Opinion: The kind of healthcare marketing that people understand
The healthcare industry is in the midst of a revolution as we pivot away from so-called sick care and embrace preventative care, shifting our attention from illness to wellness. Amidst this paradigm change, digital capabilities have given rise to more seamless experiences, and an influx of new data means we can now get more patient-centric than ever before. As those who help shape customer experience—in this case, patient experiences—we have a tremendous opportunity to leverage the new landscape and the current wellness boom to re-imagine how healthcare feels for patients everywhere.
Use simple messaging
Despite healthcare becoming more convenient, the industry itself is still highly (and appropriately) regulated to protect the privacy of those we serve. To the average patient, it’s an intimidating world, full of indecipherable jargon, lengthy forms, and multiple medical specialties. Add to this mix an additional layer of insurance which brings its own challenges and complexities, and you have the perfect recipe for disengagement at best; frustration at worst.
To counter this dynamic, healthcare marketers have a unique opportunity to deliver information and guidance in a way that simplifies the overwhelming and clarifies the confusing. By shaping the ways in which patients interact and engage with the industry at various touch points, brand leaders can improve healthcare literacy, break down barriers in communication, and ultimately help cultivate relationships between patients and doctors that are founded in compassion, honesty and trust. At its core, it is changing the culture, inside and out. And to do this, what isn’t needed are celebrity actors, scripts, and massive production budgets. Instead, simple and honest communications which connect directly with the needs of patients and consumers will what wins the future.
This industry is known for being overly dry, rigid and creatively limited. While there are many legitimate reasons for this, we can leverage the powerful opportunities that the new social and digital landscape provide us with and bring new thinking to how we connect. It has never been easier for brands to become part of consumer conversations and daily lives as it is today. But it must be done with the patient in mind. Social media and other platforms now enable us to reach consumers directly, and by speaking to patients in ways that are compelling, interesting, and even humorous, brands can share stories, spread relevant information, and present themselves in ways that are more approachable, relatable, and trustworthy. There are endless ways to develop ownable experiences that are creative and unique, all while staying true to the singular purpose of providing a better experience.
One word: empathy
Healthcare can be daunting and intimidating for many people, and this in turn can create barriers, preventing people from pursuing the care that they need. After all, medical issues and illnesses are all sensitive areas that come with worry, stress, and fear. As an industry, we have a unique opportunity to help people navigate these challenging emotions and help them in these truly sacred moments. At their core, people want to feel acknowledged, heard, and understood, and being empathetic to their needs is at the core of how best to achieve this. At the end of the day, we’re in the business of helping people, and there is no greater way to help patients than by putting ourselves in their shoes, identifying their pain points, and creating an experience that is as frictionless as possible. It won’t be easy. But it’s a worthy goal of everyone who is in healthcare.
Empower the patient
Today’s consumers are savvier than ever. Chances are that they’re reading up on their symptoms, conducting their own research at home, and checking out reviews, all before they’ve even visited a doctor. In this modern healthcare landscape, patients have a world of information at their fingertips, and healthcare marketers need to connect them at the right touch points if they want to be seen. By centering on the patient and thinking about what will help their various healthcare endeavors, from researching and learning, to scheduling appointments, to ordering labs and finding clinics, marketers can improve the online experience, and empower patients further on their wellness journey.
Looking forward, healthcare is only going to become more personalized and predictive. As we continuously learn from new data and insights, we’ll have the ability to create highly tailored, individualized medicine, treatment plans and patient solutions. We’re already seeing personalized services like at home testing and virtual medical consultations take off. Along with these more custom services, our communication should become increasingly more individualized, too. Marketers who focus on reaching people via an individual, human scale will succeed. And brand experiences that evoke humanity, by leveraging compassion, honesty, and emotional awareness, have a greater chance to resonate.
Finally, be understood
Great brands make the complex understandable. Think of how Apple simplified owning a computer. And then later, made the smart phone an object that was intuitive and elegant. Brands have an important role in illuminating that which is core to a product or service. And in healthcare, never has that clarity been needed more. People have a right to expect healthcare services to be simple and intuitive. And this journey toward creating a more frictionless healthcare experience depends on messages that don’t scare or confuse but connect and empower.
Mark Viden is the vice president of brand marketing at Dignity Health.