Words of Wellness: Take Better Care of Healthcare Content
Following the hot-button debate surrounding the Supreme Court’s recent upholding of the individual mandate provision of Obamacare got me thinking about the state of health industry in the U.S., and how health-related content is marketed to the consumer. Of late, it has struck me that pharma print and TV messaging seems to have taken a turn into the “disclose everything” realm. While only peripherally aware of what the TV ads are saying (I never bother with the print ads), I frequently hear an extraordinary listing of possible side effects, most quite onerous, up to and including death. That’s fine: knowing what you are in for and can expect is good content.
When it comes to the world of health plans and health plan marketing, however, the story changes: more often than not, health plan content is so profoundly obtuse that is complicates and confuses what is a critical decision-making process. Overall health literacy remains a critical issue in the U.S. As Aileen Kantor, founder of Bethesda, Md.-based Health Literacy Innovations states, “Nearly half of all adult Americans do not understand their healthcare information.”
Aware that “…marketing materials that insurers use can sometimes make it difficult for consumers to understand exactly what they are buying,” the U.S. government, via the Affordable Care Act, is mandating reform. “All consumers, for the first time, will really be able to clearly comprehend the sometimes confusing language insurance plans often use in marketing,” states U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a release. “This will give them a new edge in deciding which plan will best suit their needs and those of their families or employees.”
My point in sharing this information is not really about health plans (which do not represent marketing content per se) or the materials used to market health plans, but about the essential nature of content itself. No matter what industry you are in, the content you use to market your products, services, ideas, brand, reputation or strategic objective will only be as healthy as its honesty, integrity and above all clarity—deliver confusion, and you’ll likely get sick (of you) customers in return.
Jeff Heilman covers business, marketing, law and travel for a range of custom and trade publications. Also an award-winning photographer and copywriter, he ghostwrote Courageous Counsel, a book on the history of women general counsel in the Fortune 500, published September 2011.