There are a few projects we have carried out that have made me particularly proud and satisfied with my work.
Among these I could list those on rare diseases, Patient Advocacy and Referral. Some time ago, together with my colleague Oberto Mandia, I went to the annual event that Dr Domenica Taruscio organises at the ISS with rare disease patients, and it was a valuable opportunity for me to recognise the importance and value of medical-scientific communication projects for patients and doctors in relation to rare diseases.
On that occasion I had the pleasure of meeting extraordinary men and women who told extraordinary stories. Patients suffering from rare diseases, and their families, are not infrequently supermen and superwomen, combative and determined but more serene than many. The joint work with Uniamo, the Italian Federation of Rare Diseases, then gave us further reasons to enter the world of rare diseases and to offer, within our possibilities, all possible collaboration. What can pharmaceutical marketing in Italy and proper medical-scientific communication do in relation to rare diseases? A lot, indeed a great deal. Let us start from the fact that the way to interpret pharmaceutical marketing and medical-scientific communication must be a network vision. The relationship that already exists between all the actors of the patient health scene: the national welfare network, the patients' association, the scientific society, the local health facilities, the patients, the caregivers, the pharmacies, the doctors, and of course the pharmaceutical industries. This very dense flow of information, which today passes regularly, but with difficulty between the interlocutors, can be accelerated and enhanced by the digital transformation and the increased attention that clinicians have towards reading and keeping up to date scientifically on the web. Thanks to our projects, carried out on behalf of the pharmaceutical industries, but often designed together with patients' associations and scientific societies, we aim to bring out the diagnostic doubt and follow the differential diagnosis. A doctor in the course of a career may never find himself making a specific diagnosis for certain rare diseases; knowing how to recognise them or bring out a doubt in this regard is invaluable. Time is of the essence and patients, precisely because their symptoms are complex to interpret, bounce between specialists, are sometimes misunderstood and their symptoms underestimated. In the meantime, the disease progresses and the chances of cure are reduced. Succeeding with large digital information campaigns accompanied by remote investigations in order to put exactly the right amount of information in the doctor's mind to raise a diagnostic doubt is our primary commitment in campaigns on rare diseases. In this we are helped by the great professional interest and curiosity that doctors in general show on these issues. The projects are followed, the clickthrough is high, and many participants self-subscribe. About Patient Advocacy projects we would have much to tell. Some of these we have been following for years, evidently renewing in us the confidence of a job well done. Here, the right ability to dose content for each channel, create networking, and manage the medical part of the communication project are precisely the skills that a good scientific communication publishing agency must have in order to make a Patient Advocacy project a success. Supporting the patient's knowledge of his or her condition, pathology, therapeutic opportunities, suggestions on his or her wellbeing and lifestyle, specialised treatment centres, the supports that the healthcare system and the territories offer, and the rights that citizens suffering from pathologies have, are just some of the aspects that we manage to convey in our projects. Since there are so many actors in the field, for each of them it is absolutely necessary to use a different tone of voice, a different communication style. And obviously a specific channel: Facebook, and the other social networks for patients, Dottnet for doctors for example, but not only. It is crucial to be able to identify, and we often do this thanks to patient associations, the real and deep information and support needs that patients have. It is likewise necessary, and we are supported by scientific societies, to define centres of excellence and treatment pathways. It is equally necessary to offer updates on the latest therapies without creating false expectations, and we do this by involving the best clinicians and expert specialists.
Referral projects are those in which, thanks to proper communication, it is possible to inform doctors of the presence on their territory of centres of specialisation or excellence. The first project of this nature was proposed to us by a 'visionary' manager, Luigi Capani, some 15 years ago. It envisaged supporting GPs in recognising a possible bipolar disorder as opposed to a more common depression and referring the patient to a specialist centre. Truly one of those projects that, by joining the dots between all the actors in the field, could concretely save lives from potential suicide. We joined forces: of the informers, who helped in the field to communicate with the doctor; of the doctors, offering them Counceling Cards with which they could make a short questionnaire to the patient or family members; of the specialised centres, which saw new potential patients arrive who had already been correctly filtered by the general practitioners with the first screening. Again, participating (behind mirrored glass) in the focus groups, I felt the distinct feeling that the doctors had, with their simple screening, saved lives. It is wonderful pharmaceutical marketing, I imagine that seen from the outside it may appear pure commerce and boredom, to me it is not. The impression every day that I have offered the doctor and the health network in general the right information is one of great satisfaction. Very often the therapy is a drug: someone has produced it and invested in research beforehand. Imagine if there wasn't. Our role is to facilitate information pathways in this dense fluid of news, selecting the right ones through the right channels to potential interested parties.