Promedior's PRM-151 drug for the treatment of myelofibrosis has been granted FDA orphan drug designation

Top 3 US Healthcare Companies: Corporate Communication

In Market Access by Chris Hackett

There are two types of communications in the healthcare industry: communication with your subscribers, and communications with everyone else. Communicating with subscribers is the most obvious choice to improve upon: subscribers want to be able to talk about their plan on a whim, and as such they should accommodate. Nobody wants to call their healthcare company and be ignored.

Corporate Communication is a bit more ambiguous, however the method of achieving excellent communication is the same as any company – a good media relations division that is active, participatory, and engaging. Not to mention a way to tell you how to get to them.

Healthcare companies, like most of corporate America, are beginning to suffer from an image crisis. Sure, “private healthcare” is better than what the Government now offers after the Affordable Care Act – but when was the last time you heard someone say that US has the cheapest healthcare in the world? “We have the best and we need to pay for it!” some will say, but showing is better than telling, and the Healthcare Industry isn’t doing a lot of either these days. That is why you see headlines like this.

Corporate communication isn’t just about having a great media presence and company image – both of which are also very important – but it is also about accessibility. People are more trusting of a corporation when it feels like they can access whomever they need there at any time, even if it is only a projected openness.

We spent some time contacting payers across the country in preparation for the upcoming 2015 World Orphan Drug Congress USA, the largest event dealing with Rare Diseases and orphan drugs in the world. Considering all of the emphasis on these rare diseases recently, you would think they would be willing to listen. This is a major event that brings together hundreds of major stakeholders – and patient groups – from across the pharmaceutical industry. The responses ranged from nothing at all to warm and embracing. For the record, even the White House has a phone number that you can call and get a real person. Can I call and talk to Obama? No. But it feels good knowing somebody in his house will listen.

So, here are the top 3 US Healthcare Companies who have great Corporate Communication, taking into consideration: social media presence, company image, and company accessibility.

1. Kaiser Group/Kaiser Permanente (KP): The Kaiser Group has outdone the competition. They have an entire separate site,, dedicated to community involvement and, well, just making them look good. What is even better is that this area is easily accessibly from their “About Us” portion of the page. From their “share” site, you can get to a media contacts page which has a nice, long list of KP media masters, and the few I have spoken to were very friendly and very willing to hear about the conference. They were real people, who could listen to what I had to say and point me in the right direction. Ultimately, I was able to get in touch with KP and a member of their organization was willing to help shape the conference in the advisory board. I’d say they take healthcare pretty seriously. At least, they communicate that they do.

2. Aetna: Aetna does a great job on the PR front. They have a beautiful website that is modern and keeping with everything you would expect in a post-HTML world. Their about us section does a great job outlining why they are in the game, and what they can do for you. They also have a great feature in their “contact us” section: you can tell them who you are, and they will tell you the best way to get in touch. Unlike KP, they do not have a list of names for you to call in the media section. Instead they just have one number. However, Aetna gained the second spot for another reason. I contacted several C-level and VP-level executives from these companies, and usually they didn’t answer. Aetna, however, stands out as a company where their managers aren’t afraid to reply – and that is a good thing. Like KP, Aetna has a member of their organization on the advisory board and are helping to shape next year’s conference.

3. UnitedHealth Group: UnitedHealth Group has a good website layout and an entire section dedicated to “social responsibility.” They haven’t gone as far as KP in making a “share” site, but their main site does a good job getting the point across. What really stands out about UnitedHealth, however, is their newsroom and media section. Not only does it have a great search function and easily accessible media contacts (for both themselves and their subsidiaries), but they also have an entire section called the “Speakers Bureau”. For me, at least selfishly, this is a fantastic feature that sets them apart. While for KP and Aetna you needed to jump through a few hoops to get to a speaker, UnitedHealth lays them all out for you in advance, allowing you to decide who the best person would be to invite to your child’s birthday BEFORE you call. Unfortunately, there is only one email address for all of them, but I trust it will go to the right person. I have yet to receive a reply from UnitedHealth, hence their spot in the rankings based on reply time. Aetna and KP got on it – just waiting on you, United!

So there you have it – if you are dying to get in touch with someone at corporate at a major health care company, try these guys. I can’t guarantee you will get through, but I can tell you that it will be easier with them than with some of the others.

The World Orphan Drug Congress will be held from April 23-24 2015 in Washington, D.C. Topics to be covered include, among others, sustainability of the marketplace, commercialization, and pricing and reimbursement.