"These [words] are not distinguishing characteristics," says Szablowski. "This is what people expect you to be. We need to find words and use words in ways that families understand what we're doing. Put an experience around each of these words."
Being more descriptive in healthcare marketing can be a challenge because, as Szablowski rightly notes, hospitals want patients to know that the care they are receiving is comprehensive. So, how do you communicate that? At Dignity Health, one of the country's largest healthcare systems, Szablowski started by making sure that employees were engaged and that internal stakeholders were included in meetings to determine strategic marketing platforms.
"For example, physicians didn't know the other specialties we offered," he says. Employees, too, were unaware of all the services available and couldn't refer friends and family, or take part in themselves, thereby causing leakage, which according to Szablowski and Rosenberg, ranges from 30%–40% at some organizations.
Rosenberg, who works with clients in Chicago, where mergers and acquisitions are high, says he always does internal stakeholder interviews and is astonished by what they don't know.
"Hospitals need to talk to employees about their services," he says.
Having engaged employees will not only lead to less leakage, they argue, but it also builds on the foundation of delivering a positive patient experience, which we know from the HealthLeaders Media 2013 Industry Survey, is a top priority at healthcare organizations across the country.