Posts Tagged ‘hospitals’

Why Hospitals and Healthcare Providers Should Focus on Patient Engagement and Activation

May 15, 2014

Patients who are actively engaged in their healthcare are more compliant in following physician instructions regarding their medications, diet, exercise levels, etc. This behavior typically leads to better outcomes and lower costs.

 Why is this important? Over 50% of patients fail to take their medication as directed because they have a hard time understanding instructions. Some patients lack the confidence to make decisions concerning their options or emotions cloud their ability to process information. Regardless of the reason, everyone benefits if patients are actively engaged and there is a focus from healthcare providers on educating patients and involving them more fully in making decisions about their care.

 In a recent TedMed online event regarding patient engagement (activation), the discussion revolved around how to inspire patients to participate in their healthcare. In 2004, Judith Hibbard and researchers from the University of Oregon developed a scale to measure how likely patients are to take a role in their own healthcare. It involves four stages:

  • believing that their role as a patient is important
  • having the confidence and knowledge necessary to take action
  • taking action to maintain and improve one’s health
  • maintaining these behaviors even under stress

 Some options found to increase active patient engagement include:

  • using a team-based approach so that patient self-management is consistent and reinforced by all team members
  • providing tailored coaching to patients based upon their level of activation
  • allocating different resources to different segments of patients so more help can be efficiently provided to those patients who are less able to manage their care
  • tracking progress so that patients can see their success

 Hibbards’ research and analysis found that patients with lower activation scores incurred costs from eight to 21 percent higher than those patients with higher activation scores. Since then, research indicates that people with a higher activation score are less likely to visit an emergency room, be obese or smoke, and more likely to save providers money.

Today, these outcomes – for both patients and providers – are crucial in our evolving healthcare environment.

Lessons Learned from Fast Food Service Relevant for Healthcare Customer Engagement

April 9, 2014

The focus for hospitals and physician practices has been to deliver excellent customer service to engage patients and visitors. Which is fine, as far as that went.

Focusing on just customer service by itself is passé in today’s fast moving world. Customer engagement is the marketing tool that hospitals and physician practices are wisely embracing. Simply put, that means that in addition to delivering excellent customer service, your communications with customers – patients, visitors and even employees – need to be done in an engaging, ongoing manner. It’s about more than just communicating information. You want to pull them in with frequent two-way conversations in order to develop successful relationships.

Recently, I was engaged on a retail level by Chick-Fil-A regarding their Founder Truett Cathy. I received an email that it was his birthday and was urged to join them in wishing him a happy birthday. Because I absolutely love their food and have a great deal of admiration for Mr. Cathy and the brand he has developed, I took a moment – on my phone – to send him a birthday greeting. I received a reply thanking me and inviting me to join them soon for a meal. This was a very simple, but effective, means of engaging me as a customer and leaving me with a warm feeling towards this company – and their brand.

The beauty is, that if done correctly, what works for your customer, will work for your healthcare practice or hospital. One simple way is to use social media to make it easy for them to contact you online and give them options. Get patient input on how to enhance quality improvement. Give them ways to interact with you on their schedule. Remember, it’s a mobile society and customers are constantly seeking information and resolution 24-hours a day. Create positive experiences and outcomes for them. The more you interact in helping to solve their issues, the more loyalty you create for your hospital or physician practice.

And, yes, I am planning on visiting my neighborhood Chick-Fil-A for a meal soon!

What do hawks, birthing services and hospitals have in common?

June 8, 2012

Working primarily with hospitals, I read a lot of articles about controlling preventable errors. But, I recently found out that sometimes they just can’t be prevented – even for a healthcare advertising agency .

Our outdoor representative recently informed us that a vinyl we thought had been taken down for a hospital outdoor board was still up and that he had a really good excuse, one we hadn’t encountered before. Of course, I’m rolling my eyes and thinking “Right!”

Well, he was right. Here’s the story.

The installer for the outdoor company had started the process of taking the vinyl down when he noticed a nest being built.  A hawk had decided that the space in between the two outdoor boards was a fine place to build its nest. As you may know, it is a federal offense to harm a hawk or its eggs. And, the hawk kept attacking the installer to get him away from its nest. Suffice it to say, the outdoor company left the nest alone and the eggs hatched about two weeks later and, according to some research, it will be about ten more weeks before they leave the nest.

Although, I am still shaking my head and laughing, I do find it very fitting that the creative for the outdoor board was focused on birthing services at the hospital.


Three births, three patient experiences.

