Jonathan Wilson
Jonathan Wilson

Throughout the world, healthcare communicators are bound by standards of conduct. While many of these standards are enforced by regulatory bodies or industry groups, for most of us, they’re also governed by our universal ethical compass, stemming from a passion that drives us to seek better health outcomes through our work.

As President of the largest global network of independent health communications agencies, a reoccurring topic of discussion has become the interesting differences between healthcare communications across the different regions and countries where we have a presence, including the legal, regulatory and moral guidelines in each market. While we all agree that we need to make sure we’re communicating ethically and accurately, the guidelines for this — both written and unspoken — are not the same across the world.

O'Dwyer's Jun. '18 Travel & Tourism PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jun. '18 Travel & International PR Magazine

Most know that legal standards for health communications vary widely from one region or country to the next; however, fewer appreciate the tremendous value provided by a local understanding of the culture and market, specifically as it pertains to healthcare, including the unspoken rules pertaining to what is appropriate or expected.

It’s a more exciting time than ever to be involved in healthcare communications. Over the course of the past 20 years, there’s been a massive transformation in the pharmaceutical and biotherapeutic industry. There’s been a shift in how companies are thinking about R&D such that their pipelines, which used to be filled with treatments that were incremental improvements or me too drugs, are now focused on innovation, through new therapeutic categories, treatments for previously untreatable disease areas and other paradigm-shifting classes.

With the uptick in cutting-edge science, the science stories we’re asked to tell are also becoming more nuanced and more complex, requiring us to be innovative alongside our pharmaceutical partners. In particular, I’ve seen that a structure of independent healthcare communications agencies is best able to provide the expertise in the local market through a healthcare lens that is so essential to successfully communicating the value of innovative new products — by possessing that intuitive knowledge of the healthcare customs, laws and trends in any given market, you can ensure communications programs are tailored to fit, ultimately ensuring that patients, doctors and payers are able to make informed decisions that lead to improved global health outcomes.

I recently had the pleasure of hosting representatives from each of our global partner agencies in New York for GLOBALHealthPR’s 2018 Annual General Meeting. Throughout the week’s conversations focused on sharing knowledge, best practices and ideas, one key topic was the pharmaceutical marketing rules in each country, which we’ve compiled into “The Global Guide to Pharma Marketing Codes.” As we discussed the differences between markets that can still surprise us — despite working together for over 17 years — we all agreed that, when there’s true innovation to communicate, it’s much easier to tell a powerful value story that can make a difference in the lives of patients, caregivers and their families.


Jonathan Wilson is President of GLOBALHealthPR and President & CEO of Spectrum.