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Social media for healthcare is big: Colucci

Nick Colucci, President & CEO, Publicis Healthcare Communications, is very optimistic about the opportunities that healthcare communication offers in India.

, ET Bureau|
Feb 07, 2011, 02.33 AM IST
Nick Colucci, President & CEO, Publicis Healthcare Communications
Nick Colucci, President & CEO, Publicis Healthcare Communications
MUMBAI: If advertising is all about the big idea, then extending that idea across platforms in the right way is a bigger challenge. And when the product to be communicated is about health and wellness, the challenges are of a different kind altogether. However, there is a lot of opportunity that this space offers, and agencies like Publicis Healthcare Communication Group, which entered India with the launch of Saatchi & Saatchi Health last year, is getting ready to tap the goldmine in India. Nick Colucci, President & CEO, Publicis Healthcare Communications, is very optimistic about the opportunities that healthcare communication offers in India. "Advertising in the classic sense may not have a large impact on healthcare in India, but it will be communication as a whole that will get the message across to consumers," he says.

The Indian healthcare industry is a $35-billion industry and is anticipated to touch $75-billion mark by 2012, says Colucci. Increasing consumer awareness and rising lifestyle diseases are some of the main reasons for booming opportunity in this segment. Apart from consumers, the large medical community comprising physicians, specialists and doctors also need to be constantly updated with the information, he says. "Healthcare professionals many times make recommendations; they talk when customers come to them directly. When people purchase drugs over-the-counter, they need recommendation and advice. So, one of the first steps to deliver information to consumers is to tell the professionals so that they can pass it on," says Colucci.

In a lot of ways, the ubiquitous medical representative is still the most relied way to relay information to medical professionals, but that will change in the future. "In emerging markets, medical representatives have had more impact in the past on how information was exchanged. However, in the future there will be less sales representatives and more other channels to get information. This started happening in the US 25 years ago. And their space has been taken by advertising, communication, PR and digital. The same thing is happening here, but it will not take 25 years to happen as technology is progressing at a much faster pace," says Colucci.

The Internet has also revolutionized healthcare in many ways. Besides information gathering, various communities on social media sites exchange information in a big way. Publicis Healthcare aims to create such communities where information can be exchanged between like-minded people, "Social media for healthcare is big. For example, breast cancer patients are the biggest group online. When you interact with them online, there is a lot of support, lot of information exchanged and people feel good. We help patients find these communities and start discussions. We also help people with same conditions get in touch with each other if they want to," says Colucci.

The channels of communication are numerous but market sensibilities have to be borne in mind while using them. "There are two key things to bear in mind. One is the ethical part of communication, i.e to make sure you speak the absolute truth about the product. You have an obligation to tell people the whole truth; you can't make a mistake as it can affect someone's health. The next thing is to be aware of local laws and regulations. For example, in US we can communicate about some drugs to consumers directly, for others you cannot. In Europe, it's not very common to communicate directly to consumers, you communicate solely through healthcare professionals. So, there are different laws and regulations and those have to be kept in mind while communicating," says Colucci.

Besides consumer and medical professionals, Publicis Healthcare Communication also sees opportunities in medical tourism and medical BPO industries.

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