Connective DX

STRATEGY Healthcare marketers feeling ‘shaken and stirred’

Shaken and stirred—it’s definitely not how you want your martini prepared and probably not how you want to feel going into work every day either. And yet, “shaken and stirred” turned out to be the ideal theme for the recent New England Society for Healthcare Communications’ (NESHCo) conference in Boston.

It’s no secret that the U.S. healthcare system is undergoing tumultuous change. New technologies, legislative reform, economic pressures, increased competition, and empowered patients are some of the more powerful catalysts. We attended the conference with the hope that healthcare marketers—those working in the eye of the hurricane—would have a unique perspective on what’s succeeding and what’s not.

So, what did we learn in our two days with this group of change-savvy veterans? Here are five ideas that stuck with us:

  1. The only constant will be change. Nobody—speaker or attendee—anticipated a return to the sleepy days of yesteryear. Frenetic and ongoing change is expected to be the new normal. Lahey Health’s John Looney and Cooley Dickinson’s Julia Sorenson said leaders have a unique responsibility to help their teams adapt and thrive in this stressful environment.
  2. Respect comes with results. There’s immense pressure to drive business results, but successful marketers are enjoying the senior-level visibility and respect that come with helping their institutions win. Brooke Hynes from Tufts Medical Center emphasized that measuring the value of her team’s work and then “marketing our marketing” has been key to their success.
  3. Complacency is not a winning strategy. Author and keynote speaker Chris Bevolo cautioned the group to move beyond old-school marketing. In his view, that’s marketing that is not insight-based, measurable, differentiated, and targeted. Digital, he told us, must be a key part of our plans. We couldn’t agree more—because digital experiences power the essential connections between your organization and your patients or customers. 
  4. Content marketing is uniquely suited to healthcare. Health and wellness are intensely personal so storytelling by physicians, patients, and caregivers is a natural tool for building awareness, trust, and engagement. Success, author Ahava Leibtag shared, comes from working at the intersection of content, relationships, and conversations.
  5. Not thinking about your mobile web experience? You soon will be. Widely adopted elsewhere, phone and tablet-friendly web experiences are still somewhat uncommon in healthcare marketing. Asked what we’ll be talking about next year, Caren Cummings of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute didn’t hesitate: mobile, mobile, mobile.

Oregon Health & Science University, a Pacific Northwest leader in healthcare, academic and research programs, got a huge jump on this trend when it saw its mobile traffic steadily climbing. Almost 40% of home page views and a third of all traffic now comes from phones and tablets. OHSU worked with Connective DX on a massive responsive redesign, encompassing 300 websites and roughly 30,000 pages of content.

If you work in healthcare, we’d love to hear from you about the communication challenges and trends you’re seeing in the industry. Please share your ideas in the comments below!

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