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