March 29, 2011

My wife and I are the proud parents of three boys. I know, wow, three boys. Trust me, it’s a blast and we were blessed with three relatively smooth deliveries. Interestingly enough, each boy was delivered at a different hospital and each experience was very different.

The experience we had with the birth of our first son wasn’t what we expected. Your first child is never what you expect, but I’m talking about the patient experience. The hospital was cold and clinical, it was the area’s teaching hospital dedicated to “academic medicine.” My wife felt like a science experiment. The saving grace was a nurse working in the nursery at night; we’ll call her KT. She really loved babies and she loved her job. She made us feel like we had our own nurse caring just for us. We still remember her and I think my wife would include her in our will if she could find her.

Because of our first patient experience, we chose to deliver our second son at the local “boutique” hospital. It was like checking into a hotel to have a baby. It was quiet and comfortable, but we didn’t experience any hospital staff with the same passion of KT. We were treated fine and the delivery went well, but we didn’t leave feeling like we had been given care that was unforgettable.

Maybe I’m being too picky. I often think it’s unfair to expect everyone at a hospital treating my wife and me to exhibit the same kind of passion and zeal as KT’s. Or is it?

Recently my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our third son. We didn’t know what to expect. Our third son was delivered in a different city than his older brothers. My wife’s OB chose the hospital.

From the time we checked in to the time we left, we were reminded of KT because the entire staff worked with her passion and zeal. One nurse came to our room to check my son’s hearing. He started coughing and the nurse picked him up and cleared his throat. This is not uncommon but she did this gladly even though it wasn’t life threatening and not her job. Another nurse came by after her shift just to check on my wife before she left the hospital. It didn’t matter that another nurse was already on duty. Another nurse moved heaven and earth to get me a roll-away bed. I didn’t ask for a bed, all I did was make a joke about the couch being uncomfortable.

Not only are these doctors, nurses and staff members good at what they do, they love what they do and it shows.

I’m a Creative Director in the healthcare/hospital marketing field. One of the coolest things I get to do is witness the work of doctors, nurses and staff who really love what they do. When you talk with them their passion shines through. They believe in what they do and they love it.

As a “creative”, I’m always looking for new and different ways to communicate a client’s competitive advantage. I love what I do. We can saturate the market with a campaign message and light up the web with interactive and social media content. But the most powerful communications tool can be one doctor, nurse or staff member doing their job with a passion that makes them unforgettable to their patients. That’s a real competitive advantage.

While the recent great patient experience is still fresh in our minds, I know we will always remember this hospital stay with a smile. The same way we remember KT.

From Ps to Rs; a shift in consumer expectation

September 23, 2010

As I continue dissecting my notes from the SHSMD conference in Chicago, building from my thoughts on the theme as well as the overview of its content, I’ve realized that my reporting on the marketing evolution is of little benefit – it’s done. Now what?

The only way to successfully adapt to this new environment is by transforming your communications strategy.

While speaking at SHSMD, Phyllis Marino of MetroHealth in Cleveland, Ohio, stated the 4Ps of marketing are obsolete. The new consumer is no longer interested in your mix of Product, Price, Promotion or Place because they now demand a more personalized approach.

With this expectation shift, the 5Rs are the new principles for ensuring the strategic focus of your marketing efforts is modified to appeal to this highly consumer-centric environment.

Recognition. Only with a clear, compelling identity and message will your audience differentiate you from the competition. You need to define what your name stands for and be able to connect with your audience in a more meaningful way.

Relevance. Your audience wants to readily see the link between what your company offers and how it fills their needs; be it accomplishing a task, solving a problem, education or entertainment.

Response.  It’s a dialogue – not a monologue. Therefore, you need to also listen to the consumer and be able to quickly respond to their informational needs.

Receptivity. What they want when they want it, not when you want to deliver it to them. The consumer has his own schedule and doesn’t want to adapt to yours. This is the reason why the internet is now the CENTER of the consumer universe.

Relationships. It’s no longer about connecting the dots; it’s connecting people. If you want to establish a lifetime commitment, you need to think what will keep your audience engaged for the long-term. Till death do you part.

It may be old-fashioned and fallacious of me, but when constructing a communications strategy based on the 5Rs, I find it easier to tackle them like I would the 5Ws of Journalism: Who (Recognition), What (Relevance), When (Response), Where (Receptivity), Why (Relationships).

The trick always comes with identifying the H.

How have you shifted the structure of your communications strategy?

