Doctors aren’t the only ones who have to convey a bedside manner

two business people talking

Your marketing must convey empathy to connect with modern-day shoppers

“Choose the doctor who lets you choose (name of your healthcare system here).”

I used to think that was a rather clever marketing line. It was used by a major system in my own hometown. In essence, that one line of copy told consumers (usually the “mom” in the household):

If you want access to the best, most complete care in town, pay attention to which doctor you select for you and your family.

Maybe it still is a good sales point; after all, it does point to expertise. However, things have changed a bit. Healthgrades recently published some of its findings in a presentation entitled, “Beyond CRM: Lessons in Consumer Driven Healthcare” (October 2017).

As you may have guessed, that target audience “mom” is becoming quite the informed consumer. She is shopping on line for medical services and using a combination of objective (head) and subjective (heart) data collection to help her make a decision. And the concept of being loyal to one’s doctor is quickly vanishing.

Healthgrades’ report showed that only nine percent of patients are loyal to their primary care physician; and that 65% of them are shopping on line for a new doctor “frequently,” looking at an average of eight different web sites for information.

In fact, the report shows, almost one-third of consumers are searching online for health related information for their family on a weekly basis, whether that’s for information regarding a doctor, a location, office hours or insurance information.

This begs the questions:

  • How well are you providing access to helpful information?
  • Can you feel what that busy mom needs to make her life easier?
  • As a marketing team, are you caring to make every communication touchpoint as convenient and helpful as possible?

In effect: Are you showing a bedside manner in your marketing?

I know that’s a funny way of putting it. However, in this case, it may be very appropriate. If physicians come across as cold and clinical, they are quickly labeled as having poor bedside manner and are not liked by their patients.

If your marketing does the same – at any touchpoint (in person, online, in the social media space, etc.) – you may gain that same, unwanted reputation.

So, add “show care and empathy” to the job description of the busy healthcare marketer, right? Well, yes.

In their recent publication, “Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist (2nd Edition),” the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD), suggests that the modern day strategist must constantly be creating consumer experiences and tell powerful stories about their brand of healthcare.

To do so, the healthcare marketing professional must be:

  • Aware – are you paying attention to the life-changing stories taking place within your organization?
  • Empathetic – are you feeling with (not just for) your patients in your style of storytelling?
  • Relational – can your current patients tell that they matter to you, that they aren’t just “a case”? (If so, your prospective patients will feel that too.)
  • Thoughtful – are you treating the consumer the way you would want to be treated?

Bottom line: You must be attentive and present for that busy consumer, where and when and how she needs you.

A tall order? Fortunately, the digital age in which we live actually allows us to do all of that. However, as marketers, we must embrace these new ways to communicate with and nurture our prospective patients.

If you don’t consider yourself a digital native (and from my experience, not many healthcare marketers have HAD to live in this space until now), this can be a challenge.

Again, SHSMD’s “Bridging World” analysis suggests that today’s healthcare marketing strategist must be nimble in order to meet the demands of the new healthcare consumer. Marketing professionals themselves must be:

  • Agents of change – are you using all of the latest paid, earned and owned media to manage your brand and provide empathetic touchpoints?
  • Courageous – are you willing to test tools and messaging and learn from your “mistakes”? (we all make them)
  • Show moxie – are you showing the C-suite that you’ve got a plan to take the brand into whole new territory?
  • Risk tolerant – are you willing to take on the challenge of vying for that consumer relationship so that your brand can compete and win?

Wherever you find yourself as a healthcare marketing professional these days, know this: you can’t do it alone. The job is too big.

You need your internal team for certain. And you may need an external branding or marketing communications partner or two to help as well.

That’s okay.

Better to expand the team to help you care for that busy healthcare shopper – wherever she is – and however she wants to consume your information.

But then, as a highly empathic, courageous leader, you already knew that.


Ward Alles is the President and Brand Consultant at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.


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