Personalising healthcare communications

Personalising healthcare communications

Today (4th February) is World Cancer Day. Around the world, people are being empowered to act to impact on the future of cancer. But, according to the findings last week from Macmillan Cancer Support, we still have a lot to learn when it comes to talking about cancer to patients.

Without realising it, many people are using phrases and words that can cause a great deal of upset to those who they are actually intending to support. 

The survey revealed the personal perspectives of people living with cancer, highlighting that the words and clichés that friends and family – and particularly media – are using do not resonate with their own emotions.  Often placing undue pressure on those who are newly diagnosed.

For some, words like ‘fight’, ‘battle’ and ‘struggle’ were deemed completely inappropriate. They didn’t feel ‘brave’ and ‘inspirational’, urging people to use factual terms instead. 

Conversely, other respondents in the survey found these terms empowering, positively motivating them in their ‘war’ against cancer.

The findings of this very important survey are a strong reminder of the role that personalisation plays in health engagement across all sectors – not just cancer. In the drive to personalise medication and treatment to individuals, it’s critical to ensure that the language that's used to engage them is also tailored. 

And not just at the diagnosis stage.  The rising number of people now living with two to three long term conditions is driving the need for a long term holistic approach to engaging patients. Personalisation beyond treatment and care inevitably improves the quality of the dialogue – understanding the patient’s personal needs and their priorities is key to being able to improve their quality of life.

The Macmillan survey is a great step in helping people become better informed and better educated about the need for personalised language when it comes to engaging patients living with cancer. 

But what does this mean for health marketers across the broader health landscape?

Personalising healthcare communications is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry. The underlying message here is the importance of listening.  As relevance has superseded deference in the healthcare environment, engaging in a meaningful way first requires a deep understanding of what motivates and drives people as individuals. 

More than ever before, people are looking for a level of control and decision-making in their healthcare options, just as they have in other areas of their life. They are looking for choices around what matters to them. By listening to their views, their goals and their concerns and placing this at the heart of the dialogue, we can improve the discussion, empower patients and drive better, tailored quality of care.



Alison Dunlop

Managing Director, Health

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