It is fitting that in this season of sharing, I found myself presenting this week at two healthcare conferences – sharing my thoughts on the state of healthcare marketing and providing what I believe is the prescription for a better way.
Simply put, we need to stop mindlessly spewing content in the direction of consumers and begin to thoughtfully build community with niche audiences who will benefit from our quality health information and resources. Marketing should help people. We need to start creating marketing with value!
It is my perspective that most healthcare marketing is devoid of value. Traditionally, it has been narcissistic and hospital- or provider-centric, rather than patient-centric. Our advertising has not been of service to our constituents. If you’re not sure about this, I can show you hundreds of print ads, billboards and TV commercials that support my position on this. No doubt, you’ve seen these yourself.
Of course, this is a reflection of our industry’s inward focus – something I see slowly changing; although, it is worth noting that patients still cannot book an appointment online at most hospitals in America. To be truly patient-centric, we have to overcome that type of barrier. I’ve heard Dr. Joe Kvedar, Vice President, Connected Health at Partners HealthCare, refer to this inward focus within healthcare as a “seller’s mindset.” Joe is the author of “The Internet of Healthy Things” and a man I greatly respect. Dr. Kvedar clearly sees how difficult it is to change the prevailing mindset in healthcare:
“Most of us on the healthcare delivery side have done well. So when you’re doing well you’re in charge. People think you have some special knowledge, i.e., you’re a doctor. That’s a pretty tough combination for change, because who would want to change that, it sounds like a pretty good gig to me. So we have to overcome some of that; again, these new payment models are helping us with that.” (Interview from HIMSS Connected Health Conference)
So here we are in this season of sharing, and I’m doing my best to share a vision of healthcare marketing as community building. If we see ourselves as community builders, it will change our perspective on everything we do. It means we will infuse our marketing with real value for the target audience. Our marketing will answer the “so what” question for consumers. Our communication will be infused with relevance! To say “We’re #1 in Quality” means nothing to consumers, especially when every hospital in the market is claiming to be #1 in something. Much of this bragging and chest pounding simply confuses the general public. If we want to promote quality, let’s tell consumers why quality it is important and what we mean when we say “quality.” And what does it mean to them and their family members? That’s just one simple example.
This week I was honored to speak at a Home Care and Hospice conference on Tuesday and at a Healthcare Marketing conference on Wednesday. Coincidentally, both conferences were in Charleston, SC, a great place to spend a week! The professionals who attended my sessions asked great questions and seemed to engage the information I shared with them. I am always grateful for opportunities to interact with healthcare professionals and find that I learn as much as they do, if not more. These people are on the front line everyday, and manage marketing, corporate communications, and public relations, with limited resources. They do all of this is a rapidly changing healthcare ecosystem. This is a challenging and exciting time to be a healthcare marketer. The desire to learn and grow is now a compulsory quality of the healthcare marketing professional; individuals who possess those qualities will likely thrive. I’m excited to be here at this moment in time and wouldn’t have it any other way!