Never doubt the power of a great healthcare brand experience to create marketing evangelists.

I have a close friend who unexpectedly needed surgery. The doctor who performed the surgery didn’t take the time to explain things, seemed relatively disinterested and definitely did not place himself in the shoes of his customer.

A friend of hers recommended another doctor at another healthcare system, as our friend was scared to go back to the initial doctor. Her experience was like night and day. This doctor was warm, caring, took a tremendous amount of personal and professional time to explain the situation and what she could expect post another surgery. Which she performed.

Our friend will now fully recover. And the doctor, and the health system she’s affiliated with, now have a “shout from the rooftops” marketing evangelist. Our friend has already (one week after surgery):
• sang the praises of this doctor and her hospital via email
• shared the same via Twitter and Facebook
• has volunteered to do a patient story through whatever media the hospital would like (and it is a great comparative story!).

And no doubt, passionate recommendations to friends, family and colleagues are only a request away.

We know that customer-driven referrals have taken on more importance as motivators to purchase. And you can put this person at the top of the A-recommenders list. She’s voluntarily singing the praises of this organization, acting as a key influencer on future customers and “at dramatically less cost” than advertising – helping contribute to this organization’s revenue growth.

I happen to know for a fact that senior executives at this health system spend a good amount of time mobilizing their organization to deliver brand experiences consistent with their brand promise. And the payoff, as you can see by way of this example, is tremendous.

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Good example of a health brand creating new value for its patients.

Understanding that it’s not always possible for patients to leave home or work, Seattle-based medical services provider Carena has expanded its offerings to include virtual visits via webcam or phone.

The introduction of the service follows that of its 24/7 in-person house calls – offered as a convenience for those whose primary care physician wasn’t currently available. But 35,000 house calls later, the company created this new system that supports virtual house calls as well.

Patients have the option of a medical evaluation by phone, webcam or in person, depending on their specific requirements. Carena, meanwhile, can extend the geographic reach of its services while reducing costs for clients and patients.

If your health care organization doesn’t offer remote services, you might want to move that up the priorities ladder – as the two most obvious benefits of added convenience and immediacy are pretty compelling to patients.

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Are patients and consumers synonymous? Are they two sides of the same coin?

Your organization views your audiences as patients. Your key competitor views this same audience as consumers. Or maybe they refer to them as health consumers, clients, or maybe even e-patients. Does this distinction make a difference? I think the answer is yes.

Let me clarify that I’m not talking about patients from the standpoint of being ill, living with a chronic disease, or the relationship that a physician has with his or her patients.

Rather, I’m referring to “patients versus consumers” from the standpoint of a marketer. And from a marketing perspective, I’m not a big fan of labeling people as “patients.” Because patients denotes a captive audience. It puts guardrails around who they are, the choices they have available to them and the fact that they have lives beyond that of being a “patient.”

Yet patients are far from captive. They’re armed with the knowledge, tools, and ability to reach out to their trusted social circle advisors to make informed and independent consumer choices. And more often (though clearly not all the time), they are in charge. They can choose to involve themselves (to engage) with you or not.

Changing your lens lets you see your healthcare audiences in a different light. While patients perpetuates sameness, consumers open your eyes to imagine and create new and greater value beyond “patient” solutions.

So how can you integrate into the lives of your patients healthcare consumers more meaningfully and completely. How can you gain their participation through content, dialogue, experiences, and solutions beyond that of what you’re doing today. How can you more broadly affect the world in which they and their families live, and the things they want to do?

What do you think about this topic? Please let us know.

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People really don’t care about your products and services. This might be tough to accept, but it’s true.

What people do care a lot about, however, is how you make them feel about their decisions. How you help them improve their lives. How you help them achieve what they can’t on their own. And for healthcare marketers, these benefits translate into pretty important outcomes, from preserving life, to being able to live healthier and happier lives.

This is the incredible connecting power of your brand. By being about them, but having a strong vision about your place (what it is and what it can be) in their lives. This is the stuff that cements relationships, builds advocates, drives loyalty, gets people talking about you, creates communities and attracts others to you. This is the enormous power of your brand to help you achieve what your business alone can not.

So why do we keep talking about us? How caring we are. How celebrated we are. How trustworthy we are. How smart we are. How about turning the dial 180 degrees to the care they want. The recognition they deserve. The trust they desire. How smart they are. And how about paying this off with actions versus words (but more about this tomorrow).

Be more about your customers, and they’ll be all about you.

Any comments to share?

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