Patient Experience Marketing

Hospital Marketing: Healing is Both Science and Art

Art can speed a patient’s healing process    Palette.

Hospitals spend millions on the latest technology to help heal patients. Great emphasis is placed on best practices to improve outcomes, and rightfully so. Hospitals should provide the best technology possible and strictly allow best practice guidelines to help patients get well as soon as possible.

But recent research shows that the right art on hospital walls can speed up the healing process. Upali Nanda, who has a doctorate in architecture with a specialization in healthcare systems states, “Scientific studies show that art can aid in the recovery of patients, shorten hospital staffs, and help manage pain.” 

Nanda conducted a study at Houston’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital using two types of art. They compared images, which had been proven to calm patients, including green landscapes, water scenes, architecture, and emotionally expressive pictures of people. In the second group, abstract art was used. The results showed that art depicting familiar, calming scenes were effective helping patients, but abstract art was not nearly as effective.

Nanda says, “One theory is that abstract art allows patients to project their own anxieties onto the image, and thus pictures that clearly portray pleasant images are more soothing.”

Based on these findings, hospitals should take great care in using art on the hospital wall and in hospital rooms.  And they should take care determining the type of art displayed. . Rather than modern or abstract art, realistic, familiar and appealing art scenes should be used because they help the healing process.

Healing is a science, but now we know it is also art.


Marketing Your Hospital: One Texas Hospital Holding the Line on Healthcare Costs

Healthcare Costs Texas non-profit Scott & White Hospital is  a success story on changing the focus on  outcomes, patient satisfaction and cost  efficiency.


The Scott & White Healthcare System based in Temple, Texas is holding the line on healthcare costs through collaboration and cooperation.  This amazing program has different incentives than the “fee for service” type of compensation. 

Some of the things they are doing worthy of study are:

1.    Scott & White Doctors are employed by the hospital and do not feel pressure to use multi-million dollar machines because they don’t own any.

2.     Doctors are on salary but are paid bonuses linked to patients being “happy and healthy” and not on how many office visits and procedures the patients generate.

3.    Hospital interiors are  “more Hampton Inn than Hilton.”

4.     Frontline doctors at their 31 primary care outpatient clinics work closely with specialists at the main campus —sharing test results and scans in computer assisted huddles.  This sometimes saves an unnecessary appointment with the specialist.

5.     State of the art electronic records are shared throughout the system-something a physician in private practice couldn’t run.

6.    The administrator must be a doctor and the 800+ doctor system uses a strong peer review system to stop overuse and improve fiscal discipline.

7.    Self-improvement is encouraged with doctors getting 15 paid days off for educational activity and service to the group.

8.    Patient surveys and outcomes records are used to evaluate performance.

While this system has some shortcomings, it is certainly doing a lot of things very well and patient outcomes paired with the cost savings in healthcare should be a model for all to study.



Healthcare Marketing: It’s All About Trust

Marketing is about building relationships… not selling a productbird on the hand

As marketers, we spend a tremendous amount of time fashioning and developing a brand. We work on clever ads, analyze the placement of media, diligently work every PR angle, plan super events, build a product website, and always look for new innovative ways to present our message to the consumer. And by doing all of this we think we can affect the brand, and we can. But all of this marketing activity is secondary to building positive relationships with the consumer. And positive relationships are based on trust. Do you have a brand that is trusted?

There is much talk currently about social media and how it is indicative of “pull marketing”. Social media requires authenticity and transparency and credibility. But this should be true about all of our marketing efforts, traditional and nontraditional. It’s true about developing and maintaining a strong brand.

Consumers are skeptical these days. They don’t want to be “sold”. They want a relationship with a brand. They want to trust the brand. Believe in it.

So do we earn their trust? Trust is earned by being sincere and truthful, by doing what is right, by truly earning the consumer, and by being consistent. When we deliver on those items, marketing is much easier. Marketing won’t be about shouting and screaming with shameless promotions.

Branding is about trust, being honest, delivering what we say and always keeping the well being of the customers as the top priority. When we do that we connect, we build relationships.

Marketing is essentially about building relationships. And relationships are built on trust. When we are successful building relationships, the rewards will be great.



Hospital Marketing: Don’t Let a Patient Complaint Become a Big “Hit”

It’s been said to never get in a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Now it must  be said “never get in a fight with a consumer who knows about social media.”

