Healthcare Literacy and Marketing’s Role in the ACO Model
JUNE 5, 2012:
Jen Joly, Director of Marketing and Communications
Marketing Strategy Results
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Ron Pion, a clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. Dr. Pion is also a successful entrepreneur, providing programming for hospitals and patients as well as serving as a consultant focused on improving clinical outcomes and patient care.
Dr. Pion is passionate about health literacy. Specifically, the shortcoming of those in the industry to recognize it’s not just about reading or writing ability. “It’s about understanding,” says Dr. Pion. “It’s only been in the past five years that we’ve actually been discussing the aspect of comprehension.”
According to the CDC, “Health Literacy is the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Approximately one-half of the adult population may lack the needed literacy skills to use the U.S. healthcare system. Low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services.”
Dr. Pion has gotten excited about the prospect of diminishing language and cultural barriers by utilizing animated storytelling. One of his entrepreneurial successes has been working with Health Nuts Media.
Inevitably, Dr. Pion and I drifted into the shortcomings of our current system. “I think we have a wonderful medical system, but I think there is an overriding tendency to push surgeries and procedures,” says Dr. Pion. “Sick care dominates our profession.”
When it comes to marketing healthcare, Dr. Pion continues to be discouraged. “With every new technology, there is a great desire to market it … and unfortunately, people don’t question their care or understand alternatives to care.”
However, Dr. Pion and I agreed that the Accountable Care Organization model is encouraging. Health literacy has to be part of this new model. It will only work if consumers become invested in their healthcare decisions and the health literacy of all patients is improved. While healthcare organizations begin to focus on better outcomes, marketing will need to align itself with the mission of the organization. I believe most healthcare marketers are looking for ways to integrate their role in a better system and will embrace the shift.
According to Improving Health Literacy for Older Adults, a report from the CDC, “Consumers are expected to be savvy about quality, cost, and effectiveness, which requires access to accurate and actionable information.” Internal departments at prestigious organizations like Mayo Clinic and companies like Health Nuts Media and BlueSpire have been assisting healthcare marketers create accurate and actionable information for years through the use of educational content. The ACO model will make educational content a necessary, not optional, part of every healthcare marketer’s strategy.
Doctors are now starting to embrace the concept of health literacy, too – a critical component to making the ACO model and the marketing of it successful.
“Should a Spanish-speaking mother of three with colon cancer be enrolled in a new clinical
trial when she can barely read the formal and inscrutable language of the consent forms?"
- Excerpted from The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
in the NPR Author Interview, An Oncologist’s Pulitzer-Winning Cancer Biography.
Copyright 2010 by Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D.
According to the NPR interview, Mukherjee's book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, “grew out of his desire to better understand the disease he treats, through examining the way cancer has been described and treated throughout history. He chronicles the ways therapies evolved, particularly in the 20th century, as more treatment options became available and scientists worked to understand the underlying genetic mutations that caused the disease.” So it’s not patients alone who want to better understand diseases, treatments and overall health.
As a healthcare marketer, do you embrace the ACO model as a way to improve patient outcomes while also being successful in your career?