Is Recruitment the Next Health Care Marketing Crisis?

Is Recruitment the Next Health Care Marketing Crisis?

According to recent studies, between 20% and 30% of front-line U.S. health care workers say they are now considering leaving their profession—for good. Traditionally, health care HR and marketing departments have worked independently. But given the staffing crisis, these departments are teaming up to address the latest pandemic crisis: recruitment. On our September 9, 2021 Campfire Chat, we discussed ways marketing can support HR in recruitment efforts. 

Read below for highlights or watch the replay video. And make sure to sign up below to get notified of our next Campfire Chats webinars

Ah, the good old days of health care marketing. Remember them? We promoted key services like heart care, cancer care and joint replacement. We could predict how many patients would need care at any given time and market accordingly. Our consumer audiences were consistent in their views and attitudes about health care. When our plans were dialed in, we could reasonably anticipate what tomorrow might bring.  

Then the pandemic hit. 

We’ve written and spoken extensively about how health consumer audiences have changed after COVID-19, along with our strategies for helping people return for care in this “next normal”. Today, we wanted to share highlights from a recent Campfire Chat we hosted on how marketing can support health care worker recruitment. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Create Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) to shore up the reasons why your organization is a magnet for top talent
  • Leverage consumer-facing digital channels such as Instagram and Facebook to reach hard-to-find health care workers
  • Develop personalized recruitment journey experiences to attract more and better-qualified job candidates

THE STATE OF HEALTH CARE WORKER RECRUITMENT: “WE’RE GOING TO NEED A BIGGER BOAT”

Fun fact: remember that classic scene in Jaws when Roy Scheider, playing Chief Martin Brody, sees “Jaws” for the first time and says, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”? Turns out, that line was ad-libbed. It was brilliant for the movie and prescient for this moment in health care. The traditional HR recruitment strategies that filled medical worker roles worked … until now. 

The Washington Post reports that due to pandemic burnout, 3 in 10 health care workers are considering leaving the profession. 

Not quitting to join another hospital.

Just simply quitting. What’s driving this mass exodus? 

The article points to what I call the “Three Horsemen of the Recruitment Apocalypse”:

1. Burnout: the sheer grind of caring for COVID patients and other patients for such a prolonged time period

2. Trauma: witnessing more suffering and death than anyone can bear without emotional scars

3. Disillusionment: in the medical profession, in administrators and in others whom these medical care workers deem as having not done enough to care for them or treat this pandemic seriously 

There’s also another reason for the health care worker shortage: good old-fashioned capitalism. 

As health care organizations race to fill roles and shoes, a recent study reports that 93% of organizations are focused on attracting top talent and retaining them through enhanced benefits packages. 

Signing bonuses of $15,000, $30,000 and more for highly sought-after medical workers are not unique in highly competitive markets these days. 

What if you’re an organization that can’t throw endless stacks of money at the problem?

And what if you’re like many of our marketing clients who have operated independently from their HR counterparts, but who are starting to see a long lineup at their doors from HR colleagues asking for help with recruitment?

Well, you came to the right article.

RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #1: EMPLOYER VALUE PROPOSITIONS (EVPs)

Marketing has traditionally been the department responsible for organizational branding. For good reason. Specialist firms like Hailey Sault and our clients are classically-trained in branding and brand strategy. 

Those brand strategies have traditionally focused on one audience endpoint: consumers. But that’s not quite accurate. Service brands—such as most health care brands—are made up of the people who provide the service: the nurses, the doctors, the techs, and the wonderful people who greet patients and visitors and provide so much of the incredible brand experience. In traditional brand strategy, you focus on the end user while addressing those who deliver the brand experience. Great service brands are the sum of the people who deliver those services. 

Health care marketers get this. Which is why we advocate that marketing plays a pivotal role in shaping Employer Value Propositions (EVPs for short). EVPs are the distillation of the reasons why top talent should flock to the organization. Employer Value Propositions inform key messaging pillars and media channels. And, given the consensus-driven culture of many health care organizations, EVPs also help get internal teams (marketing, HR, administration, for example) on the same page. 

The 3 Core Elements of Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) 

1. Define why your organization’s brand is valuable and unique among medical workers

2. Describe what your ideal job candidate cares about, believes and wants to experience in a job role

3. Envision what an ideal employee can expect to create and do together with your organization

Let’s unpack these three elements. 

Why is Your Brand Valuable?

What makes your organization a “great place to work”? What is the relevant, engaging and meaningful brand story of your organization? For example, why do you exist? Why and how are you improving lives and caring for your community and audiences?

What Does Your Ideal Job Candidate Care About? 

The secret to great branding is a higher understanding of the ideal audience the brand seeks to serve. (More on that in a moment with regard to audience personas.) In this element, we explore what makes the ideal job candidate tick: why do they get up in the morning, what’s in their hearts and minds that your organization wants to help to cultivate with a great career? 

