Sharing Is Caring: A Lesson From Prof David Khayat
By Pascal Beucler, Chief Strategy Officer, MSLGROUP
About seven years ago, I was heading a team of designers in charge of creating the visual identity for the soon-to-be-launched Institut National du Cancer (French National Institute for Cancer), sponsored by the then President of France, Jacques Chirac.
Prior to launching the Institute, Professor David Khayat, one of the most prominent oncologists in the country and chair of the new institution, was in his office at the Paris Pitié-Salpétrière hospital, outlining to us why he created the ‘Charte de Paris’ to better combat cancer.
Professor Khayat explained that all oncology departments in the world were invited to join, as long as they committed to putting people, not “just” pathologies, at the heart of their thinking.
“We need to put people first”, he said, not pills. People suffer from a lack of listening, talking and sharing much more than they do from pain. Sick people desperately need to talk, to raise their voices, to express their views and experiences, and to share with their peers.”
While we were exchanging views on the matter, I saw a sculpture on the Professor’s desk. It represented an individual helping another individual to stand up. I asked him what it was. He said that each hospital signing the Charte de Paris would receive the same sculpture, as a symbol of its commitment to a people-centric approach.
We left Professor Khayat’s office with the sculpture in our hands. I remember thinking that this symbol was going to be inspiring for the creative team. And this is exactly what happened, as the re-interpretation of the sculpture won the pitch.
As we would say today: there was a story to tell, a story that mattered, and the symbol/sculpture within the logo told it very well – even if in a more abstract way.
This happened in 2005. Ages ago, in those ancient times when Facebook, Twitter and most of today’s leading social networks didn’t really exist, or matter. They do exist in 2012, and they have become central to everything we do.
Just a few weeks ago in Geneva, during a two-day “conversation” session organized by MSLGROUP’s EMEA Healthcare Practice, one of those present from the pharma industry asked, “Should we be talking about people instead of patients?” Yes, we definitely should, and the Social Shift is probably the biggest challenge many firms in the Healthcare sector are facing these days.
But as we discussed in Geneva, for many companies it is not an easy path to take. Legal constraints are tougher than ever, and regulations are tighter too. But engaging with people and patients’ communities is not an option. It is an absolute necessity.
Furthermore, in a context where public trust in all institutions is down – while people are ever more empowered thanks to social networks – corporate and brand reputations can be very fragile.
The EU, national governments and their public bodies are financially at risk, given today’s economic crisis. As a result, patients have to pay more and more, but they have less and less money to do so with. From a mid-term perspective, much effort is needed to better educate people: health, nutrition and wellness are very much about prevention after all.
Read our whitepaper on healthcare in EMEA to learn more:
It's not simply about caring more and mentioning the person in strategic meetings. Healthcare that is truly capable of effecting positive change in public health might require a complete redrawing of the way care is delivered in some contexts. Sometimes we forget how to deliver care because we have forgotten what it feels like to be a patient or have the luxury to have care delivered to us in a way not accessible to most of the public. Spend some time in "a day in the life of the patient" and you will learn much more quickly what caring as a provider is all about.