Helping people throughout the patient journey is virtually a life mission for Marc Sirockman, a 25-year veteran of the pharma, medical device and biotech industries who has been able to leverage his experience to build a successful, full-service patient education agency, Artcraft Health.
Basing the agency around his core set of “CARE” principles and a spirit of collaboration, Marc assembled various teams to create educational materials that resonate with patients and caregivers at all touch points along the healthcare continuum. Here, he discusses those principles, the large and growing need for patient education, what it takes to provide education and why it’s so important.
PM360: Marc, you have an extensive background in the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotech industries. How did this prepare you to move into patient education?
Marc: My background is as a pharmaceutical rep manager, sales training. Working within these industries allowed me to view things from different perspectives. I think that one of the keys to anybody’s success is to realize that we’re all patients—and I also think most of us become caregivers too.
When you add these two things together, you see how you can help out within the entire healthcare education process. So my background has really helped me to see the full circle.
Part of that circle is educating both patients and caregivers.
Correct. And we look at the whole aspect. We’ll empower pharmaceutical reps by supplying material they can use to educate healthcare providers (HCPs). That material can then be used with patients, empowering them to take appropriate action.
Today—with print, mobile, all the digital aspects—everything is available in what I consider a “blended marketing” approach. You keep the traditional because a lot of people still learn that way—in other words, you still need the paper. But a large majority of people also need to touch, feel—we all learn in different ways.
That’s so true. Schools have considered using different educational methods for different students, along the same line of reasoning.
It makes more sense. At one time, we created more educational programs for HCPs. For instance, they used a hypertension easel on which you could touch your artery and feel what happens over time—how it gets harder, how the inside gets a little thicker. Within seconds of just touching it, most people conclude that it’s probably not appropriate to eat that quarter pounder with cheese.
That’s impressive. So when you took the helm in 2000, Artcraft Health was just a three-person company. Now, with 75 employees, it is a profitable multimillion-dollar business. What contributed to this success?
One of the things we do when we meet with our clients is ask, “What keeps you up at night regarding the market, your brand and what’s going on?” And we answer that question for our clients every day. That keeps us grounded in the fact that there are so many touch points within the healthcare continuum—and so many areas that could be improved.
Your company also takes a collaborative approach to creating educational materials. How important would you say that is to Artcraft Health and the industry overall?
In our brainstorm sessions, our approach is to really go into the patient experience. Can you just imagine if somebody told you today that you have (blank) disease, how would you feel? What would you do? What would be your next steps? Based on that idea, we come up with our material, content and approach—and it’s just an amazing thing to have that opportunity to help people when they’re being told news that is probably not that good.
Collaboration is a very strong piece of what we do, and I think it also should be a strong piece for everybody else because you just never know where somebody’s experience lies when you bring people together. We typically bring in different people with different backgrounds when we brainstorm and that gives a lot of power to the solution.
Can you talk about the “CARE” principles you initiated at Artcraft, how these help keep your teams on track and how you think other companies benefit from creating a core concept for patient education?
What CARE stands for is Clear, Actionable, Relevant and Engaging. When we look at any educational material—after identifying some of the gaps and needs—we make sure our ideas and solutions are clear—and under the sixth grade reading level.
Then, is it actionable? Once you learn this, can you take action?
We look at relevance next, of content and images, because when you read the content, your mind starts putting pieces together and wants visual stimulation to lock it in—whether it’s a chart or an anatomical illustration. Materials can show a full figure, the liver or another organ that is affected, what it may look like and what could potentially be going on—but it’s got to be relevant.
And it also has to be engaging. When we look at pieces, we make sure that they have enough white space, focus your attention and make you want to keep reading the materials. Also, does the image reflect myself?
Rather than, say, a stock image.
Yes! And it always goes through the CARE filter. Any agency really needs that. Typically that’s what makes a very good agency—they have a philosophy that they follow. It makes a big difference.
So what do you envision for Artcraft Health and the industry five years from now? And how do you think patient education will evolve?
We will continue to build for the entire healthcare continuum. We’ve started a clinical trials division, a health education division and we’ve had specialty camps. Now we’re adding health and wellness and medical device.
We’re using all methods—digital and non-digital—to get to patients with the content, design, layout and everything that’s relevant to them. For instance, gamification and infographics are big right now. We’ve created apps, websites and education solutions for kids and adults—and those areas are hot.
So the future, for us, seems very optimistic. I think there’s going to be a phenomenal need for education. The ACA is bringing new groups of patients with varying needs into the healthcare system, so I think for us, and all agencies—we have an incredible opportunity to educate.