What Does Success Look Like For Both Your Ideal Job Candidate and Your Organization?

What can your organization and your ideal job candidate expect to achieve together? What’s that grand rallying cry that only a dedicated, talented workforce can achieve when the organization does its part to provide for a great job, career, tools and support? 

Steps to Developing Employer Value Propositions for Health Care Organizations

I’ll share next the basic steps for developing EVPs. For brevity purposes, I’ve kept this “topline”. (Reach out to me if you’d like more detail.)

1. Conduct an Employer Brand Diagnostic

  • Interview current high-performing team members
  • Interview prospective job candidates
  • Interview alumni (those who have since moved on to other careers or organizations)
  • Conduct a competitive analysis of what others are promoting, messaging, incentivizing) 

2. Develop a summary of key benefits that employees should experience working at your organization

3. Develop your message pillars: the key messages that are authentic and resonate with your brand and top talent

Putting It All Together

Below is an example of an Employer Value Proposition framework for health care organizations. There’s no one “right” way to deliver an EVP. But this framework should give you a starting point for the employer brand journey. 

Healthcare worker taking blood pressure

See what's working

RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #2: EMPLOYEE RECRUITMENT PERSONAS

If you’ve read our articles or seen us speak, you know we’re raving fans of human-centered audience personas. Personas are exceptional tools for developing strategies to inspire purchases, patient acquisition and other traditional marketing outcomes. In this competitive health care recruitment landscape, Recruitment Audience Personas are especially helpful in messaging, channel selection and converting potential job seekers into actively interviewing with your organization.

Here is the basic framework for Audience Recruitment Personas:

1. Demographic information about the ideal candidate type

2. Triggers for seeking new employment: why is he or she passively or actively looking for a new career opportunity?

3. What does the prospect need to hear from us as an organization that resonates and inspires action?

4. What is unique about us? (Among the many reasons why EVPs are so substantial in highly competitive recruitment markets.) 

5. What are the barriers to job application? (Identifying how to reduce the friction from interest to job application submission.)

6. How to reach the job candidate? (Via media channels.)

How Many Audience Personas Do You Need?

Simple answer: it depends. 

More nuanced answer: we like to look with our clients at the job roles of greatest need, then determine the number of audience personas to develop. For example, if any organization has three highly competitive job roles to fill, our starting point for audience persona development is three: one for each job role. Quite often, though, in our research process, we identify two or more subsets of ideal candidates to fill one medical worker role that are uniquely different enough to require their own audience personas. 

So the simple answer of how many audience personas do you need stands: it depends. But the key takeaway here is to do the work. It’s valuable and essential for achieving your recruitment goal of not just getting “warm bodies” but getting the right people to fill the right shoes. 

Putting It All Together

Here’s a snapshot of what a completed Hailey Sault Human-Centered Recruitment Audience Persona looks like. 

Persona text and image

RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #3: CONSUMER-DRIVEN MEDIA CHANNELS

Traditional job posting and recruitment platforms aren’t going away. But they’re simply not enough anymore to fill key roles. 

That’s why we work with our marketing clients and HR contemporaries to broaden the circumference of their media channel spend and reach. We want to be in the places our job seekers spend time—Instagram, TikTok and other social channels, and to reach them in unexpected ways: through programmatic and native advertising. 

Why’s that? Because using nontraditional media channels for recruitment increases the overall pool of qualified and engaged job candidates. If everyone is shouting the same thing (as is the case in traditional recruitment media channels), it’s easy to be ignored. 

But! When you gain intelligence and insight on where your job seekers are spending their time, you find new and creative ways to show up in their lives. Added bonus: we have way more flexibility in message development and overall digital experience using nontraditional recruitment channels. That flexibility and digital experience creates a “stickier” connection with your audience, inviting more qualified candidates to apply. 

RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #4: CUSTOMIZE THE JOB-SEEKING JOURNEY

Another one of our soapboxes is the need to personalize marketing messages and journeys to create higher engagement and conversions. This is true of both the advertising itself and the landing page experience. The same logic should be applied to your job seeker. If you’re recruiting for highly competitive roles, why would you give each candidate the same-old, same-old message and experience?

We recommend modeling the entire job-seeking journey so you identify the key inflection points to intersect with job candidates. The more personalized the experience, the better. That way, you’re delivering messaging, offers and opportunities that resonate with your audience. As we frequently hear from patients and job seekers via our marketing clients, “It’s like you know exactly what I’m thinking, feeling, and wanting”.

Exactly! That’s the ideal marketing experience: to deliver extreme value to your audiences. 

We advocate creating customized landing pages for key job roles that are aligned with your audience personas. For example, we helped a client recruit urban medical workers to relocate to rural areas two hours from the city, along with recruiting within the rural area where our client’s sites of care are located. Those two audiences—urban and rural—had different messaging and landing page experiences. 

Which makes sense, of course. And that’s why we helped our client to fill those critical job roles far quicker than our client’s HR counterparts could have hoped or dreamed.

