Skip to main content

Starting With “Why”: How We Approach Patient-Centric Healthcare Marketing

Posted in Articles | 4 min read

We all know that a cornerstone, if not the cornerstone, of design thinking is extreme stakeholder empathy. And when it comes to patient engagement, education, and support, empathy is a crucial component. Empathy helps us learn from patients. Empathy helps us design better methods and programs for engaging with and educating patients. And empathy helps us do a better job marketing our brands.

Why is that? Why is it we put so much emphasis into empathy for healthcare marketing? Why do we care so much about the patient perspective?

Let’s touch on the reasons why we (LIFT) gather insights about the patient, why we design patient programs around our brands, and why we do what we do.

Why We Care About Understanding the Patient Experience

The esteemed anthropologist Margaret Mead is noted as having said: “What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.”

At LIFT, we believe that good healthcare marketing design starts with listening to human voices—from patients and caregivers, to prescribers and payers. Many brands claim to “know” their stakeholders, but few truly understand them. The resulting gap between knowing and understanding subsequently prevents them from achieving true patient centricity.

So, what is it we do?

We help hospitals, health networks, and other healthcare brands pursue and achieve a more complete understanding of their stakeholder(s)—most often patients.

And why do we do what we do?

To connect with and serve the understood needs of the stakeholder—again, most often the patient.

Why Ethnography and Qualitative Research Lead to Clarity

Some say, “To understand your patients, think like your patients.” We say, “Not so fast.”

Although clever and in-line with the sentiment behind the buzz, a patient-centric approach requires a deeper understanding of your patient’s emotions in the context of their experience.

True patient-centricity sounds a little more like this: “To understand your patients, think like an anthropologist.”

To do so at LIFT, we engage in ethnography—a set of qualitative research methods born out of anthropology that illuminates the lived experience of research subjects at ground-level.

In other words, ethnography is the study of what makes people tick. How do they behave and define their world? What’s important to them, and why do they say what they say and do what they do? In the context of patient experience, the answers reveal themselves through a better understanding of the values, beliefs, and emotions that influence their actions.

At LIFT, our insights work is firmly rooted in ethnography and qualitative research. It’s where we begin and what informs our insights, which, in-turn become your strategies, solutions, and results.

Why We Believe Patient-Centricity is the Cornerstone to Effective Healthcare Marketing

As patient-centricity has risen from “novel approach” to “table stakes” in the world of healthcare marketing, the phrase has inevitably achieved buzzword status. It’s punchy, effective, and suggesting its inclusion in your strategy meeting will undoubtedly yield a few nods of approval. But what does it mean to be patient-centric?

Its meaning can be interpreted in a variety of ways, depending on who you ask. The pathway to patient centricity, no matter how you define it, begins with empathy and a deeper understanding of your patients as human beings. And although any attempt to better understand your patient is a step in the right direction, an approach that doesn’t uncover a deeper, more nuanced, and contextualized understanding of the patient’s lived experience is a lost opportunity.

And why is it important that we embrace patient-centricity to connect with and understand patient needs? Because we seek to cultivate positive experiences that result in positive clinical outcomes for our patients (and positive financial outcomes for your brands in market).

Why Healthcare Marketers Should Adopt “Share of Experience” as a KPI

Share of Experience® is expressed by how effectively a healthcare marketing, communication, or patient support program impacts:

  • The experience a patient has of his or her own health.
  • The experiences of those who care for the patients and the community served.
  • The role you play in creating and managing those experiences.

And this is important, because the voice of our brands—the words, pictures, values, beliefs, the things we say and do as a brand—are inextricably linked to the experience the patient has with our brands. The better, more relevant and satisfying the experience on either side of the transaction, the better the outcome clinically and financially.

Share of Experience is measured by the level of engagement (activation), education (literacy/competency), and empowerment (accountability and/or adherence) among the stakeholder population. These measures of patient engagement can be combined with traditional quantitative metrics to add a voice to patient and market data.

Why We Believe Championing and Understanding the Patient Experience Should Be a Top Strategic Priority of Healthcare Marketers Today

Relevance to the patient. Understanding of the patient. And accountability to stakeholders. Simply stated, this helps us create value in terms of true human connection and brand affinity.

If a solution can intersect with all stakeholders in a language that is relatable and relevant to everyone, that’s going to create some real value. And the only reason we should be doing this is to create value for the patient and thereby the brand.

It all adds up to creating a better experience—for the patient (clinically) and for the brand (financially).