By Ed Hudson, managing director, Create Health 


The entire health sector has been knocked sideways by Covid-19. It’s early days but two things are already clear: firstly, healthcare professionals have responded to this crisis exceptionally well and, secondly, elements of our industry will change irrevocably.  

Businesses, professional bodies and individual practitioners have to keep talking at a time like this, not least because patients’ non-Covid-related needs haven’t disappeared overnight. How are lines of communication holding up, and what might this tell us about life after C-19?


Trade shows and conferences.

Organizers face a stark choice: cancel, postpone or switch their event to an entirely online format. This is a long-term consideration. Strict social-distancing measures will gradually begin to be lifted locally, but it will be many months before we can hope to bring people from multiple locations together in one venue.

Attempting to replicate shows digitally is not the automatic answer. Offer 15 webinars a day and participants will end up checking their emails in the background and sloping off to make a sandwich. 

Canny organizers are paring back their events, requesting contributors distill their slot to a punchy 20-minutes and varying formats – using podcasts, Facebook Live and panel events, as well as webinars and teleconferencing. It’s wise to make some content available on demand, so participants can dip in and out over a three-day period, say, and save live-streaming for ‘headline acts’. Some planners are even looking at ways that gamification, rewards and VR can boost engagement.

In-person events will bounce back of course – making meaningful connections is easier face to face – but if we adopt a creative approach to remote participation we can increase uptake and make healthcare events more sustainable in the future.


Staying in touch

I fully expect our regular lines of communication with doctors to be severed right now. Some practitioners have stepped back from their specialization to join the front line, others have moved into Covid-related research roles or are covering for colleagues. Put simply, people are not where they usually are.  

Doctors saving lives in the high-risk environment of a Covid ward or emergency department have enough to deal with, and none of us would want to bombard them with extra information. But healthcare professionals who are catching up with continuing professional development at home are actually answering emails more quickly than usual. Non-clinicians are likely to be at home and may well be receptive: sales reps who aren’t on the road, for example, are finding they’re well placed to retain and improve their understanding of products’ effectiveness and positioning.

The key here is assessing where your audience is and what they’re ready for. One legacy of this crisis could be that our industry gets better at succinct, flexible and targeted communication. I think we’d all welcome that.


Pharma has hit ‘pause’

The biopharmaceutical industry is pulling out all the stops to test, treat and prevent C-19. Most impressively of all, rival companies are collaborating like never before: a few weeks ago Novartis and Pfizer announced they were sharing their compound libraries, for example.

Clearly some positives will come out of this crisis then. But it remains a frustrating time for many people in our sector, not least anyone involved with promoting important new drugs. It’s impossible to communicate your better-outcomes message if clinical trials are suspended and The Lancet and BMJ have less space to publish data that isn’t Covid-19 related.

So, how to make best use of these unsettling new circumstances? The breakthrough comes when you discover how to turn a negative into a positive. That might mean doing that piece of research you knew would be useful but hadn’t got round to, planning for quarter four, when the sector is expected to be settling down again, or even reassessing your personal work-life balance. The Information Age encourages us to operate in a fast-paced, reactive way. For some of us – though not all – the C-19 crisis provides an opportunity to pause and reflect.


Keeping supply lines open

Getting medicine to the millions of patients who rely on them is a logistical challenge at the best of times, so companies have really got their work cut out at the moment. The good news is that robust procedures are in place to deal with the unexpected and, for now at least, the system is holding up well.

Companies are working closely with the government, the NHS, retailers and each other to make sure the UK has the supplies it needs. The industry has moved quickly to mitigate against panic buying, stop the export of certain drugs and find new suppliers at home and abroad (China, so critical to manufacture, being the first place to shut down, of course).

Contingency plans that companies put in place for a no-deal Brexit are proving incredibly useful in a entirely different scenario. Rewind four months and no one would have expected that.


Progress in adversity

It’s too soon to assess the fallout of what is an on-going healthcare emergency. We have to deal with what’s in front of us today, and for too many that includes grieving for loved ones and colleagues. But allow yourself to picture our industry this time next year. I’m confident we’ll be proud of how the healthcare sector as a whole reacted to the C-19 crisis. And we’ll remember this too: we’re at our best when we work together for the greater good.


About Create Health

Ed Hudson, Managing Director, Create Health

Create Health is a leading healthcare marketing agency based in London and Bristol. We specialize in delivering innovative healthcare solutions for companies operating across global and national markets in the ever-changing healthcare sector.

Delivering core disciplines of business development, brand, digital and marketing our role is to advise, manage, drive and implement the activities that support our clients’ business objectives for growth and value.