But too often, especially in a highly competitive, crisis-like scenario, which we are facing with the medical worker shortage, we do what’s easy, fast or what has been done before. New times, such as these, call for new ideas, new strategies. 

Which is why marketing is getting so many knocks on the office door from HR asking for help. We need new thinking to solve these new challenges. 

Last Thing: Lending Support Without Inheriting Headaches

Recently, I spoke to the digital division lead for a large, national health care organization about this topic. I shared we’d been getting requested by more and more marketing teams to help them support their HR counterparts in recruitment. The digital division lead looked at me and said, “Yeah, we’ve been getting the same request for help from HR, too. So far, we’ve declined to help.”

It wasn’t because the digital lead or the marketing department didn’t want to support or help HR. It was because, let’s face it, marketing has a lot on its plate these days. As Roy Scheider said in Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” How much support are you willing and able to give?

Our counsel is to leverage the strategies presented in this article as a way to give your HR colleagues support via strategic branding, a higher-grade approach to modeling key audiences, and developing personalized journey experiences. 

These tools are foundational to leading marketing departments—and, though I’m biased, I think a firm like Hailey Sault and many leading Chief Marketing Officers are well-qualified to guide this strategy. 

But that doesn’t mean you need to become responsible for the whole kit and kaboodle. It doesn’t mean inheriting a whole new scope of work to manage. It just means working collaboratively. Flexing each other’s strengths. So you can tackle this next “all-hands” initiative. 

Do you like learning new things and connecting with fun, smart people? Then you should sign up to be notified of our next Hailey Sault Campfire webinars: they’re lively video conversations without the boring bullet point slides. Sign up below to be notified of the next Campfire and get early access to our latest thinking and strategies on how to create human connections with health care marketing.

Mankato Recovery Campaign info

Building a campaign patient audiences are ready to hear (post COVID-19)

Building a campaign patient audiences are ready to hear (post COVID-19)

Let’s begin with your patient’s mindset coming out of COVID-19. For over a year, patients have looked to their local health care system for health news. According to the research we conducted for our Engage: 2021 Trends Report

90 percent of health care decision makers indicated that regular information from their health care provider was of value to them. 

They told us their number one trusted source of information was their individual provider. 

They said that they trusted their local health system’s website and social media channels more than news from major news networks. 

Connecting with relevance and impact

We know that coming out of COVID-19, patients have become more attuned to their health and their health risks than ever before. We also know that people in general have developed unhealthy habits during COVID-19 lockdowns and have put off routine care and screenings due to COVID-19 concerns.

This rare environment of provider trust and health consciousness has opened an extraordinary patient advocacy and relationship-building opportunity for health systems.

This was true for our client, CHI Memorial, when it tasked us with nurturing a connection between itself and those who may be at risk for specific health conditions.

Laying the groundwork for a healthy relationship

CHI Memorial was in the early stages of launching a new service line. Research conducted on its behalf indicated:

  1. At least 36 percent of consumers in the CHI Memorial service area who had specific health conditions were self-aware of their condition and risk factors and open to an invitation to make healthy lifestyle choices.
  2. Consumers were more likely to take the counsel of a primary care physician concerning which specialist they should see versus conducting their own research. 

This provided the perfect opportunity to connect with audiences who were ready to get off the couch and who were open to healthier lifestyle messaging—especially those at high risk. We recommended creating a lifestyle intervention campaign that would:

  1. Engage audiences in making conscious, simple changes to increase health and wellness.
  2. Encourage audiences to access CHI Memorial lifestyle resources.
  3. Move audiences into making appointments with CHI Memorial primary care physicians.
See what's working
The right approach

We used an approach that invited people to simply start—because we all know that starting is often the hardest part of any lifestyle change. The prompt to start acted as a baked-in call to action for the campaign, which addressed risk factors such as:

  • Anxiety, depression and high stress levels
  • Eating unhealthy foods
  • Not getting regular physical activity
  • Drinking alcohol 
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Smoking 

We kept it fun in order to:

  • be non-preachy and non-threatening 
  • address audiences’ top-of-mind concerns at an opportune time 
  • present CHI Memorial as a resource for tips, inspiration and the place to begin (or continue) a relationship with a CHI primary care physician
Moving audiences to make appointments

The digital and social campaign relied heavily on a robust landing page that educated, informed and invited audiences to take important next steps, such as modifying their lifestyle and engaging in a CHI Memorial primary care relationship.

9,689 new primary care appointment requests

Within the first 60 days of the campaign, nearly 10,000 prospective patients clicked from the advertising to view and request appointments with CHI Memorial physicians. 

Which goes to show: meet your prospective patients where they are, offer compassionate support, and invite them to take the next step in their healing journey. And they will.

Mankato Recovery Campaign info

The Road to Digital Health Transformation: Are We There Yet?

The Road to Digital Health Transformation: Are We There Yet?

