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Why The Romans created a medical textbook for Livi UK

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By The Drum | Editorial

December 7, 2023 | 6 min read

Livi UK and The Romans have won the Consumer Services category at The Drum Awards for PR. Here is the award-winning case study.

Check out the award-winning campaign

British patients have never had it so bad. Three years of absolute chaos has left our beloved NHS at breaking point. It’s virtually impossible to get a doctor’s appointment. We’ve been continually told not to go and seek medical advice unless it’s an ABSOLUTELY LIFE OR DEATH SITUATION. The result? The number of early-stage cancer diagnoses has decreased by a third over the past five years. A nation browbeaten and cajoled into keeping calm and carrying on, not causing a fuss and literally dying because of it. How very British.

Digital healthcare app Livi tasked us with finding a way to raise awareness of the availability of their online GP appointments and help remind the UK that it’s ok not to be ok. In fact, with every £39 appointment booked, you’re actually doing civic good and freeing up an NHS appointment for those less able to access one. Our brief: help the UK feel ok about getting back in touch with GPs while also treating GPs and surgeries as a B2B audience for our communications and give them a reason to sign up to Livi.

STRATEGY

You aren’t feeling well. Or you notice a twinge or find a little lump. So you start Googling and within minutes you’ve convinced yourself you’ve only got weeks to live… It’s hardly surprising that visiting a GP can be seriously stressful. And making yourself heard can be seriously tough. “I just always leave feeling like I’ve been told off,” said one of the team, “like I’m just some silly little girl.” Surprisingly it was a sentiment widely shared by every other member of the (all female) team.

“Explains why the average diagnosis time for endometriosis is eight years” said one of our strategists. Could it be that the male-dominated GP profession simply didn’t listen to female patients as much as male? It definitely felt worth exploring. So we commissioned some research. And the results were absolute dynamite: astonishingly 57% of women in the UK believe that they’ve been misdiagnosed at some point in their lives, simply because of their gender. We had it. A genuine and unique insight, perfectly ripe for a high-impact campaign.

But it gets better. We started speaking to medical professionals, keen to get a better understanding of what was driving this seemingly gaping gender health gap. Which led to us pretty quickly landing on insight number two: until recently, the vast majority of medical testing and research had been performed exclusively on men. It amounts to centuries of work, textbooks, and courses. Physiological differences between the sexes can frequently result in drastically different manifestations and symptoms for the exact same medical condition. Which has meant that for years, GPs have all too often missed, misdiagnosed or mistreated women for complaints as wide-ranging as heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, dementia and even cancer.

Armed with two highly media-worthy insights, a social injustice to address and an audience to target, we were ready to focus on developing a creative solution.

THE IDEA

We didn’t shoot a load of cheesy PR content. We didn’t partner with a load of Love Islanders. Instead, we went and wrote an actual medical textbook. We think it’s the first time such a textbook has been created by an agency. Working side-by-side with Livi’s medical advisors, GPs, and Director of Medicine, we created Miss Diagnosed - a lifesaving textbook to help educate medical professionals on the gender health gap and shine a light on how men and women can exhibit different symptoms for the UK’s most frequently misdiagnosed conditions, from heart attack to colon cancer.

Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi, said “Until about 25 years ago, almost all medical research was carried out exclusively on men, and so we have a lot of catching up to do. Digital healthcare has a huge role to play in closing the gender health gap, which is why we have used our knowledge to develop this textbook as a free resource not only for our own GPs, but for thousands more doctors across the UK.”

We then engaged Sunday Times bestselling author, Emma Gannon, to write a consumer-facing foreword which focused on the historic relationship between male authority and the female body. Finally, we made the text available to Livi GPs and NHS GPs, free of charge and hosted a series of webinars for medical professional and students to attend to hear first-hand about the contents of the textbook and our findings.

THE RESULTS

To date, over 2,500 medical professionals have attended one of our free online women’s health sessions and the text has been downloaded over 8,000 times by GPs. With approximately 50,000 GPs in the UK, we estimate that on average we’ve reached every one of them at least twice during the course of the campaign.

When it comes to the consumer side of the campaign, you’d be forgiven if you thought that a campaign from a fairly unknown healthcare app which centred around a niche medical textbook would be Kryptonite to consumer coverage. However, the piece seemed to develop a momentum all of its own (naturally driven by our incredible publicists), landing consumer splash after consumer splash. And not just reportage: again and again they were in-depth thought pieces around gender, healthcare and female empowerment in the likes of Grazia, Stylist, Cosmo, Glamour and a tonne of nationals.

But who cares about coverage when you can claim actual change?! Our campaign was subsequently cited as helping to inform the government’s Women’s Health Strategy which was announced last year. Health secretary, Steve Barclay said: “It is not right that 51% of our population are disadvantaged in accessing the care they need, simply because of their sex.” The new strategy is being designed to help “tackle decades of systemic and entrenched gender health inequality” and will launch fully later in 2023.

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