Healthcare social media: it’s about location, location, location

August 31, 2010

One of the biggest trends in healthcare social media is location-based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Britekite, Google Places for businesses, Google Latitude – and now, Facebook Places.   Twitter also incorporates location sourcing as well as the online review site, Yelp!

Location-based social media channels are game-like apps that allow you to “check in” wherever you are – home, Starbucks, a ballgame, the hospital – to share your location and see where your friends are.

Retailers like Starbucks and Gap have jumped on the opportunity to offer benefits to those who check-in frequently at a store or entice those in the area with instant coupons.  Sort of the ultimate in geo-targeting.  Facebook Places also is gearing up for location-sensitive advertising

As popular as these social media services have been, Facebook has just brought them to them to the masses – all 500 million members.

So, if you don’t already have a profile set up for your healthcare organization, you soon will – courtesy of your patients.  That could be an important first impression for your hospital.

Check to see what listings may already exist in case they need to be corrected or enhanced.  If none, here are some how-tos on getting your hospital set up:

  • Facebook Places – You must claim your Place and validate your information.  Per Facebook’s Help Center: If your business’s Place already exists on Facebook, click on it to visit its page.  At the bottom left side of your Place there will be a link that says “Is this your business?”  Click on the link and you will be directed to a claiming flow.
  • Foursquare
  • Gowalla.  This app is becoming a go-to channel for travelers, so take note if your hospital is near a major interstate or part of a tourist destination.
  • Google Places
  • Twitter Places
  • Yelp!
  • Localeze.  This company is providing some of the business listings for Facebook Places, Twitter Places and other search engines.  You may want to check or set up your listing with them as well.

Location-based services help patients and families integrate your healthcare organization in their social media outreach.  Imagine them sharing “baby’s on the way” or “headed to emergency surgery” or “last chemo treatment!” 

We’d love to hear any other examples or benefits from social media geo-tagging or location listings.

Social Media Use in Southeast Hospitals

August 24, 2010

Social media in healthcare seems to be growing exponentially. Or does it?  For starters, let’s look at hospitals in the Southeast. 

Based on the Hospital Social Network List (last updated July 24), 112 hospitals across six Southeastern states engage in social media.  That’s an average of just 16% of short term acute care hospitals (not including children’s hospitals).

State Using SM Total ST-Acute ( % in SM YouTube Facebook Twitter Blogs
AL 6 100 6% 4 5 5 0
FL 40 213 19% 20 27 26 5
GA 19 115 17% 12 18 11 2
NC 17 106 16% 8 10 16 5
SC 16 64 25% 7 14 14 3
TN 14 117 12% 8 9 12 2
Totals 112 715 16% 59 83 84 17

While social media may not be right for all of these hospitals, the numbers seem surprisingly low especially when considering the wealth of facts validating the top social platforms.

Danny Brown recently shared excellent stats on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.  Some of the highlights: 


  • The average Facebook user has 130 friends.
  • There are more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. [Does your hospital have a mobile-friendly site? What about your Facebook page design?]
  • People that access Facebook via mobile are twice as active than non-mobile users.
  • More than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) is shared each month.
  • The average Facebook user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events.
  • People spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook.

Statistics from Facebook press office


  • Twitter gets more than 300,000 new users every day.
  • There are currently 110 million users of Twitter’s services.
  • Twitter receives 180 million unique visits each month.
  • There are more than 600 million searches on Twitter every day – more than Yahoo and Bing combined.
  • More than a third of users access Twitter via their mobile phone.

Statistics from Twitter and the Chirp Conference.  


  • The very first video uploaded in April 2005. By June 2006, more than 65,000 videos were being uploaded every day.
  • YouTube receives more than 2 billion viewers per day.
  • Every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.

Statistics from YouTube press center


  • 77% of Internet users read blogs.
  • There are currently 133 million blogs listed on leading blog directory Technorati.
  • Bloggers use an average of five different social sites to drive traffic to their blog.

Statistics from Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2009 .  
Hopefully, these stats may help you build a case for jumping into social media at your healthcare organization – or expanding your outreach into other channels. 

Say You Want a Revolution in Healthcare Marketing? Alright…

June 11, 2010

Following some great regional healthcare marketing conferences (CHPRMS and GSHMPR – see recaps here), the South Carolina Hospital Association is putting on the Social Media Revolution June 23 in Columbia, S.C.

It’s a one-day workshop – in partnership with Carolinas Healthcare PR and Marketing Society – featuring some “Twitterati” in these two sessions:

Social Media in Healthcare: Making it Work for You – Ed Bennett, Director of Web Strategies at the University of Maryland Medical System, will discuss best ways to frame appropriate policies and launch a social media revolution in hospitals of all sizes.  He’s also known for maintaining the Hospital Social Network List, which tracks the digital activities of over 500 U.S. Hospitals.

