How Comic Books Can Help Us Talk to Doctors

Comic Book Doctor

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Want to communicate more effectively and quickly with health care providers? Then read a few comic books.

Probably not the advice you were expecting to hear, right? After all, comics are for kids and nerds, adolescent flights of fancy that we put away when we move on to more serious things. And theres nothing more serious than the life and death stakes of the Pharmaceutical industry right?

Then why is respected Pharma professional like Fard Johnmar using the comic book format to communicate information about social media with his Path of the Blue Eye project? Isnt he afraid that he wont be taken seriously? Isnt he afraid that people will look at the medium hes using and dismiss his ideas out of hand?

Probably not. Because Fard is a terrifically smart guy who has read a plethora of volumes about how to communicate information in the most impactful manner. Books like Scott McClouds seminal UNDERSTANDING COMICS, a volume that is on almost every User Experience Designers reading list. In that classic work, McCloud broke down how comics or if you prefer the marriage of text and visual (like the web) provide the most effective means of communication because they appeal to multiple senses. This idea is called synaesthetics and if you have the time, its a field worthy of exploration by any communications professional.

As McCloud and others have rightly noted, the first words were actually pictures (think Egyptian hieroglyphics or Chinese pictographs). And if, as weve argued before, our brains our hardwired to process data through storytelling, then visual representation provides the quickest, most perceptually friendly way to tell a story.

Whats all this have to do with Pharma, youre asking yourself? Plenty.

Two of the biggest issues facing our industry are HCP education and patient education and compliance. The major obstacle to the first is lack of time (like those precious seven minutes your sales rep gets with a physician). The major obstacle to the second is arguably education and comprehension levels. Data visualization tackles both these issues.

Take a look at the visual below:

Drugs World resized

If you were a beleaguered sales rep, trying to make the most of his limited time with an HCP, would you rather spend five minutes explaining the positioning of your new anti-psychotic treatment or showing them a version of this diagram with your drug highlighted in bold text? I think we all know which options would lead to a more successful outcome.

The second challenge can also be addressed by data visualization and offers an even more positive outlook. Yes, we can break down complex pandemics and explain them easily through infographics. But we can also use the same principals to improve patient care and compliance. Check out the chart below.


This is a representation of a pilot project by New York Citys public hospitals to standardize color-coding of hospital wristbands to designate patient conditions. Ultimately, this could lead to a standard visual language for the healthcare community where we evolve a common iconography for patient conditions and drug risks that is as well known as stop signs or bathroom iconography. Think what that could do for information communication and compliance.

Why are we talking about this on a blog thats dedicated to digital innovations in Pharma? Because the language of the web is visual. And the more quickly we can convey information to users, the better the user experience. And the better the user experience, the more time spent on a site or with an application (and by extension the greater uptake of the information were trying to communicate).

Take a look at the current site for your product. Is it quickly and easily comprehensible by a harried doctor or a patient from an uncommon economic or cultural background? Or is it a text dense site thats written for a college level reading ability? Maybe its time to take a lesson from those comics I mentioned at the start of the article and find a different way to get your point across.

How can you change your digital offerings to more clearly communicate your message?



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