Digital front doors … Data visualization … Patient pathways … and Chimeras. These were just a few of the topics we discussed during our 8/13/21 Campfire Chat with Christina Campo from Scripps Health, Therese Lockemy from Johns Hopkins Medicine, and our very own Brittney Hanson, Director of Digital for Hailey Sault.   

Read below for highlights or watch the replay video. And sign up below to get notified of our next Campfire Chats webinars.

Ah, the road to digital transformation. Cruising down the information superhighway with the top down, wind whipping through your hair, and nothing but open roads and music blaring as you make your way to that coveted destination. 

I’m sure that’s your exact experience leading and implementing digital transformation projects at your health care organization, right? 

If your experience has felt more like a journey of endless winding roads rather than getting to a destination, you’re not alone. Whether you’re part of a large team or a department of one, digital transformation is an ongoing process. During our Campfire Chat, we checked in with our colleagues at Scripps Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine to find out what’s on their To Do List, and what data puzzles they’re solving these days as they advance their transformation initiatives. 

TOP PRIORITIES FACING DIGITAL HEALTH TRANSFORMATION TEAMS

The fundamental business of health care hasn’t changed since its inception: caring for people who are sick or need medical care. How we deliver that care has, of course, evolved. Same goes for our digital transformation efforts. Most of us are still addressing the same issues and opportunities we’ve been addressing throughout our careers:

  • Driving patients to seek care solutions
  • Filling lines of business and service lines that have capacity and can support new patient acquisition
  • Growing brand affinity

How we’re addressing these perennial challenges is evolving, though. Digital transformation projects are increasingly addressing opportunities such as:

  • Improving and enhancing patient experience
  • Identifying the nuances and needs of diverse patient populations
  • Connecting data points
  • Structuring and streamlining patient pathways to care solutions

During our webinar, Therese addressed that it’s not just the technology that is part of the transformational change—cultural transformation within our organizations is trending, too.  

Those of us who have worked in health care—especially larger organizations—know the challenges of working in silos: departments working independently to problem-solve. Yet, if there’s a silver lining in this time of COVID-19, it’s that health care organizations have removed those unnecessary barriers, allowing different departments to work more collaboratively on shared goals and desired outcomes.

Christina shared how beneficial it’s been for her and her marketing colleagues to work directly with clinical leaders and IT counterparts on shared goals such as improved patient experience: from online appointment scheduling to patient care communications.

Which brings us to Chimeras.

See what's working

IS IT TIME TO HIRE CHIMERAS?

Chimaera

What is a “Chimera,” you ask?

It’s a mythological creature that has a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail … and according to Christina, it’s what we need more of in digital marketing. 

The thinking is, our digital transformation efforts today blur the lines between traditional marketing, IT, and clinical practice. Take patient experience, for example. On one hand, digital marketing can help drive prospective patient engagement and demand for a service line or product line. But what happens next? Well, that’s often the role of IT to develop the infrastructure necessary to support online appointment functionality. But what happens after that prospective patient books an appointment? Then it’s up to the clinical leader to ensure that the patient has a great experience. The old model had each of these three departments functioning almost independently: marketing did its thing, IT did its thing, and clinical teams did their thing. 

But working independently can quickly lead to gaps in the patient experience. 

Digital transformation in health care is rooted in the intersectionality of all these disciplines, and finding better ways to engage and create better experiences for patients and customers alike. 

That’s why you need Chimeras: people who understand the needs, perspectives, and even the language of different departments and functions. As Christina said, “We used to dismiss people who were ‘Jacks of all trades, but master of none,’ but now we’re realizing there is great value in generalists … and people who can communicate, project-manage and collaborate with colleagues with different backgrounds.”

Health care consumers have high expectations of their experiences with brands. They’re used to Amazon, Apple and other tech giants creating great online experiences. Digital transformation is quite often the process of seeking to enable technology to deliver outstanding experiences for patients. 

But technology, while lovely, doesn’t always work “as advertised.” 

If you’ve struggled to leverage new digital technology to achieve your business and strategic goals, then know this: you’re not alone.

Speaking of mythological creatures, Brittney, our digital practice lead, asked Christina and Therese if there is such a thing as a “perfect dashboard”—AKA, a unicorn. 

Short answer: no. 

There’s no one size fits all approach to dashboards. But our panelists all agreed that setting the right goals up front in a digital marketing effort furthers the ability to develop tracking for the right data, which can lead to the right results. 

One of the keys to effective digital transformation journeys is to leverage the data you currently have to drive business decisions. 

Tools like Data Studio, Datorama and Snowflake are closing data gaps and enabling better insights that lead to improved campaign performance and user/patient experience. In our experience, most digital transformation projects begin with a clear identification of how data will be sourced, the trustworthiness of that data, and what insights we seek to glean from the data. In other words, we seek to avoid GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. There will always be data gaps in health care, with “more noise than signal” than any of us prefer. After all, health care is a complex system. 

