As a healthcare marketer, it’s no secret that healthcare consumerism is here, has been here, and is here to stay. But what does that mean for you? It means that to succeed, you must be creating brand experiences that put the needs of your consumers first. It means no more talking about the fact that you’re ranked #1 by U.S. News — the modern patient doesn’t really care. Instead, your strategy needs to focus on creating unique, on-brand ways to connect with the modern patient on a more personal level.
In order to do that, you need to understand who you’re marketing to. As we talk about common hospital marketing challenges, we have to start with one of the most common: identifying and understanding the modern patient.
Meeting the Modern Patient Where They’re At
Previously, understanding consumers was based on their age range and other demographic factors. Hospital marketers generally made decisions based on generation and location, hypothesizing that groups in a specific age range have similar healthcare concerns and questions.
But, this isn’t the case. The old approach would look like a healthcare brand targeting both me — a working mother of two — with the same content as my close friend with no children who travels the world on an ongoing basis. My friend is probably not going to care about “keeping your children healthy during flu season.” But she may care about “7 hangover myths you need to stop believing.” Same generation, different pain points.
One way to simplify understanding the modern patient is to break it down by life event. These life events can often be thought of as questions that a group of potential patients is asking, which triggers them to begin the patient journey.
Here are some examples:
How can I strengthen my bones?
In the first five years after menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of her bone mass, and 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men will experience a fracture in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. So, these healthcare consumers may proactively seek ways to strengthen or maintain bone density. They’re likely looking for simple tips — exercises they can do, dietary changes they can make, etc. But, it’s a perfect opportunity to position your healthcare providers as experts in the space.
By producing helpful content that puts your prospective patients’ concerns at the forefront and provides answers from your doctors, you can establish your hospital as a resource that they may seek out later for care.
What’s causing my anxiety?
People of nearly all ages experience anxiety, but research has found that life transitions can be particularly stressful and contribute to anxiety. These life transitions can include going to college, losing a loved one, taking care of aging parents, and more. So, it’s important to understand the life transitions the modern patient will likely be experiencing and show how your hospital system can address them every step of the way. Maybe you offer free yoga classes every week to help relieve stress or have an upcoming event with a renowned life coach who speaks about changing your thought patterns.
You can think of the offerings your hospital has that might improve the quality of life these potential patients are seeking. You can also answer questions related to anxiety they may be asking — like what foods help reduce anxiety, what types of exercise relieve anxiety, and when to seek treatment for anxiety. When you understand what life events your prospective patients are facing, you can proactively address them.
How long should I wait to tell people I’m pregnant?
This is a big one. In addition to seeking an answer to this question, this potential patient is likely researching for a place to give birth and will eventually need a pediatrician, potential emergency room services, and much more. They’re looking for a lot of information about why they should choose your hospital over others in the area. This is a great opportunity for you to tout your hospital’s birthing center, if you have one, and any additional doctors you have that can support them throughout their child’s life. It’s also a great opportunity to provide a wealth of knowledge to expectant mothers who often have a lot of questions as their pregnancy progresses.
By understanding the common life events the modern patient will experience and the questions that they’ll ask along the way, you can become a trusted resource and keep them at the center of all your marketing activities.
Emotional Connection Drives Brand Selection
How do you identify what consumers want? You ask them. One way to do this is through primary research. Through a national research study we conducted, we categorized two main drivers of hospital brand selection — emotional and functional.
Emotional Motivators for Decisions
Emotional motivators are very important for the modern patient. In fact, according to our research, 68% of consumers want to connect with their healthcare brands on an emotional level, and emotional motivators are more strongly correlated than functional drivers to choice, satisfaction, and advocacy.
Emotional motivators include individualization, security, freedom, and well-being. A lot of this boils down to the level of care your hospital’s providers are, well, providing to their patients. If they’re making patients feel like the most important person there, confident in their long-term health, and keeping the process as stress-free as possible, then that all ties into the emotional motivators.
Functional Motivators for Decisions
Functional decision drivers are also important. These include convenience and ease, transparency, systemness, and more. So, if your hospital makes things extremely easy and streamlined for patients, has providers who are transparent about the care they’re providing, and has multiple doctors, hospitals, and clinics in the same organization, then you’ve got some great functional motivators on your side.
Combining Functional & Emotional Motivators
Most patients rely on both emotional and functional motivators when making decisions about their healthcare providers, but the emotional connection is what sets your healthcare system apart, so it’s important to identify those and build on them with your brand.
I’ll use myself as an example. I live in an area with a high concentration of hospitals and free-standing emergency rooms. I’ve been to a few different ERs in the area, but, given the choice, I have an ER of preference. All these ERs are in my insurance network, have good brand recognition, and have extremely high caliber of doctors. But, only one makes the check-in and waiting process stress-free and easy, makes me feel like they really care about my well-being, and calls to check up on me a day or two after my visit to make sure I’m okay. Those aspects of my experience with them are extremely important to me as a healthcare consumer and build an emotional tie with that ER.
The modern patient should be at the core of any hospital marketing strategy, and by understanding who they are, what their journey looks like, and how they make decisions, you can start building the right strategy to reach them.
At LOCALiQ, we have a team of experts who can help you best market your hospital system backed by proprietary research and insights. To learn more, reach out today.