Social media wordcloud glowing

United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s guitar. He was a member of the Canadian band, Son’s of Maxwell, and was traveling from Canada to Nebraska for a week of touring. At a change-over in Chicago, baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 guitar. Carroll repeatedly reported the problem and sought $1,200 payment for repairs. United stonewalled and refused to accept any responsibility. Why not? Carroll was just a two-bit musician and United was a very large corporation. Why should United care? He couldn’t hurt them. So why pay the $1,200?

Getting no satisfaction, Carroll wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars” and placed it on Now the video has been played over 3.5 million times on the website.

It used to be argued that you never get in a fight with a newspaper because they buy ink by the barrel and therefore there’s no way you can win. Now in this consumer-based economy, never get in a fight with anyone who knows how to use social media.

What does this have to do with hospitals? It’s clear. No patient complaint can just be shrugged off and ignored. The consumer has power and if they feel they are being ignored, can and will, use “free” media to seek revenge. Customer satisfaction now must be given a much higher proximity (Shouldn’t it have always been a top priority?). Each dissatisfied customer has the ability to wreak havoc and cause great PR harm.

No longer can big corporations think the consumer is a little guy without the necessary resources to fight a big corporation. With access to social media, the little guy is now only limited by his creativity.

Yeah, some customers (patients) are impossible to please but they can never be taken lightly. Every complaint, every concern should be addressed. The disgruntled patient has many options to speak to the world about his/her dissatisfactions.

The London Times  reported that United Airlines stock has dropped since Carroll’s song began airing costing stockholders $180 million. Maybe your hospital doesn’t have public stock traded in the market, but ignoring and denying customer complaints can cost a hospital a handsome sum.

Don’t get caught singing that tune. 



Hospital Marketing: Want Satisfied Patients? Make Sure Your Employees Are Happy

smiling faceResearch indicates that highly satisfied employees deliver higher levels of patient satisfaction.

How do you create a successful marketing strategy to improve patient satisfaction?

1.   The latest technology.

2.   Remind employees to provide a high level of service.

3.   Having patient reps check with patients to address any needs or concerns. 

4.   Solicit feedback from patients and provide a process for dealing with issues of  concern.

5.  Implement quality initiatives throughout the hospital. 

All of these are extremely important.

But a recent study indicates that maybe the largest factor in patient satisfaction is employees who are highly satisfied with their job and work environment.  A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University at a New York Hospital and commissioned by Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement indicated that patients have a higher level of satisfaction when their care is delivered by highly satisfied employees.  Forum President, Michelle Smith, stated, “In the healthcare industry, as in other service-related businesses, having engaged, empowered, loyal employees can lead to increased retention, lower costs, enhanced reputations and a profitable business picture.” 

Regardless, of all the quality initiatives imposed on employees, unless they are happy and satisfied with their job, patient experiences will not be good.  Happy employees deliver superior service.  In fact, the research indicated that patients are more likely to recommend a hospital to others if happy, satisfied employees treat them.

 It’s obvious isn’t it? A satisfied employee delivers better care. We really don’t need research to tell us that do we?   Even though it’s intellectually obvious, hospitals spend so much time and effort imposing guidelines and mandates and quality initiatives without investing in employee job satisfaction.  Certainly the emphasis should be on the patient.  But there must also be a strong emphasis on employee satisfaction. 

  • Creating the right environment
  • Encouraging and empowering employees
  • Honoring and recognizing outstanding employee service
  • Demonstrating genuine concern and interest in employees

These things pay huge dividends!

Competitive salaries are important but ALL the components that create employee satisfaction must be emphasized.

Want to provide a high level of patient care and better patient experience?  Do everything possible to make employees happy.  It will be an investment that will pay rich dividends for the patient and the hospital.   


Hospital Marketing: Get Out Of Town!

Hospital Sign w ArrowEvery CEO, every marketer should sample his or her own product. But employees prevent them from seeing the truth.

A hospital CEO or marketer gets sick and has to be admitted to the hospital. GREAT! Now they can sample their product. But can they?

Probably every employee knows all the occupants of the executive suites, so when they appear at the hospital as a patient, they get the best room, the most attention and an extra dose of care.  So unfortunately their experience is not at all the experience that is common for other patients. 

I have a friend who was a hospital administrator who became ill out of town and had to go to the hospital. In that hospital, no one knew him so he didn’t receive the ‘special’ care that’s given to an insider or known VIP.