That can be overwhelming, if not downright frustrating. But Therese, Christina and Brittney offered insights on how they manage their digital transformation efforts, which can be of service to you.

THE ROAD TO DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION BEGINS WITH A ROAD MAP

“Try, learn, and go on a roadshow,” Christina advised. She advocates creating pilot projects: initiatives that may have promise, but are not mission-critical and do not have high visibility within the organization. Conduct a trial effort and glean learnings. From there, conduct a “roadshow” with your colleagues: share what you learned and how those learnings could be applied at a larger scale within the organization. This approach builds advocacy with colleagues and positive momentum to scale future initiatives with support and enthusiasm. 

Therese shared the philosophy of her marketing leader, Suzanne Sawyer, who encourages the team to create road maps for digital transformation efforts, and other marketing initiatives. Simplicity is the solution to complex problems. By diagramming the desired future state, and documenting clearly the steps to take, we make progress on those large-scale initiatives like digital transformations. 

Brittney repeated our mantra at Hailey Sault: “Test and learn.” We advocate testing our hypotheses in the marketplace in small, controlled settings, to learn what messages, platforms, and conversion-based experiences work best to drive the desired outcome. In turn, use the findings to optimize the campaign and design experience to achieve better outcomes.  

CREATE A SHARED LANGUAGE

If there’s a “silver lining” to COVID-19, it’s that health care organizations have never worked more collaboratively. It was a requirement in the early days of the pandemic. Turns out, people really enjoy working with colleagues in different departments on common goals.

But working in a cross-functional team scenario isn’t without challenges: primarily, ensuring that the words we use, and their meanings, are shared universally. Christina advocates creating “Data Dictionaries,” so that when marketing, IT, finance, clinical and others are collaborating, they all agree on what “engagement” means, or a “conversion.” 

If you’re just beginning your digital transformation project and want to get everyone on the same page, or are feeling stuck on your efforts, then perhaps it’s worth checking in with your team: are you all in alignment with your success definitions? 

That sounds simple, I know. But remember what Therese said: “Digital transformation isn’t just what we’re doing, it’s how we’re doing it.” 

Working smarter, more collaboratively, and more inclusively, is a hallmark to digital transformations that actually get to the promised land. 

Do you like learning new things and connecting with fun, smart people? Then you should sign up to be notified of our next Hailey Sault Campfire webinars: they’re lively video conversations without the boring bullet point slides. Sign up below to be notified of the next Campfire and get early access to our latest thinking and strategies on how to create human connections with health care marketing. 

Mankato Recovery Campaign info

Marketers: Make Health Care Cool

Marketers: Make Health Care Cool

Health care has always been … a bit dull. At least compared to other categories like cars, cosmetics and sports apparel. But since the pandemic, health care is having its “moment.” Is it time to make health care cool?

Don’t roll your eyes just yet. There’s a business case to be made for repositioning and rebranding hospitals and medical organizations with a bit more “cool” vibe. After all, most people think of hospitals as the place you go when you have to. There’s more to health care than hospitals. But it’s hospitals that most consumers tend to think of first when they think of “health care.” 

And that’s one of the reasons many health brands have struggled to gain traction on social media. Look at the competition for attention! You’ve got celebrities, silly cat videos and posh resort photos. Then you’ve got health care: white coats, masks, and exam rooms that had their last makeover circa 1985. 

Health care marketers: we’re playing with a losing hand. We must rally together.

We must make health care cool.  

I’m not talking slick—unless your brand is a futuristic wearable that benefits from slick. 

When I talk about making health care “cool,” I’m talking about making health care more down to earth. More relatable. 

In other words: make health care a topic worth engaging in and sharing. 

It’s possible. And there’s ROI in making health care cool. 

Titanium Health images

Recently, Hailey Sault began working with Titanium Healthcare, an innovative company that provides post-acute care, primary care, and care coordination in California and Washington State. Tor Miller, Titanium’s Chief Marketing Officer, was the one who turned me on to the notion of “Making health care cool.” 

Tor spent her formative design years in England, designing and developing brands for notably “cool” brands in categories that naturally lend themselves to a sleek and “cool” aesthetic. 

But when Tor began designing Titanium’s brand, she knew early on she wanted to avoid the cliche marketing, branding and design aesthetic of traditional health care branding. 

“I didn’t want the warm and fuzzy photographs of grandma baking cookies for grandkids,” said Tor. “I wanted images of real life. Our patients often live in urban areas … Many of them are economically- and housing-insecure … Many are living with multiple disease conditions. Our images needed to have a grittiness and depth to them because that reflects our clients and their lives.” 

What about your health audiences? Are their lives fairy tales? Should your imagery and messages be aligned with your patients’ real lives?

To entice busy moms and dads to return for care, we developed a series of relatable :15 spots encouraging people to find time for care.

It’s understandable why the default brand and marketing approach to health care is vanilla.

Health care is highly regulated.

