In a previous post, I explored the New 5Ps of healthcare marketing, comprised of patients, physicians, professional healthcare administrators, payers, and policy makers. Now I want to take a closer look at the rapidly evolving landscape of patient marketing.
Overstretched, Overbooked, and Overwhelmed
Today’s patients are simultaneously more empowered yet more distracted than ever before. Although not an official disorder, I believe today’s patients—like all of us—are suffering from Constant Distraction Disorder (CDD). CDD is driven by ever more powerful communication devices and social platforms, combined with work and home environments filled with multiple devices.
In his book CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! author Edward Hallowell, MD, describes a world filled with “incessant demands, temptations, and opportunities that highjack our attention, filling our heads with a cacophony of mental noise. As our minds fill with such noise—spasmodic synaptic snaps signifying nothing—the brain loses its ability to attend fully and thoughtfully to anything.” Add a complicated medical condition into this mix, and it is no wonder that patients are often overwhelmed and unable to process complex health information.
This situation means that marketers need to laser-focus on patient needs and then deliver crisp, succinct messaging that addresses meaningful patient concerns quickly and clearly. However, clear communications have become “table stakes” for today’s healthcare marketers. Beyond achieving higher levels of clarity, healthcare information needs to be combined with interactive points of engagement where patients can take practical next steps in the most efficient ways possible, such as refilling scripts, scheduling their next appointment, or tracking healthy behaviors.
Of course achieving this type of engagement is easier said than done, especially since the digital channels that drive this type of experience are also the main drivers of CDD. So, what are some of the design principles and strategies we’ve found effective in cutting through the clutter and distraction, rather than just adding to the noise?
1). Know Your Patient’s 80/20 Curve
It has been shown empirically that in almost every situation 20 percent of the effort yields 80 percent of the results. This is especially true in healthcare where a handful of core behaviors and/or medications tend to have oversized results. As a marketer, help your patients to stay focused on the handful of activities that will drive results. While fair balance and even black box warnings are unescapable realities, don’t use that as an excuse for overwhelming your customers with too much information. Work to pull out the essential information that is going to be of most benefit to patients.
2). Use Visual Storytelling to Drive Your Marketing ROI
Despite the onslaught of infographics in the last few years, truly outstanding infographics remain rare. This is because it takes a serious investment of attention, strategy, and design time to create an infographic that is both intuitive and informative. However, from a marketing ROI perspective, investing in visual storytelling pays untold dividends, helping patients to quickly focus on the key 80/20 items while providing them with clear next steps.
3). Make It Easy and Ambient
Although not everyone realizes it, the new Apple HealthKit app automatically tracks a range of activity by simply monitoring people as they walk around with their iPhones. This type of ambient computing, which extracts data from the everyday environment, is going to become more prevalent as the Internet of Things increases the number of sensors surrounding us. As a result, the very definition of marketing and communications is going to be transformed by this type of always-on platform. Just as we have started to master responsive web design, marketers will need to master “responsive content design” in which messaging adapts to specific environmental triggers, providing personal, timely, and actionable marketing content.
It is no longer enough to simply provide your patients with lots of helpful information and trust them to figure it out. That is not patient empowerment! Instead, marketers need to recognize the epidemic of Constant Distraction Disorder and create points of actionable content. By using visual storytelling to streamline information and actively pulling in data from the surrounding environment, patient marketing can be more personal, timely, and ultimately have a much greater impact on patient outcomes.
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