The Social Media Revolution: From Here to Beyond – Reed Smith, an interactive media consultant who created hospital social media guides and best practices while at the Texas Hospital Association, will show how to implement a team approach inside the hospital to coordinate social media efforts.

Other sessions we’re looking forward to:

  • Measuring ROI of Social Media Strategies
  • Avoiding Legal Pitfalls of Social Media
  • Panel Discussion – SC and NC hospitals of all sizes outline their strategies, reasons why, lessons learned and organizational goals for social media.

Hope to see you there and share more resources for healthcare social media, and strategy.  If you can’t make it, follow live updates on Twitter (hashtags: #smrev #hcsm) and check our blog for the event recap.

GSHMPR – Day 1 of Georgia Healthcare Marketing Conference

May 6, 2010

While it was tough to be inside on a glorious day on Lake Oconee, two good sessions kicked off the Georgia Society of Healthcare Marketing and PR annual conference. 

The first, Marketing to Men, outlined ideas for targeting the other half, noting:

  • Healthcare is an irrelevant topic to men until 40+ years old.
  • Men do react to an emotional appeal, but open with facts first.
  • During registration for any event, have staff ask if your spouse would be interested in any topics (and draw them in).
  • Some hospitals are having success offering couples screening packages, especially about cardiac and stroke.
  • Guys like high tech – how can best can you play that up?
  • When marketing to men, always appeal to the woman, too.

Which leads me back to: Do we really need to target men?  What do you think?

 Session 2 focused on mobile websites – scaled-down versions of a main hospital website for mobile phone viewing – including:

  • Make sure ER & urgent care info is on your mobile platform. Most people search on their way.
  • Nearly 30% of hospitals surveyed don’t have plans to develop a mobile version (much higher than I thought).
  • Average cost for an external partner to create a mobile website: $11,000.  Usually these are completely different sites and maintained separately from the main site.
  • E-community has pregnancy text message program on its mobile website (great for hospitals promoting women’s services)
  • Northshore Long Island Jewish Hospital has a mobile option to share your location while en route.  Imagine sharing “baby’s on the way” or “headed to emergency surgery”!
  • Beth Israel Deaconess and Scott White Healthcare each have developed multiple iPhone apps. Some have Blackberry apps due to high physician adoption. Be sure to check which browsers use your mobile site the most. Our audience is seeing mostly iPhone and Blackberry but Droid and iPad numbers are rising quickly and may require site adjustments.

After that, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a margarita (or two) as the sun set over the lake, followed by the Ritz’s nightly custom of s’mores by the fire pit.  Can Day 2 top that?!

Should Rooms Move Perceptions of Healthcare?

March 24, 2010

When Mom had inpatient shoulder surgery last week, we shared an excellent healthcare experience from both sides of the procedure – except one  thing.

The Good

The pre-op nurse was very informative, but we appreciated his sense of humor most.  It was a welcome relief for mom’s anxiety.

Another nurse personally escorted me to the family waiting room, where other loved ones and I were doted on by a volunteer hostess.  The first nurse soon returned, bringing me the medical power of attorney forms that I forgot I’d even asked for earlier.  I helped myself to complimentary hot tea and wi-fi.  The director of surgical services even stopped in to check on everyone, making sure we had fresh coffee and fast Internet connections.

Mom’s surgeon was thorough in explaining how the procedure went. She patiently answered all my questions and then some – with a smile. 

Although Mom had some trouble with pain later that day and overnight, each nurse was attentive and kind to both patient and daughter until she rested comfortably.  They used the latest technology to cross-check medications with her electronic medical record. Clinically, we could not have asked for better care.

The nutritional services staff even called Mom by name each time they cheerfully brought and collected meals.  The discharge process was smooth. JCAHO and Press Ganey reps would be proud.

The Ugly

So what was wrong?  Her room betrayed every other touchpoint.  Although clean and spacious, it was very old.  Holes dotted the walls, laminate peeled back from the counter corners, furniture showed wear to the raw wood, and painted cabinetry screamed early 70s.  This was the progressive hospital the surgeon and we chose?  

In a leadership book by J. Richard Hackman, a frustrated airline executive once said, “What does a customer think if one of our tray tables is dirty?  That if they can’t even keep their tray tables clean, how well do they take care of their engines?”  Exactly.

How much should the condition of her room affect our overall impression of care? 


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