Friday, October 8, 2010

Putting the Patient Experience in Healthcare Advertising

Living in a large metropolitan area with some pretty well recognized system heavyweights and Academic Medical Centers, I am fortunate enough to see a good deal of hospital advertising. Anyhow, happy smiling patients, doctors looking intently into a microscope, nice building exterior shots and high-tech equipment all promoting a central system brand. High production values and in most cases using hired talent instead of employees. One even made the claim of being one of the top 10 hospital systems on the country.

I have said it before and I am saying it again, where is the differentiation? And what does the statement: "We are one of the top-10 hospital systems in the country" mean?

So I thought I would go to their web site expecting to see some kind of explanation on the award, but I was sadly mistaken. All the site had in the About Us was top-10 again. Okay, is that in customer satisfaction, financial performance, system integration? What exactly does that mean?

Food for thought

Healthcare is changing and marketing needs to change along with it. Especially on how we approach the market, differentiate our systems, communicate value and benefit and build brand. If we continue to portray ourselves as "gee whiz" look at us with all these high-tech tools and research, all the while telling the consumer its really all about us without offering up a strong brand promise and call-to-action, than what is the point of spending all that money?

Why tell someone that you are one of the nation's top-10 health systems and not define what that means? Unless of course it has more to do with operations, IT integration and finance and less to do with quality of medical care. Then if that is the case, you are being disingenuous in your advertising and leading consumers to a conclusion that is not true as it relates to the visuals, copy and content of your advertisement.

The patient experience will differentiate you

If you focused the ad concept, copy and visuals on the patient experience and how it all fits together for the patients benefit, then you are differentiating. It is no longer about you, but about the patient. You can still tell your story, but in a much more powerful and compelling way. You can create a recognizable brand promise and value equation which the consumer will understand.

An example

If you want a really good example of patient experience advertising look at the Cancer Centers of America ads. Part testimonial, part patient experience, they get it. So why is that so difficult in a crowded health care market where everyone looks the same, has the same insurance plan contracts, shares medical staff and offers essentially the same medical services and high-tech equipment?

Focus on the patient.

Focus on their needs.

Focus on the patient experience to drive volume and revenue.

Focus on the patient experience to differentiate yourself.

This has got to change

Most healthcare organizations are frozen in time, even more so now with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. They are either doing nothing or are caught in a vicious planning cycle with no end in sight. Neither acting or reacting, most healthcare organizations are missing out on valuable market opportunities. They are doing what they have always done, approaching the market like consumers are idiots and are only impressed with high-tech machines, smiling happy patients, exterior building visuals and doctors looking into microscopes. There will be winners and losers. And that is already being determined while you wait and try to figure out what it all means.

Start meeting consumer needs and build your brand around expectations and framing those expectations to your advantage.

Anyhow, when was the last time you saw a smiling happy patient in a hospital outside of having a baby?

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Michael Krivich is Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and can be reached at or 815-293-1471 for consulting services in strategic marketing, integration of sales and marketing, media relations and interim marketing executive leadership assignments. Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni, both highly respected and successful international sales training organizations , I can lead your organization though the challenge of integrating sales and marketing.

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