opportunity.
Michael: Absolutely. Absolutely. So we’ve hit on a lot of different ideas here. And, you know, as we’re thinking about how these pieces fit together, you have the patient that’s trying to get their needs solved. They’re getting a lot of maybe conflicting information even. So how do they reconcile that? Ultimately what we all hope for, I think everybody that’s listening to this podcast, all of us for sure like, we hope that they’re gonna be interacting with their physicians. We hope that they’re gonna be looking to trusted sources like that as like the kind of the keyway of being able to get the treatment that they need. And the doctors have that trust already, the doctors have that experience, have that relationship with that patient, hopefully, to where they can guide that patient the way they need to go.
They need the materials to be able to do it easily, to be able to do it quickly and I think that there’s a lot of opportunities. We’ve used that word quite a bit, but there are a lot of opportunities to help enable physicians, to help give them these resources to where they can easily pull them out and easily hand them out, whether that’s in the practice itself, whether it’s in the hospital, and whether that’s online. There’s a lot that can be done to enable both the patients and the physicians, because a lot of us are also looking in from the outside as patients to be able to say like, “Hey, can I get this information myself so that I don’t have to bug the doctor yet?”
Scott: Yeah. Let me end it with this. This is my best advice to any pharma company or med-tech company because they constantly and consistency try to figure out how do I better bond with my customer, the doctor? And the answer is help them take better care of their patients. If you do that, they will love you. That’s why they are doctors. They want to take care of their patients. And if you help them with that, they’ll love you for it.
Michael: There you go. That’s a wrap. I don’t know any other way to say it. So we’ll go ahead and wrap there. Guys, thanks so much for the discussion, and as always thanks everybody for listening today.
Announcer: Thanks again for tuning in to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” This program is brought to you by Health Connective, custom marketing solutions for med tech, and pharma. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.