Health care is risk-averse.

Health care is data-driven.

But the heart of health care—including product brands—is people. When you strip humanity out of health care branding, all you’re left with is data. Data is rational. Rational doesn’t sell. 

Emotion sells.

So make health care cool if you want prospective patients to tune in.

Make health care cool if you want people to talk about your services.

Make health care cool if you want people to engage your brand.

See what's working

Making health care cool means making marketing relatable. You want your audiences to see your branding and say, “Oh, this health care brand gets me.” You can achieve this connection by sharing relatable content that resonates with what is going on in your audience’s lives. 

Making health care cool also means making our marketing meet our audiences more than halfway. Nobody looks forward to a colonoscopy or mammography. So why not be a bit more playful in how you market screenings? (Trust me: the average adult knows the health value of annual screenings and check-ups. You might very well boost your appointments if your outreach was a bit friendlier … even playful.)

Making health care cool also means stripping away health care jargon. Most people tune out of health care marketing because it’s confusing. Let’s simplify the health care conversation with our audiences—most of whom are not medical professionals.

Making health care cool also means being honest and straightforward. Distrust in brands, media companies and the government is at an all-time low—except for doctors and the health brands who recognized early on that people wanted trusted sources of health information, and provided it. Those brands found increased trust and loyalty with their audiences. In times of crisis, people seek leaders: and one of the keys to being a great leader is engaging in straight talk with others. 

CHI social media lifestyle ads

For CHI Memorial, we helped motivate people to take small steps to improve their health. Over 10,000 people clicked to find a doctor after engaging with the campaign.

HEALTH CARE IS HAVING ITS MOMENT

If there’s an upside to the pandemic, it’s that people are engaging with health brands like never before. Research suggests health app downloads increased 25% during the pandemic. Virologists and public health experts have become talk show stars. “Trust the Science” has become a maxim. People who have never studied data tables now pore over the NYT’s newest report on the Delta variants. People don’t just tell their friends they got vaccinated: they also have to mention the brand name!

Hailey Sault’s consumer sentiment tracking studies have consistently shown that health audiences want to engage with their providers and health care organizations like never before. 

Suddenly, health care is cool.

Are you leveraging this moment for your health brand and engaging your audiences in new—and dare I say, “cooler” ways?

Engage people who have never engaged health care organizations—but are now tuned in to their own health like never before.

Engage people to take simple steps to improve their health—like scheduling that long overdue doctor’s appointment or purchase a health tracking wearable.

Engage people to apply that same rigor and proactive defense against COVID-19 to other diseases, which are as deadly and which they are at risk of developing: like heart disease, stroke, and cancer. 

Your health brand might not be Titanium Healthcare’s gritty, urban brand aesthetic. That might not be your health care organization’s application of “cool.” 

But the core principle of making health care cool applies: make your messages relatable, accessible, and honest. Find your brand’s own unique way to encourage conversations and engagement among your health audiences. 

Your marketing will be better off for it—along with the results you generate.

And that’s pretty cool. 

Mankato Recovery Campaign info

Health Care Marketing’s Role in the Post-Pandemic Cleanup

Health Care Marketing’s Role in the Post-Pandemic Cleanup

Dear Health Care Marketer: we have our work cut out for us. 

As we’ve been documenting, our health care consumers have changed since the pandemic. Some of that change is good: 36% of baby boomers report they feel confident using new technology—a 10% increase since 2020. As more health consumers use and leverage Smartphones, Smart TVs and TV streaming devices, we have better and more precise ability to connect with audiences. 

STAT reports that more of our health audiences are engaged with their health like never before: including a better understanding of medical science and more ownership of their health. For example, during the pandemic, health app downloads increased 25%. 

But not all that change is good. 

Scientific American reports that a growing number of vaccinated people are experiencing “Cave Syndrome”: living in chronic social isolation and feeling afraid to return to their former lives. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 23% of women skipped a recommended medical test or treatment, and 38% of women missed preventive health services in 2020. 

Many of us in health care are concerned about the heart disease, cancer and other disease conditions that went undiagnosed during the pandemic, and what that may mean for our hospitals and health care organizations in the years to come. 

And let’s not forget: Americans weren’t healthy before the pandemic. Two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Approximately 45% of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease—and the number is growing. 

Given the state of American health, we invited executive leaders representing a prominent, Connecticut-based health system and a California-based company providing post-acute care, primary care and care coordination for over 1 million people in the Los Angeles area to discuss how they’re approaching patient engagement on our 7/16/21 Campfire Chat. 

Following are takeaways from our conversation.

“A TRUE DISASTER RESPONSE”

Dianne Auger, Regional Vice President, Strategy and Regional Development for Hartford HealthCare, put into words what all of us in health care have felt since the start of the pandemic: we’ve worked and lived through a disaster response effort. Thankfully, the largest part of the crisis is over. But that doesn’t mean our health care workers aren’t experiencing burnout and PTSD. How we address the needs of our health care workers next will have a direct impact on our ability to provide care for our patients and communities. 

