As the new year unfolds and the pandemic is no longer dominating our lives, we are excited to see what unexpected developments the future brings. Working in health care public relations, we are often charged with communicating complex health care messages in a rapidly changing—and sometimes volatile—environment. We must constantly adapt to these unpredictable dynamics to assist our clients who are trying to increase awareness for their issues and platforms, build credibility for their organizations and promote science that improves care.
Among many important issues that we will be monitoring, four stand out as top-of-mind as we initiate new strategies for earned media, thought leadership and science promotion on the national level and in communities across the country.
The continued effects of COVID-19. Our nation’s health care providers are tired, stressed and feeling burnt out, which directly affects patient safety and the quality of care. The mental health impact of COVID-19 has touched nearly everyone, especially our teenagers and young adults. While Medicare permanently lifted geographic restrictions for mental telehealth services during the pandemic, people with private insurance still face barriers accessing very much-needed mental health care across state lines.
High cost of prescription drugs. In a potentially important shift, Senator Bernie Sanders, as the new chair of the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has said one of his key areas will be lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Amazon and other major corporations are moving into the prescription drug field, which also could be a game-changer. At the same time, access to innovative new treatments to stave off conditions like Alzheimer’s or provide daily management of diabetes are very promising, but extraordinarily expensive.
Changes in social media and surges in AI. The importance of short, powerful videos and the increasing importance of social media influencers will continue to dominate social channels. AI will facilitate content creation and change searches in many unknown ways. It will be interesting to see how these changes affect various social platforms. It feels like everyone is looking around for another option. Will Twitter continue to serve as the hub for journalists? Will more industries ban the use of TikTok? Will masses of users really leave Facebook?
Obesity as a chronic condition. The long-awaited anti-obesity drugs are being hailed as miracle pills. It will be important to track who can actually afford and have access to these medications and what effects they have on finally de-stigmatizing obesity and treating it as a legitimate medical condition. Even Congress will be weighing in when policymakers debate the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act with its proposed expansion of Medicare coverage.
So, stay tuned! It’s certain to be an eventful time in a rapidly evolving health care landscape, and we plan to be right in the middle of it!