Health care marketers have a tremendous responsibility to be advocates for the patients and prospective patients that their organizations serve. After all, modern marketing is ultimately the practice of adding value. Without advocating what today’s patients want, need, expect and demand from health care organizations like hospitals and health systems, marketers can lose credibility and influence within their organizations.

That’s why at Hailey Sault we bring to the table a significant number of tools, techniques, and resources to help our clients understand their clients—their prospective patients—better. Tools like archetyping, journey mapping, persona modeling, and brand sentiment reporting give us quantifiable perspectives on what patients want and how they decide upon health care providers and solutions.

We’ll share more of those tools and how we leverage them in future resources. Today, though, I wanted to talk about 5 ways to think like a patient. The more we, as marketers, can appreciate how our patients think, the more relevant we can be in their lives.

5 Ways Marketers Can Think Like a Patient

(Author note: for purposes of this post, I’ll use the feminine gender pronoun.)

1. What is she feeling? 

To think like a patient, we have to first understand what our patient is feeling. Is she in pain? Is she scared, nervous, overwhelmed? Or is she simply annoyed to be dealing with a low-grade medical malady?

Feelings can obscure rational thinking. Before we have the opportunity to share thoughtful solutions to her symptoms or diagnosis, we must first appreciate our patient’s emotional state.

And a patient’s emotional state evolves throughout her journey. (That’s why we’re such advocates of patient journey mapping.) 

2. How much does our patient want to know?

We all have different levels of knowledge-seeking in any decision-making process: whether it’s buying a home, car or health care. As marketers, it’s our great work to provide the tools and resources to help our patients gather the information that they want on their own terms. Some patients will want to read everything they can get their hands on, while other patients would prefer simply knowing what medication to take and when they can get back to work and life. Knowing what our patients want to know is key to creating loyalty and engagement.

3. Will the patient need to explain her medical situation to others?

Patients—especially women as the primary caretakers of the family—often experience two simultaneous thought patterns when taking in information about their medical diagnosis and treatment plans.

What do I mean by this?

First, the patient processes the medical information in a way that she can understand. Second, the patient processes the information so that she can later explain it to family members, such as husbands and children.

In some ways, health care still operates in the Dark Ages: complex diagnoses and treatment plans are communicated orally, or with test results that only trained medical professionals can understand.

This creates great stress on the patient. Not only does she have to understand the information for herself, but she also has to determine how she can best explain the information to others.

4. Are we asking the patient to take the next step in her decision-making process too soon?

As health care marketers, we know that the patient journey to make the decision to seek medical care or to choose a specific provider can take time—months or even years, in fact. That’s why it’s important to share with prospective patients opportunities to take small steps in learning more, asking questions, reading and viewing resources, to help nurture the patient along the way to making her decision.

In other words, our job isn’t to rush a prospective patient into making a health care decision, but rather, to inform that decision in ways she finds of value.

5. Why should she trust your brand?

There are so many more health influences in your patient’s life today—and many of those influences are outside of what you or I might call expected influences. For example, many patients today regard sports brands like Nike as key influences on their health choices and lifestyle.

If you represent a hospital or physician group, it’s important to appreciate the many spheres of influence that shape your patient’s perceptions of health. Today’s patients want to be partners in the healing and wellness process. In your patient’s eyes, a partner is someone who is there for her through thick and thin, not just within the hospital’s walls but helping her stay well and on the path of health and well-being.

This should be good news to you because it means that you have the opportunity to create content and resources that are relevant to your patients when they aren’t your patients: just moms and dads, husbands, wives, and college students who want nothing more than to be happy and healthy.