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It was time to address the big ideas in healthcare communications at the 2014 conference of the Association of Healthcare Communications and Marketing (AHCM). We were delighted to be there in Leeds as one of the exhibition event sponsors, asking delegates for their thoughts – in return for special Touch Design creative cup cakes. There were a lot of big health issues on people’s minds – everything from the challenge of funding in the NHS and use of social media, to the ticking time bomb of dementia and the outbreak of Ebola in Africa.

We encouraged delegates to think about what was holding back the opportunities for good design work in the NHS, to consider how the design and print of their materials could be improved, and we had many stimulating conversations about the ways in which in-house teams could benefit from agency expertise in this area. We also received some highly artistic feedback on healthcare design courtesy of our famous ‘scribble squares’ which always encourage some fantastic in-the-box and out-of-the box thinking.

It was interesting to hear NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens encourage the communicators present at the event to be champions of ‘outside-in thinking’ in the NHS. He outlined his approach for communicating issues in the NHS which were to state where the NHS has come from, show current performance and indicate where it is heading. This is a simple story telling approach but it gives a basic structure for all forms of healthcare communications. His director of communications, Simon Enright, gave a patient perspective, saying the public wanted to hear stories about how services have changed to make it better for patients. He said they did not want to hear about crisis, radical change or cost-saving exercises. Very often in the NHS it is about how we position the story and how we package the content. At Touch Design we are used to helping communicators set out their stories in the most attractive and appealing ways, helping increase engagement and support. There is no point in having interesting content or important stories that need telling if they are hidden away in poorly designed, unsightly materials.

Elsewhere the conference heard from several different speakers on a range of different issues, including safeguarding, the forthcoming General Election, the latest opinion poll research on the NHS and social media. Among the social media trends discussed was the transition from open, multi-person social communications on sites such as Facebook to Twitter to private messaging services like What’s App or Firechat. These trends are hugely important for communicators wishing to engage with certain groups in society and relevant to those of us in the design, branding and marketing worlds who wish to ensure that design products are targeted at the right audiences, with links to the appropriate channels of communication. We use Twitter a lot for Touch Design in helping us have useful communications with our audiences and have increasingly worked with clients on video to help them promote their brand in the most engaging ways. We will be sure to investigate some of the latest sites and apps appealing to more discerning audiences and will let you know of our hints and tips in due course. For now though do feel free to link in with us or connect via @touchscott – and we look forward to hearing from you.

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