20180827_Improving awareness and advocacy

Improving awareness and advocacy in the field of oncology by strengthening stakeholder communication strategies

Stakeholders are invaluable in the development of new medical treatments and practices. But they have another important role as well: as advocates who can increase awareness of clinical needs ultimately resulting in improved patient outcomes.

Using stakeholder communication strategies, you can empower key thought leaders to generate awareness around your specific oncology initiatives.

Advocacy has three main parts:

  1. Establishing an agenda and forming a clear message that raises awareness
  2. Identifying key stakeholders who can further the message
  3. Establishing channels through which to disseminate the message

Effective stakeholder communication strategies create an appropriate context for the distribution of information, allowing decision makers on every level to understand how a product or service can improve health care practices and outcomes.

This blog will look at how to build awareness by identifying stakeholders as advocates, planning and disseminating a clear message using stakeholder communication strategies, and existing models that were successful in strengthening cancer advocacy.

A clear message for building awareness
The first step in building awareness around oncology initiatives is to clarify your message. Your message should speak to developments that can prompt change, improve clinical outcomes, and highlight the treatment and care of cancer patients. A clear and focused message should illuminate a shared vision among advocates who can understand the needs facing clinical care and cancer support efforts, and who may impact health outcomes.

Awareness can help build solid clinical justification to focus on a specific oncology initiative and help pharma companies prioritize their clinical and developmental objectives. Employing stakeholder communication strategies, you can identify a stakeholder network that will act upon these objectives and push your message forward. Even where awareness has been raised, there is a need for advocates to generate and sustain support for the delivery of information. The job of stakeholders is to keep people aware of evolving priorities and current advances.

Identifying stakeholders as advocates
Stakeholders on whom you can rely to disseminate information effectively have the influence and decision-making abilities to impact health outcomes, and strongly advocate for cancer research. Relevant stakeholders are those who are involved as decision makers in every step of the research process and have experience in different areas of cancer research. In fact, stakeholders engaged in the development of oncology treatments are more likely to advocate for a product or service that they have helped build.

A collaboration with appropriate stakeholders can facilitate the awareness surrounding oncology practices and treatments. These stakeholders are able to translate complex research evidence into an understandable form and put it in context of practical decision making that extends to clinicians, caregivers, policy makers, and even patients and their families.

Stakeholder communication strategies should focus on helping decision makers improve their ability to transfer information, advocate for a specific healthcare initiative, access appropriate resources, and find or initiate funding for clinical trials and research.

Strategies for disseminating information
The best approach for engaging stakeholders in advocacy efforts is to create and implement an action plan that supports local, national, and global communications. This plan should build channels between stakeholders and key pharma players, and include strategies for disseminating important information, like clinical data and evidence-based best practices.

As part of this strategy, you need to develop proper stakeholder communication channels that connect advocates and support the initiative. When thought leaders are able to focus their advocacy efforts—relying on a common and reputable resource—your message can be more clearly shaped and disseminated. A virtual platform is one of the best stakeholder resources to connect medical experts and multidisciplinary teams across a global network.

Creating experiences and platforms in which stakeholders can exchange information and best practices will impact clinical outcomes and build support for important oncology initiatives. In fact, the strategic ability to distribute and access research reports and evidence can directly inform health care practices.

Providing the right tools for decision making, and promoting a platform for consistent and effective communication practices, allows stakeholders to combine their advocacy efforts into a powerful call to action.

Successful models for healthcare advocacy
One the most successful examples for advocacy in the field of oncology is demonstrated by the improved awareness surrounding breast cancer. Through the use of top-down stakeholder communication strategies that united key decision makers with pharma partners, researchers, practitioners, and other advocacy organizations, global awareness and branding recognition (think pink!) was created. This was fruitful in establishing a widespread presence for breast cancer advocacy.

Another model to look at is the advocacy of adolescent and young adult (AYA) oncology initiatives. In this case, an alliance was formed by relevant stakeholders, healthcare providers, researchers, community centers, and government representatives to improve awareness of AYA cancer therapies. Shaped by contributions from members, the alliance facilitated an increased awareness around a population of cancer patients that was often underrepresented—usually because they were categorized by pathology and not age.

In both cases, stakeholders translated and disseminated information surrounding cancer treatments, and as a result, were instrumental in bridging the gap between research and practice.

Stakeholder communication strategies can promote the development and distribution of information, providing valuable context for decision making. This empowers both the companies who work to develop oncology treatments and the patients who receive them.