He said it really opened his eyes. He saw everything entirely differently. He noticed dust bunnies, dirty vents, cold food, hard beds, cracked paint, inattentive staff, slow response and conflicting information from various care providers.

His first thought was pride that his hospital was not run this way. And then he questioned if he could really say that. His experience at his own hospital was that of a special person. And he wondered if indeed this non-VIP treatment was exactly what if was like for those who visited his hospital. Needless to say, he came back with a renewed zeal to emphasize customer service.

Every hospital executive and manager should try in everyway possible to see things through the eyes of the patient. It’s easy to get so caught up in establishing procedures and rules to help lower costs and increase productivity, satisfy physicians, adhere to mandated guidelines and a zillion other things. And forget to see how the patient experiences the brand.

Every effort should be made to see it as the patient sees it. And because that has it’s limitations, patient satisfaction surveys, community perception surveys and even casual talk by former patients should be taken seriously.

Otherwise, maybe the only way we will see the truth is to get out of town.



Hospital Marketing: The Dreaded Colonoscopy

first prostate examMaking it a simple, streamlined scheduling process for the patient can help your hospitals numbers as well as eliminating a truly preventable kind of cancer.

Increasing your hospitals diagnostics is such a challenge as more and more doctor’s groups and other businesses venture into diagnostic labs and services.  But one elective procedure that should be the easiest to sell, from the standpoint of prevention, is also the one that most patients do not want to even think about much less actually schedule-the colonoscopy.

Patients have all heard from Katie Couric and others the cry for every person to have the procedure at age 50 and thereafter as needed.   But what they may not have taken away from all this public awareness is that colon cancer is the one truly preventable cancer unless there are other risk factors such as Crohns’ disease or  a family history.

When there is so much for the patient to gain, and yes, the hospital to gain in procedures, why is this such a difficult procedure to market?

 Is it a taboo subject to put out there in traditional media?  Or just something that we think people won’t respond to with marketing efforts?

After all, it does take several steps or actions for the patient to actually accomplish

1.     First they have to find a gastroenterologist and make an appointment to see them.

2.     After that wait, they get a less than appetizing prep kit and prescription.

3.     They wait yet again for the scheduling of the procedure.

With all this waiting, it gives a patient plenty of time to find excuses and back out of the procedure…no pun intended.

One alternative to this delayed process I saw work very successfully was in a south Texas hospital.

Cultural taboos made it  even harder to convince the largely Hispanic population of the need for the procedures so they developed a colon center along with a team of gastroenterologists who worked on staff at the hospital. 

The center allowed patients to call for one appointment scheduling and they came by that center for a quick review and to pick up their prescription. With this  timely access, patients were often scheduled for the procedure itself within days.  Because there was a large uninsured population, pricing was included  as many diagnostics in that market were actually shopped by price.

Making it simple with one number to call and quick scheduling made all the difference in breaking through barriers to prospective patients.

An emotional plea from the city’s most known gastroenterologist, who had made his life’s work educating the public about preventing colon cancer, was featured in TV advertising along with newspaper ads and radio spots. 

The results: a 40% increase in colonoscopies for that hospital in the following 6 months and likely a good increase at the competition. 

The awareness raised in the local market served the hospital well but just as importantly, educated the residents of the preventative health measure they could all take and help to eliminate a cancer that can truly be prevented by taking early action


Healthcare Branding: Can You Control Yours?

Woman Smiling,Lying In Hospital BedYour hospital’s brand is being created everyday. It’s being determined most of all by patient experiences.

 Tom Peters, the management guru, recently spoke to the American Hospital Association’s Annual Leadership Forum and basically called the industry out. He recently had an experience in the Emergency Department of a well-known hospital, after his wife injured her ankle. The experience was not a good one. Unfortunately, it was probably much like the experiences of other patients at hospitals everyday across the country.

It’s interesting Peters’ comments were not focused on whether his wife’s ankle was given the proper diagnosis and treatment. Rather his comments were focused on their experience and how the service was so poor. Hospitals often think the thing that matters most is the treatment and medical outcome. It’s easy to assume that, since it’s involves one’s health.

But more and more it’s about the patient experience.

A hospital can be exactly “on” with the correct diagnosis and treatment and deliver great outcome. But if the experience of how the patient is treated and the environment in which the treatment is received is not positive – the hospital’s brand suffers. It’s no longer only about the medical aspects, it’s about the total experience.

