What can the pandemic teach us about innovation in healthcare communications?

Dr Nick Stewart, FHF Healthcare

“Out of adversity comes opportunity” – Benjamin Franklin’s words ring as true now as they have during the countless challenges that have faced society across the decades.

Now, as health stakeholders focus on the challenges of vaccine roll-out, it’s a good time to consider how pandemic pressures have caused us to think and innovate differently.

In the beginning, it seemed there was little room for new ideas. Fear kicked in, and the initial instinct was to hunker down and wait for it to be over. That changed with time, and since then many people have experienced considerable growth, both personally, and as professionals across the creative industries.

The healthcare sector has grown too. In the UK the NHS system has defied its critics and has stepped up to the challenges posed by the pandemic admirably. According to NHS Digital, in December 2019, just 15% of primary care appointments took place online or over the telephone. By April 2020, this had jumped to 49%. For some GP, practices the statistic is 90%. It turns out that the natural inclination of our clinicians is to innovate. All that needs to change is for the system around them to open doors rather than close them.

As the role of GP practices in vaccine roll-out is clarified in the weeks ahead, we are reminded that we can’t leave it to a crisis to enable such innovation in the future. Many hope instead that the blocks in the system can be removed for good.

How can healthcare companies contribute? Well, we’ve had confirmation that healthcare providers welcome assistance if it helps to bring about change for the benefit of patients. This gives us a clearer focus when coming up with ideas for partnership work.

It turns out we don’t need to invent radical solutions. Instead, we can start by really listening to what healthcare professionals need to do their jobs better. Only at that point should our creative process start. Then we can ask: how can we use our resources, expertise and creativity to act as true partners in delivering healthcare that transforms lives?

As healthcare communicators, we have valuable skills to aid this process.

  • We are experienced at rapid ideation. We regularly tackle challenges that come at us ‘leftfield’ (think about all those Friday afternoon media crises we’ve handled). We can adapt quickly to new problems and adapt again as required.
  • We aren’t afraid of new challenges. In fact, relish a new brief, a new disease area, a new challenge. Just think about how we have adapted to reach our target audiences using virtual platforms during the pandemic.
  • Bringing colleagues from different disciplines together is part of our craft. We are skilled at identifying the right heads to get around the latest ‘wild’ problem and adept at facilitating the discussions that need to happen.
  • We love to run projects and are not intimidated by tight deadlines. Some of the most renowned communications campaigns have been brought into being in weeks rather than months.


Bringing this to you – acting on our learnings, FleishmanHillard Healthcare is changing the way we package and deliver quick turnaround, business-critical projects.  Clients can now purchase a Six-Week Solution, based on the fact that it’s possible to do almost anything in six weeks.  If you take longer, the variables can change. Contact us and see how you can work in partnership with us and receive a tangible deliverable in six weeks or less.


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