Communicating medicine's views to the media and general public

July 09, 2013

While most physicians may be well trained and experienced in communicating with their patients, communicating with the media and the general public is a very different type of message. During the 16th annual California Health Care Leadership Academy, Assemblymember Richard Pan, M.D., and Jason Kinney, Principal of California Strategies, LLC, discussed how physicians and practice managers can best communicate with a mass audience on critical health care issues.

“As a physician, you’re a respected leader in your community,” Dr. Pan said to the audience. “You can be a very powerful voice.”

People want to hear from physicians in their own communities, he added. He suggested that physicians take time out of their careers to speak to the public – whether neighborhood or community groups, or the local media. “People are very interested in health topics,” he explained. Once that conversation has begun, Dr. Pan noted that you can then discuss what physicians need to take care of people in the community – discussing barriers toward practicing medicine.

Kinney agreed that physicians especially play an important role in allowing the voice of medicine to be heard. “There’s increasingly important reasons for the physician to get out of the doctor’s office and communicate to larger audiences,” he said, whether it’s to enhance your own personal reputation as a thought leader, to elevate the profession as a whole, or to help shape public policy and public opinion.

“It’s more important than ever for physicians and health care experts to get out and communicate their side of the story,” Kinney said. “You are easily one of the most credibly messengers.”

Kinney also provided a quick run-down of the three elements people care most about when it comes to health care: ability, access and affordability. “They care that there’s quality health care out there, they care that it’s accessible to them and they care that they can afford it,” Kinney said.

Dr. Pan suggested framing health care messages in terms of impact on patients, and warned about overloading media or the public with data. “Talk about the central issue and why it’s important to you,” he said. “Telling a story is particularly powerful.”


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