The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people of colour, highlighting long-standing inequalities in healthcare. Now, a new study by the University of Illinois Chicago has shed light on how racism and discrimination can impact their willingness to adopt innovative medical technologies such as gene therapies. The study focused on sickle cell disease, which disproportionately affects the black community, and found that patients and their families can be willing to avoid treatments that could result in a cure because of past and shared experiences, which include a legacy of experimentation and exploitation of black people in genetic research. To change this situation, health organisations must consider the importance of communication in marketing
Communication in digital marketing should not be overlooked
This is a complex problem, that requires a multi-faceted approach. The study indicated that institutions promoting therapies must consider the role they play in creating distrust among black patients.
But, simply “considering” the role they play does not push the agenda forward and find a solution. Placing greater importance on digital marketing communication is critical. In recent years, social media and online forums have emerged as powerful tools for communication, with 49% of consumers depending on influencer recommendations, according to the Digital Marketing Institute. Additionally, 82% of consumers trust the opinions they see on social media channels, shared by friends, family, and influencers.
Health authorities are ill-equipped to respond
Yet, online communication presents a challenge, and many in the industry are ill-equipped with a shortage of expertise and funding. However, if action isn’t taken this problem will only get worse. Social media algorithms show users content that reinforces their existing beliefs and preferences, creating echo chambers that can reinforce stereotypes and misinformation. As social media experts, we know this can be especially harmful for minority communities, who may already face significant barriers to healthcare access and trust. That is why health authorities need to place greater importance on their digital marketing communication.
Interestingly, one solution is the use of experts. Contrary to Michael Gove’s assertion that “the people of this country have had enough of experts,” most people defer to experts to determine whether something is true, according to a recent Cambridge University study.
How do we solve the problem and place greater importance on digital marketing communication?
This may seem like an overly complex problem, but ten years ago, an astonishing 80% of health apps were unsafe. Solving the issue felt impossible given the speed at which such apps were emerging. Yet, with the right focus organisations like ORCHA have helped provide a solution by evaluating the safety of health apps and created libraries that are used in 70% of NHS regions. This was partly fuelled by ORCHA’s online digital messaging. The key is to create positive content. Yet, creating content will only take you so far. Health authorities need to understand how to optimise that content and develop a greater understanding of the algorithms of various online platforms. Marketing disciplines from social media to SEO must be mastered. By doing so, coupled with placing greater importance on digital marketing communication, such issues can start to be addressed.
Ultimately, addressing healthcare disparities requires a multi-pronged approach. Improved communication is just the first step. Community engagement and policy changes that address structural inequalities are also needed. By working together to build more equitable and effective healthcare systems, we can create a future where all patients have access to the latest medical innovations and technologies, regardless of race or ethnicity.