Health literacy can be defined as people’s competencies to access, understand, appraise and apply information to make health decisions in everyday life. It helps individuals make healthy choices in times where the boundaries between work and life aren’t so clear anymore.
When people fall ill, they seek the best treatments possible. But, how could they know about those treatments if they aren’t provided with easy-to-understand information in the first place? Pharmaceutical firms develop countless drugs and devices to assist people in managing their condition, but only on a few occasions are advertisements presented in a way that educates the patient. By spending more time in ensuring that all their communications are clear to people of any education level, pharmaceutical firms can improve health literacy.
Challenges Faced With Health Literacy
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (Health Communication Activities), over a third of US adults-77 million people-would have difficulty with common health tasks, such as following directions on a prescription drug label or adhering to a childhood immunization schedule using a standard chart.1
A report presented by the Institute of Medicine suggests that 90 million people, nearly half of the adult US population, lacks health literacy skills needed to understand and act on health information and health system demands.2 Healthcare advertising has a long way to go before patients can find it easier to relate and understand the information they’re receiving from these businesses.
The current methods being used to market to people with health conditions is making patient education fall by the wayside. People find actors and models less relatable when compared with real patients. If patients lack the health literacy that is needed to understand the ads, the information provided could mislead them or be misunderstood.
“ONLY 12 % of Adults have proficient health literacy“
The US Department of Health and Human Services reported that only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy.3 Poor patient education could lead to poor management of chronic ailments and even cause setbacks. People may skip their much-required appointments or tests, lack the ability to manage conditions, get hospitalized often and face increased health care costs. If patients aren’t aware of the questions they should ask about their medicines, in essence of how the medicine would act or react, they could experience negative outcomes.
Health Literacy As A Strategic Marketing Asset And Corporate Social Responsibility
Health literacy can cease to be a challenge if both pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers take measures to educate their patients. The rapid development of different communication channels has made people seem omnipresent. This gives healthcare professional access to a variety of communication channels (social media, blogs, community forums, patient education drives, etc.) to get health information across.
While there are plenty of ways for pharmaceutical businesses to improve marketing through health literacy, the first step would be to begin with writing information that will be easily understood.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Using technical jargons (in this case-industrial medical terminology) can interfere with health literacy because patients can’t make sense of what the words mean. Pharmaceutical companies should stick to the local language and writing style in order to ensure that people know what they’re doing by using a specific medical device or taking a medication.
Even the way information is laid out can improve comprehension. The US Department of Health and Human Services suggest that the text should be in at least 12-point font with little or no formatting, such as script or italics.4 Images and bullet points can be used to space out information and add meaning to your communication. Facts should be presented in short sentences and phrases so that patients do not get overwhelmed when they’re reading a health literature.
Multi-channel marketing has its own set of challenges. Pamphlets and brochures offer small bursts of information at one place. However, when it comes to websites, most people struggle to search for information. If pharmaceutical companies are seeking to expand their web presence and invest in various Web Marketing activities, it will be wise to design sites that are user-friendly. These websites need to have clear categories, keep a simple layout and use a variety of media.
Bearing in mind the explosion of information that is now available to patients, direct-to-consumer advertising is the best bet for pharmaceutical firms. By presenting information in an easy-to-understand manner, pharmaceutical companies can increase patient education with their publication.