Maintaining noise about other healthcare conditions


How we remember the COVID-19 pandemic will be decided by the journalists of today who are editing and documenting these unusual times.

Health and science editors who are usually fighting for prime space are finally getting their chance to take the front pages with a health story. However, we are in danger of missing other important health news, including new clinical trial results.

It is essential that those clinicians who are still treating their patients (albeit possibly now remotely) for chronic conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer are kept up to date with the latest trial results. Furthermore, major advances in medical care still need the chance to be heard and, perhaps helpfully, these advances will now be seen in a different light. As the world looks towards the healthcare industry to find its way out of societal lockdowns, there is an increased appreciation for the scale of the effort needed to innovate in healthcare.

The move to virtual congresses will help ensure some momentum in scientific exchange, but the reality is that ensuring an effective 2020 content calendar requires a rewrite of strategic communications plans.

Alongside this, we also need to ensure we minimize what experts are referring to as a ‘parallel epidemic’. Reports in recent weeks have shown that people are avoiding seeking medical care when they really need it for fear of putting extra pressure on the health services or of catching the virus in a clinical environment. These concerns and the resulting impact will be likely amplified for future clinical trial recruitment and retention.

As healthcare communicators, it is important that we continue to raise awareness of other conditions and update patients on how they can access medical advice, whether that be speaking to their clinician face-to-face or remotely, as well as safely joining clinical trials in areas of unmet needs. Otherwise, we risk jeopardizing the progress we have made in other areas, such as increasing survival rates for serious diseases through early diagnosis or expanding access to mental health services. For more information on supporting patient advocacy groups and charities, please see Patient advocates: hard hit at the time of greatest need.

Nonetheless, health stories can’t ignore COVID-19. In a fast-moving news cycle, story angles and pitching approaches need to be agile. There is plenty of space for non-COVID related news, but it needs to be adapted to fit into the wider news agenda and consider the potentially heightened anxieties of people with health conditions.

Any editorial planning should be cognizant of that fact that many people with pre-existing medical conditions, and their families, have had a particularly worrying few months.

As the healthcare column inches are rightly taken up by the biggest health story of a generation, we need to make sure that important health news for patients and the people who care for them isn’t lost in the meantime.

Are you interested in getting more information about effective media engagement and strategic communications planning? Are your colleagues considering how best to partner with patient advocates or work with investigator sites or study participants at this time? We’re here to help.

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