Why Healthcare Marketing Usually Doesn’t Work
For the last 10 years our message to healthcare providers, including hospitals and physicians, has remained pretty much the same: Before you advertise, make sure you are giving people what they want. Solve a problem. If you do that, the advertising is the easy part…and it WILL work. Yet in all these years the number of hospitals and practices willing to develop programs and services that are perceived by the community to have value remains painfully slim.
What’s the problem? To begin with, healthcare professionals, with some exceptions, still don’t really get it. The industry is papered in information that outlines in painful detail what people want. This information is consistent. In fact, it is monotonous as people all over the country continue to say the same things over and over, year after year, with no change. And what do they say? It’s really quite simple:
- People want face time.
- People want to be treated with dignity and respect.
- People want access.
- People want to feel safe and secure.
That’s it. That’s the Big 4.
This position is reinforced constantly by a plethora of sources including major studies by groups like NRC Picker and Gallup, as well as primary studies conducted by blr | further and others.
Take a look at Press Ganey’s top ten list of patient satisfaction drivers and you’ll see that none…well, maybe one, has anything really to do with clinical excellence. Instead the perennial list of factors in patient satisfaction include experiential things like:
- How well staff worked together to care for you
- Overall cheerfulness of hospital
- Response to concerns made during stay
- Amount of attention paid to your personal and special needs
- Staff sensitivity to inconvenience of hospitalization
- How well nurses kept you informed
- Staff’s efforts to include you in decisions
- Nurse's attitude toward your requests
- Skill of nurses
- Friendliness of nurses
Yet, when the time comes to talk about ourselves, what topics do hospitals choose to lead with? Well, let’s see if any of these ring a bell:
We have board certified physicians. (Shouldn’t you?)
We are committed to excellence. (Let’s hope so.)
We have the latest technology. (And we would explain it to you but you’re not smart enough to understand.)
We treat you like a person. (As opposed to a what?)
And my favorite…
We care. (Just not enough to give you what you really want, which is healthcare that is faster, more responsive, easier, consistent in its efforts to treating you with dignity and respect, and capable of making you feel safe.)
Oh, there are providers who are doing it right, and we’ve had the pleasure to work with many of them.
Take, for example, Bellin Health, which recently opened a Cancer Center. Bellin could have taken the easy way out and talked about technology and physicians and blah, blah, blah.
Instead, they took the time to dig down to the problems cancer patients really want solved.
At the top of that list is fear. Next is information. Their solution? A brand promise that a patient of theirs will begin receiving information almost immediately from the point of diagnosis, and will not be asked to sit in the dark for days or weeks to have their questions answered. They call it 3 Days From Diagnosis To Treatment Options. It’s powerful. And they never even have to say “we care,” because that type of response to a human need screams it from the mountain tops.
Was it easy to operationalize this position? No. Was everyone on board from the beginning? No. But they got it done because they realized the value in providing unparalleled emotional support to cancer patients.
And guess what? As a result of that kind of commitment to solve a problem, the advertising became really, really easy.