1 WHAT CANADIAN CULTURE CREATORS WANT YOU TO KNOW BOLDTHINKING HEALTHCARE SECTOR: CONVERSATION TRENDS 2015
2 Introduction Introduction NATIONAL s Bold Thinking Report, What Canadian Culture Creators Want You to Know studied more than 20,000 conversations on reddit.com on a variety of topics and themes relating to Canadian society, business and government. Given the unique demographics of the reddit community (young, educated, informed and engaged), their perspectives provide insight into emerging opinions and values in Canada. While these topics were diverse and there was much debate on numerous issues and topics, a single unifying thread emerged: fairness will be the year of fairness In 2015, the words and actions of businesses, government and people will be viewed through the fairness lens. To the members of reddit, fairness is about being impartial when in a position of power, and having a moral code and a sense of personal and social responsibility. Those in positions of authority or power will be held to a higher standard and their actions will be judged accordingly. While it is not surprising that Canadians value fairness when assessing decisions made by power brokers in society, our analysis found that a staggering 82% of Canadian redditors raised the issue of fairness when discussing businesses and their practices. One of the most dynamic discussions online is on health and healthcare in Canada. We studied health discussions with a particular focus on the pharmaceutical industry, its role and potential for enhanced public engagement. We found strong and diverse opinions about the role and value of pharmaceutical companies. Fairness here significantly factored into the discussions. The following provides a snapshot of the three most frequently discussed industry issues with interpretations and considerations for action.
3 Trends Emerging trends in the Canadian healthcare sector: 1. Consumers will seek unbiased health education from pharmaceutical companies. The Canadian reddit community strongly believes that organizations, especially those in the life sciences, need to be held to the highest standard of personal responsibility. In addition to providing safe and effective medication, there is a growing expectation that the industry play a greater role in objectively educating Canadians on health and wellness. There is a mix of players in health care who can play this role including government, NGOs and the academic sector, and are seen as objective. The industry, as for-profit businesses, is viewed more suspiciously, with some believing that this may drive a marketing bias in pharma-led education initiatives. In the reddit community s view, however, sharing research and educating Canadians about emerging treatments and healthy living should be the moral responsibility of every pharmaceutical company in this country. This is an important finding as it presents an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to engage more directly in conversations and discussions about health matters and policies and, thereby, build trust with Canadians. Given the fact that the industry does invest in significant patient education already, the solution may not be to do more, but rather, to explore alternative strategies and tactics that will connect in a timely, visible and credible way with Canadians. 2. Canadians want to put a face to the name: pharmaceutical companies could give their employees a bigger voice in the conversation. Pharmaceutical companies conduct research to develop treatments that help people live better, healthier lives, but conversations infrequently deal with the core mission of the sector. Even less frequent are references (whether in traditional news reports or from social media) to the employees of pharmaceutical companies who conduct the research. As with many global industries (such as finance or energy), individual company reputations do not exist in a vacuum: they are affected by international business news coverage on the sector. Coverage is as, or more likely to give, heavy attention to profit/loss stories and reports on layoffs, mergers, lawsuits and scandals. This international spillover significantly informs Canadian redditors views of pharmaceutical companies. The relatively low visibility of employees of the industry in public forums makes for a more anonymous industry, and easier for redditors to believe it is acting unfairly or worse. As demonstrated by campaigns in other business sectors, showcasing the talent, passion and stories of everyday Canadians who serve their neighbours, community and world in the work they do daily at a pharmaceutical company can help to balance the global narrative around international businesses, including pharmaceuticals.
4 3. People will look towards the pharmaceutical sector to address issues around access, rather than purely rely on government. Pharmaceutical companies all have robust corporate social responsibility initiatives, but these may not be aligned with consumers ongoing concerns about health and will therefore not have the extent of impact desired. Concerns raised by the reddit community include speed and access to quality healthcare, drugs and education. CSR-type programs that address these issues are an opportunity to have a positive impact. This year, redditors would like the pharmaceutical industry to take these real issues on, to try and find solutions by continuing to work with independent and innovative organizations that are already making great headway in healthcare in Canada. The Canadian pharmaceutical industry has permission to be more open with its perspectives on creating a better system. Efforts that are collaborative with academia, NGOs and government will be viewed positively, and pharmaceutical companies can and should proudly trumpet their efforts to improve the health and wellness of Canadians. Given that many drug companies already go well beyond basic compliance with the law and regulatory obligations, the opportunity may not be in doing more but rather communicating more. Conclusion On Canada s pharmaceutical industry, the reddit community is torn. On the one hand the community believes in the merits of a free market system whereby pharmaceutical companies who invest heavily in research and innovation be compensated fairly for it. On the other hand, it grapples with the issue of access often sharing very human stories of people who ve been unable to receive adequate treatment due to the inability to pay for drugs. As with all industries, there is mixed knowledge of the complexity of the sector: of drug access and drug payment, for example. Because of this, it is frequently seen as the cause of the problem not the solution. It s important to note that the community believes in fair treatment for all, and this includes corporations in the healthcare sector. As such, being a more visible player in the solutions department will be key to enhancing corporate and industry reputation. According to redditors, companies that invest in showcasing the human side of their business from the people who bring ideas to life, to those who help spread greater awareness and play a role in information and drug access will be perceived and accepted as more authentic and credible, paving the way in part for greater success in all lines of business endeavor.
5 For more information, contact Michael Mahoney, senior strategist Or John Crean, national managing partner, NATIONAL Public Relations