“TELEHEALTH IS HELPFUL, BUT NOT A SILVER BULLET”

Tor Miller, Chief Marketing Officer for Titanium Healthcare, shared that her company provides services for patients who have five or more chronic disease conditions. Titanium, like other health care organizations, spun up telehealth services in the early days of the pandemic so it could see patients safely. But helping post-acute patients with chronic disease conditions through telehealth isn’t ideal. Telehealth has proven to be a helpful tool in caring for patients, but it can’t be the only tool moving forward.

See what's working

“CARING FOR THE PATIENTS WHO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS”

Both Dianne and Tor noted that COVID-19 turned a spotlight on the health inequities among patient populations. Hartford HealthCare amplified its work to coordinate resources in the community, reaching those patients who may lack transportation for medical care. Titanium Healthcare’s model of care provides care coordinators who help patients with everything from access to food and even how to refrigerate medications for patients who have housing insecurities. As we get back to “normal,” I think we all can agree: let’s not turn our backs on those inequities and patients who slip through the cracks of our health care system. 

“MOM: IT’S TIME YOU MADE YOURSELF A PRIORITY”

Women, and mothers in particular, are hardwired to make their family’s health a priority over their own. The pandemic may have amplified this behavior, as data suggests a record number of women have put off their own health care to focus on keeping their family safe and healthy. While noble, we know that the adage of “putting on your oxygen mask before putting on somebody else’s” rings true. Women and men are showing up to the ER and doctor’s office with higher acuity needs—due to delaying their own care. 

“WHY DOES HEALTH CARE HAVE TO BE SO COMPLICATED?”

Tor, a native of England, shared her personal story of coming to the United States and having to learn about health insurance and what a “deductible” is. Many of us who have worked in the American health care system are so used to the complexity that we can forget how challenging it must be for our patients who are not health care “experts” to navigate the cumbersome system. As Chief Marketing Officer, Tor shared how she is redesigning the patient experience from the ground up—for example, how her care team answers the phone to redesigning and reimagining patient letters and communications materials to be simple, friendly, and accessible. 

“LET’S DO OUR PART SO OUR PATIENTS CAN DO THEIR PART”

Dianne shared what should be the playbook for health care marketing and communications strategies for patient audiences: keep it simple, keep it friendly, and help our patients to navigate their needs. She also reminded us that health care is a two-way street: providers can deliver outstanding care. But we need our patients to do their part: to come in for care, to follow medical orders, and to take care of their bodies. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

In the early days of COVID-19, Chris Boyer, digital health strategist and co-host of the touch point podcast, told me that the way he’s thinking about pre-COVID was as “Before Times,” and after COVID-19, “After Times.” I’d like to think (and hope) we’re in the “Post-Pandemic Cleanup” time. Though this disease is still in the air, my hope is that fewer and fewer people will be impacted by it. What we’re left with is the mess that follows any disaster: like the rubble after a hurricane has torn through a city. There are broken lives to mend and health maladies have gone untreated while people were hunkered down and weathering the pandemic storm. 

As communicators, we can’t treat diseases and heal people. But we can connect with our health audiences, share with them ways that they can live healthier, and reduce the amount of barriers to access care.  

The challenges before us are daunting. There’s important work to be done. But just look at what we accomplished and overcame during the pandemic. That should give all of us a sense of strength and confidence. 

Mankato Recovery Campaign info

7 Ways The Pandemic Changed Your Health Consumers

7 Ways The Pandemic Changed Your Health Consumers

Let’s do a little check-in.

Have you changed since the pandemic?

My suspicion? Probably so. 

Let me guess. You probably spend more time on your digital device. Health is more top-of-mind for you than before—partly due to the fact that your pants might be fitting a bit more snug these days. (Don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.) You probably tune into health news reporting more than before. (Which says a lot, considering you’re in health care.) 

You’re also probably feeling every bit of the stress and strain of living through a pandemic.

Why am I telling you this? Because your health audiences have changed since the pandemic, too.

In small, significant ways. 

And in large, paradigm-shifting ways.

That’s really, really important to know if you are in the business of communicating and engaging health audiences and consumers.

Prior to COVID-19, Hailey Sault developed yearly audience persona models that represent the four generations of health care consumers: Gen Z, Millennials, Generation X and Boomers. These persona models allow us to identify the universal qualities and concerns of our health care clients, which we then customize to our client’s specific audience cohorts. 

But since March of 2020, Hailey Sault has updated our health care audience personas four times to reflect changes in consumers like:

  1. Attitudes on personal health
  2. New health challenges
  3. Prioritizing their family’s health 
  4. Media consumption habits
  5. Barriers to accessing care
  6. Ability to pay for medical care 
  7. Attitudes on diversity, equality and inclusion

Let’s double-click on each of these changes so that you can make better human connections with the audiences you seek to engage. . 

