Shopping for Doctor Right

Kandace McLaughlin Doyle, for HealthLeaders Media , November 5, 2008

Click for larger image. "Healthcare marketing is a challenging sell for a few reasons," says Tracy Stanko, senior vice president and director of account services for Creighton University Medical Center's (CUMC) agency Swanson Russell. "Consumers really don't want to buy what hospitals and doctors are selling until they're sick and hospital marketers are being challenged to generate an actionable response from their campaigns."

With that looming concern, and a growing need to get the word out about its physicians, CUMC, located in Omaha, NE, decided to create a campaign and online portal that would encourage consumers to think about finding a doctor before they get sick.

"First we looked at trends and what is going on today in healthcare," says Lisa Stites, marketing and communications specialist for CUMC. "What we noticed is that more and more people are going online for health information. As an academic medical center, we pride ourselves as being on the forefront of technology and care so it was also important to be ready for today's digitally savvy consumer."

CUMC developed a Web site that provides users with the ability to search for a doctor who fits their health needs as well as their personality needs.

"[Users] can go into bio pages and really get to know the doctor in a way that traditional mass media advertising wouldn't allow," Stanko says. The bio pages include head shots as well as in-depth information about physicians to give potential patients a look into their qualifications as well as a look as their interests, likes, and dislikes. Users can also search for a physician by specialty, insurance provider, gender, whether or not the physician is interested in clinical trials, or whether or not they share an interest in a TV-drama doctor, like House or "Dr. McDreamy" from Grey's Anatomy.

Though searching by common TV interests may seem a bit outlandish, it's that nontraditional, personal approach that has made the site a success for CUMC.

"We really wanted people to feel comfortable going through the site, browsing, and learning more about our physicians so that they could see [our physicians] as people," says Stites. "Whether you're looking for a family person, a doctor with a sense of humor, or someone who might be a little more serious, you're able to shop for a doctor online because our site gives you that opportunity." Since the site launched, it has tracked nearly 8,000 visitors and has resulted in about 100 new appointment requests.

Kandace McLaughlin Doyle 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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