“What does it take to make women’s health services and marketing patient-centered?”
This was a question we sought to answer when tasked with understanding and re-imagining women’s health service line marketing from the patients’ perspective. Through the experience, one in which we leveraged research and design, we learned five lessons that helped us implement a strong healthcare marketing strategy and help a community health system create a truly patient-centered healthcare experience.
Lesson #1: Patients and hospitals don’t approach health in the same way.
In our effort to re-imagine what it looks like to market to and engage the community with women’s health services, we had to balance the vision of the hospital with the needs of the patients.
For providers and staff, it’s easy to define women’s health—it’s obstetrics, gynecology, mammography, bone density testing, oncology, etc., each of which are distinct and have their own procedures and requirements. For the patient, women’s health is much more complex—it’s a journey that spans childbearing through well-being and intersects with the everyday.
The end result is a hospital thinks of health as distinct and individual services; a patient thinks of health as a continuous experience. This difference in mindset created a disconnect in the framing of healthcare marketing strategy and messages. Only by recognizing this fact and correcting for it we were able to begin crafting patient-centered messages that were authentic and resonated with the various consumer cohorts in the community.
Lesson #2: The idea of “patient-centricity” can be a misnomer.
In order to create patient-centered healthcare marketing, we went to the source: the patients. Part of the process was immersing ourselves in the community and getting a first-hand look at who our patients are. However, as we started to immerse ourselves in the community, we learned that the word “patient” was a misnomer.
Patients are diverse, and each of them have their needs. In our research, we met people from different walks of life, age, background: a young student recovering from drug addiction; a mother of three living and working at the farm; an elderly volunteer at a local church who enjoys her retirement.
Each of them, and many others, have their own needs and values. In order to create a truly patient-centered message, it was important our solution be flexible and comprehensive to cover the needs of the community.
Lesson #3: Don’t disregard the internal stakeholders’ perspectives.
Although it was tempting to focus entirely on the perspectives of patients, we learned to value conversations with providers as we set about building a patient-centered service line marketing strategy that was effective and appealing to both the community and the health system.
While we spent a great deal of time immersing ourselves in the community, we also encouraged internal stakeholders—nurses, doctors, administrators, and others—to share their perspectives and suggestions. From these conversations, we compiled a collection of stories, beliefs, and values that we then shared back with the hospital team.
The insights collected from the internal stakeholders became helpful when we started crafting our healthcare marketing roadmap for the service line and subsequent marketing communications materials. By taking inspiration from the staff’s stories and values, we had a much easier time crafting an authentic voice for the marketing message, which in turn contributed to improving service line experience.
Lesson #4: Build an environment that can leverage effective patient communication.
Even after we gathered insights from both the health system’s patients and staff, we still had to deal with many unknowns. How do we incorporate patient needs, provider values, health outcomes, and healthcare marketing objectives into a single package? Through what channels do we distribute the message? And just what is this going to look like anyways?
Answering those questions proved challenging. Because we were focused on taking a patient-centered marketing approach, we were given some freedom with the final product. However, with this freedom also came ambiguity. We learned very quickly that in order to create something great, we must embrace the ambiguity of the experience.
We tackled that ambiguity by building an environment that allowed us to communicate more effectively. In “design studio,” we displayed all of our ethnographic insights and ideas on the walls. There, people were free to share their ideas without judgment and let their creativity run wild. Because we had a dedicated working space, we shared information freely and quickly; everyone remained on the same page.
Lesson #5: Never forget that respecting people gets you there.
At the end of the day, we found that throughout the experience, the one guiding force was the empathic and patient-centered mindset we took in all aspects of our work—without compromise. We remained focused on the people involved, whether they were community members or hospital staff.
By immersing ourselves in the communities, we learned about patients as people. By involving the providers, we understood the values of the hospital. By building a dedicated “design studio,” we shared our findings and collaborated creatively. Through it all, we helped bridge the gap between patients and the hospital.