Amidst Upheaval, Marketers Must Retain Focus on the Patient in 2010

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , January 6, 2010

"Reform or not, environmental changes or not, consumerism will have an incredibly strong presence in healthcare," Sean Keyser, VP of operational improvement & service excellence at Novant Health in Charlotte, NC, told me in a roundtable discussion on the patient experience published in the November issue of HealthLeaders magazine. "As long as people are making choices about their care and making choices about where they want to receive care, then we owe it to them to create something extraordinary. Our vision isn't fashionable; it's not just rhetoric. It's intended to drive a business strategy—to create a remarkable experience that's going to lead people to tell other people 'I wouldn't choose anyone else.'"

I find it hard to believe that even a change as massive as healthcare reform could divert healthcare organizations' focus on the patient.

Social and new media
It's tempting to avoid making a prediction about how healthcare marketers will view Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other interactive online efforts a year from now. Because it's still not clear if our short-attention-span society will get bored with social media—or if those who are still stubbornly skeptical will ever convert.

Social media was hot in 2009, for sure. But in Internet time, one year might as well be one million years. I do believe that social and other forms of new media are not just a passing fad and that they will continue to grow and evolve and will play an increasingly important role in communications and marketing strategy. But I also know—and I'm sure no one will disagree with me—that social media is only one piece of effective communication.

So perhaps 2010 will be the year that healthcare finds the proper balance between new and traditional marketing efforts. To that end, marketers must stop dismissing Twitter and the like outright without fully educating themselves about them and exploring the best ways to take advantage of these new tools.

Recruitment and retention
The demand for healthcare workers and the number of jobs that need to be filled at all levels is so immense that healthcare marketers will be plenty busy with recruitment efforts and, of course, with employee satisfaction to ensure that those valued employees don't become another organization's well-trained asset. But marketers must give up on the mindset that recruitment and retention is about internal communications and ad campaigns.

Physicians and nurses are going to have a lot of power in 2010. If you want the best of them to choose your organization, then your organization has to show itself to be the best choice: the hospital that's willing to invest in technology, that is committed to delivering the best quality care and superior experiences to their patients, and that strives to be the best place to work and practice medicine. It's not enough to say it. You have to show it, too.

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