ATTITUDES ON PERSONAL HEALTH

As health care marketers and communicators, our job is to share helpful and insightful health resources to our consumer audiences. Even when that means communicating things that our audiences would prefer not to think about (like screenings and unhealthy habits that lead to chronic disease). 

Yet for almost a year and a half, people have been riveted to news and content about health. Fear is a powerful motivator. You now have an audience who is primed to receive content and resources to help empower their health journey. Are you leveraging this rare opportunity to create new connections, conversations and engagement with your health audiences? 

NEW HEALTH CHALLENGES

Pundits and public health policy people will be debating the benefits and unintended consequences of the lockdowns for years to come. One thing is certain: your health consumers are most certainly facing new health challenges these days. 

A recent KFF study suggests 23% of women skipped a recommended medical test or treatment and 38% of women missed preventative health services in 2020. MEDPAGE TODAY shared the study and called 2020 a “Lost Year for Women’s Medical Care.” We’re facing a tsunami of undiagnosed cancer, heart disease and other disease conditions. Your health audience has new health needs—whether they know it yet or not. Does your marketing strategy address these new health challenges and how to help your audiences?

PRIORITIZING THEIR FAMILY’S HEALTH 

Female health consumers tend to prioritize their family’s health over their own. If you’re a mother or daughter of a sick, aging parent, you know what I mean. (Speaking of which, the Cleveland Clinic wrote a great article encouraging women to not think that self-care is selfish.) The pandemic didn’t change this attitude, but it did intensify mom’s desire to keep her family and loved ones well. 

How is your brand serving as a bridge to connect your female audiences with the health solutions they’re seeking: for themselves and for their loved ones? Your female audience might tune out (temporarily) to advertising and content encouraging her to return for care or take the next step in her health journey. But she’ll definitely keep an eye out for any resources that empower and improve her family’s health.

See what's working

MEDIA CONSUMPTION HABITS

According to eMarketer, the amount of time spent consuming digital media rose from 6 hours, 49 minutes per day to a whopping 7 hours, 50 minutes per day in 2020—and experts predict we’ll see modest growth in 2021. 

Has your digital strategy kept pace with consumer demand? Are you leveraging new channels and digital content tools like TikTok (don’t snicker, it works for our health care clients), Facebook’s version of Clubhouse, and Instagram Reel Ads? 

Telling great health care brand stories is one thing. But telling those stories on the platforms your audience is spending more and more of her waking life is the key to consumer engagement and utilization of your brand’s health services. 

BARRIERS TO ACCESSING CARE

Thankfully, the pandemic is beginning to recede in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean consumers are less concerned about contracting diseases. That’s why it’s no surprise that Humana just acquired Onehome as part of the booming hospital-at-home market. Health consumers have always dragged their feet going into a hospital or clinic: the parking is lousy and you wait forever to be seen. The quick spinning up of virtual health and telehealth services was a great example of health care brands acting agile in the face of a once in a century pandemic. 

Is your health brand innovating the way it delivers care so that all your health audiences can access services in the way they prefer? Sure, open-heart surgery still needs to be done in an operating room. (We’re waiting on AI to change that.) But consider all the ways your consumers would use your health brand’s services if they were more accessible and more aligned with their lives and desires?

ABILITY TO PAY FOR MEDICAL CARE

Health care costs have always been a stressor for consumers. 2020 turned the fire up on this crisis. According to HEALTHCAREDIVE, a record one in four Americans are now covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, an increase of 14% from old enrollment stats. 

Your health consumers are likely to be concerned with the cost of health care, and how to pay for treatment. How are you helping your health audiences to navigate their way to receiving care in ways they can afford?   

ATTITUDES ON DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION

If there was a blessing in the calamity and grief we experienced in 2020, it was that more and more Americans came to understand that Black and Brown people have been underserved and mistreated in our country: including in health care settings. 

I suspect you and your colleagues want nothing less than to provide an exceptional care experience for all their patients and consumers, and are making vital changes to that end. 

So let me ask you: how are your brand messaging and your audience engagement strategies aligning with your audience’s evolving attitudes on diversity, equity and inclusion? Do your campaigns reflect the rich tapestry of life experiences and points of view of your audiences? Are you engaging with multiple audience personas, and not just the stereotypical “woman, ages 25-54”? As Bono once sang, “We’re one, but we’re not the same.” Try to avoid messaging that tries to appeal to all and resonates with none. 

THE WRAP UP

We’ve all been living under great and intense pressure the last 15+ months. That pressure has had its effect on our health audiences. And those effects mean profound changes to how your consumers and patients are thinking and feeling these days. By inviting more curiosity, you can discover insights that lead to marketing strategies that engage your health audiences in new and more powerful ways. Invite your team to explore one or more of these seven changes in your health consumers to uncover insights to help your health brand to grow—and, more importantly, to help your audiences to find their way to better care and better health.  

Mankato Recovery Campaign info