Documenting the Patient Perspective

Kandace McLaughlin, for HealthLeaders Media , May 7, 2008

Click to play video.After about three years of research into how parents make decisions about their children's healthcare, Marcus Thomas LLC in Cleveland, the agency for Akron (OH) Children's Hospital, found the messages that resonated most with this audience were those about personal care—not quality. With that in mind, Marcus Thomas helped Akron launch a campaign with a message about personalized care that came directly from the patients.

"We had a hunch that decisions were being made based on medical expertise," says Joanne Kim, creative director at Marcus Thomas. "But what we found was that parents were more interested in the personal care their child would receive. In their minds, quality is a given." In addition to choosing their central message, the hospital also needed to differentiate itself in the market. So patient experience became the second memorable focus of the campaign.

"We decided to use TV as the primary media," says Beth Smith, director of public relations for Akron. With past success using a documentary-style approach, the team decided to use the same sort of filming technique, but with a twist. In past TV spots, several spots followed one patient through different phases of their care. For this campaign, each spot would offer a single, stand-alone glimpse into a patient's life.

The first flight of the campaign promotes the hematology and oncology service lines. The spots feature two teenage patients and give viewers a very personal and emotional look into the obstacles they are facing and their experiences at Akron Children's. Another reason to feature teenage patients, according to Smith, is that outcomes are better for teens at a pediatric facility.

Although each spot is only 30 seconds long, it gives the viewer a candid look at the patient's diagnosis. In each spot, the facility's name and logo and the call to action are downplayed.

"Using a logo wasn't necessary. We wanted to show an instant or a moment in the hospital to pique curiosity and drive the viewer to the Website where we have back stories for the patients and where they can make comments and leave thoughts," says Kim. Getting away from the typical brand reinforcement marketing model took "a big leap of faith" she adds. But research showed preference and awareness went through the roof and that not having the typical branding or straight message of quality didn't affect the recall.

Kandace McLaughlin is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. Send her Campaign Spotlight ideas at If you are a marketer submitting a campaign on behalf of your facility or client, please ensure you have permission before doing so.




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