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.