Yes, hospitals have paid lip service to quality service, but not that many hospitals deliver it. And if the hospital doesn’t deliver on service, no amount of advertising or marketing can build a great brand.

For a long time, hospitals have made all kinds of excuses about what hinders or prohibits great service, but Peters pointed out some examples of hospitals, although only a few, who’s service outcomes are known to be outstanding. And of course his point is that all hospitals have the same requirements, restrictions and constraints, so if one hospital can deliver great service than all of them can.  Peter also emphasized that quality service and positive patient experience are mostly within the discretion of the hospital. And that will be true regardless of what “Obamacare” turns out to be.

It is indeed a consumer-driven economy and hospital brands are being enhanced or terribly downgraded everyday based not necessarily on medical outcomes but more on the quality of service provided.

The day his wife hurt her ankle, Peters was in “search of excellence.”  But he didn’t find it. Unfortunately, that’s a much too common occurrence in many hospitals


Healthcare Marketing: It’s About the Patient

hospitalbedG100706_228x228The current trend in hospital marketing is to emphasize “patient experience.” In a consumer driven market it has to be.

Gone are the days when the healthcare industry provided clinical competency and didn’t put much emphasis on the patient experience. We are indeed living in the age of consumer driven, consumer-controlled marketing. The consumer is in charge. The consumer has choices and he or she is choosing the services that provide a higher level of service and attention to their needs. And now this is becoming more and more true in healthcare.

The buzzword within healthcare marketing is now “positive patient experience.” And it should be.

More and more consumers are taking control of the healthcare decisions rather than just following doctor’s order. A recent Massachusetts survey indicated that only 24% trust their doctor completely to make the right choices on where to go for healthcare services. Consumers are taking control and making decisions based on convenience and service. And that’s a changing paradigm for many hospitals.

But it’s happening. In the latest HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey of senior healthcare executives, 88% of the respondents ranked patient experience among their top five priorities. This is up from 25% of CEOs who put consumer satisfaction among their top three priorities in last year’s survey. The shift to an emphasis on the patient is happening. And rightfully so. It’s what consumers are demanding and it’s what’s right. What has long been the emphasis in most service industries is now reaching into healthcare.

Not only is this the proper emphasis in our consumer-is-in-control economy, it also provides great opportunities for healthcare marketing. It provides real tangibles to market. It makes healthcare services something more than a commodity. It provides some real uniqueness to take to the marketplace.

It’s all about the consumer! For healthcare marketing, that creates substantial challenges, but also great opportunities.


Hospital Marketing: Patient Testimonials Connect

patient_testimonialsPatient testimonials that are genuine and authentic can effectively build a hospital’s image and brand.

The research is clear. Consumers trust their friends and neighbors when it comes to making healthcare choices. Consumers are generally skeptical. They don’t believe everything they’re told. Especially in advertising. But how can they argue with the testimony of someone they know, or live down the street, or share a common experience? 

Over the past year, I’ve observed several focus group sessions as randomly selected consumers discussed their feelings and opinions about healthcare. It was clear over and over that consumers are skeptics about hospital advertising, but it was also clear that they trusted the advice of friends and family members. So it seems obvious that patient testimonials can be very effective in hospital marketing.

However, there are a few issues.

  1. The testimonials must be authentic and real. A voiceover telling a story might be effective, but how can you argue with the patient’s own voice and own words telling their story? It’s not just slick words that tell a story, but real credible storytelling. No one can argue with another’s own personal story. It resonates with the audience.
  2. Using patient testimonials are hard work and time consuming. The patient with the compelling story must be identified. They must agree to be featured in the hospital’s advertising. Interviews have to be conducted. The patient must approve scripts and ads. A convenient time for the patient has to be set to film and record their story.
  3. And the way to tell the story may not be in perfect sound bite s or in a: 30-second time frame. Editing can be more difficult and time consuming. All of this is not easy and is very time consuming. But it can render outstanding results. It puts a face on the place.

Testimonial advertising is not the hottest creative approach. It is somewhat limiting creatively and visually and is not the hit of advertising award shows. Some creatives would even say patient testimonials are bland and passé. But if they speak to the consumer authentically, they are then believable and credible. Patient testimonials can create a bond with other consumers that can effectively build a hospital’s brand.

Testimonials also align with the current trend toward social media and consumer-controlled marketing. The patient testimonial starts a conversation that can be very beneficial to the hospital.