2018 marks my 20th year in health care marketing. It’s been a big year for me, personally and professionally.

I celebrated by leaving a company where I had been a part owner to join the amazing people at Hailey Sault. I got remarried. I adopted a puppy.  (His name is Ollie, by the way, and yes, he is the best pup in the world.)

I’m as thrilled and excited about health care as I was when I first started and didn’t know any health care lingo.

Call me nostalgic, but I wanted to share five things I wish I had known when I began marketing health care brands. I learned these lessons mainly the hard way, and not overnight. But these are fundamentals that have shaped my thinking, philosophy, and success.

1. The buying journey is so complex, people don’t even know they buy health care services.

Most people don’t think they’re “buying” a doctor’s services or ER care. Even though consumerism is alive and well in health care, most people aren’t conscious of their steps in the buying journey.

Understandably, this makes our work challenging. Not only are we competing for our audience’s attention, we’re also inviting them to join us in a decision-making process that they aren’t even aware they’re making.

2. Patient expectations are low and their needs are high.

Hailey Sault’s landmark report, “Why Patients Switch,” details the state of mind of today’s health care consumer. They’re fed up with the red tape and lack of transparency on cost, which they see as universal across the health care landscape.

On the flip side, today’s patients’ needs are high: they deserve help managing their health. Most modern diseases are lifestyle-driven. Behavioral change is hard, especially for those living in low income areas with food deserts and a lack of positive role models demonstrating healthy lifestyle choices.

America is in a health care crisis. The system is broken. Our work has never mattered more.

3. Beware “The Curse of Knowledge.”

The “Curse of Knowledge” occurs when we know something and it becomes difficult to communicate and teach others because we lose the ability to remember what it was like not to know the topic or subject.

You can see evidence of the “Curse of Knowledge” in hospital advertising everywhere: using words and phrases that people not in health care do not understand and can’t appreciate.

That’s why it’s so important to keep your patients’ perspectives front and center in your planning and marketing strategies. While we never want to talk down to consumers, we also want to avoid talking over their heads.

4. Stay curious.

One of our clients, Lori, likes to say, “Once you know, you know.” So poetic, so true, and in my experience, once I know something, I want to learn more. Being curious is a core value at Hailey Sault, and for good reason. Curiosity helps us explore new ideas and come up with new solutions.

It’s easy to get into the rut of doing what works. The better we do at our jobs, the more likely we are to preserve our success instead of charting new territory. But the new territory is where new possibilities live. (That’s also why we say, “Welcome to the pursuit” at Hailey Sault.)

5. Innovation comes from making human connections.

I mentioned our client, Lori, in the last point. Her company has exceptional technology that, among other things, can identify those who are at high risk for diabetes, hypertension and heart disease before those patients present symptoms. This allows the company to be proactive in caring for the well-being of their patients’ lives.

But technology on its own doesn’t heal people. People heal people. And technology, when used to its fullest potential, allows for better human connection.

Consumers tell us time and time again that technology alone is “price of admission” for a health system. People assume that hospitals will have “the latest and greatest.” What people were hungry for 20 years ago, and what they still (and likely will always) crave is better human connection.

What’s one thing you’ve learned working in health care you’d like to pass along to your colleagues? Leave your nugget of wisdom in the comments below.