When Choosing a Hospital, Patients Follow Their Heart

What factors are influencing patients to choose one hospital over another?  Is it word of mouth, ratings and reviews, or maybe just a gut feeling?  Learning how patients make their healthcare decisions can help hospitals effectively advertise themselves by shaping their message and knowing when and where to reach audiences. 

These days most patients go online to Google their symptoms and research about potential illnesses before making an appointment. Let’s face it, we’ve all gone on WebMD and convinced ourselves we had something at some point.  In fact, according to Google & Compete*, approximately 77% of patients conducted some sort of Internet search before making an appointment with a doctor or physician. 

After they do this initial “research”, patients consider two major convenience factors:  Location and insurance. Traveling to a top rated hospital on the other side of town, in the next city or even outside of the country is financially unrealistic and hugely inconvenient.  And it’s no secret that Hospital visits can be expensive, so it stands to reason that a patient’s desire for a facility that accepts their insurance plan would rank high on their list of priorities, in order to keep out-of-pocket costs to a minimum.

But interestingly, then come emotions. According to a study conducted at Stanford University, patients are more likely to choose a doctor that they feel emotionally connected with on some level.  During this study, patients ended up choosing doctors whose practices represented a “emotional fit” to their needs.  Those who wanted to feel more relaxed choose doctors whose care promoted a relaxed and calm lifestyle.  Patients who wanted an end result of being more energized and active chose doctors that focused on increasing patients’ well being through activity.

So what’s the takeaway from this for marketers? Well, it’s clear that patients are looking for the best care that suits their emotional needs. And that’s good news, because communicating emotion is a discipline in which marketers and advertisers excel (if they’re doing it right). It’s their job to convey the emotions of a healthcare facility in a way that the facility itself may not be able to do on their own.

It’s our job to understand the culture of a facility and the culture of the patients that they are trying to connect with. But it’s not enough to understand who your patients are… you must also understand how your patients feel. 

*Google & Compete, Hospitals Study, 2012

 

    According to a Google & Compete study, emotion is the most important factor for patients when it comes to choosing a healthcare facility. 

 

According to a Google & Compete study, emotion is the most important factor for patients when it comes to choosing a healthcare facility. 

Why Digital Marketing Has Become the Health-Care Industry's Rx for Revenue

We recently came across an article on Ad Age that takes a look at why more and more healthcare organizations are going digital to fulfill their marketing needs.

From the article:

Admissions are falling as higher insurance rates prompt patients to seek more affordable care outside of hospitals and crimp the demand for elective procedures...Many are turning to search, mobile and social for cost-effective marketing that reaches the growing number of consumers who look online for health-care information. Paired with advice from referring physicians, the internet is helping patients make more informed hospital choices.

Connecting to the Community

Using Social Media to Reinforce the Consumers’ Decision in the Hospital and Health Care System.

Reaching out to the public and creating an open line of communication allows a hospital to tailor services specific to patient wants and needs. By giving the hospital a voice, community members will learn that their opinions and concerns not only matter, but are being heard. Each interaction strengthens the image of the hospital and builds trust among patients.  Connecting frequently through social media deepens the relationship and reinforces the patients’ decision. Almost all US hospitals now have multiple social media accounts.  But are they hitting the target?

People love to talk about their experiences, good or bad. Rely on feedback from patient surveys, social media comments, and word of mouth to know what topics need to be addressed to improve public image. Don’t avoid harsh complaints. Listen to your patients and implement customer services initiatives. Being mindful of patient privacy, respond and comment directly to the individual who complained and let them know you understand their frustration and discuss what steps the hospital and staff are doing to correct the issue.  

In addition to responding to comments, use social media to promote patient education and public health programs. Free clinics, job training, back-to-school immunizations and so many other programs are the heart of communities. By addressing the basic needs of everyday life, the hospital promotes long term health and wellness. Have a record turnout at a women’s health event? Posting pictures will not only enhance visibility of the program but 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. (Source: Zabisco)

Patients often are searching for answers. They are also looking for something else rarely talked about: hope. They want to see positive outcomes, feel inspired and have a reason to feel good about choosing a hospital.

By opening the line of communication, the hospital becomes a friend that is by your side during life’s celebrations and can be depended on during emergencies. Healthcare marketing can be complicated but creating a well-executed social media presence can produce meaningful and measurable results and leave healthcare consumers deeply engaged with your brand while also feeling validated and heard.